Throughout her youth, Alicia Sweet Hupp ’82 watched her father contribute his time, talent and treasure to his company and his community. She saw how he positively affected people, and she admired his tenacity and his compassion. Yet, she never envisioned being a part of his career until the day her father’s manufacturing company came calling. Now, 27 years later, including 13 as the company’s president, Hupp continues to take Sweet Manufacturing to new heights, all the while remembering her hometown.
During an afternoon drive down Springfield’s Leffel Lane, a casual passer-by might not realize that one of the world’s top providers of material handling solutions resides just off the two-lane road. With its country surroundings and signature green logo atop a green metal roof, the company conveys a personal, approachable, down-to-earth aura consistent with its business philosophy and the leadership style of its CEO and president Alicia Sweet Hupp. A walk inside confirms the hometown feel as Hupp heads back to her corner office.
There, inside her windowless, dark-paneled room, guests immediately understand Hupp’s inspiration, not only in business, but also in life. For her, success is not measured solely in dollars, but in an uncompromising commitment to her employees, her clients and her community.
“I want to be able to contribute to this community to the best of my ability,” Hupp says. “I also surround myself with great people, and together we do a great job.”
For more than 50 years, family-owned Sweet Manufacturing has been recognized around the globe as an industry leader for “The Quality Line” of bulk material handling and processing equipment, conveyor support systems, structural support towers, stairs and grating. With nearly 30 international dealers and roughly 50 domestic ones in its network, Sweet is poised to be the world’s first-choice provider in its industry.
“Innovation, high-quality products and unparalleled customer service have been Sweet’s hallmark for half a century,” says Hupp, whose initial introduction to the industry occurred at the tender age of 3.
Back then, Sweet developed and produced the “Sweetheart” elevator bucket, which Hupp’s father and company founder, W. Dean Sweet, marketed using his daughter’s toddler photo. Known as “Miss Sweet” in all the promotional materials, Hupp soon became a household image within the industry.
Yet, as time passed and Sweet Manufacturing continued to enjoy success, Hupp found herself looking outside her hometown for her career path. While at Wittenberg, she saw herself in Chicago working at a marketing firm, but then the phone rang. It was her father’s successor at Sweet, and he asked Hupp if she would be interested in interning at the company during the holiday break, specifically in the marketing division.
She agreed and soon thereafter was offered an entry-level role at Sweet Manufacturing.
“I thought it would be temporary,” Hupp recalls, noting the lack of women in administrative capacities within the industry when she began.
More than two decades later, Hupp has never forgotten her journey to the top. Having worked in numerous administrative roles at Sweet before being named president and CEO, Hupp knows that success of Sweet’s magnitude is not the result of one, but rather the result of everyone who embodies the company values, which include being consistent and fair; acting with integrity, honesty and respect; being responsible for internal and external customer needs; striving for excellence; embracing challenges; and being a good teammate and citizen.
“I’m very team-oriented, and I’m humbled when people look at our company and tell us they like doing business with us because ‘we’re like family,’” says Hupp, who regularly serves as a role model for bridge-building.
“I work very hard at relationship-building,” she continues. “It has been challenging at times, but I’ve learned to just be myself, and in so doing, I’ve earned the respect of others.”
The same can be said of Hupp and her respect of others in the industry. For example, this past January, she hosted the company’s top worldwide dealers at a reception in Atlanta. An award-winning company in its own right, having twice secured the Governor’s E Award for excellence in exporting by the State of Ohio, Sweet took time to recognize others at the celebration.
“The people in this industry are just wonderful, real people,” Hupp says. “It’s a privilege to recognize them.”
Hupp’s desire to give back has also inspired those closer to home, where she has served her community through service on several boards, including Wittenberg’s Board of Directors, and where she has followed her father’s philanthropic footsteps as well as his professional ones.
“I never realized the magnitude of what he did when I was younger,” Hupp says. “The success of Sweet Manufacturing is pretty amazing when you stop and think about it. He was an inspiration and an advocate for education, and he also respected so many people in this community. I inherited all of this from him. I love this industry and the people in it, and I’m proud to be a part of this community.”