Executive Advertising's Experience at the 2024 PPAI Women's Leadership Conference



The Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC) in Nashville was a landmark event that brought together women from diverse professional backgrounds in the Promotional Products Industry to share insights, celebrate successes, and foster meaningful connections. The conference which celebrated its 20th year anniversary, and was attended by more than 200 women in the industry. This year, Executive Advertising's own Rebecca Switzer, VP of Operations, and Jen McQuinn, Customer Service Manager, took part in the conference, and their experience was nothing short of transformative.


Jen McQuinn & Rebecca Switzer at the PPAI Women's Leadership Conference


Executive Advertising's Motivation behind Attending the Conference

Jen McQuinn had been intrigued by the PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference for years, enticed by the posts and stories she had seen from previous attendees. The combination of professional development, personal growth, and networking opportunities always appealed to her. “I’ve always wanted to attend the PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference. Seeing the posts from previous attendees made me realize the immense value it offered. This year, with the event in Nashville, it was the perfect time to go,” Jen shared.

Rebecca Switzer was inspired to attend the conference from her love of learning. She valued the opportunity to see what these women had to say, understand their experiences, and absorb the wealth of knowledge they offered. “I love learning. For me, knowledge is power. The fact that there are so many powerful women in this industry that I can learn from was a really big driving force. I wanted to see what their experiences were and what I could honestly just learn from them,” Rebecca explained.




No Promotional Products Event is Complete without the Swag!

During check-in, there was a whole table setup with everything separated out by the attendee's preferences. During the online registration process, attendees were asked their sizes and preferences, so they had a nice little bag waiting for them. Registrants picked up their swag bag, which included customized items like a notebook, pen, Devon & Jones sweater, a Sweeter Card chocolate bar, and a Corkcicle bottle, all housed in a custom bag that supports the FEED giveback program.


A grouping of some of the customized swag from the Conference.


FEED has recently entered the promotional product world, offering customizable bags made using 100% GOTS Certified organic Cotton. Every FEED product provides school meals to children – sometimes their only meal that day. Since 2007, FEED has helped provide over 126 million school meals, working with three partners and in over 20 countries – that translates to over $14 million in support.


Apple tree

Lauren Bush: Founder & CEO of FEED.


The hotel welcome bags with snacks were a nice touch as well. The bags were customized with a Dolly Parton quote, stating:

“You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.”


“The swag was fantastic! It was a great mix of practical and thoughtful items,” Rebecca shared.


Personalized Notebooks - On the Spot!

The notebook was sponsored by Spector & Co., known for their pens and notebooks. During the event, a Spector representative set up a small engraving machine in the lobby. Attendees were invited to personalize their notebooks between sessions. It was convenient; you could approach her easily, provide your name or any preferred inscription, and watch as she engraved it on the spot. Some chose their full names, while others opted for nicknames. It was fascinating for attendees to witness the customization process firsthand!


A Spector & Co. representative engraving Rebecca's notebook with her name.


Carbon Neutral Certified

The PPAI Women's Leadership Conference (WLC) achieved carbon-neutral certification by offsetting 439 tons of CO2e through a third-party audited carbon offset project, specifically the Gola Rainforest Conservation Project in Sierra Leone. This project protects 70,000 hectares of parkland, preserving millions of tons of carbon. The event itself generated nearly 75 tCO2e, equivalent to the annual emissions of 16 cars or the impact of 75 individuals adopting a plant-based diet for a year. Supporting this project aligns with eight United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).




Building Community and Authenticity

Both Rebecca and Jen emphasized the importance of building a strong community, both professionally and personally. Jen noted that vulnerability and authenticity were recurring themes throughout the conference, essential for fostering real connections and a supportive work environment. 

Liz Bohannon’s opening session set the tone by encouraging attendees to share their "pluck ups" (mistakes and learnings) and celebrate achievements. “Liz Bohannon’s session was so inspiring. She talked about the importance of being authentic and sharing our experiences, both good and bad. It really set the stage for the entire conference,” Jen recalled. Bohannon’s message underscored that by being open about our failures and successes, we can build deeper, more genuine connections with those around us.


Liz Bohannon (image source: Instagram @ppai_hq)


Stepping Out of Comfort Zones

Rebecca found that the networking opportunities were a significant takeaway from the conference. The warm and welcoming environment helped the women step out of their comfort zones and engage with others. She realized the importance of pushing boundaries and not settling for less, reinforcing the idea that growth and innovation require stepping outside one's comfort zone.

“All the women were so welcoming and ready to share any insights or knowledge. It was a huge learning experience for me,” Rebecca said.


“On the other side of your fear of rejection is the connection you desire and need.”


AI and Productivity

AI tools were a hot topic at the conference. Both Jen and Rebecca found the sessions on AI incredibly insightful. Rebecca was particularly surprised by how engaging the AI session was, leading to thought-provoking discussions. She learned how AI is being used in various capacities, such as mockups and risk assessments, sparking ideas on how to integrate AI into their own processes to enhance productivity.

“The AI session was mind-blowing. Hearing how suppliers like HIT and Gold Bond are using AI was fascinating. It sparked so many ideas for me on how we can use AI to improve our efficiency,” Rebecca shared.


Personal and Business Branding

Mila Grigg's session on personal and business branding resonated strongly with both attendees. Grigg, a local to Nashville, emphasized the significance of aligning personal values with company values to ensure authenticity and integrity in business practices. This concept of personal branding being integral to business success was a key takeaway for both Rebecca and Jen.

Grigg illustrated how personal branding extends beyond mere self-promotion, delving into how one's personal values, behavior, and interactions can significantly impact the overall perception of the business. She stressed the importance of consistency in personal and professional life, suggesting that employees are ambassadors of their company's brand every time they engage with clients, colleagues, or even on social media.


Mila Grigg (image source: LinkedIn @ppai)


This was particularly enlightening for Jen, who reflected, “Mila Grigg’s session made me realize how important personal branding is. It’s not just about the company’s brand, but also how each employee’s personal brand can contribute to the company’s success.” Jen found this perspective crucial, as it highlighted the power of individual authenticity in enhancing the collective brand of Executive Advertising.

Rebecca also found Grigg’s insights invaluable, especially when considering the influence of personal branding on leadership and team dynamics. “The idea that our personal brands can either strengthen or weaken our business relationships was a wake-up call. It made me think about how we can all bring our best selves to the table to uplift the company’s image,” Rebecca shared.

Grigg's session stressed the importance of employees feeling connected to their work and being genuine in their professional roles. This alignment can lead to more engaged and motivated teams, ultimately driving the company forward. Both Jen and Rebecca left the session with a renewed commitment to fostering a culture where personal and business values are intertwined, ensuring that Executive Advertising not only meets its business goals but does so with integrity and authenticity.


LinkedIn’s Role

The importance of LinkedIn as a platform for professionals and businesses was another significant takeaway. The conference emphasized the value of making meaningful connections and actively sharing on LinkedIn to enhance professional visibility and opportunities.

“LinkedIn is becoming the new Facebook for professionals. The connections and opportunities it offers are incredible. I even created a LinkedIn profile during the conference to start making those connections,” Rebecca mentioned.

In the past few years, LinkedIn has transformed into more of a “social” platform. The site has become crucial for professionals looking to expand their networks and online presence. Connecting with peers, mentors, and potential employers worldwide is easier than ever. A strong LinkedIn presence is now encouraged for career growth, collaboration, and staying updated in any industry.


Connect with Rebecca Switzer and Jen McQuinn on LinkedIn!


Implementation Plans

Rebecca is inspired to leverage personal and business branding strategies to enhance Executive Advertising’s market presence and to explore AI tools that could streamline operations and improve productivity.

“I’m excited to explore AI tools that can help us become more efficient. Also, understanding the importance of personal branding will help us present a more authentic and unified brand to our clients,” Rebecca said.

Jen is eager to foster a stronger sense of community within her team and to explore how AI can be integrated into their customer service processes. She believes that building a supportive and connected team environment will lead to better overall performance and job satisfaction.

“I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve learned about AI and community building. It’s all about creating a supportive environment where everyone can thrive,” Jen added.


Memorable Sessions and Speakers

Rebecca found Leslie Short's seminar particularly compelling. Short's insights into understanding and valuing one’s strengths and weaknesses were empowering. “Leslie Short’s session was eye-opening. She talked about the importance of understanding your strengths and weaknesses and using that knowledge to your advantage,” Rebecca said.

Short's pivotal advice resonated deeply: fearlessly reject what doesn't serve you and challenge boundaries to achieve what you deserve. This perspective profoundly struck a chord with Rebecca, urging reflection on one's tendency to settle rather than strive for more.


Leslie Short (image source: Instagram @ppai_hq)


Jen's favorite speakers included Liz Bohannon, Claudeen Saxon, and Sarah Unruh, all of whom delivered powerful and authentic messages that resonated deeply with her. “Each speaker brought something unique to the table. Their authenticity and willingness to share their journeys were incredibly inspiring,” Jen recalled.


Challenges for Women in the Promotional Products Industry

The conference addressed several challenges faced by women in the promotional products industry, including the need for greater community support, the importance of authenticity, and the potential of AI to drive productivity. The sessions provided practical advice and strategies to navigate these challenges effectively.

“One of the biggest challenges is the lack of representation of women in leadership roles,” Rebecca explained. The conference provided statistics that only 15% of women currently hold such positions in the Promotional Products Industry. Rebecca emphasized the internal conflicts many women face in this male-dominated industry, noting that while progress is being made with more women entering C-suite positions, significant barriers persist.


Only 15% of PPAI Top 100 Suppliers and Distributors are run by women.


Maribeth Sanford, CEO of Bag Makers and a founding member of WLC, highlighted the historical challenges faced by women in the industry and emphasized the superior efficiency and understanding often found in women-led organizations. She was one of a small group of women who created the WLC 20 years ago. They were motivated to bring the women in this industry together, because they knew what could be accomplished when working together.


Advice for Future Attendees

Jen and Rebecca both encourage other women in the industry to attend future PPAI WLC events. Their advice is to seek organizational support for attendance, set personal and professional goals, and maintain a growth mindset. They emphasize the importance of networking, learning from peers and mentors, and staying open to new ideas. “If you have the desire to attend, find a way to go. The networking connections you make are invaluable, and you’ll return with fresh ideas and enthusiasm for your work,” Rebecca advised.

Rebecca specifically advises women to find ways to attend if they have the desire. She suggests that networking connections made at such events are vital as one grows within the industry and that attendees will return with fresh ideas and enthusiasm for their work. “The conference is a great opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and make those connections,” Rebecca emphasized.


Conference Highlights and Areas for Improvement

Jen appreciated the balance between personal growth and business-focused sessions, as well as the opportunity to meet and learn from new people.

Rebecca enjoyed the panels and found the discussions around AI and the future of the promo industry particularly enlightening.

However, both noted that more time for smaller group interactions would have been beneficial for deeper networking. “The conference was well-organized and the sessions were insightful, but I think having more time for smaller group interactions would have been helpful for building deeper connections,” Jen suggested.


Sharing a meal during a networking dine-around at Hand Cut in Nashville.




Service Project for Thistle Farms

Jen and Rebecca participated in a service project at the end of the conference, which involved assembling 250 'care' bags for Thistle Farms. Despite the chaos, they found the experience very rewarding!

Thistle Farms is a nonprofit social enterprise, located in East Nashville, dedicated to helping women survivors recover and heal from prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. They do this by providing a safe place to live, a meaningful job, and a lifelong sisterhood of support.



An assembly line putting together care bags.


Rebecca appreciated the opportunity to discuss the charity with other attendees, raising awareness for the cause. Earlier this year, Executive Advertising had been introduced to the organization and its employees had taken a couple of days to volunteer at their facility.

“The service project was chaotic but rewarding. It was great to use our skills to give back and raise awareness for a good cause,” Jen noted.


Jen McQuinn helping to break down boxes from all the donated items during the project.


Happy Hours

The first happy hour event of the conference involved guitar string jewelry! After the attendees picked up their badges, they could stop at this jewelry station to start their creative juices flowing for the week. In true Nashville fashion, the bracelets were made from actual guitar strings!


Guitar String Jewelry Station

Food & Fellowship

Throughout the conference, friendships were made and connections were strengthened, especially over a good meal!


Rebecca Switzer & Jen McQuinn with some of their peers from Koozie Group after Tuesday's dinner at Las Palmas restaurant.



Overall, the PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference in Nashville was a rewarding and enriching experience for Jen McQuinn and Rebecca Switzer. They returned to Executive Advertising with fresh insights, new connections, and a renewed commitment to fostering community and authenticity within their roles and the industry at large. “The conference was transformative. We came back with new ideas, renewed enthusiasm, and a commitment to building a supportive and authentic work environment,” Jen concluded. “It was an incredible experience that I would highly recommend to any woman in the industry,” Rebecca added.


Jen McQuinn & Rebecca Switzer in front of a PPAI step and repeat.


Shopping Cart
Interested in buying promotional products and have questions for us? Then the Quote Cart is perfect for you! Click the "Request Quote" button on any product page to start requesting your quote. Make sure to let us know any additional details in the questions section.
Loading Quote Items
You have not yet added any products to your cart yet. Time to start shopping! :)
If you have more than one ordering account, you may have created a shopping cart in a different account. You can toggle between your ordering accounts below:
Active Ordering Account:
Contact Us
(800) 338-7996
Contact Us Options
<< Back
Phone Numbers
(800) 338-7996 Toll Free
(615) 991-4000 Local Phone
Fax Numbers
(866) 323-8381 Fax
(615) 246-4198 Local Fax
Contact Us Form
<< Back
Physical / Mailing Address:
Executive Advertising
181 E. Main St.
Ste 4
Hendersonville, TN 37075
<< Back
Contact Us Form
First Name:*
Please provide a First Name.
Last Name:*
Please provide a Last Name.
Please provide a valid Email.
What can we help with?*
 Existing Order
What product are you inquiring about?
{{($select.selected.prd_name+ ' (#'+$select.selected.part_number+')')}}
+ {{viewed_product.prd_name+' (#'+viewed_product.prd_id+')'}}
What is your Order Number?*
{{contFrm.order.ord_grp_num}} {{contFrm.order.created_on | dateToISO | date:'MM/dd/yyyy'}}
{{contFrm.order.old_ordernumber}} {{contFrm.order.created_on | dateToISO | date:'MM/dd/yyyy'}}
+ 323455 ({{recentOrder.created_on | dateToISO | date:'MM/dd/yyyy' }})
323455 ({{orderproduct.created_on | dateToISO | date:'MM/dd/yyyy' }})
Load more orders
Please select an order.
to request help with an Order
Please provide Questions/Comments.
<< Back
Production Time
A standard production time for each product is listed on each product page. Production times may vary depending on decoration methods, number of locations, and product type. Production time do not include shipping transit times or artwork proofing times. On each product page you can enter your shipping zip code and see how long it takes for your order to be produced and ship to your location. Rush production options may also be available.
Report a Problem
First Name:*
Please provide a First Name.
Last Name:*
Please provide a Last Name.
Order #:
How can we help you today?
This can be an exact number, or you may wish to inspect a small batch of your items and check for a percentage that is affected.
To help expedite the claim, and show consistency in the issues described, please include a couple group images showing multiple items (5-10 if possible) within the photos.
{{f.name}} x x Delete File
Please upload an image or video in one of the following formats: bmp, png, jpg, jpeg, gif, psd, ps, tiff, tif, ai, eps, svg, mp4, avi, mov, flv, wmv
{{rpc.inprogress ? 'Sending...' : 'Submit Question'}}
Provide your Feedback
We've recently launched a new website, and we'd love to get your feedback! Let us know your thoughts on how we can improve your customer experience.
Give our new website a rating:


Share your thoughts on our website:

Comment Sent. Thank you!
Click here to view our company's terms of sales.
Returning Customer
Log in to an existing account. If you are a multi-user account holder, any of your email addresses will work!

This website uses cookies

We use cookies when you visit our website that can recognize, collect, and transmit information that is associated with you, but which does not personally identify you. Read our Privacy Policy.