by Michelle Jobst, CPMR, Jobst Incorporated

When I regularly speak to other female sales reps around the country, I can’t help but recognize the real sense of optimism and momentum that has grown out of the connections among female reps in the profession. There is a collective excitement in our conversations as we share solutions to problems and act as sounding boards for each other as we work through common entrepreneurial issues. We also get to celebrate the unique ways we lead our companies and bring value to our principals and customers.

Independent manufacturers’ reps have a chance at leadership roles by becoming part of ownership. Such elevated positions lead to more control over one’s career, income and time. Through its ongoing efforts, MANA continues to support its membership with a variety of tools at each phase of ownership. The possibilities are endless if you are willing to put in the time and effort to use those tools.

Many of us are working in male-dominated industries. In those situations, tight connections among women reduce the feeling of going it alone when facing difficulties. MANA’s special interest group, “A League of Their Own” (ALOTO), is just one example of the work the association is doing to support key communities within our membership. I’m not alone when I say I’ve seen the group result in better networking among female independent manufacturers’ representatives. For example: “I always liked finding out what issues other women are going through that we all can come together and brainstorm on to help each other out.” — Lynn Hummer, owner of Mathews & Company, San Clemente, California, and member of the ALOTO leadership team.

At present, women are still underrepresented in manufacturing and in key leadership roles of all kinds. MANA’s leadership has made conscious choices and taken concrete steps to be more inclusive with positions of power. I am proud to be the first woman on the Board of Directors and look forward to more diversity in the candidates that apply for Board positions in the future.

Can you picture yourself as a successful rep with support of our association? Do you like hard work? Since I became a rep I have never worked harder, nor have I experienced the level of fulfillment in my career and financial destiny.

Each MANA member’s journey to “repdom” can follow a different path. For Doris Harkness, president of Pace Company, Richmond, Virginia, it was not planned and held an unforeseen revelation. Her first husband passed away unexpectedly when she was 38. “I succeeded him in the business and decided that as a single working mom, I appreciated entrepreneurship.”

Aime Cedrone’s path was also unique. Twenty-two years ago, she was working in the medical field and looking to make some extra cash working part time in her father’s office. Instead, her father put her on the road selling and the rest is history. She is the president of AMVAL Associates, Dover, Rhode Island.

Personally, I only arrived in this great sales channel by a lucky detour. Now I cannot imagine doing anything else.

A few quotes on business ownership to leave you with as you consider becoming your own “Boss Lady” in the rep world.

“I did not particularly set out to be an entrepreneur, or dream of it. However, I always wanted to do something that would drive myself to be independent and do things my own way.” — Rashmi Sinha, co-founder of Slideshare

“I strongly believe that growing entrepreneurs cannot be driven only by money. One must be driven by purpose and passion.” — Carol Levins, founder of Creative Kids Learning Center

“I encourage women in family businesses to step up for [leadership].” — Cindy Ayloush, CEO and chief financial officer (CFO), Hydraflow Corp

We look forward to your membership and participation in the MANA family.


Michelle Jobst, CPMR, is a graduate of the College of St. Catherine, St Paul, Minnesota with degrees in speech communications and international business economics. Jobst has over 20 years experience in technical sales; her work history includes experience in customer service and export. She is a member of the Rubber Division, ACS (American Chemical Society) and SPE (Society of Plastic Engineers). While she started working at Jobst Incorporated in 1994, she grew up with the business in her home when her father started out in 1978.

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