40 Under 40 The Class of 2012

Karen Woods: 37

Director of Public Relations, Yankee Candle Co.

Woods-KarenMarieIn her nine years at Yankee Candle, Karen Woods has worked in a number of capacities, from human resources to wholesale to public relations. It’s that current role, she said, that most lights her fire.
“I have the opportunity to share the company’s history and products, and create campaigns that resonate with consumers,” Woods said, adding that she also oversees Yankee Candle’s charitable and philanthropic efforts.
“I truly believe I represent a product that evokes memories; it’s an emotional product that makes people feel good. Candles bring light and fragrance, and so many consumers say Yankee Candle fragrances hold real meaning for them. It’s not just a product on the shelf, but it actually brings happiness to people.”
Woods brings that same spirit to her civic involvement, particularly in her extensive work for the American Heart Assoc., including leadership in the annual Go Red for Women luncheon.
“Although I sit on the executive leadership team, I’m more than just a person sitting there,” she said. “It’s not just something for my résumé; it certainly has meaning to me, and I take pride in it.”
That’s because heart disease runs in her immediate family, and that of her husband. “A lot of people have been touched by heart disease in my family. And, although I can’t change my genetic makeup, I can make changes in myself,” she said, which is why she makes an effort to promote a healthy lifestyle both through the AHA and in her own life. “Most people don’t know that heart disease is the number-one killer of women, and they don’t know their numbers and their risks.”
She’s also involved in Link to Libraries, promoting early literacy, and autism-awareness efforts, among other activities.
“Giving back to the community is who we are as a family,” said Woods, who welcomed her first child with her husband, James, earlier this year. “If I can make a difference in one person’s life, it’s worth all the time and effort. It’s not a job, or just a meeting I have to go to; it’s part of my lifestyle.”
— Joseph Bednar