Women in Business: Gardetto is BizTimes Woman Executive of the Year

Nannette “Nan” Gardetto
Owner and CEO
Baptista’s Bakery Inc.
4625 S. 57 St., Franklin
www.baptistas.com

When Nan Gardetto joined her family’s business, Gardetto’s, in 1975, she worked in the plant on an assembly line, packing breadsticks alongside other company employees.

“My grandfather and father really wanted me to learn the business from the ground up,” said Gardetto, who has been named BizTimes Media’s 2014 Woman Executive of the Year. “I learned what it was like to be an employee working beside our employees, many who had been with my family’s business for over 20 years. I believe in earning respect. I realized that every employee plays an important part in creating a quality product.”

Throughout the evolution of the family business, she continued to assume more responsibility and in 1987 became its third generation leader.

After selling the business to General Mills Inc. in 1999, a move prompted mainly by the rise of large consumer packaged goods companies and stiff competition for market share, Gardetto immediately launched Baptista’s Bakery Inc.

“I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do,” Gardetto said. “What I truly wanted was the ability to once again let the business be my creative outlet – create something from the ground up and give a group of people the chance to experience the exhilaration of doing so.”

Today, Gardetto is owner and chief executive officer of Baptista’s, a Franklin-based contract manufacturer and developer of nutritional snack products. The company, which caters to large consumer packaged goods companies, has close to 400 employees and operates in a facility that Gardetto retained during the sale of her family’s business. The original space was about 135,000 square feet and was recently expanded to 260,000 square feet.

Gardetto named Baptista’s for her father, John Baptiste, and grandfather, Baptiste, who she credits as her “first real mentors.”

“They taught me the values that have guided me my entire life,” Gardetto said. “I wanted to honor them and make my new company a continuation of my family’s legacy.”

Since Gardetto established Baptista’s, the company has been honored with several awards for rapid growth, including Deloitte’s “Top 75 Wisconsin Businesses” award in 2012 and 2013 and Deloitte’s “Distinguished Performer Award for Entrepreneurship” in 2012.

“In many ways, the employee and revenue growth has mimicked Gardetto’s,” Gardetto said. “We’ve had extraordinary growth over the past eight years. It is the result of our talented group of employees collaborating with an amazing group of customers. We have been blessed with really bright people who have often created the technology for our unique new products. (And) we have suppliers who have been extremely supportive of us.”

Outside of leading Baptista’s, Gardetto has grown her community involvement and philanthropic reach. She currently serves on the boards of directors for several organizations, including Aurora Health Care, The Blood Center Research Foundation, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee and Andis Co.

BizTimes will present Gardetto with the Woman Executive of the Year Award during the BizTimes Women in Business Breakfast at the BizExpo on Wednesday, May 21, at Potawatomi Bingo Casino.

The award marks one of the “greatest highlights” of her career, Gardetto said.

“I have never personally received an award of this magnitude,” she said. “I am extremely honored and truly humbled. There are so many women that I know and admire that I feel deserve this award more than me. I’ve tried my whole life to do the right thing and be the best person I can be. I will continue to do that.”

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