Martha Stewart could function on 3 hours of sleep as she built her business empire

Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart put in many early mornings as she built her business empire from her basement. AP
  • Martha Stewart started her catering business in 1973 from her basement in Westport, Connecticut.

  • She would drive to NYC every day to go to the markets at 4 a.m.

  • Her former catering staff said Stewart could function on three hours of sleep.

Before she became a cookbook author, a business mogul, and the first self-made female billionaire in America, Martha Stewart was a caterer.

But even then, she worked around the clock to build her empire.

New details of Stewart's incredible life were revealed in the four-part CNN docuseries "The Many Lives of Martha Stewart," which premiered on Sunday.

The first episode, titled "Setting the Table," followed Stewart's transition from Wall Street stockbroker to successful Connecticut caterer.

Stewart, who got married in 1961 and had her daughter Alexis in 1965, started her own business in 1973 from the basement of her Westport farm known as Turkey Hill.

Martha Stewart in 1976
Stewart in her kitchen in 1976, where she launched her catering business. Susan Wood/Getty Images

"Martha starts selling homemade cakes and pies at the Common Market, which is a market in Westport, and they become really popular," chef Carla Hall explains in the docuseries. "She really didn't want to work for anyone else. She had these ideas of being a caterer."

The docuseries showed an ad Stewart put in The Westport News that read: "If you're interested in getting involved in the most exciting food concept in Fairfield County, and if you're a wonderful baker or a good cook, please call this phone number."

The ad attracted Louise Felix, who had found her way into cooking after she left a corporate job at Revlon.

"It was a man's world," Felix said in the first episode. "There were expectations — you had to wear a dress, heels, and stockings. And it would be like, my feet are killing me."

"I worked in a restaurant, as so many of us did in the transition period of trying to find one's profession or self," she added.

Martha Stewart
Stewart on the grounds of her home in Westport, Connecticut, in August 1976.Susan Wood/Getty Images

It was Felix who often accompanied Stewart to the markets in New York City every day at 4 a.m. before they got to work.

"If you'd go early enough, you got the really good stuff, and she would always only get the best," Felix recalled. "I'd be in the backseat semi-conscious, and she was somebody who could function on three hours of sleep."

Stewart, now 82, said at a recent MasterClass event that she still wakes up "really, really early" — as soon as the sun rises. The lifestyle icon noted that she is always awake before her staff arrive to start the day at her Bedford, New York, home.

"They start coming to my home at 7 a.m.," Stewart said. "I don't sleep past that time ever because it would be embarrassing to be lolling around while my housekeepers were cleaning, you know? How horrible."

Stewart's early morning routine is similar to fellow icon Dolly Parton, who told BI in a previous interview that she often starts her day at 3 a.m.

"I don't need a whole lot of sleep," Parton said. "I go to bed pretty early, but even if I've been up late, it's just kind of like a little clock inside of me that says, 'It's 3 o'clock!'"

"I do some of my best work there, but I get enough sleep," she added. "I don't require as much sleep as a lot of other people do. That's kind of a Parton family trait."

Stewart's early mornings paid off. As her business grew, she began catering for the likes of Sotheby's and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, and her first cookbook, "Entertaining," became a smash hit when it was released in 1982.

But that was only the beginning of Stewart's legacy. The rest, as they say, is history.

Read the original article on Business Insider