The 2015 PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference Lauded As Inspirational And Highly Relevant

WLC Group Shot web 2015 PPAI Women's Leadership Conference Attendees.

This year’s PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference checked all the boxes for those looking to hone their leadership skills, enhance their business proficiency, grow personally and professionally, and expand their networks with dozens of new business contacts.

The event drew 130 industry women from across the U.S. and Canada, including 50 first-timers, to New Orleans, Louisiana, in late July, for two full days of educational programming, plus a variety of opportunities to network and learn from industry peers.

Breakout sessions proved invaluable to all. Breakout sessions proved invaluable to all.

Early arrivals chose from a variety of opportunities: a pre-conference bus tour of the richly historic city, a boat cruise on the Mississippi River or a cooking demonstration featuring some of New Orleans’ finest dishes. Then the event officially got under way with a welcome dinner and presentation of the PPAI 2015 Woman of Achievement Award to this year’s recipient, Sherri C. Lennarson, MAS, president of Having Fun Promotions (see story on page X).

The extensive curriculum was rich with sessions relevant to today’s businesses including leadership, empowerment, strategic planning, succession planning, business challenges, accountability, personal branding, mentoring, budget development and technology. Throughout the program, professional speakers shared the stage with industry peers such as Lori Bauer of BIC Graphic, who spoke about personal leadership and shared some of the tips that have made her successful in her 17 years at one of the industry’s largest suppliers. Industry men, too, added to the expertise at this year’s program, including Dale Denham, MAS+, of Geiger, who packed more than 50 attendees into his breakout session on technologies to increase efficiency and productivity.

The closing general session featured professional speaker Dawnna St Louis, who shared her personal story of living in her car as a young woman, and the hard work, tenacity and conviction that led her from ultimate poverty to owner of a highly successful business. “I was successful because my boss gave me an opportunity but I was 100-percent successful because I took every opportunity he gave me,” she told her audience.

Prepared for a little rain before the final night event. Prepared for a little rain before the final night event.

First-timer Tayla Carpenter, manager of A Woman’s View for distributor iPROMOTEu, was thrilled with her inaugural experience. “The networking opportunities were abundant and interactions were meaningful,” she says. “The variety of topics was robust and content was relevant. Overall, an atmosphere of growth and development was created and, as always, it was up to each attendee to make the most of it. I know I did!”

Another first-timer, Deanna Cross, president of Business Incentives, attended the conference as this year’s recipient of the Women’s Leadership Conference Grant. “I had an absolute blast learning and sharing experiences with all the amazing women,” she says. “It was an unforgettable experience, and I want to thank everyone at PPAI for this opportunity. I cannot wait until next year.”

Cindy Smith, executive vice president of Brown & Bigelow, also attended for the first time. “PPAI’s WLC offers women in the industry a unique forum to network, to learn from their peers and to have fun in the process. Significant thought goes into planning the program, selecting the speakers and orchestrating the events. PPAI successfully strikes the balance with both professional development opportunities and social networking activities. I considered it a worthwhile investment of my time and a lot of fun.”

Rosanne Webster, SungZ USA, with Bille Walchek and Dana Floyd, SAGE. Rosanne Webster, SungZ USA, with Bille Walchek and Dana Floyd, SAGE.

Multiple-year participant Anita Emoff, president of Boost Technologies, says attending the WLC has become a big part of her business and personal growth development strategy. “I always have many pages of action items I want to implement after I get back,” she says. “The intense support and friendships from peers in the industry are so motivating and captivating. The content of the sessions is so relevant and eye opening it can't but help you better yourself and your organization. I look forward to coming back every year and I am going to bring a new manager every year and expose them to a fantastic conference. The PPAI staff is fantastic!”

Long-time attendee Jill Stirnkorb, vice president, inside sales for BIC Graphic North America, was also energized by the event. “The 2015 WLC was simply amazing,” she says. “Every day was full of networking opportunities, motivational and inspirational programs and speakers. And the content was well suited to provide the attendees with takeaways that will benefit them in both their personal and professional lives.  These women are not only career professionals, but mothers, wives and committed to their communities as well.

“What makes this conference so special though, is that many of the women are the speakers for the break-out sessions. It is so empowering to hear their stories and what makes them successful. And that ties perfectly into the strength of mentoring each other.”

Speaker Dawnna St Louis (center) gets help on stage from Deanna Cross, Eileen Lynch, Roni Wright, MAS and Rosalind Plummer, MAS. Speaker Dawnna St Louis (center) gets help on stage from Deanna Cross, Eileen Lynch, Roni Wright, MAS and Rosalind Plummer, MAS.

Another supplier, Kathy DiFrancesco, regional sales manager for SnugZ USA, says, “As a first time attendee, I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been to many industry events over the past nine years and this event was filled with encouragement, wit, smarts, compassion, energy and bonding. My intent was not merely to absorb information but to meet new people, share experiences, learn something new and even find a mentor—which I did! I left feeling energized yet focused on what is important in my life and setting actions to ensure professional and personal happiness.”

After many months of planning and preparation, the conference’s highly successful outcome was especially rewarding to Jamie Watson, Certified Marketing Consultants, Ltd., leader of the Women’s Leadership Conference work group. “The attendees seemed energized by the conference and excited to implement the ideas and principles they learned in their personal and professional lives,” she says. “The first-time attendees especially seemed to enjoy themselves and said they were blown away at the energy and spirit of the group. Everyone is really looking forward to next year’s event.”

Plans are already in the works for the 2016 Women’s Leadership Conference, June 27-29 in Atlanta, Georgia. Registration information will be available soon at

Thank You To The WLC Work Group

Leader: Jamie Watson, Certified Marketing Consultants, Inc.


Suzan Bolski, MAS, Anything Goes Promotions, Inc.

Brittany David, SnugZ USA

Ashlee Duerr, BIC Graphic

Phyllis Jones, HALO Branded Solutions

Renee Jones, MAS, A Creative Touch

Lisa Parker, MAS, American Ad Bag

Kim Reinecker, MAS, Starline

Leslie Roark, PromoPros/IncentPros

Dawn Ruler, MAS, Geiger

Beverly Walter, MAS, Brown & Bigelow

Sharon Willochell, Leed’s


Regional Association Spotlight: The Georgia Association of Promotional Products Professionals

In this issue of PPB, the magazine spotlights one of the regional associations that supports the industry’s companies and professionals. The Georgia Association of Promotional Products Professionals (GAPPP) has established a community of industry members, and provides the state’s distributors and suppliers with education, professional development, networking and trade-show opportunities, among other services.

As part of its community building efforts, GAPPP has incorporated “face-time” events such as wine tastings, factory tours and picnics into its calendar. Lisa Bibb, MAS, GAPPP executive director, says, “Our supplier and multi-line rep members know each other well, and travel the circuit together, but our distributor members have come to know each other much better, and this has really helped the camaraderie and building of trust and friendships.”

GAPPP 1 web Georgia Association of Promotional Products Professionals Event

The regional association has kept up a steady tempo of events, programs and initiatives to support its members’ businesses and the industry. During Promotional Products Work! Week, it collaborated with other District Two regional associations in the creation of a kit that its members can use to build awareness of the power of promotional products. In January, it hosted its first Lunch and Learn in Atlanta, and for the past two years, it has partnered with the Carolinas Association of Advertising and Marketing Professionals (CAAMP) on a summer school program offering a full day of education. GAPPP also reports that its trade shows, the End Buyer Show and the Holiday Showcase Suites Show, have generated strong attendance and exhibitor figures, growing in size year over year.

Georgia Association of Promotional Products Professionals Event.

Looking ahead, the regional association is set to continue the pace, with factory tours and social events planned through the rest of 2015. Bibb says, “A standing goal of our organization is to be relevant to our members, to keep them informed without becoming a nuisance and bring our people together to build their businesses and relationships.”