Now in its seventh year, PPPC’s Women’s Empowerment Event (WEE), was held from May 27-29 at the Oakwood Resort in Grand Bend, Ontario. Spearheaded by PPPC’s Chantal Fontaine and successfully executed by Mara Welch, PPPC’s events coordinator, Canadian women in the promotional products industry and based throughout Canada gathered for three days of inspiring education sessions, valuable networking and team building exercises, and problem solving designed to be mutually beneficial for everyone in attendance.
The gift bags at PPPC’s WEE event in Ontario were as plentiful as they were awesome. For example, BIC Canada (asi/40481) provided sturdy stadium chairs for sitting around the campfire for a bonding networking event.
“WEE has become a completely safe space for women in the industry,” said Jennifer Carver, field sales manager for Polyconcept North America. “A place where all barriers disappear and we become not suppliers, distributors and/or competitors, but simply women in business with wisdom to be shared freely. The WEE experience is not one that can be described easily in that it is not something tangible you can hold in your hand, but you will carry its impact with you for the rest of your life.”
For example, one speaker addressed the topic of “Understanding & Managing Unconscious and Conscious Bias,” while another offered effective tips for boosting sales, and a spirited, entertaining discussion led by return speaker Marilyn Barefoot, president of Barefoot Brainstorming, asked attendees to share their business challenges so colleagues could offer helpful solutions. Because at this event, there are no competitors – only colleagues working together toward mutual personal growth and that of the industry. Issues shared included the best places to find new employees, how to get past gatekeepers, how to stand out from one’s competitors and how to use social media most effectively.
And in what was perhaps the most eye-opening session of the event, “Shatter Your Rose-Coloured Glasses,” Carol DeVille – owner of distributor The Branding Company, a past PPPC chair and a member of this year’s Counselor Hot List – and Carver methodically explained, with voluminous amounts of supporting data, why savvy promo salespeople need to step up their game to compete with a rapidly changing marketplace and shifting demographic of buyers. “With the Vistaprints and the Alibabas of the world, salespeople who are just order-takers are going to find themselves without jobs,” Carver said definitively.
As the event was held at a resort that had a distinctly communal summer camp vibe, the networking was robust and uniquely encouraging. Whether one chose to take the cooking class with Oakwood’s executive chef, join the nightly campfire discussion while making s’mores, wake early for a martial arts demonstration, stroll down to the beach for jaw-dropping sunsets or join the lively and spirited group that collected outside of DeVille’s cabin, the comradery was as invigorating as it was memorable – as one would expect with a group of prodigiously talented and outspoken women.
“Those who’ve never attended WEE may have their own preconceived biases about the event, but I am always encouraged to see them challenged when they actually understand what we discuss and learn at WEE,” said Ros Plummer, vice president of sales and marketing at Clearmount (asi/45440). “After this year’s event, I went straight to PPPC board meetings. There we had many stimulating and discussions about the industry and what part the Association plays in supporting members. It was interesting for me to say, ‘Oh, we discussed that at WEE and this is how it was perceived it, or this is how we see us moving forward.’ By the end of the meetings, my fellow board members wanted to sign up, but they would have to change from guy to gal! WEE is an opportunity to park preconceived ideas and prejudices at the door and learn to think in a wider forum, to explore how we can grow as women, saleswomen and industry leaders. I believe this is an event that should not be missed by the movers, shakers and disruptors in our industry that want to make a difference in the promotional product world. It’s the WEE and the women of this group that will work to have our industry recognized as the 6th pillar of marketing.”
The whip-smart and devastatingly hilarious DeVille has been a key supporter of the event since its inception. “What has always been and remains wonderful is to see strong, powerful women of our industry invest in attending the Women’s Empowerment Event to further their knowledge, learn from others, share experiences, create connections and develop long-term relationships,” DeVille said. “The development leadership program has been running for seven years and every year we see new faces, expressing excitement and joy founded by attending this powerful event. Every year, I personally learn something new, something valuable and have an ‘aha’ moment. I’m already looking forward to next year’s WEE and I tell everyone, if you come, you won’t be disappointed.”