As CEO of Texarkana, Texas-based E-Z Mart Stores Inc., which operates more than 300 stores in five states, Sonja Hubbard is a true c-store industry veteran.
Hubbard was just a child when her father, Jim Yates founded E-Z Mart in 1970 and learned the ropes at an early age. “I grew up with this industry watching my dad build E-Z Mart from the very start,” Hubbard said. “It’s truly in my blood, in more ways than one.”
Hubbard joined E-Z Mart full time after graduating from the University of Arkansas and has been with the company for more than 20 years, serving as assistant controller, controller and chief financial officer before taking the helm, following the untimely death of her visionary father in 1998.
In addition to her position at E-Z Mart, Hubbard has been very active with NACS over the years. Before taking on the role of 2008-2009 NACS Chairwoman, Hubbard served as the NACS treasurer, and also has been a member of the NACS Supplier Board and the NACS Convention and Events Committee. Before that she served two terms as vice chairman of the NACS Government Relations Committee, four years on the NACS Audit Committee and six years on the NACSPAC Committee.
While some leaders would feel the stress of the additional industry responsibilities, Hubbard has thrived and said she is pleased to be a woman at the forefront of a predominately male dominated industry.
“It is rewarding and exciting to think that women have made such strides, especially in an industry like ours that is so very male dominated at the top,” Hubbard said. “At the same time, it is comforting that gender hasn’t really been an issue. The fact that women are accepted and considered as peers proves we’ve come a long way and that this is a great industry to be part of.”
Pioneering the Path
Hubbard regularly encourages other women to take a hard look at the c-store industry as a viable career choice. “The industry has so much more to offer than most see from the outside, or have stereotyped it to be,” she said. “This is a fast-paced, rapidly changing industry with unlimited opportunities. I love that in this business you can never be bored. I also believe that our companies are eager to see more women in leadership roles in the c-store industry, creating even more options and opportunities for success.”
Other female executives that have opened doors, and serve as mentors to other women in the industry include Becky Shotwell, president of Stop-N-Go in Medina, Ohio; and Andrea Jackson, president and chief operating officer of Jackson’s Food Stores in Idaho, who also was named Idaho Business Review’s Woman of the Year in 2006. At NACS, Jennie Jones, of S&D Coffee is the first female to take on the role of supplier board chairman, and Jenny Bullard, chief information officer of Flash Foods was the first female chair of NACSTech.
“The fact that so many women are stepping forward and up, proves that I’m not an anomaly, but instead we’re actually viable candidates for leadership,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard also advised aspiring female leaders to know what they bring to the table and to use their individual talents to their advantage. “For years women tried to be men in business, and that was a mistake. We bring distinct qualities that should be celebrated, just like those of our male counterparts.”