An Exceptional WLC Exceeds Attendees’ Expectations
The 14th annual PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference wrapped up Wednesday evening at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, California. The industry’s leading women’s conference brought together a cross-section of the promotional products industry with professionals at every level from suppliers, distributors and business services companies.
This year’s WLC drew 155 attendees and, for 63 of them, it was a first-time experience. For Brienne McAndrews, brand strategy manager at Madison Heights, Michigan, distributor QMI Group, Inc., and the inaugural winner of the Ros Plummer Scholarship, it was also—after The PPAI Expo—her introduction to the industry.
“I feel that a lot of people I met have taken me under their wing as I am brand new to the industry,” McAndrews says. “It’s exciting and fun, and everyone has been so kind to me. I found out about WLC at Expo on my second day on the job. I told myself that I would get myself here someday, and I was blown away when I was selected for the scholarship.”
The conference opened Monday evening with an opening session, welcome reception and dinner that featured the presentation of PPAI Woman of Achievement Award to Marsha Londe, owner and CEO of Tango Partners, and Mary Ellen Sokalski, MAS, CEO of creative marketing agency The Scarlet Marketeer.
“WLC has been astronomical for me,” says Britney Godsey, vice president of sales at Gold Bond and a first-time attendee. “I love the people, I love the agenda, I love the layout and I think the two and a half days are just jam packed with creative, innovative concepts that no matter where you are in your career, you will find things in every segment that you do. I am grateful for the opportunity and excited for next year.”
Tuesday and Wednesday featured two full days of education, with interactive presentations from professional speakers who shared their insights and skills on positivity, growing sales, measuring success, leadership, turning obstacles into opportunities and more. Industry leaders also led sessions and discussions on a variety of topics, including the state of the promotional products industry today, technology tips, behavioral interview techniques, mergers and acquisitions, and building a personal brand.
“WLC’s content is some of the best programming that I think I’ve seen,” says Godsey. “It’s right to the point and the way it is presented is so impactful. Everyone is in their own element of doing things and where they are in their business, and whether you’re on the distributor or supplier side, there are always these little nuggets that give you epiphany moments. It’s like, ‘I have never thought of that, but now that I have’—it’s a gamechanger.’”
Alongside its extensive education lineup, WLC gave attendees plenty of opportunities to connect and forge powerful bonds with their colleagues. “The networking has been amazing,” says McAndrews. “I have met people from every level of their organizations; from the supplier, distributor and business service companies, and PPAI as well. The people I met have been really authentic and that has inspired me to also be authentic. I am definitely ready to take that back and apply it both personally and professionally.”
Suzie Bauernfeind, partner at Broadview, Illinois, distributor Liberty Sales, is also a first-time WLC attendee. She says, “I was a bit overwhelmed coming to town, but after the first half hour of the newcomer meet-and-greet, I felt completely at ease. Everyone was extremely friendly. I felt everyone just embraced me and I was part of a bigger group of women with a stronger voice.”
WLC provides attendees with a wealth of knowledge and ideas to apply back at the office, and connections to carry home with them. Dana Geiger, PPAI regional relations manager, joined WLC this year as an attendee. She says, “It can be a little nerve-wracking, coming into a room full of really accomplished women, but they were so warm when I got here. For me, the most important lesson or message was to greet every circumstance with grace and positivity, and it’s really less about what you do but how you meet these challenges that affects the change and makes the difference.”
Bauernfiend says, “First and foremost, I will take home with me the friendships, the mentorships and the people that I met here. These are friendships I will be able to call upon if I need some advice moving forward, and I hope they feel that they can call upon me so that we can have a conversation. WLC lets us open up a little bit and be more comfortable with one another without feeling that we’re in a competitive environment.
“I wish I would have done this sooner,” she adds. “People have been telling me for years, and I kept putting it off and putting it off. I would love to come back.”