After a few years of gathering online-only, this was the first time back in-person for the PPAI Women's Leadership Conference. The event brought together women in the promotional products industry from across North America to talk about transformational leadership, team building, gender equity, and creating positive change in work environments. As a certified Women's Business Enterprise, Botanical PaperWorks was proud to sponsor the event and send our marketing coordinator to take in the event in person. Read on for a recap of the event through the eyes of a first-time attendee! Written by Larysa Musick, Marketing Coordinator Botanical PaperWorks Inc. Arriving at the conference Walking into the PPAI Women's Leadership Conference, I wasn't totally sure what to expect other than that I would meet a lot of people I didn't know! It was my first time attending the event and Botanical PaperWorks' first time sponsoring. Little did I know, this conference was unlike any other. When I arrived at the first timer's reception at Omni Charlotte Hotel, Bailley from PPAI greeted me, took my photo on a Polaroid camera to hang up for everyone to see, then invited me to sign a page with more about me for a post-event yearbook. A warm welcome that made me already feel like I was part of a club. Meeting and networking At the panels and networking sessions, I tried to sit at a new table with new people each time to mix and mingle as much as possible. Everyone must have had a similar plan in mind because I made so many new connections! The more people I spoke to, the more I began to fully understand and appreciate the reason behind the PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference. The point is to be open to learning from and supporting each other. The industry needs more women in leadership roles and it can be a difficult climb. We all need to be there for each other. Learning and discussions There was a lot to learn in the two days of panels. We heard from inspiring presenters, including Sara Frasca, JJ Digeronimo, Jill E. Yavorsky, and Maureen Zappala on various topics. They discussed ways to stay innovative as a business, identify and increase growth opportunities, combat imposter syndrome, and fight for gender equality in the workplace. One panel in particular that stands out to me is Buyers Have A New List Of Priorities—Diversity and Sustainability. This discussion covered how supply chain mapping is more important now than ever now that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is enforcing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Customers demand to know how companies make their products, as Cheron Coleman from Alphabroder says, “from shirt to dirt.” Distributors need all the certifications from their supplier that proves they are eco-friendly and diversity-owned. It was reassuring to hear, as Botanical PaperWorks is WBE Canada Certified and Climate Smart Certified. The company is also accredited in the Canadian Phytosanitary Certification Program for Seeds (CPCPS), ensuring that the seeds brought into our facility are tested for purity by a CFIA or AOSA (Association of Official Seed Analysts). My favorite advice from the panelists: 1. "Every barrier can be penetrated." Sara Frasca shared that when it seems impossible to find a solution, a bit of creativity will show us the way. A fun example of putting this principle to practice was as a situation where Air Canada was grounded for 7 hours without food because of bad weather. A nearby WestJet pilot heard about the situation, pulled up his plane to the passengers and brought them pizza. 2. Instead of saying "I need to learn how to do that before I do it," say “I want to do that, and I’m going to learn by doing it.” When asked what the key was to moving up in an organization and getting the promotion you want, Lori Bauer (Senior Vice President of Affiliate Sales and Support at iPROMOTEu) said it was about asking for it. 3. Finding more sponsors for women in the workplace instead of more mentors. Jill E. Yavorsky, PhD, explained that the majority of working women have enough mentors who are teaching them and coaching them to do better. What they need are more sponsors who will recommend, promote, and vouch for them when new opportunities arise. Sponsoring the event It was so nice to see Botanical PaperWorks handmade soaps wrapped in recycled paper next to reusable water bottles. The organizers from PPAI did their part to make their event carbon neutral, keeping in mind everything from the giveaways to the recycling after the event and even the coffee station. I got to grab coffee in a mug instead of a single-use cup, which made me feel good! Lots of attendees told me they loved the smell of the Botanical PaperWorks soaps, and I had fun offering to share the other scents with them too. Making connections Once I got comfortable and got to know a few of the other attendees, things got very fun from there. After some convincing, I sang Cheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy" for my dine-around dinner group at Haymaker restaurant. They all loved it and sang along with me. Shout out to these ladies for making this meet-up so memorable! At the end of the conference, we all had a chance to sign everyone's yearbook pages with their names and a little about them. It felt like high school graduation, just without any caps and gowns, which was nostalgic and sweet. Thank you, PPAI for hosting this event and sparking meaningful conversations about the promotional products industry, women in leadership, and how we can work together to make the future brighter for everyone. Learn more about how you can incorporate eco-friendly seed paper into your next corporate promotion by subscribing to our newsletter and downloading our full Seed Paper Promotions Catalog.