2011 ASI Women to Watch
Meet the 27 finalists for the 2011 ASI Women to Watch Award.
Jenifer Caplan: Footzyrolls Luxe (asi/54915)
Jenifer Caplan, co-founder and inventor of Footzyrolls Luxe (asi/54915), has successfully grown the company to over $1 million in sales in its first year. Her responsibilities include all aspects of the startup including product development, branding marketing, selling, accounting, strategic planning and financial analysis. Footzyrolls appeared on Counselor’s Hot List Items of 2010, O magazine, USA Today and Fox Business News, not to mention chosen as the feature gift for the Sex & the City 2 movie premiere. Do-it-all mom, wife and businesswoman, Caplan owns four additional businesses, from real estate brokerages to jewelry companies, as well as plans and participates in several fundraising events.
Tonia Allen Gould: TAG! The Creative Source (asi/341358)
Tonia Allen Gould began her company, TAG! The Creative Source (asi/341358), as a resource management company outsourcing creative services for large companies. But, when a company asked her for some logoed mugs, she discovered the opportunities available in the ad specialty sphere. Since then she’s grown her company into one that focuses on ideas and serves a niche in the entertainment industry with companies such as The Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures. She’s been honored with many awards, including Supplier of the Year by Women’s Business Enterprise Council as nominated by The Walt Disney Co. And she serves on the board of directors for the Casa Pacifica Angels, a campus-based residential center that provides support and services for abused and neglected children.
Rina Davidovici: Hadley Marketing (asi/176144)
Rina Davidovici says her idea of success is balancing a rich personal life along with her professional life. She poised her company, Hadley Marketing (asi/176144), for this success by selecting a few top companies to work with and developing a relationship with them, focusing her efforts while her children were in school. She and her husband also set goals for 150% growth each year, and have surpassed that every year in the company’s four-year history. And, while growing the business the Davidovicis also grew their family, adding three more children for a total of five kids under six years old. To say Davidovici’s life is hectic would be an understatement – she was even right back to work six hours after giving birth to their most recent child, a daughter. She also makes a point to help other young mothers – as part of a recent company expansion, she hired three other young mothers who she hopes will enjoy the same sense of balance that she’s always working to achieve.
Courtney Herrin: Otto Intl. (asi/75350)
Courtney Herrin has been with Otto Intl. (asi/75350) for just over a year, but she’s done a lot in that short amount of time. Her role is to train employees about the importance of building relationships, and to create a fun environment while making sure the company is growing and gaining market share. She’s a master networker who’s always on the road, either visiting clients or attending trade shows. With her help, this year Otto has obtained preferred status with many top accounts this year, increased sales, built relationships and created an “Otto University” to train internal staff.
Lizie Jones: Logo Mats (asi/67858)
Lizie Jones joined Logo Mats (asi/67858) in 2009 and since then has been working on new ways the company can reach its distributors. She uses company videos, social networking, customer relationship management sales tools and relationship building with customers to help Logo Mats make a positive impression on its clients. Thanks to her efforts, sales have grown 13% in 2010. Starting her job right out of college, Jones may be younger than many people in the industry, but she uses her youth to her advantage – with both a new way of looking at ways of doing business, and an open mind to learning new things every day.
Sheree Jordan: The Jordan Group (asi/237522)
Sheree Jordan established The Jordan Group after 10 years of experience under her belt starting promotional product divisions for three other companies. She left each with a strong promotional products foundation and sales in excess of $1 million. Jordan has grown her company by not taking no for an answer and using creative marketing skills to develop unique product branding for various high-profile projects, including work for Grolier/Scholastic, MTV, VH1, TV Land, A&E, New York Film and Television Festival, Dove Chocolate, Self magazine and more. She’s been featured multiple times in Advantages and received the Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Fellow Award for being an advocate of world peace.
Denise Knierim: Bluegrass Promotional Marketing (asi/141964)
Denise Knierim has proven to be a steadfast saleswoman even in a sluggish economy, which won her runner-up for Advantages’ Salesperson of the Year award in 2009. As a sales manager for Show Your Logo, Knierim consistently achieved annual sales in excess of $2 million. After accounting for 40% of annual sales year after year, Knierim earned a new position as account executive at Bluegrass Promotional Marketing (asi/141964). Knierim attributes her success to understanding the subtleties of her customers’ businesses and developing a partner-like relationship with them. This means being a creative problem solver – proactively unearthing special deals or finding creative ways to package orders that demonstrated additional value to her customers.
Karen Kravitz: Commotion Promotions (asi/166010)
Karen Kravitz started her business, Commotion Promotions (asi/166010), over a weekend 26 years ago, after she was let go from her previous job. She printed business cards on that Friday, set up her apartment as her office over the weekend and started making calls to find business on Monday. Within two months the company started to grow, and it shows no signs of stopping, with nearly $10 million in annual sales and offices in six cities across the U.S. It has been named the top ranked promotional company in the state of Arizona for the past 13 years by Ranking Arizona magazine. Throughout all this she also raised twin girls, now aged 21, survived breast cancer 10 years ago and runs in marathon and half-marathon races. She has volunteered on the board of directors of the Jewish Foundation of Great Phoenix Women’s Board and Temple Chai.
Lizzz Kritzer: Kritzer Marketing (asi/245947)
Lizzz Kritzer has built her business, Kritzer Marketing (asi/245947), with the thought of making it successful while using her opportunities to help make others successful. When she was looking to hire people to expand her business, she recruited from a program for single women and mothers who wanted to break out of the welfare system. She has many success stores from people hired through this program, including a member of her core team who has been with the company for more than 10 years now. Located in Manhattan, Kritzer Marketing has seen more than its share of hardships due to the aftereffects of 9/11 and the current economy, but Kritzer has kept the company moving forward, and supports several causes.
Annalise Law: The Kanga Group (asi/238906)
Annalise Law has always been a woman with a plan. After spending a decade in her family’s business, Law took what she learned and launched her own distributor company, The Kanga Group (asi/238906), eight years ago with her husband, Brett. TKG, which was recognized as the top Fastest-Growing Distributor in the ASI 2010 Spirit Awards, counts large corporations, such as GlaxoSmithKline, Bacardi Global and American Express, on its client list. In 2010, TKG opened an office in China, adding to its existing locations in Australia and the UK; TKG was recognized in Australia’s BRW magazine's 2010 Fast Starters list. Law, who’s a cancer survivor, also recently received the Telestra Businesswoman Award, which gives her the opportunity to speak about her entrepreneurial experience to high school and college students.
Julie Levi: Progressive Promotions (asi/300247)
Julie Levi founded Progressive Promotions (asi/300247) more than 20 years ago, which has since grown exponentially by serving leading brands such as American Express, Ogilvy, Avis/Budget, Panasonic and Kraft Foods. As strong proponent of continuing education, Levi created a CEU accredited program at her company called UPP – University of Progressive Promotions Inc., which proves her commitment to the professional growth of her employees. Levi was named the 2009 Enterprising Woman for her revenue category of $10 million - $25 million, and is an active member of the Women President’s Organization, which recently honored her with its Economic Empowerment Award. Moreover, Progressive Promotions was listed in the Top 500 Woman-Owned Businesses in America and in Crain’s business magazine’s Top Woman-Owned Companies in the New York area. Also in 2010, Levi was awarded the National Star Award from the Women’s Business Enterprise Council.
Debbie Lindner: Colorfully Yours Inc. (asi/165251)
Debbie Lindner went to college to study veterinary medicine, but her professors told her to go into medical illustration instead since they’d been using her microscope drawings in their published articles. After graduation, Lindner quickly landed a job as a technical illustrator. She then served six years in the Air National Guard, winning the prestigious Airman of the Year award in her second year there. In 1989 she and her husband, a now-retired New York City police officer and volunteer firefighter, started Colorfully Yours Inc. (asi/165251) after Lindner started illustrating children’s books on fire safety for fire departments, rescue squads, hospitals, police departments, schools and even automobile dealerships. When the fire departments requested other educational materials including plastic fire helmets, school kits, pencils, posters, patch tattoos and backpacks, Lindner joined ASI as a distributor to be able to provide these promotional items. Additionally, Lindner received the award for “Woman of Distinction” for the Arts from the Town of Oyster Bay in 2004.
Connie Mandula: CM Promotions (asi/154919)
Connie Mandula drew on her lifelong love of country music and her eye for fashion by creating both a country music merchandising operation and also a certified woman-owned distributorship – CM Promotions (asi/154919). Recognized as a Fastest-Growing Distributor for the past three years, CM Promotions combines promotional outsourcing, order management and order fulfillment with creative online marketing and branded product sales. In 2008, she used her creativity and love of music to develop her spin-off company, Silver Wings Merchandise, which brings trendy apparel designs and branded promotional programs to the music scene for country stars including Miranda Lambert.
Kim Overton: Overton Enterprises (asi/75508)
Kim Overton received her patent this year for the SPIbelt, a small personal item belt. Her idea for this invention started four years ago in her home, where she recorded a video for the show “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch” of why she thought he should feature her product on his show. Within two weeks, a CNBC producer contacted her to appear on the show. This created a ripple effect in the media – she was contacted by CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America and more to speak about her new invention. Launching a product that was brand new to the market was a great challenge in itself, especially being the sole person in her company and the absolute “new kid on the block” in the fitness accessories industry, but Overton’s already exceeded $5 million in sales. For the last two years, she’s been a guest speaker at the entrepreneur series RISE and receives several requests to counsel other up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
Celine Pilote: Copilote (asi/168358)
Celine Pilote, president of Copilote (asi/168358) is a pioneer in the industry. Her company has received the largest number of recognition awards than any other Canadian company in the history of the Promotional Product Professionals of Canada Association (PPPC). Copilote had the opportunity to set up a souvenir shop in the Canadian Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Exposition, where Pilote had to design the shop, select the items to be sold, and hire and manage 13 full-time employees as well as the inventory. In 2009, she was inducted into the PPPC Hall of Fame as the third woman in history to become a member and the youngest. Most recently, she received the Entrepreneur Large Business of the Year 2010 Award from the Women Business Association of Quebec. Pilote is often sought out by the media and educational professionals to talk about her entrepreneurial experiences. Aside from several years of volunteer work, Pilote is on her way to creating another company that is active on the international level.
Eileen Roche: Designs in Machine Embroidery
Eileen Roche started out writing a newsletter (Creative News) in the basement of her home and a following grew out of her grassroots efforts. Roche’s appearance at an industry trade show brought Creative News to the attention of a prominent business owner in the commercial embroidery industry, and in 1998, she joined forces with her now business partner, Gary Gardner, and published the first issue of Designs in Machine Embroidery. Since that time, the meager circulation of 5,000 names has grown to over 20,000 with a web following of over 80,000 embroiderers. Considered an expert in machine embroidery, Eileen has developed products for the home embroidery industry, designed embroidery collections, authored over seven books, published 66 issues of Designs in Machine Embroidery, received one patent and has another one pending. She is a regular guest on PBS TV’s Sewing With Nancy, Sew Much Fun, Martha’s Sewing Room and HGTV’s Sew Much More.
Maribeth Sandford: Bag Makers (asi/37940)
Maribeth Sandford started Bag Makers (asi/37940) back in 1980, when all she had was one printing press tucked away in a small dairy barn in rural Illinois. She sold bags by day and printed by night. Today, Bag Makers has more than 50 presses and 300 associates, and that dairy barn is now a 225,000 square-foot facility. Sandford attributes her company’s growth to her strength in family. Not only do 10 of her own family members working at Bag Makers, but there are more than 100 associates with family members who also work at the company. She was honored with ASI’s Woman of Distinction Award in 2004 and has been on the Power 50 list for the past two years. She was also a co-founder of the PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference.
Heather Sanderson: Overture Premiums & Promotions (asi/288473)
Heather Sanderson founded Overture Premiums & Promotions (asi/288473) in 2001 after working as CFO of an industry supplier for 10 years. Over the years Sanderson has led Overture to become a steadily growing company that has been recognized as one of Counselor’s Best Places to Work for four years running. Meanwhile, she continues to guide employees in the company’s Mentor Program, of which two female product experts have gone on to secure more than $1 million in sales for 2010. Her drive shows in her personal life as well, this grandmother is an adventurous traveler, having recently gone skydiving and also riding her mountain bike down Mount Whistler in Vancouver, BC.
Ginny Semrow: American Ad Bag (asi/35290)
Ginny Semrow started an independent bag business that quickly turned into a multimillion-dollar company and recently won Counselor’s 2010 Family Business of the Year award. Semrow originally began American Ad Bag (asi/35290) in 1992 in Woodstock, IL, as a flexographic printing and hot stamping company. Eight years later, she added non-woven bags to the marketplace and added screen printing to her imprinting methods. Though each member of her nuclear family was initially following a different career path, they were all attracted to Semrow’s success and became American Ad Bag employees – her husband’s the press designer and engineer, her son Gary’s the VP of marketing and her daughter Michelle’s the CFO. Besides owning her own business, Ginny was elected to the Woodstock City Council for four years. She also served as president of the Chamber of Commerce and was a founding member of the Woodstock Economic Development Corporation. Though she is currently based out of Arizona, she goes back to Woodstock to support her favorite holiday project, the Christmas Clearing House, which provides food and toys to thousands of families in need.
Lee Romano Sequeira: Sparkle Plenty Designs (asi/88442)
Lee Romano Sequeira and her husband acquired their company, Sparkle Plenty Designs (asi/88442), about six years ago, and started working more in the promotional products industry about a year and a half ago. They produce crystal-covered logoed items for the likes of NASA and the Dallas Cowboys. In the past two years, Sequeira also started increasing on her company’s presence on social networking sites, keeping on top of her Facebook pages and gaining more than 5,000 followers on Twitter.
Kathy Vichakchon: Leashables by OraLabs (asi/66715)
Kathy Vichakchon was the first student to be selected into the Fine & Functional Fragrance School in New York City, which only selects two students per year. Her years in pharmaceutical sales and fragrance development sales gave her a unique background to bring to Leashables by OraLabs (asi/66715) in 2007, where she helped grow the business 56% from the previous year. Her experience in scent branding has allowed her to help distributors use scent and flavor as a powerful way to engage consumers with a brand within a promotional context, which paved the way for the personal care category. She plays an active role in the ASI Education Advisory Board and CAPPA Education Board, and spends several hours mentoring other women and volunteering her time.
Sharon Willochell: Leed’s (asi/66887)
Sharon Willochell joined Leed’s (asi/66887) 12 years ago, after working at Fortune 500 company Alcoa, then as a senior manager at Deloitte & Touche. As COO at Leed’s she has helped build the company’s service culture and was integral to the development of its SureShip 24-hour-standard delivery program. She serves on the board of Leadership Pittsburgh, a nonprofit leadership development organization, is on the advisory board for the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” program and is a panelist for Strong Women, Strong Girls, a national mentoring program dedicated to raising the aspirations and self-esteem of elementary school girls.
Marie Zinno: Designs in Machine Embroidery
Marie Zinno is the author of Machine Embroidery for Babies and Tots and Machine Embroidered Monograms for the Home. She is a regular contributing writer and editor for Designs in Machine Embroidery magazine and Stitches magazine. Zinno also teaches embroidery events across the country and runs her busy commercial embroidery business, Sew Creative Embroidery in Canton, OH.
Karen Scarpino: Promotional Impact (asi/300878)
Karen Scarpino’s husband, Lou, started Promotional Impact (asi/300878) in 1992, and Scarpino joined and took over in 1998. She has since brought in the top five corporate clients, which account for over 80% of total sales. She recently created a new division of the company, Green Giftz, which specializes in earth-friendly, high-design promotions. For Green Giftz, Scarpino launched a “Made in Michigan” line of products including tote bags made from scrap fabric, and clocks and awards made from wood that was submerged in the bottom of the Great Lakes so no new trees were cut down in the process. Promotional Impact/Green Giftz was awarded “Woman-Owned Business of the Year” by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce in 2010. She supports the local community through various philanthropic contributions, most recently donating 1,000 new blankets to three West Michigan social service agencies supporting local individuals and families in need.
Sharon Rowe: EcoBags.com (asi/51554)
Sharon Rowe, founder and CEO of EcoBags.com (asi/51554), received Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2008 from the Westchester Business Council, at which time her company was also inducted into the Westchester County Business Hall of Fame. She’s had several products featured on Oprah, as well as a feature article in Time magazine and a spread in Glamour magazine for the most influential “Women in Green.” Rowe started her company from scratch in 1989 and rode the first green wave as a pioneer, making her a thought leader with authentically green products. EcoBags.com has always created goods with fair wage and labor, and produced items with the least amount of harm to the environment and workers. Rowe strives to stay consistent with her brand message to “clean up the planet one bag at a time.”
Kristin Wert: KLAS Products Inc. (asi/243362)
Kristin Wert watched her parents build and sell three successful companies, and knew she wanted to follow in their footsteps. She made a deal with her father that if she graduated a semester early, he’d help her start a label company. A few months after graduating in 2001, her family moved to Las Vegas, and KLAS Labels Inc. opened its doors. In 2003 they expanded to start selling ad specialty products. Three short years later, the family business was grossing just short of a million dollars in revenue, with 85% coming from promotional products sales. In 2006, her parents retired to California and they split the company, so Wert and her husband did a slight re-branding and KLAS Products Inc. (asi/243362) was incorporated. It became a nationally certified woman-owned business in 2009. KLAS has grown from a few customers in a single city in the middle of the desert into a national company with customers from New York to California. Impressively, Wert wears all the hats – president, customer service, art department, marketing, sales manager and secretary.