PPAI’s Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC) is one of the most pivotal industry events of the year. Women, in every stage of their career, gathered to share empowering business advice, triumphs and their hopes for the future.

Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS+, CEO of Michigan-based distributor Competitive Edge, says, “The event was overall extremely inspiring. It was so great to meet so many new women. The relationship aspect is what I love.”

This year’s WLC took place at Omni Viking Lakes Hotel in Eagan, Minnesota from June 25 to June 28. Tuesday was full of sessions that encouraged attendees to command their worth, build their personal brands and grow their relationships.

First-time attendee Kelly Nussbaum, director of client success at distributor Imprint Engine, says, her biggest takeaway for realizing the power she has. “A lot of the speakers today were talking about our negotiating power, the influence we have and how we can mentor other people. There were a lot of times I was taking notes on what I can do and the changes I can make.”

The day ended with a night of volunteering in partnership with supplier Storm Creek (PPAI, 438091, S6) for the Dakota Woodlands, a housing community for homeless women and families that provides supportive services.

Some attendees continued on the next day to visit several supplier and distributor partners in the area. The supplier hosting the most visitors was Showdown Displays (PPAI 254687, S11).

Before attendees left, many took advantage of thank-you cards sponsored by supplier Botanical PaperWorks. The group contributed letters of gratitude to Margert Custer Ford, MAS, one of the first PPAI Woman of Achievement recipients and an industry pioneer as one of the first true woman leaders in promotional products.

After being invited to the conference this spring, Ford, 94, had written to the women at WLC, thanking them for her invitation and wishing them all luck. 

Education Takes The Cake

Tuesday’s line up of professional development was full of wisdom and practical advice for negotiating, collaborating with others and mentoring. All day, attendees took notes and laughed. Each speaker met an engaged audience and applause.

Mori Taheripour, CEO/Founder of MT Global Strategies, began the day with a session on “Command Your Worth: Negotiation” moderated by Ellen Tucker, CAE, MAS, PPAI’s vice president of revenue and expositions. Taheripour says eliminate the negative self-talk before focusing on negotiation strategies. “How can you persuade someone to give you more if you don’t even believe you deserve it?”

Next, moderator Kate Alavez, COO of PromoShop and WLC workgroup chair, discussed “Mentors, Mentees and Champions” with Dawn Olds, MAS, iemmediate past chair of the PPAI Board and senior vice president of industry relations and DEI at HALO; Kara Keister, co-owner of Social Good Promotions; and Johanna Gottlieb, vice president of sales at HALO. “Take that extra step. Try to meet as many people as you can today. Follow them on LinkedIn, like their business page. This is the room of the future,” says Gottlieb.

Sessions on “Making The Finance Conversation Comfortable For Everyone” and “Building Your Brand With Digital Marketing” followed. All sessions were recorded and will be available on PPAI’s educational site at a later date.

The day ended with Kelly McDonald, speaker and author, discussing “How To Work With And Lead People Not Like You.” She suggests finding common ground and building trust. “Working with diverse team members is harder, but it produces a better outcome. You are not doing anything wrong. Hang in there. You are going to produce something better.”

A Event To Remember

For many attendees, it’s been years since they’d been to WLC, and it did not disappoint. Linda Jones, MAS, “It was just amazing, all of the support and the last speaker, Kelly, was phenomenal. Women have a lot of power. We just need to learn to speak up more.”

Despite promo being a male-dominated industry, Nussbaum looks forward to more women attending WLC. “The bigger the event gets, the powerful the women in the room get who attend, the more inspirational it is.”

Six-year attendee and WLC workgroup member Amelia Madl, vice president of sales at Promo Corner, couldn’t believe the conference was already over. “I didn’t get to talk to half the room!” Madl enjoyed the professional speakers and the dine around groups. She says, “My biggest takeaway is that we are all continuously learning. We have to continue to push and elevate each other.”

For Madl, WLC has changed her life. “I’ve made lifelong friendships here. One of my besties, Lori Bolton, and I met at this event six years ago. It just popped up in my memories. You meet and make relationships that last forever.”

Thanking attendees, WLC workgroup chair Kate Alavez says, “You have made this such a special place to be.”

Thank You To Our Sponsors

This event would not be possible without the support of industry suppliers, at every level. The platinum sponsor for the event was 4imprint. Attendee gifts were also provided by industry suppliers, including:

Thank You Notecard: Custom Seed Card Set, Botanical PaperWorks
Sunglasses: Wood Grain Sunglasses, NC Custom
Pen: Touch Gel Pen, Liqui-mark
Notebook: St Regis
Bag: Wet bags, Wander & Perch
Hat: Ponytail Opening Hat, InfinityHER
Food: Coffee Cakes, Maple Ridge Farms
Salt box: Magnetic Salt Box, Totally Bamboo
Blanket: Showdown
Drinkware: Show Stopper, Spector
Apparel: Polyfleece jacket, PCNA