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2011 Distributor Woman of Distinction: Stephanie Leader,
By Joan Chaykin
June 2011

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From the time she was a young girl, Stephanie Leader’s dream was to become an attorney. Her parents encouraged this desire, and her main inspiration – her grandfather, a judge – presented her with his gavel at her high school graduation. Off she went to college with this seemingly clear vision for her future. But life took a different course and, looking back, Leader has no regrets.

A natural salesperson, Leader was successful working part-time selling ad specialties while studying Southeast Asian politics and political procedures at Ohio State University, where she graduated in 1995. She earned a scholarship to the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, but decided to take a year off and defer admission after her boss offered her a partnership. “I remember sitting at my desk a year later and getting the schedule in the mail for the class I was supposed to be attending,” Leader says. “But here I was just 12 months later, engaged to be married and my career was going really well and I hadn’t even thought about law school.”

Since 1998, when she bought the business from her partner, Leader has built (asi/287087) into a $16 million business in 2010 that employs 60 people. The company has expanded its offerings to include overseas sourcing, custom product design, corporate online stores and a new affiliate program.

“Our affiliate program has been well received,” Leader says. “We’re trying to give people that concierge level of service, and give them the skills to grow their business and not just be an order placing house.”

And, as a woman leading a growing company, Leader believes she’s in the perfect market. “This industry has a lot of women and they do very well in it,” she says. “Women get a lot of respect and the respect comes from the hard work we do.”

As the mother of two, Leader says her 10-year-old daughter expresses an interest in the business. “She’s interested in being the boss,” Leader jokes. “She always says, ‘Oh you do everything right’, and I say ‘Oh honey if you only knew all the mistakes that I make daily.’"

Leader’s self-deprecating humor aside, she knows full well what it takes to succeed in this business. “I’ve always been very driven and I’m very methodical about running this company. That helps contribute to the success of the company and sometimes you have to go with what you feel and what your gut tells you to do.” – JC

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