Jay Acunzo

Jay Acunzo is the author of the book Break the Wheel: Question Best Practices, Hone Your Intuition, and Do Your Best Work. He is a critically acclaimed show host and executive producer, as well as the founder of Unthinkable Media, which creates documentary shows with brand clients.

As a digital media strategist at Google, Jay was responsible for pushing marketing executives and practitioners into the digital age. He then held multiple leadership positions at high-growth tech startups, including HubSpot, and served as Vice President of Brand at the venture capital firm NextView.

Courses at Harvard Business School have cited Jay’s work, as well as writers at the New York Times, the Washington Post, FastCompany, Forbes, and more. He has been called a “creative savant” by Salesforce and named to the city of Boston’s “50 on Fire” list.

In a world where “storyteller” has become a buzzword, Jay has earned a living by understanding how to tell actual stories -- emotional tales of people and teams doing their best work that help inspire others to push past conventional thinking in their work.

Break the Wheel: How to Escape Conventional Thinking to Overcome the Ordinary and Build the Extraordinary

The distributor-entrepreneur today is stuck on an always-spinning wheel of reactive decisions and commodity work, this wheel leads straight to the one place we don’t want to be: average. Entrepreneurs are hungry to build something unique and they want to take action now. But we live in a world flooded with best practices, conventional wisdom, and trendy tactics, plus dozens of supposed “right” answers. Exceptional businesses are created when we find and follow what makes us an exception. In this fast-paced, inspiring talk, award-winning documentary host and former Google and startup brand-builder Jay Acunzo will hand you a sledgehammer. In this session, you’ll shatter conventional thinking by answering the six questions that will help you find clarity quickly, cutting through the noise, through past precedents, and through buzzy trends that only create sameness. You’ll emerge with a blueprint for thinking different and toward a framework for discovering your unique and extraordinary value. In addition, you’ll learn:

  • The trigger and confirmation questions that reveal your distinct advantage.
  • How to transcend “best practices” to discover the best approach for you.
  • The psychological barriers to making creative business decisions.
  • The one behavior change that can help you overcome these barriers.
  • How to create a “decision-making filter” to more quickly and confidently find the best approach in each new situation.

Johanna Gottlieb

Axis Promotions is an award-winning promotional products agency with five locations across the country. Axis has been named to Counselor Magazine’s Top 40 Distributors 5 years in a row, as well as PromoMarketing Magazine’s Top 40 Distributor, and PPB’s Greatest Companies to Work For.

Johanna has been at Axis for about 13 years, starting as an associate account manager and rising to her current role as a VP of Sales, Midwest. She holds many years of account management and understands the importance of every step in the campaign, from idea generation to order fulfillment. Drawing on both domestic and international procurement, she is able to ensure high quality and competitive costs, while complying with the myriad of regulatory issues. Johanna plays a role in new business development at Axis as well account management. She heads up Axis’ Chicago office. She is bilingual, fluent in English and Spanish. Johanna received her undergraduate degree from Iona College and a Masters in Mass Communications from the New York Institute of Technology.

Johanna lives with her husband (who she met at Axis) and her daughters, Olivia Bella and Lola Grace. Johanna, known as Jo, loves working out, family time and all things promo. She believes that connections are key and that a strong work ethic is crucial to success on all levels.

Never Enough: How to Stay Hungry Despite Success

Johanna Gottlieb, or Jo, has built her personal book of business from scratch to nearly $3 million in sales and never stops looking for her next best client. In the session, you'll learn how Johanna built her base, customer-by-customer, and how, even after years of sales success, still maintains a voracious hunger to grow her sales. From prospecting tips to client retention, Johanna will share how she keeps her ambition kindled, her pipeline full, and best practices for staying lean, moving fast, and winning business. In this session, you’ll learn:

  • Focusing on the right kind of client and the right kind of business for you
  • How to always-be-prospecting, plus tips on how to improve your business development skills
  • How to transform a prospect from customer to raving fan through creative, proactive sales
  • Best practices on how to significantly grow an existing client’s sales
  • Making it personal- tips on business relationships and how to be an overall cool person to work with

Jamie Mair

Jamie Mair became the top marketing executive at BDA in 2017 as a result of their acquisition of his company, SwervePoint.

After spending a decade working at two of the promotional merchandise industry’s largest distributors, Jamie set-out on an adventure in 2004 to launch SwervePoint - a boutique merchandise agency.

As an entrepreneur, Jamie has managed the start-up phase through the scale-up phase and the exit phase with a focus on: brand building, the customer experience, and corporate culture.

Over his career, Jamie has worked on global e-commerce programs, sponsorship activations, and B2B and B2C promotions that drive brand awareness and engagement for companies such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Fidelity Investments, and MasterCard.

Jamie is a member of YPO and studied biological science at the University of Toronto. He’s married to Tasha and together they have 18 year old Emma, and 16 year old Jake. They make their home in Boston, MA. Jamie thoroughly enjoys hockey, maple syrup, tequila, and reading.

An Exclusive Interview with Swervepoint Founder and BDA’s CMO, Jamie Mair

SwervePoint was a hot-shop. A boutique merchandise agency with a respected brand, iconic clients, and a creative culture. Co-founders Jamie Mair and Kevin Phoenix spent 13 years building enterprise value through brand thinking and disciplined execution. In 2017 SwervePoint was acquired by Top 40 agency, BDA. In this casual conversation with Jamie, we’ll explore his journey from start-up to scale-up to successful exit. In this session, you’ll get a candid, honest take from Jamie on:

  • Managing risk and dreams as a founder-entrepreneur
  • Sparking a hyper-growth strategy
  • His biggest mistakes that almost cost him everything
  • How to apply brand thinking as your North Star
  • The focus and alignment of customer-centric marketing
  • What he misses about being in a small boutique shop

David Nicholson

Polyconcept North America (PCNA) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Polyconcept, the world’s leading supplier of corporate and branded merchandise. With headquarters in Pittsburgh, PA, PCNA’s family of supplier brands includes Leed’s, Bullet, Trimark, and JournalBooks. PCNA serves as a single source destination for the widest selection of products, cutting-edge decoration and unrivaled service to its network of 15,000 distributors across North America.

With over 20 years of industry experience, David was a key leader of the executive team responsible for growing Leed’s and ultimately PCNA into one of the industry’s largest and most respected suppliers. During his tenure, PCNA completed 4 successful acquisitions and became widely-recognized as the industry’s most awarded supplier. He was awarded ASI’s Person of the Year in 2012 and was elected to the PPAI Board as its first at-large Director in 2013. David currently serves as President of PCNA and is also a member of Polyconcept’s Global Executive Committee.

Outside of PCNA, David has served on several non-profit boards with a particular focus on education. He served as a board member and past-chair at PACE, the Pittsburgh Council on Public Education, and is currently Board President of St. Edmund’s Academy.

David is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. David currently resides in Pittsburgh with his wife Tessa and three children, Mac (19), Campbell (17), and Neely (14).

A Glimpse Into the Future from a Global Perspective

Never before have global forces impacted a distributor’s business on the local level. From changes in China, tariffs, and international regulations, global shifts are no longer far removed from our day-to-day, they shape our supply chain, affect the way we do business and influence our opportunities of the future. As the President of Polyconcept North America, the world’s leading supplier of corporate and branded merchandise, David Nicholson has a unique perspective on the global forces that directly affect how distributors sell to end clients and how end-clients use and perceive our medium. In this presentation by David, you’ll have a clearer picture of how the current and foreseeable changes affect your business and how we as a supply chain can ensure we deliver strong and reliable products for our customers.

Carson Roncketto

Carson Roncketto is the Chief Operating Officer at Creative, a design-based promotional marketing agency located in Fayetteville, AR. Through her leadership with Steve McBee, Carson has helped re-engineer a 20-year brand to become a fashion-forward, design-centric boutique agency serving clients from multi-billion dollar retail giants to franchised organizations, tech start-ups, and ad agencies. Located in one of the fastest growing and most eclectic cities in the US, Creative is in the center of a renaissance of cultural innovation. The former Chief Learning Officer at a national non-profit, Carson brings her experience and passion for mission-minded work to Creative, helping clients tell their story via enriching experiences through product with purpose.

From Revolution to Renaissance: How to Disrupt Your Own Enterprise (Joint session with Steve McBee)

When Steve McBee looked at his business he knew it was all wrong. To be clear: it was profitable. It had endured years of success and thrived. But it no longer challenged the entrepreneur inside him. An adventurous risk-taker, Steve knew he needed to disrupt his own enterprise. Steve recruited Carson Roncketto and together they reimagined their company into an agency brand, positioned to capitalize on market demand and future strengths. In this session, Steve and Carson will walk you through reimagining the vision for your company, disrupting your infrastructure, and rebuilding your brand into an adventure that inspires who you want to be. A practical look inside a revolution that leads to renaissance, Steve and Carson will chart their journey and help you learn:

  • How to analyze the parts of your business that no longer bring you joy
  • How to determine the right partners that will help remake your brand
  • How to rethink your infrastructure so that you ensure you are serving the client of the future
  • Best-in-class systems that will keep you agile, adaptable, and quick-to-respond
  • How to reorient your team toward a creative-agency model

Jason Lucash

Jason Lucash launched his first business as a third-grader in the San Francisco suburb of Danville, California and has had the same entrepreneurial spirit since then. Most recently Jason launched OrigAudio which makes unique portable audio products in 2009 and has received numerous accolades and awards such as Entrepreneur Magazine's "Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year", Time Magazine's "50 Best Inventions of the Year", and Season 2 winner of ABC's hit show "Shark Tank".

Origaudio’s Principles for Wickedly Creative Product Development

Distributors today are being asked by clients to build more and more bespoke products and customized campaigns that meet their objectives. What are the principles behind unique product development that not only follow current trends but also creates trends that motivate customers to buy? How do we reorient our thinking from a product adaptation mindset to a product creation mindset? Known for bringing innovative products to the market, Origaudio has become a trendsetter with its products in both consumer and retail worlds. In this session, Jason will teach the principles that guide their success in product development, sharing their experiences around efficient supply chain management as well as how they determine what ideas to bring to marketing. You will learn:

  • How to incorporate a product development mindset into how distributors build campaigns for their clients
  • How to think about creative merchandise that inspires the market to buy
  • Adventure vs. recklessness in product development

Jamie Watson

Jamie Watson was born and raised in one of those small towns in Indiana John Mellencamp loves to sing about. Although she went to college in Florida to play collegiate golf, she returned to her roots to begin a career in public accounting in Indianapolis. During her four-year career in public accounting she decided she wanted to spend her time helping small businesses through financial consulting. In 2006 she began working with Certified Marketing where she is helping distributors and suppliers understand what truly drives value in a company. After thirteen years in the promotional products industry she is still learning about our evolving industry and loves to hear the stories of how others found their way to promotional products. She is passionate about helping small companies reach their goals and helping those who “hate numbers” develop a healthy tolerance for financial statements.

Jamie’s favorite down time activities include golf, running, yoga, travel and people watching. Her favorite quote is “luck is when preparation meets opportunity”.

Win-Win! Creating a Compensation Plan Where Everybody Wins

One of the most important, most talked about, and mystifying financial issues in our industry is how to create a compensation package that rewards and motivates employees and salespeople, in short: the best package that inspires the hustle! In this session, led by industry expert and financial analyst, Jamie Watson, you’ll learn the options and theories behind various compensation packages, from fixed compensation to straight commission and everything in between. While many types of plans can be effective, there are underlying principles which are essential to a successful compensation plan. In this talk, Jamie will break down the options, revealing best practices, what to avoid, as well as the key strategies to motivating your team. You’ll learn:

  • What shifts have taken place in best practices for compensation today
  • The optimum ratios of payroll to profitability
  • Options for compensating and motivating your sales team
  • Best practices around compensation that motivates change
  • Salesperson compensation and how to create a package that rewards growth

Sara Webb

Sara Webb began her career in the industry as a college student working for Nevins Group. Fast forward, and in 2013, Sara opened InTandem Promotions, a creative and vibrant promotional products distributorship located in the Atlanta, GA area. At InTandem their motto is ‘Brand with Purpose’. They believe in diving deeper into promotional branding to ensure every touch, every connection and every interaction is intentional, direct, and mind-blowing.

From Salesperson to CEO: Shaping A Culture While Building a Company

Growing her business from her house to a multi-million dollar distributorship, Sara Webb made the transition from top salesperson to learning how to be a CEO without any formal training. The shift in her role forced her to let go of her identity solely as a salesperson and to start leading her company through the evolving mission of a CEO. In this session, Sara will share her lessons learned about how to shape culture through building an incredible team, designing the right infrastructure, building a strategy that aligns with your culture, and creating an inspirational brand. In this session, you’ll learn:

  • The power of the reset to rekindle your passion for entrepreneurship
  • Lessons learned transitioning from salesperson to CEO
  • Reality based leadership tactics that inspire your team to action

Steve McBee

Steve McBee is the founder and CEO at design-based promotional marketing agency Creative, and also a partner at the print-with-purpose agency, Moxy Ox, both located in Northwest Arkansas. An avid outdoor and adventure enthusiast, Steve’s passion for living life on the edge (kayaking off of 40-foot waterfalls in Chile, paragliding cross-country in Colombia or running 100-mile races in the mountains of Colorado) perfectly align with his thirst for adventure in entrepreneurship: attempting the impossible through often uncomfortable but calculated risk-taking. Steve has re-engineered his company from a manufacturing and distribution house to become a fashion-forward, design-centric boutique agency serving clients from multi-billion dollar retail giants to franchised organizations, tech startups, and ad agencies. Located in one of the fastest growing and most eclectic cities in the US, Creative is in the center of a renaissance of cultural innovation.

From Revolution to Renaissance: How to Disrupt Your Own Enterprise (Joint session with Carson Roncketto)

When Steve McBee looked at his business he knew it was all wrong. To be clear: it was profitable. It had endured years of success and thrived. But it no longer challenged the entrepreneur inside him. An adventurous risk-taker, Steve knew he needed to disrupt his own enterprise. Steve recruited Carson Roncketto and together they reimagined their company into an agency brand, positioned to capitalize on market demand and future strengths. In this session, Steve and Carson will walk you through reimagining the vision for your company, disrupting your infrastructure, and rebuilding your brand into an adventure that inspires who you want to be. A practical look inside a revolution that leads to renaissance, Steve and Carson will chart their journey and help you learn:

  • How to analyze the parts of your business that no longer bring you joy
  • How to determine the right partners that will help remake your brand
  • How to rethink your infrastructure so that you ensure you are serving the client of the future
  • Best-in-class systems that will keep you agile, adaptable, and quick-to-respond
  • How to reorient your team toward a creative-agency model

Craig Dunlap

Craig Dunlap is a co-founder of Meyer Dunlap, a Dallas-based promotional products and branded merchandise company. He and his business partner, Kirk Meyer, started Meyer Dunlap in 2010 and have built it into an agency focusing primarily on custom requests, creative product ideas, and unique levels of service for large national brands. They’ve worked on projects for clients like Dr. Pepper, Samsung, T-Mobile, and Gold’s Gym.

Craig serves as the CFO and COO of Meyer Dunlap, primarily focusing on improving the company’s level of services to its customers. Outside of work, Craig spends his time with his family (wife and four kids), reading, watching sports, and playing golf.

There’s Always a Better Way: Unlocking Secrets to Proficiency

The promotional products business is bloated with inefficiencies. Most distributors find themselves drowning in too many details and exhausted by too many steps. Operating at max efficiency is about finding the stuff that only you can do and refining those processes until your mind bleeds. Well, okay, it’s maybe slightly less intense than that, but the principles of proficiency are the same whether you are revolutionizing your business or your life. Craig Dunlap has spent his entire career thinking through process and then tearing down and rebuilding to focus his energies and the energies of his team. In this session, Craig will walk you through the ways they’ve streamlined their business, you’ll learn how to:

  • Think and be obsessive about the right clients (and then intensely focus on serving them through your strengths)
  • How offshoring and outsourcing dramatically increases your speed and adaptability
  • Day-in and day-out efficiency tips in accounting, sales, production, and service
  • Blending your personal passion for improvement and your business passion for progress into one holistic strength

Brian Stidham

Brian Stidham is the Director of Business Development for emblematic supplier, EMT. He got his start in promo by writing himself out of study hall classes so he could design tees at the local screen print shop.

Brian's eye for design was discovered when he sold a bootleg Apple shirt to an art director at a product development company. He quickly moved from designing product and packaging to leading a team that developed over a thousand unique items every year. He has worked with licensing brands including Disney, Universal and DreamWorks.

As Brian traversed the country (and the world) slinging lapel pins, patches and other swag for EMT, he documented his adventures through photography, garnering a loyal following on social media @brianstidham.

His work has been featured in almost every Indianapolis social media page along with ones around the world. He also organizes and participates in local photography meetups with all skill levels.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, EMT is a 4-time Counselor Distributor Choice Award Winner for jewelry and emblems. As Director of Business Development, Brian focuses on market strategy, revenue generation and building strategic relationships.

Inspiring Through Imagery: How to Enchant Your Audience Through Visual Storytelling

We are a creative merchandising business and we are in a highly image-influenced age. Instagram and the digital landscape have made the world a feast of experiences and those that can tell their story through a unique visual experience are building some of the most significant tribal followings today. Brian Stidham has upwards of 10,000 followers on Instagram and has built this strong following through the unique way he sees the world and through an exceptional emphasis on craft. In this session with Brian, you’ll learn what distinguishes ordinary pics into extraordinary experiences, you’ll learn:

  • Lighting is everything, learn how to use it intentionally
  • How to take advantage of the gear and everyday objects you may already own.
  • Down and Dirty tricks to make your photos pop!
  • How to frame your photos through the mindset of a story

Amanda Delaney

Amanda Delaney, a 17 year industry veteran, cut her chops on the distributor side of the business before jumping to the supplier side with SanMar Corporate. A year later she moved her life across the country to North Carolina after being promoted to outside sales, and today she has found her home with IMAGEN Brands, serving as their Regional Sales Manager for Florida and Puerto Rico. Her love and passion for the business has helped her cement long-lasting relationships with her colleagues and customers, and if you’ve ever met her, you know she is not shy about vocalizing her views and opinions on everything industry related to anyone that will engage. Recently named 2018's "Rising Star of the Year" at IMAGEN's national sales meeting, Amanda's work-ethic and seemingly endless energy is infectious, and has helped her gain significant, continuous sales growth in her territory while simultaneously building a brand for herself and for IMAGEN Brands.

Amanda currently gives back to the industry through her volunteer work with the Gold Coast Promotional Products Association (GCPPA), where she serves on the board as well as holds the event chair for the Future Leaders in Promotional Products (FLIPP).

Originally from Seattle, she wears her Seahawks fandom on her sleeve, will passionately argue with anyone that Russell Wilson is the greatest quarterback of all time (even when he’s definitely not), and is never shy about showing off her killer dance moves (if you can really call them moves). If you've ever seen her energy level and the massive volumes of notes she takes at educational events such as PPAI Expo, skucamp and more (and have watched her put those into action), you know how much she thrives on furthering her education and share what she is constantly absorbing with her peers and her customers. For these reasons and so many more, Amanda is psyched and profoundly honored to be part of such an amazing panel of speakers at this year's skucamp.

Unlock the Power of “No” and Unleash the Power of “Yes”

The industry is rapidly changing because the client has already changed: faster-than-ever demands, on-the-spot consulting, imaginative and quick-turn ideas: the pace is relentless. In this session, Amanda Delaney will walk through the new power collaboration and how social media, openness to new processes, and constantly customizing your sales approach can help you combine technology+human relationships to buy confidence, win more business, and turn more customers into true, long-term partners. It’s no longer enough to be better, you have to be different, and in Amanda’s talk, you’ll learn how to put power principals of the new sales hustle into action, including:

  • How to leverage your time and energy to focus on the right kind of business
  • How differentiating yourself from the competition can not only increase sales, but retain customers
  • How veering away from traditional sales tactics and implementing new approaches can grow your business and increase the work/life balance
  • How to finally work smarter and not harder, and ultimately, how unlocking the power of "no" will most definitely unleash the power of "yes"

John Vo

John Vo is the President at Whoopla, an LA-based promotional products agency whose mission is to banish boring from business. John has been selling swag for nearly two decades and has developed a singular style for creative detail and an amazing ability to source hard-to-get and unique promotions, he has spent his career convincing his clients around the world that memorable swag is swag that takes a risk and if they want to be remembered, it’s going to take more than something off-the-shelf with ‘Your Logo Here’.

Custom Swag That Can’t Be Copied (Carving Your Custom Path)

Inspiring clients to buy NOW is John Vo’s specialty. John has built a career in this “me-too” industry by carving a path paved with unique merch and one-of-a-kind promotions respected by even his most trend-oriented customers. In this session, you’ll learn how to transform your order-taking business into an order-making machine. John will walk through his strategies for creating merch that can’t be copied, and how to inspire clients with memorable self-promotions that reflect your unique identity. You’ll learn:

  • How to sell on inspiration and not on price!
  • How to source non-traditional products
  • How to create unique promotional campaigns that can’t be shopped
  • How to spot retail trends and build them into your merchandise for clients
  • How to create self-promotion campaigns that no one can emulate

Nate Cunningham

East End Development Partners LP, Nate Cunningham and Claire Hosteny are partners in East End Development Partners, LP (EEDP). EEDP is focused on developing complex real estate projects in Pittsburgh’s urban core. Founded in January 2014, EEDP’s first major project was the renovation of a 110 year old vacant and deteriorating YMCA facility into an Ace Hotel in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Ace Pittsburgh opened December 2015 and has garnered significant recognition by publications like the Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast (2nd Hottest New Hotel), and Bon Appetit (Top 50 new restaurants). The project was $25 million in total development costs and utilizes New Markets Tax Credits, Historic Tax Credits, private equity, and several innovative debt vehicles.

Prior to founding EEDP with Claire, Nate was the head of ELDI Real Estate, a for profit development company owned by East Liberty Development Inc. (ELDI). While working for ELDI Real Estate and ELDI, Nate oversaw development projects totaling more than $45M and covering a broad range of product types in a geographically focused area. Projects included low income housing tax credit development, historic tax credit mixed-use development, multi-family acquisition and reposition, single family new construction, substantial rehab of single family residences (50+ homes), residential condominiums, and vacant lot development. Prior to returning to ELDI where he began he worked early in his career, Nate worked for a for-profit development company in Charlottesville, VA, as a development manager, where he oversaw and was a team member for a diverse set of commercial and residential projects, including a $25M land development, totaling more than $100M of development. Nate began his career in real estate and construction as an Americorps volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He graduated from Penn State with a BA in Philosophy. Nate is married and has two young children.

Building a Boutique Experience in a Commodity-Driven World (Joint session with Claire Hosteny)

Each time we invite a special guest outside of our industry to share insight into how they have differentiated their brand to drive success, it is met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. The Ace Pittsburgh story is a unique story about revitalization and growth within a stagnant and commoditized space. Celebrated by the Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast, and Bon Appetit, East Liberty Development Partners took a 110-year-old vacant and deteriorating YMCA facility and transformed it into an exceptional experience now known as Ace Pittsburgh. The story is how big dreams become practically fulfilled, from vision to funding, to aligning the right partnerships. In this special interview with Nate Cunningham and Claire Hosteny, you’ll be inspired to think about how to:

  • Invest significantly in your brand to ensure its differentiation
  • Imagine an exceptional experience for customers that transcends the expected
  • Tap into creative resources that ignite your vision
  • Channel the right partnerships to help guarantee success

Claire Hosteny

East End Development Partners LP Claire Hosteny and Nate Cunningham are partners in East End Development Partners, LP (EEDP). EEDP is focused on developing complex real estate projects in Pittsburgh’s urban core. Founded in January 2014, EEDP’s first major project was the renovation of a 110 year old vacant and deteriorating YMCA facility into an Ace Hotel in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Ace Pittsburgh opened December 2015 and has garnered significant recognition by publications like the Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast (2nd Hottest New Hotel), and Bon Appetit (Top 50 new restaurants). The project was $25 million in total development costs and utilizes New Markets Tax Credits, Historic Tax Credits, private equity, and several innovative debt vehicles.

Prior to founding EEDP with Nate, Claire was General Counsel for ELDI Real Estate. Claire was responsible for overseeing legal agreements and transaction documentation for a broad range of commercial and residential real estate projects. Additionally, she helped to implement some of ELDI Real Estate’s more creative approaches to urban redevelopment utilizing partnerships with a broad range of developers. While at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Pittsburgh, Claire managed the redevelopment process for URA owned real estate, select Board of Education real estate and high profile City of Pittsburgh properties. She was responsible for evaluating potential land acquisitions and sales of land with respect to economic development impacts, legal challenges, market conditions, financial feasibility, planning issues, neighborhood concerns, and design issues. Claire has a background in economic development and has worked on projects ranging is size from micro economic development in South Central Los Angeles to consulting for the World Economic Forum. Claire obtained her JD from the University of Pittsburgh. At Pitt, she was the associate editor for the Pittsburgh Tax Review and completed the Community and Economic Development Clinic. She obtained her Masters of Science from the London School of Economics and Political Science with honors. She has a BA from Georgetown University where she was a Baker Scholar. Claire completed a year of volunteer service through the Americorps VISTA program. Claire is married and has two young sons.

Building a Boutique Experience in a Commodity-Driven World (Joint session with Nate Cunningham)

Each time we invite a special guest outside of our industry to share insight into how they have differentiated their brand to drive success, it is met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. The Ace Pittsburgh story is a unique story about revitalization and growth within a stagnant and commoditized space. Celebrated by the Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast, and Bon Appetit, East Liberty Development Partners took a 110-year-old vacant and deteriorating YMCA facility and transformed it into an exceptional experience now known as Ace Pittsburgh. The story is how big dreams become practically fulfilled, from vision to funding, to aligning the right partnerships. In this special interview with Nate Cunningham and Claire Hosteny, you’ll be inspired to think about how to:

  • Invest significantly in your brand to ensure its differentiation
  • Imagine an exceptional experience for customers that transcends the expected
  • Tap into creative resources that ignite your vision
  • Channel the right partnerships to help guarantee success

Arcade Comedy

Arcade Comedy Theater is Pittsburgh's only non-profit theater group dedicated to comedy. Opened in February 2013, the Arcade began as a storefront converted into an intimate 75-seat theater. With a charming brick wall backdrop the theater’s first space was home to some of the funniest, most innovative, and most affordable comedy in the city. For over four and a half years, the Arcade produced or presented over 1,000 shows and welcomed over 50,000 visitors to the Cultural District with a mission to present fun, accessible, and affordable live comedy to the Pittsburgh community every weekend. And at skucamp, Arcade Comedy Theatre is making a special appearance at The Ace Hotel to lead a workshop on the power of improv.

Build the Plane While You Fly: Improv Techniques to Turning Your Team into Power Collaborators

Adapting under pressure and within constraints is a key characteristic of anyone in sales. And every day, you work on interdependent projects that require an astounding amount of teamwork. From co-creating with colleagues to collaborating with suppliers, ingenuity requires a swiftness of mind and the ability to make connections quickly, and there are techniques to master that can help you come up with successful ideas and fast responses under pressure. In this fun and interactive session led by experts on improvisational techniques, you’ll learn how to change your focus on the fly so that you can handle objections better and think creatively, plus, you’ll get tips from improv masters on how to work as a team in order to get the best ideas out of the collective. You’ll walk away with tips on how to:

  • Quickly shift your focus and think of ideas on your feet
  • How to utilize the power of “Yes, and!” when brainstorming with your team
  • How to listen and build upon the ideas of others when collaborating
  • How to read non-verbal communication versus verbal communication cues

Mark Graham

Mark Graham is the founder of RIGHTSLEEVE, one of the industry’s leading creative promotional products agencies. Mark is also the co-founder of commonsku, a business software application designed specifically for the promotional products industry. Mark is one of the founding chefs of PromoKitchen and is the host of the popular PromoKitchen podcast where he interviews industry thought leaders as well as business luminaries such as Seth Godin and Dan Pink. Recognized with multiple honors in the industry, including ASI's Distributor Entrepreneur of the Year, ASI’s Hot List, and PPAI’s Rising Stars, Mark has been featured in several major media publications (PPB, Counselor Magazine, Stitches, and Advantages). An innovative leader, Mark frequently mentors promotional entrepreneurs through writing, speaking, and training, and shares his technology expertise with promotional professionals across North America (PPAI Expo, ASI Chicago, ASI San Diego, PPPC, MAPPA, SPPA, Promo East, Partnering Group, NALC, ASI Power Summit).

Catherine Graham

Catherine Graham is the President of RIGHTSLEEVE and CEO of commonsku. RIGHTSLEEVE has received numerous industry awards including ASI Distributor Entrepreneur of the Year, PPAI Web Award, Counselor’s Best Places to Work. Catherine has been named PPB’s Best Boss and an ASI Rising Star. RIGHTSLEEVE received the Dell Small Business Excellence Award in 2009 for its technological innovations, the foundation of which became commonsku in 2011.

Catherine has played a variety of roles prior to RIGHTSLEEVE and commonsku. She spent several years doing financial planning for fast-track individuals and entrepreneurs at TD Bank. She then went on to pursue an MBA at the Rotman School of Management during which time she joined the fledgling eBay Canada as employee #4 and launched two categories in the Canadian marketplace. After leaving eBay, Catherine worked as a management consultant at A.T. Kearney, working with Fortune 100 companies in a wide variety of areas including merger integration, marketing strategy and operational efficiencies.

Outside of work, Catherine is a mother to 3 children ranging in age from 11 to 6 years old and sits on a variety of boards and committees in the non-profit space, including the Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation. She is also involved in a variety of initiatives and organizations in the entrepreneurial space, including serving on Dell’s Global Entrepreneur in Residence Advisory Board and acting as a mentor for Futurepreneur.

The Evolution of the Leader

As your business changes and grows, your role as a leader evolves from sales-oriented tasks that focus on client development, to coaching and mentoring a team, but many leaders still cling to a residue of activities that they shouldn’t be doing, moreover, they get bogged down with too many priorities. In this session led by Catherine Graham, you’ll learn the pattern of the salesperson who becomes a successful leader and how to ensure that you evolve your role into one that proliferates success through your team by focusing on your single most important priority. In this session you’ll learn:

  • The types of activities that slow your progress as a leader
  • The new skills and disciplines that the evolving leader should master
  • How to identify "your one thing," your most important priority as your business evolves

Bobby Lehew

Bobby Lehew is the Chief Content Officer at commonsku, a cloud-based CRM, order management, and social collaboration platform designed for the promotional products industry by promotional product experts. A 25-year industry veteran, Bobby was formerly the CEO at Robyn, a branded products fulfillment company that specialized in private-label, e-commerce company stores. A PPAI Gold Pyramid Award winner, a PPAI Silver Technology recipient, an Addy Award recipient, and recognized (in his work with Robyn) three years in a row by Inc. Magazine as one of the 5,000 fastest growing private companies in the U.S., Bobby is a national speaker on topics related to B2B marketing, company stores, productivity, and storyselling. Featured in ASI’s Counselor magazine as one of “41 people who are shaking up the market with new and innovative approaches” (2010) and in OKC Biz magazine’s “Forty Under 40″ (2009), Bobby is an ardent bibliophile and loves working at the intersection of art and commerce.