June 17, 2024 •
Spotlight Awards Voices: 2024 honorees share lessons, insights

Early this year, we introduced you to 12 incredible visionaries in gift and stationery, including retailers, manufacturers, designers, sales managers and executives. Their stories are as diverse as our industry, and we want to continue to share their expertise and narratives with all of you.

We asked, they answered, and each issue we’ll share with you some of their new insights.

Nominations for the 2025 Spotlight Awards are now open. Nominate an industry peer (or yourself) at this link. Deadline to nominate is Aug. 23.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?


Sales and Customer Service Manager, Simply Southern

“Being among the pioneers of the ‘next generation’ in this industry can feel daunting at times. Engaging with influential figures and namesakes of the industry requires time and effort to establish credibility and earn attentive ears. I’ve been fortunate to receive mentorship from several industry veterans who recognized my potential and facilitated my inclusion in significant discussions. The enthusiasm within the gift and stationery sector for the emergence of new leadership is truly inspiring. Encountering fellow leaders eager to involve you in industry matters and solicit your perspectives is invigorating and revitalizing.”


President, nora fleming

“Our biggest challenge was rising in a meaningful way after our president (and Nora’s brother) Jon Neidlinger passed away after a car accident in 2019. Our brand’s biggest goal has been ensuring that the ethos of joyful gift giving and kindness is maintained in the nora fleming team, the nora fleming retailers and the decisions we make.”


Senior Vice President of Leasing, ANDMORE

“Being an African American person in this industry has been [the biggest challenge] because the industry is not as diverse as I would like for it to be. And not that that’s anyone’s fault, that’s just the reality. I think that having to navigate through that has been at times challenging. It’s gotten better for sure over the years as I’ve gone along because people know me now. … My whole objective is integrity, right? I would like to think that I’ve been able to build some really solid relationships on that.”


Sales Technology Director, Ganz Midwest-CBK

“One of the biggest challenges during my career has been potential new customers telling me no or not responding to me for years. I continue to follow up and reach out, and now some of these are my best customers and friends.”

What current trends are you noticing in the gift/stationery industry, and how do you anticipate the industry will evolve over the next few years?


Vice President of Sales, Road Runners West

“The trends that I’m seeing are some that we’ve seen for a while. Earth- friendly and sustainable seem to still be strong buzzwords, as well as made in America. I think the shop small or shop local movements are still important to consumers’ hearts. Gourmet is a growing category. I feel that our industry will continue to have more channels that retailers can do business through. I also feel like we will never lose the excitement of a buyer coming to markets to buy for their stores.”


President, Greeting Card Association (GCA), & Consultant

“For me there is all the various aspects of sustainability and avoidance of single-use plastics and packaging. As well as the constant search for what is new and fresh being driven internationally and by micro influencers.”


CEO, Legacy Publishing

“Interestingly, a lot of what we are seeing now was (not by design) what we started with — sustainability and quality. Some of our original retailers, from 1993, are still in business and they have evolved in the same ways we have. However, most of our newer accounts are run by younger, more tech-savvy business owners. Not only are their buying habits different (where and how they buy), but they are also more interested in who they buy from and what their vendors represent. They are, much more than in the past, looking to partner with companies whose values are more aligned with theirs. In an industry where most of the retailers are small and the suppliers are small, what business schools refer to as ‘corporate responsibility’ is more akin to ‘personal responsibility.’”


Vice President of Sales, Mud Pie

“We are seeing a lot of new retailers that stock more than just gift product. They are carrying a larger assortment, whether it be adding apparel or accessories, home fragrance, etc. It’s great for Mud Pie because we always strive to be a one-stop shop for retailers looking to round out their assortments. We see the trickle down to the consumer level as well. Today’s consumers are all about efficiency — they want to be able to buy everything at one time, in one place.”


Owner and Designer, Kwohtations

“My goal is to create cards that reflect and celebrate the lives we actually lead, from celebrating chosen families and non-traditional life milestones to tackling mental health struggles and navigating grief and loss. I’ve been excited to see more independent brands designing cards for significant yet often overlooked life events, like divorce, adoptions, gender transitions and different types of losses. Also, I’ve seen more cards that are made by and for specific communities, e.g., cards that celebrate Black, AAPI, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ cultures and communities. I anticipate these trends continuing, which are both much- needed and welcome changes.”

A special thank you to our Spotlight Awards partners, ANDMORE and Gift for Life.

ANDMORE Gift For Life

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