OREM -- Mary Crafts-Homer didn't start out to run a business. She planned to be a stay-at-home mom.

But, as she will be the first to admit, things often change. She is the owner and founder of the catering company Culinary Crafts, and has received the 2014 Kirk Englehardt Business Ethics Award, an honor bestowed Thursday at Utah Valley University.

Crafts-Homer has received many honors for her work and her business, but none has affected her like this.

"This particular award has so much personal meaning because it didn't speak so much to my work as a good caterer or businesswoman, but it spoke to me personally as an individual," she said." If there is anything I want to be remembered for in my tenure of business it is that I was a woman of integrity."

Dean Norman Wright of the Woodbury School of Business at UVU, which sponsors the award, praised the winner.

"Mary Crafts-Homer exemplifies all the service and entrepreneuralism this award stands for," he said. "Her personal and professional commitment to integrity has been the footprint of her incredible journey, and we're honored to call her a treasured member of the Woodbury School of Business family."

Crafts-Homer is a member of the Woodbury School's National Advisory Council, and actually sat in on the nominating procedures for this year's Englehardt Award.

"I listened to the people being nominated," she said. " 'That is such a good person,' I thought when I heard their names."

Someone nominated her, but she didn't think much of it until the next month at the UVU Scholarship Ball when she was told she had been selected.

"I just really teared up," Crafts-Homer said. "I am very honored. For me to receive it and stand up there is a little bit daunting. All eyes would be on me to look at my life. Have I really walked the walk?"

If she hasn't, it's not for lack of trying.

"I am not perfect," she said. "I have made mistakes, but having that principle out there all these years has really shaped who I am and what the business is."

"Always be a person of integrity," she added. "Integrity will bring you more power than you can possibly imagine. Three decades of this crazy business, and I still love coming to work."

She has catered for U.S. presidents, British royalty, international politicians and celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Jay Leno and Diane Keaton.

Things didn't start out with those customers, however.

"I really had no intentions about working my degree," said Crafts-Homer, who studied social work as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University. "I was going to get married and have children. As in so many situations that isn't what life brought."

Medical problems and related issues brought her to realize that making a living was up to her.

"I wanted to start a business that I could have my children with me," she said. "I always loved to cook and entertain. I thought maybe I could make some money with that."

Sure enough, her children and her business grew up together.

"I bathed my kids in the kitchen sink and my two boys would roll out their mattresses in the reception area every night and we would sleep here at the office," she said. "This business has been in their blood from the very beginning. I did what I needed to do and the business was home. It still is."

When they got a bit older, the kids helped out.

"My children worked beside me in the company from the time they were just tiny," Crafts-Homer said. "They had a working mother but a mother who worked beside them."

"I discovered I had some talent and some skills I didn't know I had," she added. "People liked what I brought to the table."

From that beginning, Culinary Crafts has grown to 35 full-time employees and about 100 part-timers. The company recently broke ground on a 19,000-square-foot facility in Pleasant Grove. It has new kitchens, corporate offices and areas for corporate team building, cooking classes and gelato manufacturing.

And that's only part of what the future may hold.

"I have tons of things I am involved with," Crafts-Homer said. "A network approached me about a reality TV series. We just shot the pilot and we will see what happens there. It's about catering and event planning. My first cookbook will be published in the fall. It hasn't been named yet, but it is about special celebrations in our lives and the food that goes with them."

"Life has lots of adventures left for me," she said.

She credited her parents and her upbringing for initially instilling her with a sense of integrity.

"Certainly my parents were a great example," she said. "I was born and raised in Iowa with great Midwestern conservative values.

"I remember all the things my father provided for the farming community around him. When he passed away, hundreds and hundreds of people came to his funeral. What I heard more than anything else was, 'Your father was the most honest man I have ever known.' His example has stayed with me all these years."

A convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she was a freshman in college, she transferred to BYU to finish her education and never left Utah County.

"I have loved living here and loved everything about the valley," she said. "The state has such natural beauty. This is a wonderful place to grow a business."

She acknowledged economic downturns in 2001 and 2008.

"We were hit and affected, but not as much as the rest of the nation," Crafts-Homer said. "We are still pushing forward. People see Utah as a prime destination."

In December, she sold a percentage of her business to her two sons, with the possibility of adding her daughter, who is younger, in the future.

"The door is open to her, too," Crafts-Homer said. "My sons are as good as I am. They will be better. They are taking a good company and making it great.

"I could not be happier to turn this legacy over to them."

Previous Englehardt Award winners:

• Peter Metcalfe of Black Diamond, Inc.

• Patricia Werhane, endowed chair at DePaul University

• BYU-Idaho president Kim Clark

• International corporate business developer Joel Peterson

• Close to My Heart president and CEO Jeanette Lynton

• Orin Woodbury, former president and CEO of Woodbury Corporation

• David Ulrich, author, professor and CEO of RBL Group

• Timothy P. Stratford, assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China Affairs

• Omar Kader, founder and CEO of Pal-Tech Inc.

-- Barbara Christiansen covers news in American Fork government, schools, residents, business and more. You can connect with Barbara by emailing her at bchristiansen@heraldextra.com

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