Joie  De Vivre

Working for 22 years in any other industry might be long enough to temper one’s enthusiasm for the job. But Rena Ashfeld’s joy remains as unbridled today as it was when she first entered the world of promotional products. The national sales manager at supplier Advance Corporation in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, credits the mentors she met in her first job for helping her achieve success.

“The first place I worked in this industry was at Awardcraft, where I held several positions including data entry, customer service (as a supervisor and manager) and national sales manager. Awardcraft is where I fell in love with awards and with the awesome people in the industry,” says Ashfield. “I had the most amazing mentors a person could have: Sue Tobias, Jeff Adams and Fran Ford. It is because of them, and what they saw in me, that I am where I am today.”

Away from work, Ashfeld lives life to the fullest alongside her husband, Steve, and their two children, Jade and Cole, taking trips, throwing parties and planning excursions and events. “I live by the motto of YOLO—you only live once!”

Read on to learn more about a day in Rena Ashfeld’s life.

What do you love about your company?  

I love the people. We are blessed to have such a fantastic team of dedicated, talented, interesting, loyal and hardworking people. I am lucky to work with Devin Martin, whom I have worked with for the past 17 years at a few different companies. She is my right arm, my best friend and the yin to my yang—I couldn’t do what I do without her.

What changes or improvements have you recently implemented, or are you planning to make in the future?

Our company is constantly evolving with the times; we are updating our website, which we hope to have complete this month. We are always in communication with our customers, asking how we can be a better partner: we listen, learn and implement. We are always adding new processes, equipment and materials to stay on the cutting edge.

Describe your office atmosphere.  

My office atmosphere is awesome. I work from home when I am not traveling, and it could not be more relaxing. My dog at my feet, the fireplace on, a candle lit and office windows looking into my backyard woods—it’s a great way to work. When I am on the road, I try to sightsee, even if it’s a LOVE sign in Virginia, The Fonz statue in Wisconsin or the Great Wheel (a Ferris wheel) in Seattle. I like to get out and have some fun.

What kinds of projects or tasks might you tackle on a given day?

That depends on the time of year. When it comes to selling awards, we have a busy season, and during the fourth quarter leading into first quarter, my to-do list can be quite long. When I am not traveling, I do a variety of things, from gathering and analyzing reports, to planning the next sales trip—this can be tricky as some clients like to plan far out on the calendar, and some are the type who ask you to call them the week before you arrive. When I’m traveling I do four sales meetings a day, some in offices, some during coffee or lunch, as many distributors work from home offices and prefer to meet offsite. This is my favorite part of the job—seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

How does this job challenge you?  

This industry is ever changing. When I started in the industry, trade shows and networking events were the only way to really communicate. Now we have technology that has somewhat taken over the face-to-face connections. I think the personal connection is such an important thing, and it sometimes gets lost with all the technology we now use.

How do you collaborate with co-workers? 

I collaborate with co-workers in a variety of ways—by phone, text, email, conference call, brainstorming sessions, Bitmoji, FaceTime and occasional sales meetings at local taverns. 

What makes your company a valuable member of the promotional products community?

I would have to say it’s our 76 years of dedicated membership in the industry. It’s so fun to talk to our owner, Glen Lorenz, as he reminisces on his road-warrior travel days in sales and also about how shows have changed formats, locations and attendance over the years. We also believe in volunteering for our associations—we can get as much out of it as we put into it [Ashfeld is a member of the Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals (UMAPP)]. If you are not involved in your regional association on some level, you really are missing out. 

Jen Alexander is associate editor of PPB.