Networking & Development Conference Draws Record Industry Participation
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – A first-of-its-kind networking and development conference conceived by wholesaler executives and offered for association members drew a capacity crowd and rave reviews from participants. The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) Conference ran September 14-15 in the Nation’s Capital and hosted 45 senior executives from distributors of all sizes serving markets in every corner of the nation.
“The WLC Conference was a member-conceived, member-led effort,” said WSWA Vice President, Federal Affairs, Catherine McDaniel, staff liaison to the WLC group. “Our team originally planned for 30-35 attendees and this year’s participation was well above that—it speaks to the ongoing need for this type of event and its lasting value for WSWA member distributors,” she added.
The program began Thursday evening with a networking session where attendees and WSWA staff enjoyed an intimate reception with Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) who talked about skills she gained as a legislative staff member, private sector attorney and law firm partner, and later in her career, as a delegate in the Virginia statehouse. She also discussed “The Young Women's Leadership Program”–an organization she founded for high school girls–as well as, various issues and opportunities she sees as a member of her state's congressional delegation.
The day-long conference on Friday started out with a policy briefing from WSWA Government Affairs team members Heather Calio, Director, State Affairs; Ali Prolago Gormley, Senior Director, Federal Affairs; Ashley Lantz, Senior Director, Federal Affairs; and Catherine McDaniel, Vice President, Federal Affairs, who outlined the association’s state and federal agenda, creative advocacy efforts, and the importance of political action. The group also discussed how rapidly-changing issues such as health care, tax reform and regulatory policy can impact wholesalers and how distributor executives and their teams can engage in the advocacy process.
WSWA staff next assembled a bipartisan, bicameral panel of top Capitol Hill staff members who talked about their own job successes and challenges, provided a look at issues facing Congress in the current political climate, and shared tips and best practices learned over their own career paths. Participants included: Sarah Benzing, Chief of Staff, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Shuwanza Goff, Floor Director, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD); Barrett Karr, Chief of Staff, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA); and, Monica Popp, Chief of Staff, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX).
Spirits educator and author Heather Greene, author of Whiskey Distilled: A Populist Guide to the Water of Life, led a whiskey tasting and discussion about the latest whiskey trends and market developments. Google Head of White House Outreach Lee Dunn, offered a two-part education session outlining how her own “career pathing” approach fueled her growth within the company, and offered an update on how distributors and the association can maximize return on investment in new and dynamic digital communications and marketing tools.
Women’s leadership expert, television news reporter and New York Times bestselling author Claire Shipman offered an in-depth review of the compelling and surprising new research from her latest book, The Confidence Code, which explores the science and art of self-assurance and what tools women need in order to enhance themselves professionally and personally.
WLC Conference attendees spent the afternoon prior to the conference assembling 275 personal care kits for women, children and families who utilize the services of House of Ruth, a Washington, D.C.-based community service organization. Baskets were delivered by the WSWA team in a specially-wrapped truck provided by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits that was used in the National Truck Driver Appreciation Week campaign the week prior. The truck wrap showcases important facts about the economic impact and broad employee base of U.S. wine and spirits distributors.
Click here to view photos of the reception, conference sessions, and philanthropic event.
Conference sponsors and supporters included long-time industry partners Beverage Media Group and Dimensional Insight, as well as first-time association event sponsor Bank of America.
“The WSWA WLC and its inaugural Conference demonstrate the benefits that accrue to the industry at large from active, engaged and inspiring association members–this conference was conceived just over a year ago, and will now become an ongoing part of WSWA’s member-benefits program. More importantly, it will provide an expanding and sustainable career development and educational resource for tomorrow’s industry leaders,” WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf said.
The WSWA WLC is led by Chair Dina Opici of Opici Family Distributing and Vice Chair Philana Bouvier of Young’s Market Company. Advisory Board members include Heather Alper of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits; Megan Ross Iaccino of Great Lakes Wine & Spirits; Stacy Gabel of Republic National Distributing Company; Lacey Sadoff of Badger Liquor Company; Monica Chaplin of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits; Hillary Wirtz of Breakthru Beverage; Jessica Cyr of Martignetti Companies; and Jenn Zenker of Breakthru Beverage.
WSWA is the national trade association representing the distribution tier of the wine and spirits industry, dedicated to advancing the interests and independence of distributors and brokers of wine and spirits. Founded in 1943, WSWA has more than 380 member companies in 50 states and the District of Columbia, and its members distribute more than 80 percent of all wine and spirits sold at wholesale in the U.S. Visit www.wswa.org to learn more.