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  • Sarah Lindsey

Celebrating International Women's History Month

Happy international women’s history month! March is dedicated to commemorating the resilient women that came before us and celebrating the amazing women around us. As we start out the month and get closer to International Women’s Day (March 8th) I’ve been thinking about the impact of the many women who were pioneers in the business world. The promotional products industry has benefited from the influence of many people but this post is to highlight 4 women pioneers in specific who were trailblazers in the promotional products industry.

Lorraine Hempen started her career in the promotional products industry in 1947, according to Hempen, only 3 other women were working in the industry at the time! Hempen said, “As a woman [in the industry] you had to maintain your role as a woman but display professionalism, be ethical, be a person of your word and really work twice as hard as a man to get any type of recognition.” Hempen worked at Joseph Lipic Pen Company for 55 years and was later inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame.

Margaret Custer-Ford was living in Oregon in 1959 when she decided to open her own distributorship. Custer-Ford began using only her first initial when calling potential clients as a way to get in contact with promotional product manufacturers, many of whom did not do business with women at the time. Custer-Ford built a successful business and proved her advertising know-how repeatedly throughout her life and was even named Counselor Magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 1984, the first woman to ever receive the honor. In 1995 she sold her company to her daughter Nancy and was inducted into the PPAI National Hall of Fame.

Margie Price is a long-time veteran of the promotional products industry. For over 25 years, Price has served on the PPAI Association board and other PPAI committees. She was a strong advocate of creating the first PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference and has volunteered with Women’s Leadership Conference Work Group since its introduction in 2012. In 2011 Price received the PPAI Woman of Achievement award and was inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame in 2017.

Janelle Nevins discovered the promotional products industry while on maternity leave and began working in the industry from there. She worked with Coca-Cola for many years after landing them as a client from a cold call; Nevins says this is what launched her love for the industry. Nevins served on the PPAI Board of Directors from 2003-2006 and many other committees throughout the 2000s. Nevins was post-humously honored as the PPAI Woman of Achievement in 2013 and inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame in 2018.

Women like Hempen, Custer-Ford, Price, and Nevins have helped propel the promotional products industry into the 21st century. Their work helped open many doors for women looking to contribute to what was previously a male-dominated world. This March let’s honor all the women and allies who have worked to create a place for women in the business world.

*This article features information from the PPAI Newslink website, to see articles about each of these women follow the links in their respective paragraphs.

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