Oregon Chai (#18 on the 2000 Inc. 500)
Most afternoons, Heather Howitt, CEO of Oregon Chai, arrives at her office in the rain-soaked city of Portland, Oreg., covered in mud. Her lunchtime two-hour run in nearby Forest Park complete, she blots her feet and gets down to business -- sometimes passing along the stroller holding her napping one-year-old son, Sawyer, to the nanny, who will take him home, other times handing Sawyer over to her sister-in-law, who's an intern at the company. And sometimes she just settles the baby in a crib that she's set up in her office, along with a changing table, a swing, and a bouncy seat. "We've got a family element going on here," says Howitt, 32, explaining how she balances motherhood and the responsibilities of running an $11 million manufacturer and marketer of tea lattes. "Our office is a very casual place."
Howitt is quick to acknowledge that she's achieved her equilibrium by making some key hires during the past year. Those have included her chief operating officer (also a runner), who's taken over managing operations and finance. And she's given up making sales calls. "I used to come in at 6 a.m. and make calls nonstop," she says. "I don't have to do that anymore."
Howitt has eased up on business travel, too; she now mostly just attends trade shows. And whenever possible, she brings Sawyer along, provided that she can fly first class. "It means Sawyer will be six inches farther away from grabbing someone's hair," Howitt says. "Once, when we were in coach, he tried to chew on this head of gorgeous blow-dried hair in the seat in front of us, and then he dumped a glass of ice water on the poor woman. I'm so stingy -- I hate flying first class. But now it just makes so much more sense."
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