P. Allen Smith, San Pedro Aim Global

P. Allen Smith, the Little Rock garden designer and television host, has tapped longtime Little Rock marketer Mimi San Pedro as COO and chief marketing officer of his media production company, Hortus Ltd.

(More on P. Allen Smith in this week's full cover story.)

San Pedro has been working with Smith since November, but is only now announcing this role, in which she will steer the expansion of the P. Allen Smith brand. In a news release, Smith praised San Pedro as "the ideal candidate to grow a global brand and oversee the administration of the company," adding that her job is to "keep us on the path to global recognition."

He already has leveraged his public television show, "P. Allen Smith's Garden Home," and the syndicated "P. Allen Smith Gardens" into a holiday collection (wreaths, etc.) and a line of packaged bulbs sold at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. He also has published five books, with a sixth, a cookbook, on the way. To hear San Pedro talk about the possibilities - furniture, home décor, housewares - is to imagine the same consumer product and media crossover of Martha Stewart or Emeril Lagasse, craftspeople who amplified an aspect of home life into a full-blown commercial empire.

"People will gravitate to comparing our brand to Martha Stewart or Emeril, but it's so different," San Pedro said. "Emeril is food. Martha Stewart is crafts. The root of P. Allen is gardening. From there, everybody starts to expand their brand."

The phrase she uses to describe where Allen is going is "a total lifestyle brand," connecting the growing of flowers to entertaining on a back patio, and the cultivation of vegetables to preparing them for dinner.

San Pedro arrives at Hortus having worked for three ad agencies, including 14 years at Little Rock creative agency Stone Ward. She then worked for five years growing the brand of medical supplier ContourMed, and then three years at Acxiom, where she developed marketing strategies for the massive, if somewhat inscrutable, data services company. "It didn't have a consistent face inside the company and outside the company, in messaging, in strategy, in look, in feel," she said.

Working for Smith, she said, is consistent with her career path: "To me it's about taking a startup or a brand that needs to expand into something bigger." But it's also a welcome departure. ContourMed builds prosthetic breasts for mastectomy patients; Acxiom's output is great, gray reams of numbers. Working around the natural world is a lighter endeavor. "I wanted something exciting and happy," San Pedro said. "There's nothing dark or heavy about what we do. Every day you come in, it's beauty. It makes people feel good."