PPAI’s Women’s Leadership Conference Opens With Service, Education And Networking

Set amidst the glamour of Tinseltown, this year’s PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC) is taking place this week in Hollywood, California.

The annual event, now in its 14th year, drew 155 attendees, including 63 first-timers, to the Loews Hollywood Hotel for the promotional products industry’s leading women’s conference. WLC has historically drawn a cross section of the industry with professionals at every level from suppliers, distributors and business services companies, and this year’s conference was no exception.

Months of planning and preparation by PPAI Professional Development staff and the WLC Work Group go into each successful WLC. This year, the work group was co-chaired by Kate Plummer, vice president of supplier Clearmount Plastics, Ltd, and Leanne Finney, vice president of marketing at Polyconcept North America.

“A lot of times we become very ‘head down’ with our own businesses and forget to look up and work on ourselves and our business. WLC is a great way to take yourself away and really focus on your growth, strengths and connections—not just live on email but to focus on professional development, and build the connections you will keep for years,” says Plummer. “The value of WLC is that it gives women strength, a voice, encouragement and confidence to go back to their offices and push themselves—to go after that promotion or client.”

In what has become a tradition for WLC attendees to give back to the local community in which the event is held, early arrivals participated in volunteer projects on Monday morning at the Downtown LA Women’s shelter and Alexandria House, a transitional residence. The conference officially got under way Monday evening with a welcome reception for first-time attendees; followed by the opening dinner and presentation of this year’s 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 Scarlett Marketer.

“WLC is a perfect opportunity to experience a bit of the industry from a different perspective,” says Finney. “To see and hear other people’s struggles and successes, and learn from them in a safe and fun environment. Networking comes up as the No. 1 reason people attend. You can see and feel the energy when people are working together and sharing stories and experiences. It’s a great opportunity, whether they are customer facing or in a sales role or customer service role—it’s all beneficial.”

“What I’m looking forward to this week is seeing the work and input we’ve been putting in over the past year come to life, and think ahead about how we can continue to improve this event and make it one of the best events PPAI puts on.”

Brittany David, CAS, vice president of sales at SnugZ USA and PPAI chair-elect, says, “WLC provides a forum for women to empower other women, and learn, collaborate and network. From being a first-time attendee eight or nine years ago, I’ve met so many women who have mentored me and helped me in my development, not only personally but professionally. You build a network of women that you otherwise would not meet in other settings. There is such value in developing others, and in turn, developing yourself.

“It is amazing that PPAI has brought this event from conception several years ago to this level, and it continues. WLC provides a setting that allows women to empower other women—not as opposed to men—but there’s a special kind of magic that happens here that is contagious and you leave feeling like you are a better person.”

WLC’s substantial education programming kicked off this morning with a general session presented by career coach and speaker Victoria Turner, who led a powerful presentation on getting out of your own way to achieve your career goals. Her interactive presentation included powerful habits to help develop a leadership presence. Today’s schedule also includes additional general sessions, a series of breakouts and a roundtable discussion, along with numerous networking opportunities. WLC’s second full day of education sessions and networking opportunities is planned for Wednesday. The conference wraps up Wednesday evening with a closing networking dinner held at the hotel.

Sharon Willochell, CAS, president of supplier Trimark and PPAI’s 2019 board chair-electadds, “WLC is a unique opportunity to build relationships and a network—to connect with people in a way that you don’t at other types of events because these connections are at a deeper level. It’s also a unique learning environment. It’s about networking and strengthening and supporting women in the industry, but it’s also an educational conference. We learn differently when we learn together as a group of women.

“We have so many fantastic women role models in our industry, such as Mary Ellen and Marsha, whom we honored last night,” continues Willochell. “When you have people like that, the value is what they share. They are great role models, they inspire us, they support us—when I can come here and learn from them, it’s fantastic. WLC is a learning conference. When we learn together in this environment and share it over a number of days and then take it away, it cements a bit differently.”

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

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