WEST WARWICK – There’s been a change in leadership at the 140-year-old Bradford Soap Works.
John Howland has moved into the position of executive chairman, while Stuart Benton has taken over as the new president and CEO of Bradford and its operating subsidiaries. The change went into effect last month, according to a news release.
Benton has spent the past five years as Bradford’s chief financial officer. The release said that during that time, he has made a significant impact on the company’s operations and business growth.
“We know that Stu will be a catalyst for laying a foundation for the future of Bradford,” Howland said in a statement. “Since he joined us in 2011, Stu has proven his incredibly solid grasp of all aspects of the business and an understanding of how to drive growth. He has great vision, exudes leadership and is truly a ‘next generation’ leader.”
The Howland family has a long history with the soap maker. In 1946, John Howland’s father, Allen, transformed the company from an industrial soap manufacturer into a bar soap manufacturer. In 1978, John Howland joined Bradford; he became the company’s president in 1983, succeeding his father as chairman in 2000.
John Howland’s son, Graham, oversees many of Bradford’s largest accounts as vice president – business development. John Howland will remain an active contributor to Bradford’s future as executive chairman.
Benton said he is “thrilled” to take on his new role, as he has a “great passion” for the company, from its rich heritage and strength in the marketplace to its history of innovation.
“Over the past five years, I have seen our organization continue to evolve as a leader in the industry. Our goals are to concentrate on creating products that inspire our customers and redefine the industry, to drive the company forward by building on our culture and to focus on initiatives that are strategically important,” Benton said.
Benton is in charge of a collaborative effort to revamp the company’s positioning statement, which will outline how the company runs internally, and in the marketplace. The statement’s mission outlines priorities that include “always being customer focused, providing a healthy and supportive environment for the company’s people, ensuring a continued emphasis on innovation, and positioning Bradford for smart strategic decisions in the marketplace regarding how and where the company grows the business,” the release said.
Benton, of North Easton, Mass., has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Bentley University, an executive masters of business administration from Suffolk University.
Bradford Soap, founded in 1876, also has facilities in Indiana, California and Mexico. It was the first U.S. bar soap manufacturer to receive organic certification.