PPAI’s 2019 Women Of Achievement: Daryll Griffin, MAS, And Irene Kogutt, MAS


The Woman of Achievement Award has been presented annually since 2009, recognizing 13 women who have led the way in the advancement of women in the industry, and in tribute for their outstanding leadership and significant contributions within the industry and their communities. Griffin and Kogutt are the 14th and 15th recipients of the prestigious award.

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The experiences of Daryll H. Griffin, MAS, both in and out of the promotional products industry, are underscored by a lifetime of offering helping hands and genuine guidance to those in need. It’s a dynamic that reflects Griffin’s chosen life of service—a path that was first nurtured during her childhood.

Nominated by Danon Middleton, vice president of merchandising and program accounts at Silver Spring, Maryland-based Summit Group LLC, and Marsha Londe, partner and CEO of Tango Partners in Atlanta, and a previous PPAI Woman of Achievement award recipient, Griffin describes the award as one defined by “character,” “knowledge” and a “willingness to share,” coupled with industry service, and an honor she felt “humbled, honored and privileged” to receive.

Characteristic of Griffin’s giving personality, she invited the women in attendance at the presentation during the Women’s Leadership Conference to share in her accomplishments, addressing them throughout her acceptance speech as her “sisters” and referring to the 13 previous award recipients as “steel magnolias,” “kind,” “compassionate,” “doers of good” and “industry pillars.” She talked about the links between herself and other promo professionals, including the late Irene Kogutt, MAS, with whom she not only shared this year’s honor but similar personal experiences: both started their own businesses, became mothers and named their sons Michael. She then recalled a memory with the late Janelle Nevins, former owner of Nevins Marketing and a previous Woman of Achievement Award winner, who welcomed Griffin into the industry in the 1990s and told her, “We are not competitors, we are colleagues.”

When Griffin started her career, she didn’t enter directly into promo, but instead worked as a schoolteacher in Dekalb County, Georgia, and St. Louis, Missouri. She went on to work for Xerox Corporation as a southeast regional manager of personnel operations before founding Accolades, Inc. in 1990—the same year she met Nevins. And although she has long left the classroom, her background as a teacher has influenced her business and allows her to keep the spirit of teaching others burning ever so brightly. “There are several parallels to being a teacher and being a sales consultant in our industry. First, there is education and preparation, studying and gaining knowledge of your trade,” says Griffin “Then, you need to have an understanding of your students, your audience, your clients, your target market and their needs/requirements.”

Griffin holds several civic roles in her community, some that focus on helping other women to succeed and thrive, as she has. She has served as vice chair of the Board  of the Young Women’s Christian Association of Greater Atlanta, an organization that provides advocacy, social justice programs, education, financial empowerment, and health and safety measures for women and girls. She has served as board chair of the Atlanta Business League (ABL), the city’s oldest minority business development and advocacy organization, where she is currently board secretary. Accolades, Inc. is the only promotional products company in the ABL's Hall of Fame. And for 10 years, she served as secretary of the United Sisterhood of Wheat Street Baptist Church, and as director of Vacation Bible School on Wheat Street, where she is a lifelong member. She is currently president of the Azalea City Chapter of The Links, Inc. At the PPAI Expo in January, she was also honored with PPAI’s H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award in recognition of her volunteerism, and in 2016 she was recognized as a PPAI Fellow.

Griffin previously served on the boards of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council, Callanwolde Arts Center Foundation, Hispanic Corporate Council of America and was a two-term president of NSAC Jack and Jill America, an organization for mothers of children, ages 2-19, dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders. She also mentors young women attending Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, her undergraduate alma mater, where she serves as a trustee, and Spellman College in Atlanta; roles she is particularly proud of.

As a lifelong volunteer, Griffin followed in her parents’ footsteps. “It would be difficult for me to imagine a life of work without emulating my parents in giving back through volunteer work. They were masters of this, and as I tagged along with them, it became ingrained into my DNA,” she says. “I was never told to help others. I wanted to be of assistance. I am acutely aware that serving others with no expectancy of a return has blessed my life exponentially.”

And despite her many people-facing roles spent guiding others, Griffin still enjoys spending her free time with people most of all. “I love being with my family—in particular, my grandsons. I also have a circle of sister-friends, and we get together from time to time, either through volunteer work or over a simple meal to ‘chat and chew.’ These relationships are very important to me and keep me focused on what is important in life—being with people.” When she finds a moment to herself, she enjoys reading, watching black-and-white Turner Classic Movies and frequenting historical museums.

But as the saying goes, you can only keep what you have by giving it away, and Griffin does just that—even at the award ceremony. Sharing her accomplishments with the community at WLC, she said, “It warms my heart to see many new faces combined with industry veterans come together to continue leading, caring and sharing.” Then, after glancing around the packed ballroom, she proclaimed, “Collectively, we are WLC strong!” She closed her speech referring to an episode of NBC’s The Golden Girls, which ended with the words, “To Be Continued,” written across the screen. “Metaphorically, seeing each of you strong, capable sisters, I have every confidence that the future success of WLC, sustained by the sisters in this room, will be continued, and manifest itself into a sisterhood like no other.”

Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.

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Irene Kogutt, MAS, was known as a dedicated volunteer, a tenacious fundraiser, a driven businessowner and a persuasive and influential force in the promotional products industry and in her community for decades. She believed in leading by example, whether in her volunteer work for PPAI, the Promotional Products College Education Foundation (PPCEF)—now Promotional Products Education Foundation, (PPEF)—the business and religious organizations to which she belonged or her son, Michael’s, Cub Scout troop.

Kogutt, who passed away in 2017, and her late husband, Sam Kogutt, founded Dart Manufacturing Company in 1965 in Dallas, Texas, and transitioned the business into the promotional products industry in 1984. In those days, the industry was still very much a male-dominated industry, but that didn’t stop Kogutt from owning a business and serving at the highest levels of leadership.

During her time in the promotional products industry, she was an active giver and a doer. She served on PPAI committees and the PPAI Board of Directors from 1994 to 1998. She was also a passionate volunteer and fundraiser for PPCEF, serving on its board from 1996 to 2000, and as chair in 1998. She was also a strong supporter and active participant in education within the promotional products industry. In 1998, Kogutt was honored by ASI as an outstanding woman in the industry and in 1999 she was named a recipient of the PPAI Distinguished Service Award. Under her leadership, the company won 16 PPAI Supplier Star or Awards of Merit and numerous Supplier Achievement awards over the years.

Kogutt led by example as a parent, professional and industry member. She committed numerous hours to many organizations throughout her work and retirement years. She was active in fundraising for Akiba Academy and Yavneh Academy, and was a Cub Scout Den leader, chair of the Business and Professional Woman’s Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and a youth group leader. She also advised and counseled young women through the B’nai Brith Youth Organization where she was adored as Aunt Irene.

Michael Kogutt, MAS, the youngest of her three sons (including Randy and Jeff), was present at the WLC presentation to accept the award. His remarks were laced with humor and emotion as he recalled a mother who focused on being the best at whatever she took on, whether as a businessowner, volunteer, mentor, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother or friend.

For example, when Dart Manufacturing decided to get involved in the promotional products industry in 1984 (Sam didn’t think it was a good idea, so Kogutt and Michael forged ahead without him), she immersed herself in industry education classes while at trade shows and through week-long education seminars, and required Michael do the same. At one point, she had earned the 10th highest number of continuing education units (CEUs) in the industry; she achieved her MAS designation in 1989.

Armed with a solid foundation of knowledge and experience, Kogutt began to volunteer, first for the Dallas-area regional association, then called Specialty Advertising Association Metroplex, where she was program chair, membership chair, vice president and president. She then served on PPAI’s Conventions Committee as a member and as chair. In 1993, she was elected to the PPAI board where she served four years and was vice-chair marketing communications and vice-chair special events. In 1996, she joined the PPCEF board of trustees and was chair in 1998. It was in that role that she earned her reputation as an influential and beloved fundraiser for PPCEF.

“It was in her service on the board of PPCEF where Irene got her nickname, ‘The Dragon Lady,’” Michael explained with a smile during the award acceptance speech. “She had to have been the most prolific cash fundraiser (or more accurately a pick pocket) in the organization’s history and probably still is to this day. She would work the entry corridors in the registration area at Mandalay Bay Convention Center prior to the opening of The PPAI Expo collecting cash donations on behalf of PPCEF from anyone and everyone who crossed her path. Even I wasn’t immune. She would sternly approach me and say, ‘Get out your wallet!’”

Kogutt was also an early advocate of educating legislators about the industry. While president of her regional association, she regularly visited Texas senators’ offices in Washington D.C. to discuss industry interests.

When the family sold Dart in 2007, after 42 years in business, Kogutt refocused her energy and began to learn more about her faith. Having grown up in a small Illinois town, she did not have access to a strong Jewish community and was unable to earn her Bat Mitzvah as a young teen. But her dedication was fierce. She took her house Kosher, attended or held weekly study groups, learned to read the Torah and, after much work, received her Bat Mitzvah at age 70.

“Irene had a heart of gold and a will of steel,” says her nominator Kathy Burke, MAS, owner of AIA/Above & Beyond Incentives. “Her passion for many organizations and especially those that championed women is a very long list. Her commitment and integrity became the authentic culture of her company and the staff that worked with her. Her legacy could be seen long after her retirement as her focus shifted to her family, her congregation and her community. She was a humble woman whose quiet influence and wonderful friendship touched many.”

In closing his remarks during the WLC presentation, Michael expressed how proud his mother would be to see how far women have come in the industry. He added, “I certainly hope that Irene’s driven personality and leadership within the industry have, in some small way, helped each of you achieve new heights in your careers by her example, and showing others that women can ‘get ’er done,’ as we like to say in Texas. I am very proud to see it because I was raised and schooled by a strong woman.”  

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Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB.

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