Making Connections at the WomenReps 2021 Conference

by Michelle Jobst, CPMR, Jobst Incorporated

In a crazy year with plenty of uncertainty, the WomenReps 2021 conference was conducted in Bloomington, Minnesota, in July. Even forest fires in the northern part of the state did not stop the event. It was a much-needed connection point for women in the sales representative business.

Women from around the country spent several days discussing their businesses’ roots as well as the current and future direction of their businesses.

This fourth Annual Conference had a mix of new and previous attendees from Colorado, California, North Carolina, and Minnesota. WomenReps 2021 participants included: Karen Jefferson, Rocky Mountain TSG; Julie Defee, Team Creations; Jennifer Deaton, J.L. Brasher Co.; Lani Basa, The Business Women’s Circle®; Jamie Benson, Foster Engineered Products; Kara Brashear, Central Tower Exchange Corp.; Kate Rhoten, MRERF/ IPA; Michelle Jobst, Jobst, Incorporated; Leslie S. Marell, Marell Law Firm.

The climate of the conference is built on a high level of trust. Planning was put in place to accelerate connections needed for a solid meeting in the short time we had together. Many attendees had never met before coming together. Several dinners off-site mixed in to bring a relaxed feel to the conference. The event ended with a pontoon boat ride on Prior Lake.

Traveling and taking time away from their territories are a big ask for salespeople and business owners. Relevant content is critical to make it worthwhile. This year many participants shared in presenting topics to their fellow women business owners that affect how we conduct business, such as how family business is done, hiring in the current climate, where to find a business support network, formal business plan formats, making gender dynamics work, and a variety of legal topics were just a few of the agenda items this year.

What was developed at WomenReps 2021 was a very generous spirit of sharing and openness with each other. These are some of the ingredients that made it another successful gathering.

I started WomenReps in the fall of 2017 and recently established it as an LLC. This was done because I wanted to develop content for an annual gathering to support business growth with others that were in my same role.

Building an event with an informal, non-competitive, and a confidential setting was critical to me. It was designed to develop key relationships with other female, independent sales reps who understand this sales channel.  When members speak openly it increases the effectiveness of the whole network. The first event was held in 2018.

Here is what a few attendees had to say about the 2021 conference:

“My time with members of the WomenReps, LLC, was invaluable. It was great for the understanding of complex business issues and relatable content from a woman’s perspective. I didn’t feel like a unicorn in the room. I felt heard and understood without judgement. Made some friends along the way, as well! Thank you for everything!”

— Jennifer Deaton, J.L. Brasher Co.

“Each participant brought her own gifts, creating a richness to our time together.  We were all in different stages of our businesses, from thinking of starting a company to decades in business, but we were all able to take something from this event — that’s how you know it was a success!  Well done Michelle.”

— Julie Defee, Team Creations

“WomenReps 2021 reinforced the knowledge that having a professional support system is as important as having a personal support system. Reps have a special niche in the world. Women also have niche issues to address and this network brings a bouquet of relatable personal, professional, and psychological experiences to improve all facets of my business and my life.”

— Karen Jefferson, Rocky Mountain TSG

“Returning from the WomenReps 2021 conference, I am refreshed and ready to take on the months ahead with new perspectives and insight on managing my day-to-day efforts in driving business as a commercial building product rep in Southern California.

“We discussed how we’ve evolved with virtual communications and engagement throughout the pandemic and talked about being forced into the video conference world. Presenting ourselves readily and authentically, it’s worked surprisingly well, particularly with existing clients. In establishing new relationships, we’ve become more creative in our ways to connect, ensuring that we are continuing to offer a great value to the principals we represent. Without the usual in-person visits from our principals, we have learned to over communicate with them to ensure they are aware of the value-add of working with an independent rep network.

“Business-planning strategies were shared, reminding us to take the time to work on our business. What differentiates us from competition, what advantage/edge do we offer to our clients and what principals define our brand. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in working in our businesses and from time to time we must step outside to work on them, improving our processes and driving us to become more efficient.

“Forced to set boundaries, especially for those of us that were new to working from home over the last 18+ months, we strategized on ways to prioritize our time and how to manage a self-compassionate, creative and joyful self along the way.

“And this is just skimming the surface of the topics and knowledge yielded from the conference. The inspiration gained from gathering with women in like work is one of the best take-aways from this gathering of driven and successful women in the rep business.”

— Jamie Benson, Foster Engineered Products

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.