PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference Finishes Another Powerful Run




Mary Dobsch (center) received the 2016 PPAI Woman of Achievement Award at the WLC’s welcome dinner, and was joined on stage by some of the many friends she’s made during her 39 years in the industry.

After two and a half days of learning, listening, conversing, connecting and sharing their experience, ideas and knowledge, the nearly 160 attendees at this year’s PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference parted ways following the event’s closing dinner. They took with them new friendships, fresh resources and a renewed spirit to succeed.

Held in Atlanta, Georgia, June 27-29, the conference began with opening activities and a welcome dinner. Attendees then participated in two full days of education with four general sessions teaching innovation, leadership and communication and a choice of breakout sessions each day on topics ranging from personal strategic planning and emerging technology trends to executive decision making and coaching employee performance.

Sixteen early arrivals spent half a day on Monday packing meals for clients of a local nonprofit organization, Open Hand. Since it was founded in 1988, Open Hand has been preparing and delivering freshly prepared meals to meet the daily nutritional needs of low-income men, women and children who are dealing with a critical, chronic or terminal disease; and homebound seniors. In three hours, the group packed 1,700 meals and prepared food for 1,300 more meals for the clients of Open Hand.

Sixteen WLC participants joined local nonprofit Open Hand on Monday to help prepare meals for low-income families.

Sixteen WLC participants joined local nonprofit Open Hand on Monday to help prepare meals for low-income families.

This was the first year that WLC included an opportunity for attendees to leave a positive impression on the host community through volunteerism.

In addition to the philanthropic activity, two

World-of-Coca-Cola-Visit web

WLC attendees learned about the world-famous soft drink during a tour of the Coca-Cola Museum.

other groups of attendees spent the morning immersed in local culture at their choice of optional outings—a tour to the World of Coca Cola, a museum showcasing the history of the world-famous beverage, or a visit to the Margaret Mitchell House, the turn-of-the-century former residence of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gone With The Wind author.

The conference officially got under way Monday evening with an opening session featuring a presentation on industry change by PPAI Chair-Elect Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, followed by a networking reception and welcome dinner honoring this year’s Woman of Achievement Award recipient, Mary Dobsch.

New this year was the addition of a conference app compatible with Apple and Android devices that gave attendees instant access to the agenda, a speaker list, a hotel map, a roster of attendees with headshots, and an event feed where attendees could interact with each other in real time.

On Wednesday, Yolanda White, global group director, The Coca-Cola Company, presented a general session on building brands, calling on her experiences in working for one of the most recognized and valuable brands in the world. The conference wrapped up late Wednesday with humorist and motivational speaker Kelly Swanson, who spoke about finding passion and purpose in life and work.

Monday Reception Kelli Denes, Christine Marion and Christine Strobl web

Kelli Denes; Christine Marion, MAS+; and Christine Strobl wear capes provided by supplier Yorkn during WLC’s superhero-themed networking reception.

Jo-an Lantz, MAS, CEO at distributor Geiger, has been a dedicated attendee at WLC since its start more than 10 years ago, and she currently serves on the WLC Work Group. “WLC is a wonderful opportunity to learn ideas and new skills,” she says. “The energy is electric with so many first-time attendees (over 60) in a sold-out event. The WLC is the one industry event in which everyone, from the Millennials to the seasoned professionals, is well represented. For me, the PPAI WLC is the one must-attend event.”

Frequent attendee Jenny Straub, director of marketing at Imagen Brands-Vitronic, says she picked up a valuable tip while she was listening to Opening General Session presenter Colette Carlson on Tuesday morning. Carlson talked about the truths female leaders need to know—including not downplaying achievements. “The aha moment for me was when she said to express your success by watching your inside job. So many times I discount my accomplishments. What I will do now is take ownership of those accomplishments and share them with others.”

Among the event’s newbies was Dawn Hays, CAS, senior account manager at distributor Sunrise Identity. “As a first-timer at WLC I was able to make amazing connections with women inside my industry,” says Hays. “It was also a blast to put names and faces together with women I have known for years via phone and email. This was a great opportunity for me to hit my ‘reset button,’ coming back to work inspired and ready to take on the world. I feel energized and empowered to keep making a difference in my workplace and my community—so much so that I’m going to use this opportunity to thank my president, Mitch Mounger, and ask if he would send me back year after year.”

Sharon Benson, order processing supervisor at distributor HALO Branded Solutions, says, “As a first-time attendee, this week has been a very invigorating experience. The women attending this conference are very motivating and welcome you like they have known you forever. The speakers and sessions have been phenomenal and have provided me with a wealth of knowledge. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be able to attend and hope to be a repeat attendee.”

Her colleague, Mary Pat Stewart, customer service supervisor at HALO says, “I feel extremely fortunate and appreciate the opportunity to network with like-minded women of our industry over the past few days. What a fabulous and dynamic community of brilliant superheroes.”

Shelley Sake, vice president of marketing at supplier Evans Manufacturing, Inc., was another first-timer who quickly became a devoted WLC fan. “As a first-time attendee, I am so impressed with the powerful women I’ve met at the Women’s Leadership Conference and the willingness of them to share their thoughts and ideas. It has been a wonderful opportunity to meet new contacts, connect with industry leaders and to see industry friends. It’s good to see the spirit of cooperation and the learning that happens at every session. I’m excited to get back to the office and put what I’ve learned to good use. I understand now why it’s such a popular event—I hope to be a repeat attendee.”

Next year’s WLC will be held in Scottsdale, Arizona, June 26-28, 2017. Watch the PPAI website for registration information. –Tina Berres Filipski


Lee Strom Joins PPAI Board


Lee Strom, vice president of marketing and CMO of supplier SanMar, joined the PPAI Board of Directors in June to fill the seat vacated by Bruce Perryman, MAS+, who stepped down. He was appointed by PPAI Board Chair Tom Goos, MAS, and approved by the board to fill the remainder of Perryman’s term, which ends at The PPAI Expo 2018.

“Lee brings unique expertise to the board,” says Goos. “With his vast industry knowledge, previous board experience and marketing knowledge, he will be a great asset to the PPAI Board, staff and industry. His marketing expertise also comes at a key time as we roll out the industry branding initiative.”

Following a 16-year career in retail marketing, Strom joined SanMar in 2001. As the supplier’s head of marketing, he serves on its leadership team and works to help the Issaquah, Washington, company engage the industry and develop the marketing tools necessary to grow its business and that of its customers.

Strom’s first term on the PPAI board began at Expo 2010 as a member of the Class of 2014. An active industry volunteer, alongside his role in the Association’s leadership he has served on its Suppliers Committee and Government Relations Action Group, and has spoken frequently at PPAI events.

“I’m rejoining the board to serve as a steward of the industry during a time of increasing change,” says Strom. “All of us are consumers first, meaning that the expectations in how we research and buy products are highly influenced by our personal shopping habits. We need to evolve and deliver marketing and products that respect those habits.

“Promotional products are one of the best and sustaining branding mediums that continue to grow in a sea of change. I’m especially excited to work on the new branding initiative the board has commissioned,” Strom adds. “Promotional products lead to so much good in building teams and communities and we need to do ever more to tell those stories.”

Outside the promotional products industry, Strom has lent his volunteer services to the Seattle Direct Marketing Association, sat on the Hazen High School Community Relations and Process Improvement Committees and the Newport Presbyterian Church Mission Committee, and served on the Columbia Rim Homeowners Association board.

An avid outdoors enthusiast, Strom is the founder of the Newcastle Running Club and has served on the Newcastle Trails board.

Now Boarding

PPAI Announces 2017 Board Officers

In June, PPAI announced that officers had been selected for the Association’s 2017 Board of Directors. They are Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, chair; Dale Denham, MAS+, chair-elect; and Brittany David, CAS, vice chair, financial services. They will begin their one-year terms immediately following The PPAI Expo 2017. Tom Goos, MAS, the 2016 PPAI Board chair, will move to the immediate past chair role in 2017. The officers were selected by the PPAI Board Officer Nominating Committee and voted on by the PPAI board.

“PPAI is extremely fortunate to have the caliber of experienced leaders and deeply committed volunteers it has, who are so willing to give of their time and talents to the board, and even more so when they aspire to the board’s most time-consuming, challenging and important leadership roles,” says Rick Brenner, MAS+, immediate past board chair and chair of the Board Officer Nominating Committee.

mtomasini-3 webChair of the Board Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, CEO of distributor CE Competitive Edge, LLC in Stevensville, Michigan, is a 30-plus-year veteran of the promotional products industry. Tomasini founded CE in 1993 and has transformed it into one of the largest promotional products companies in the industry. She is a member of the Michigan Promotional Products Association (MiPPA) and currently chairs PPAI’s Government Relations Advisory Council (GRAC). Tomasini has worked to encourage women in business, serving as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) mentor for women in Michigan starting a new business or considering Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification. She is an alumna of Lake Michigan College and serves on the foundation and alumni boards. She also currently chairs the Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees.

“The founder of a highly successful woman-owned distributorship in Western Michigan, Mary Jo Tomasini will be an exceptional chair when she takes the reins next year,” says Brenner. “She is smart, successful and has years of senior non-profit board experience. Having worked closely with her on the board for the past two years, I can attest that she is spot on with her insights and always has a sensible approach to the matters we handle on the Executive Committee and with recommendations we make to the board.”

Dale Denham Picture 1 webChair-Elect Dale Denham, MAS+, is the CIO of Lewiston, Maine-based distributor Geiger. Denham is a member of the four-person senior leadership team which sets business direction for the firm, and is responsible for technology strategies and oversees a staff of 25. Prior to joining Geiger, Denham served as senior vice president of ASI for 10 years and was president of Impact Data for five years prior to that. He has served on several PPAI committees—Membership Services, Leadership Advisory, Government Relations Action Council and Technology, of which he was chair. He originated, organized and chaired the first (and the successive) PPAI Technology Summit. Denham has served as president of PPA Florida and is currently a chef in PromoKitchen. He is also the organizer and leader of a non-PPAI group of distributors and suppliers working to develop industry technology standards, and frequently speaks at PPAI, regional and industry events. Computerworld recognized him in 2015 as one of the nation’s 100 premier IT leaders for his leadership and innovative approaches to business challenges.

“Dale Denham, our new chair-elect, is an equally capable and highly accomplished candidate,” adds Brenner. “His work on advancing technology solutions for the industry have won plaudits from all whom I have spoken to about the work of his committee—large and small distributors and suppliers alike. Dale brings broad experience to the board, having spent years in a senior leadership position at ASI and now in his role as chief technology officer for Geiger.”

Brittany D (2) (1520x1900) webVice Chair, Financial Services Brittany David, CAS, vice president of sales at supplier SnugZ USA, is a 10-year veteran of the promotional products industry. She has been with SnugZ for five years and prior to that she was the trade-show management services manager at SAGE Quick Technologies Inc. David is currently serving on the PPAI Board of Directors and Expo East Advisory Board, is board liaison to the Supplier Committee and a member of the Power Meeting advisory group, and she continues to serve as co-chair of the PPAF Expo Committee for the third year. Her creative firepower and engaging personality landed her on Counselor magazine’s 2013 Hot List, and she has been a panelist for the ASI Power Summit and PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference, and was named a PPB Rising Star in 2014. David also volunteers for the Utah Food Bank, Primary Children’s Hospital and various community service projects with the SnugZ GiveZ community service committee.

“Brittany David rounds out our slate in her first board leadership position as vice chair of finance,” says Brenner. In addition to her industry expertise and good business sense, we look forward to Brittany’s perspective as a Millennial on our board and executive committee. In my final year of board service, I’m thrilled that we have such committed and capable leaders to guide us in the future.”

Tom G (2) webImmediate Past Chair of the Board Tom Goos, MAS, is president of Image Source, a top promotional products distributor in Kirkland, Washington. A veteran of nearly 20 years in the industry, Goos’ key responsibilities are providing strategic direction, overseeing daily operations and financials as well as overseeing major client relations and supplier partnerships. He is an Executive-In-Residence at the University Of Washington Bothell School Of Business where he is a guest speaker, mentor and advisor to undergraduate and MBA students. Goos was recognized by the Puget Sound Business Journal’s award program, 40 Under Forty, as one of the top 40 dynamic leaders and entrepreneurs. He is also a former two-term president of the Northwest Promotional Marketing Association (NWPMA).