PPAI Board Chair Mary Jo Tomasini opening the Women’s Leadership Conference on Monday night by sharing the story of how she started her career and launched and grew a thriving distributor company.

The splendor of the Arizona desert in summertime provided a breathtaking backdrop for this year’s Women’s Leadership Conference taking place this week in Scottsdale.

The annual event, now in its 13th year, drew a record 163 attendees, including 67 first-timers, to the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia for the promotional products industry’s leading women’s conference. This year’s attendees represent a cross section of the industry with professionals at every level from suppliers, distributors and business services companies, and with more than half of attendees each bringing more than 11 years of industry experience to the mix.

In what has become a tradition for WLC attendees to give back to the local community in which the event is held, 15 early arrivals participated in a volunteer project on Monday morning at the UMOM New Day Center. There they counted donations, hung shower curtains, sorted fruit and served a hot lunch to 136 of the center’s clients. UMOM’s mission is to prevent and end homelessness and hunger, and it’s the largest homeless shelter in the state.

Early-bird attendees spent Monday morning volunteering at a local community center.

The conference officially got under way on Monday evening with a welcome reception for first-time attendees; followed by the opening session led by Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, CEO of CE Competitive Edge, LLC and PPAI chair of the board; and a welcome by Kate Plummer, sales manager at Clearmount Plastics Ltd. and co-leader of the WLC Work Group.

“Networking is the number one reason, year after year, that people say they come to WLC,” says Plummer. “A lot of the women are working for themselves or in small offices, and it’s a great way to grow your community and open your perspective. It gets us out of our silos of clients and territories, and introduces us to people with whom we would never have come into contact with before. It’s also such an open and welcoming group. Everyone has their walls down and are so willing to accept and collaborate. I’m so excited for all the newcomers to be welcomed into the fold. I hope everyone comes away with new friends, contacts, mentors and tools for their personal and professional growth.”

A networking reception and dinner followed the opening session culminating with the presentation of this year’s PPAI Woman of Achievement award to Teresa Moisant, MAS (see story below).

Yolande Northington, Megan Sears, Suzan Bolski and Eileen Lynch reconnect during the opening networking reception.

The conference is the result of months of planning and preparation by PPAI Professional Development staff and the WLC Work Group led by Plummer and her co-leader, Jo-an Lantz, MAS, executive vice president at Geiger.

Raising the bar on the success of last year’s WLC was a challenge staff and the work group met head on. “The work group paid close attention to the feedback we received from last year’s attendees,” says Lantz. “This year, in addition to many self-development sessions, we have a renewed focus on business development. The workshops and speakers have individually and collectively managed some of the largest firms in the country and will share their knowledge and experience.”

She adds, “Attendees can expect a jam-packed agenda that will prepare them for new opportunities and skill sets. There is something in the agenda for everyone, from the first-time attendee new in the industry, to the highest levels in the board room. Whether we reunite as dear friends or develop deep new friendships and contacts, the WLC is the business development event that I never miss.”

Nina Sales, Jane Sparks and Becky Provily are among the event’s 67 first-time attendees.

The education programming kicked off this morning with a general session presented by career strategist Sarah Canaday who led an interactive presentation on powerful habits for leadership presence. Six other presentations take place today, including three concurrent breakout sessions. A second full day of pertinent education sessions coupled with creative networking opportunities is planned for Wednesday. The conference wraps up Wednesday evening with a closing networking dinner held on the property.

Watch for more coverage of the conference in upcoming issues of PPB Newslink.