After graduating from York College of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s in criminal justice/juvenile corrections, Janet McMaster, MAS, realized that she didn’t want to pursue that line of work.

While reading the newspaper, she stumbled upon a job listing by an “ad specialty” company for an administrative assistant “in a fast-paced office.”

“I had no idea what ‘ad specialty’ meant,” McMaster says, “but I liked the idea of a challenging environment and thought it sounded like a good start to building my resume in the corporate world.”

Planning to work at Strayer-Beitzel, one of Geiger’s divisional offices in York, Pennsylvania, for only a few years, McMaster has spent her entire career at the No. 5 distributor in the 2024 PPAI 100. The 38-year veteran of the promotional products industry has climbed the company ladder to regional sales vice president at Geiger, where she has been instrumental in growing sales from $15.1 million in 2009 to north of $330 million today.

In an industry that can sometimes resemble musical chairs, McMaster says she’s remained at the family-owned distributor because of its culture.

“That includes a ‘family’ of relationships, valuing people – our employee associates above all – giving back to our industry and communities, doing what is right, focusing on corporate social responsibility, DEI and product safety and finding ways to do things better so we’re more effective in serving our clients with the solutions they need,” she says.

Mentorship & Stewardship

A proven and driven leader, McMaster has served on several committees and boards of regional associations, most recently as chair of the Virginia Promotional Products Association. In 2023, she served as chair of the Promotional Products Education Foundation board. In 2016, she was named a PPAI Fellow.

Throughout her career, McMaster has mentored not only many sales partners within Geiger, but also countless women on both the distributor and supplier side seeking to advance their position within the industry.

“It’s important that a mentor makes introductions of key people in the industry to the mentee to help expand their professional network and open new opportunities for creative collaboration and growth,” McMaster says. “Like any industry, ours has its own set of challenges. Whether it’s pricing pressure, supply chain issues or changing customer preferences, a mentor can help you navigate these challenges and find solutions that work for your business.”

Having a mentor can accelerate someone’s learning curve, help them avoid costly mistakes and increase their chances of success in the industry, she adds.

McMaster is also heavily involved in various church activities, including playing piano for worship services, and she volunteers at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center reading to patients after delivering evening meal trays. She also assists Band Together NC, helping to raise over $1 million annually for local nonprofits.

“Janet’s contributions to our industry and her community aren’t just a list of accomplishments; they’re a testament to her leadership, passion for helping others and ability to inspire those around her,” says nominator Danny Rosin, CAS, president and co-owner of Brand Fuel – ranked the No. 46 distributor in the 2024 PPAI 100 – and co-founder of Band Together NC.

‘You Don’t Travel This Journey Alone’

Fellow nominator Jo-an Lantz, MAS, president and CEO of Geiger, has worked alongside McMaster for more than 30 years.

“Her evolution as a leader embodies what the Woman of Achievement award was designed for and embodies what the WLC is all about,” Lantz says. “She began her career providing sales support to Geiger sales partners. Her career goal was to expand her responsibilities to a future leadership position within the company. Over the course of her career, step by step and risk by risk, Janet did so by rising to the level of vice president.”

All the while, Lantz adds, she became a mentor, sponsor and leader to others outside of Geiger. “What Janet won’t say is how much courage it took for her to step out of her comfort zone time after time for her own personal achievements, as well as to assist others to reach their goals,” she says. “Janet is strong, courageous, ethical, kind, knowledgeable, warm, friendly and has the unique ability to stand up for what is right. Janet holds truth to power, which is rare in today’s society.”

McMaster credits her remarkable longevity and success to emulating industry mentors and leaders, such as Lantz, Rosin, Rita Smith, Mary Ellen Sokalski, Dale Johnson-Cornell, Daryll Griffin, Pat Dugan and Fred Snyder.

“You don’t travel this journey alone,” McMaster says. “I’m always eager to encourage and empower the women leaders of tomorrow. Our industry’s future depends on it.”