WE Local Providence Power Hour Keynote
Saturday, April 21, 2018
Cheryl Merchant, President & CEO, Hope Global
In December 1984, Cheryl Ann Merchant earned her undergraduate degree in Business Administration with honors from Alma College in Michigan, in three and one-half years while working two jobs. She continued with her graduate studies at Michigan’s Oakland University while balancing the demands of an emerging leadership career with General Motors (GM) as a Production Supervisor. After completion of GM’s leadership training, Cheryl became one of the first women to lead a 65-member manufacturing team, on second shift, as the Paint Department Assembly Line Supervisor in Detroit.
Upon completion of her tenure at GM, Cheryl continued her career as a Production Supervisor at Mazda and then at Ford Motor Company. While at Ford, Cheryl’s leadership and skill set earned her multiple promotions that led to the position of Quality Manager, responsible for five production facilities in Mexico that employed over 12,000 and supplied parts and services to over 54 Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s).
Cheryl gained further international experience as a Plant Manager at Lear Corporation leading a 3,500 employee operation in Mexico. While at Lear, Cheryl was promoted several times which led her to manage international operations in Canada, Poland, and England and provided technical support to operations in Hungary, Portugal, and Austria. The invaluable experience she acquired in mergers, acquisitions, start-ups, re-organizations, and relocations made her an excellent candidate for her next opportunity.
In 1999, Cheryl was recruited from Lear to head Hope Webbing as President and Chief Executive Officer. Founded in 1883, Hope Webbing was a privately held division of NFA Corporation in 1957. Taking the helm of a 116-year-old Textile manufacturing company, Cheryl realigned the organizational structure, revamped the business strategy and changed the company name to Hope Global. Over the last 19 years, Hope has gown its revenue by more five times, while increasing product lines and market share in the automotive, industrial and defense industries. With worldwide headquarters in Cumberland Rhode Island that resides in a 270,000 sq. ft. manufacturing operation, the company has grown to include other manufacturing operations in Mexico, Czech Republic and China. Company operations also include an Engineering Technical Service Center in Detroit Michigan and a Sales Office in Brazil. Cheryl’s uncompromised passion for quality has resulted in Hope achieving the quality certifications of TS16949, ISO 9001, EN14001 and was awarded GM Quality Award in 2015 and 2016. Leading a team of over 1750 employees globally, Cheryl’s ability to motivate, inspire and lead innovative teams have been an invaluable asset to Hope Global.
Cheryl’s community involvement is no less impressive. She is an active member, and a past-chair, of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, along with a past position of sitting of the Governor’s Workforce Board and Economic Develop Council. Cheryl is an active member of The Providence Chamber of Commerce, R.I. Textile Innovation Network (RITIN), R.I. Manufacturing Association (RIMA), the URI President’s Advisory Council, a Rhode Island Commodore, a Trustee of the Rhode Island Expenditure Council and is Secretary and Trustee of Bryant University, where she holds an Honorary Doctorate in Business and served as the chair from 2012 to 2015 for Bryant University’s World Trade Day. Cheryl also holds Honorary Doctorate of Humanity from New England Institute of Technology. In March of 2014, Cheryl was named the New England Business Women of the Year at Bryant University's Women's Summit. In October of 2017, Cheryl was named one of the 2017 Leading Women of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England. In February of 2018, Cheryl was named one of the Notable Women in Manufacturing by Crain's Detroit Business News, she accomplished all of this while still taking the time out to mentor young professional women and has started an employee mentoring program at Hope.