Whether she’s converting the Humane Society of Sarasota to a non-euthanizing animal shelter, making sure her employees eat their fruits and vegetables or contemplating a run for state representative — Alex Miller is a warm-and-fuzzy capitalist who wants to make a difference.
Miller, who joined the humane society’s board of directors four years ago and is also the organization’s past president, urged the shelter to cease all use of euthanasia. Last January, the shelter officially adopted a no-kill designation.
“The humane society is where my passion is,” Miller said. “I love animals, and I think you should invest time in something you’re passionate about.”
Since she became the CEO of Mercedes Medical, a family-run-and-owned, medical-supply-distribution company, at age 31, Miller has taken the time to invest in her employees.
“We’re a really progressive, dog-friendly company,” Miller says. “We also give employees massages, the occasional company cruise and want to incorporate yoga into the workplace.”
In 2010, Mercedes Medical will create a wellness program for its employees. A centerpiece of that program is a 3,000-square-foot co-op garden. Miller hopes to provide each of her 55 employees with 10% to 20% of their vegetables for the year.
But five years ago, her company was the exact opposite. A poor executive management change made by Miller’s mother and company founder, Noelle Haft, crushed Mercedes’ financials, and in less than a year, the two-time Inc. 500 company watched its net income drop to $500,000. It even hovered near bankruptcy when its bank ceased credit extensions.
Miller, then the company’s operations chief, was stripped of most of her authority in 2003, but her return one year later, which she spent desperately trying to win back past customers and soothing anxious employees, helped the company make a successful corporate turnaround into a $20 million-plus, medical-supply company.
Last May, Miller announced a company expansion and said she planned to hire six additional sales reps this year, bringing the total to 21. She projected more growth over the next 18 months, aiming for $25 million in annual revenues by 2010.
“There are very few homegrown businesses,” Miller said. “I’m very fortunate to be in an industry that’s recession-proof.”
Her community involvement may also reach a new stature. Miller is considering a run for District 69 state representative. The election for that position is next November. What makes her hesitate, however, are her family, work and fundraising obligations.
“I consider myself a moderate Republican who is fiscally conservative,” Miller said. “But, I also have children and want to give them the best education possible, which doesn’t necessarily have to result in higher taxpayer money. It’s always hard to find that balance when you’re a working mom and want to give back to the community, and you’ve got all of these balls up in the air … but it’s the 21st century now, and we’ve got to go with the flow.”
Hometown: Long Island, N.Y.
Hobby: Volunteer at Southside Elementary
Interesting fact: Her children, Kannon, and Steele, are named after weapons.
Passion: Humane Society of Sarasota
Contact Loren Mayo at email@example.com.
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