Leading a Six-Generation Family Business

As chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Waterbury, Connecticut-based Hubbard-Hall, Molly Kellogg ’83 is making her ancestors proud. She is the sixth generation to operate the family-run company, which was founded in 1849 as Apothecaries Hall, a small drugstore.

Through the years, Hubbard-Hall has grown to what it is today: a $60 million business selling surface finishing chemistries to manufacturers of durable goods—everything from forks to faucets, and from automotive to aerospace—offering over 2, 000 products that help 100 industries or so thrive. And now Kellogg is at the helm with plenty of innovative ideas for the company’s future.

When asked how she ended up in her role, she laughs. “Nepotism,” she says, with a refreshing humility and sense of humor. Kellogg explains how she tried multiple courses of study at Princeton and ultimately majored in comparative literature.

“I’ve never taken a chemistry class in my life, but I can write a great email,” she jokes.

Like many college seniors, Kellogg wasn’t sure what she wanted to do upon graduating. Her roommate happened to be the daughter of Michael Dukakis, and Kellogg ended up moving to San Francisco to work on his 1988 presidential campaign. She spent a few years in politics, and also worked on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.

Unsold on pursuing a full-fledged political career, Kellogg decided to try something different: she applied to business school. She went on to attend the Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires in Fontainebleau, France, where she earned an M.B.A.

“I wanted to stay in Europe,” Kellogg says. “I loved the lifestyle. But in 1994, Hubbard-Hall acquired a new company outside of Boston, and it seemed like an interesting opportunity. That was the first time I considered joining the family business. Once I did, I never looked back.”

Even though Kellogg humbly shares that she feels “fortunate to have started life on second base,” it’s clear that she worked hard to climb the ladder to CEO. She held several ground-level positions in the company before spending the next two decades working tirelessly to earn her leading role. She’s now based outside of Boston, where she lives with her family, but spends much of the week at the company headquarters in Waterbury.

Despite employing just 95 people, Hubbard-Hall has an enormous impact nationally, and now globally, too. From Levi’s blue jean clasps to military equipment and medical applications like 3D printers, their reach extends far and wide.

Thanks to Kellogg’s leadership, Hubbard-Hall goes above and beyond when it comes to giving back. With a philanthropic mission as part of its core, it is heavily involved with local organizations like United Way of Greater Waterbury and Children’s Community School. Employees get paid for time spent volunteering.

“If we don’t have a healthy community, we don’t have a healthy business,” Kellogg says. “I’m glad I’ve been able to implement this company-wide commitment to charitable work. That’s something that’s surprised me about being CEO—how you get to be creative. If you have an idea and it’s feasible, you can make something out of it.”

For Kellogg, much of her creativity is channeled toward imagining the future. Ultimately, she hopes Hubbard-Hall will be “the chemical company that helps customers use less chemistry.”

“I’m so proud to be the sixth generation in my family to lead Hubbard-Hall, and if I’m thinking of passing it on to the seventh—which is my goal—I have an obligation to run the business as sustainably as possible. I’d love to be carbon neutral one day.”

It takes a great deal of emotional energy to run a company, Kellogg says.

“I didn’t realize that would be the case. But you’re in front of everybody every day, staying present and upbeat for your people, worrying about their well-being and personal safety. It’s a lot of pressure.”

To decompress, Kellogg plays hockey twice a week and on Tuesdays at Taft with a group called the “Senile Six” when she can. She was captain of the women’s team at Princeton. She loves the sport and also coached her twin daughters.

“It’s a weekly pickup skate with alumni, faculty, and townies,” she says. “It’s fun. I feel lucky to get to be back on the ice at Taft.”

—Carola Lovering Crane ’07