More than 100 women from all facets of the promotional products industry traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, and the spectacular Ballantyne Hotel for the seventh annual PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC), held July 25-27, 2011.
Over the years, the conference has become the ultimate networking event for women in the industry who are looking to share information and learn from other women in the industry, as well as glean knowledge from classroom learning, panels and discussion groups.
Relationship building got off to a quick start just prior to the conference opening for early arrivals who opted for a half-day excursion in the green outdoors of the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Activities included rock climbing, zip lines, a mega-jump, a canyon crossing, and enjoying the nature trails and each other’s company.
Later that evening at the welcome reception, anticipation was high as Kimberly Newell, Women’s Leadership Conference Action Group leader, took to the stage to announce the 2011 PPAI Woman of Achievement Award winner. This year’s recipient, Margie Price, MAS, president and owner of Premiums Plus (UPIC: PREMPLUS), accepted the custom award created by R.S. Owens & Co., Inc. (UPIC: RSOWENS) and thanked many in the audience as well as in the industry, including PPAI staff, for their support and friendship through the years. Also joining her on stage was last year’s recipient, industry pioneer Margaret Custer Ford, MAS, who traveled from her home in Oregon for the event with daughter Nancy Gudekunst, MAS. (Learn more about Price on page 48)
Newell, who helped organize the event, says, “As a three-year attendee of the WLC, I am constantly amazed at how the level of what I take away from the conference each year grows and continues to be inspiring and a great avenue for success within my company. The WLC is definitely a must-attend event. If you have not had the opportunity to attend, I would encourage you to do so in 2012 as you will leave the event with relationships, knowledge and empowerment to succeed.”
This year’s conference offered 14 different, interactive education sessions, many taught by industry leaders, including an opening session panel discussion hosted by Jo-an Lantz, MAS, Geiger, and a closing session on inspiring high passion and high performance at all levels of an organization presented by speaker Libby Gill. Interspersed throughout the two-and-a-half-day conference were networking breakfasts and lunches, breakout sessions on topics from financial statements to social media to idea sharing, a keynote luncheon with speaker Dr. Janet Lapp and a closing event where attendees could simply relax and enjoy the live music.
“The Woman of Achievement Award presentation to Margie Price, MAS, with last year’s recipient, Margaret Custer Ford, MAS, on hand was a special moment for everyone in the room that no words could ever describe,” says Melissa Hendrick, PPAI’s director of professional development and business media. “That was followed by two very memorable days of enlightenment, empowerment and encouragement by some of the most extraordinary women in our industry.”
This year’s conference drew 25 first-time attendees who quickly picked up the group’s enthusiasm and energy. First-timer Pam Scott, CARO-LINE/Bandanna Promotions (UPIC: BANDANNA), says, “Meeting everybody has been so phenomenal. It recharged me. I needed that after 32 years with the same company. I highly recommend WLC.”
First-timer Sandra Smiley won a scholarship through her regional association Michigan Promotional Products Association (MiPPA) to attend the event. “I wanted to find out what other women in the industry are doing. It’s been phenomenal because of two discussion topics: the trends and the technology. I can talk to younger people, and those my own age, and find out what is working for them and how they use it instead of trying to figure it out on my own. There’s a lot out there to learn. I can take it all in, chew it all up, use what I need and leave with something really good.”
Kendra Kirks-McDougal, MAS, a fifth-year attendee, says she comes back year after year because of the relationships. “I met one of my very best friends in the industry four years ago at this event, and we still talk every single Monday—and we talk about our clients. When you create a relationship that is that strong, I don’t consider her a competitor. I consider her one of my best friends. You create relationships you are never going to get at The Expo or any event other than the Women’s Leadership Conference. I’ve learned things that are going to make it easier to run my business.”
First-time attendee Carol de Ville, MAS, was one of four Canadians at the event and found it extremely valuable. “It’s been absolutely marvelous. I would encourage anyone to get out there—networking opportunities are enormous and there are opportunities to work with multi-line reps, suppliers and distributors and share key practices and key learnings. I look forward to seeing you next year.”
This year was the third time Sonya Beam, MAS, The P.O.P Shop (UPIC: ThePO797), attended. “Wow, there are some fantastic women in this industry. I’ve been to other women’s events, but to have a focus on our industry brings a great deal of value to PPAI’s WLC. I’m discovering there’s a compounded benefit to attending year after year to transition relationships into friendships with suppliers, distributors and ladies within my own company. This week I was reminded that successful women: have a plan, know their strengths, do whatever it takes, network, take risks, learn to adapt and continue to learn. Looking forward to Denver in 2012!”
The dates for next year’s Women’s Leadership Conference are set—July 23-25, 2012, at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Denver Colorado. Check the PPAI website at www.ppai.org/wlc soon for details and to register.
“The success of WLC was a result of the direct impact and contribution that each and every attendee provided—without exception,” says Hendrick. “The education sessions offered content that was timely, relevant and compelling to assure each person would take back special key learnings that would make an immediate and positive impact on their work and lives.”