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Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

ASI’s 5th Annual Power Summit: After Hours!

Filed under: Travel

Well, hi there Everyone!

Am I the only one who is freaked out and flummoxed that it’s mid-November already? The good news? For the last five years, the beginning of November has signaled ASI’s Power Summit, a three-day meeting of some of the best and brightest minds in the industry. One of ASI’s most popular events (second only, I think, to the annual Counselor banquet or the raucous Counselor Hot Party) it has become a must-attend event for many in the industry, who carve time out of their busy schedules to take part in informative panel discussions and massive amounts of networking with colleagues. Having attended every Power Summit, I’ve seen first-hand how important it is for suppliers and distributors, competitors and colleagues, to honestly communicate about our collective issues — only by doing that will we start to caulk some of the industry’s cracks.   

My favorite parts of this year’s Power Summit? Seeing my pals Terry McGuire (HALO), Jilly Albers (Shumsky), Josh Ebrahemi (Jack Nadel Int’l.) and Stephanie Leader (Leader Promos) square off in a Marketing Smackdown panel, led by ASI’s senior vice president and editor-in-chief, Melinda Ligos. Briefed with a very abstract promotional concept only two hours before taking the stage, these marketing geniuses had to face off against each other and vie for the winning promotion to help an anonymous women-owned sneaker company with its wellness program. Though their promotional concepts were all completely different (which was interesting), their presentations were nothing short of brilliant. The winner (the always-hilarious Terry McGuire) was chosen from text messages sent in real-time from the audience — too cool.

Also, a shout-out to Magnet’s Bill Korowitz (love, love, love him!) and Teresa Moisant of Moisant Promotional Products, two of the liveliest — and funniest — people you’d ever want on a panel, and they were phenomenal, along with Jason Robbins of ePromos Promotional Products Inc., in the Great Industry Debate, moderated by my colleague Dave Vagnoni, senior writer for Counselor magazine.

Lastly, a big thanks to my friend Dov Charney — CEO of American Apparel — who blew into the event on the last day like a little, wiry bat out of hell, all jacked up on caffeine — to join the last panel discussion of the event, “Meet the Counselor Power 50,” moderated by ASI’s vice chairman, Matthew Cohn. Dov and I have been friends for over 10 years and trust me, few people in the industry know how chronically eccentric and bat-crap crazy he can be more than I do. On the flip side, he’s also one of the most brilliant marketers and innovators I’ve ever come across, and a true entrepreneur and visionary. He’s like the industry’s own Lord Byron: wickedly talented, but mad, bad and dangerous to know. What can I say? I’ve always had a soft spot for the weapons-grade weirdos. ; )

On that note, and without further adieu, enjoy this collection of photos of some of your favorite industry luminaries, drinking in the fun, sun (and Grey Goose). Hope to see you at next year’s Power Summit, from November 11-13 in Naples, FL. (www.asicentral.com/powersummit)


— M

Ritz Carlton Ritz Carlton
These are the jaw-dropping views from the deck bar at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, CA. Overlooking the Dana Point surf break — one of the best in the country — there were a minimum of 50 surfers (my favorites, second only to drummers!) on the water every day. I’ve spent worse days than basking in the glow of this Elysian panorama. Another view from the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, CA
Barb Ambrose Sat Mamuels
This is Barbara Ambrose, executive assistant to Rich Fairfield, ASI’s executive vice president and publisher. We LOVE her at ASI, as she is nothing short of amazing. Did you love ASI’s Power Summit? Here’s a big reason why it’s such a success: Meet Sat Mamuels (as we call him), ASI’s event planner extraordinaire. It is a Herculean task to handle the voluminous amount of details involved with an event like the Power Summit, and Sat does it all with professionalism, triple-snapping style and a wit that takes my breath away, he makes me laugh so hard.
Watermarc Ritz Carlton
ASI president/CEO Tim Andrews, Rich Fairfield, ASI’s Editorial team and other key members flew into Cali early and enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Watermarc, one of best restaurants in Laguna Niguel. The food, company and Blackberry-infused cocktails were to die for. On the left: Executive Director of Operations for the ASI Show, Cheryl Childers; Rich Fairfield, Barbara Ambrose, Sat Mamuels, Stitches’Editor and ASI’s executive director of professional development, Nicole Rollender and ASI Education Manager, Kerry Boderman. On the right: Tim Andrews, ASI’s vice president of digital experience, Rob Watson and ASI Senior Vice President of Professional Development & Editor-in-Chief, Melinda Ligos. The night before ASI’s Fifth Annual Power Summit kicked off, company president/CEO Tim Andrews hosted a dinner at the Ritz Carlton for ASI’s staff in attendance. Here are some of my favorite colleagues (from left): Vice President of Distributor Services, Dan Dienna (I dare you to make him laugh — he’s got the funniest girly giggle ever); Barbara Ambrose; Manager of Digital Advertising, Suzanne Izzo; and Supplier Sales Marketing Manager, Colin Graf, who took all the amazing event photos you see on ASICentral.
Krista Taylor Melinda Ligos
(From left): The lovely Krista Taylor, one of ASI’s clients’ favorite supplier sales reps; Rob Watson (love, love, love him!) and Melinda Ligos, who oversees the cuckoo’s nest that is ASI’s editorial department. (From left): Melinda Ligos, Tim Andrews and Nicole Rollender enjoy some pre-dinner cocktails.
MC Dave Vagnoni Amber May
(From left): Counselor senior writer Dave Vagnoni, who MC’d the Power Summit event and did a damn fine job doing so; Kerry Boderman; ASI’s executive director of research, Larry Basinait and Counselor editor Andy Cohen.
Trade Show Manager for the ASI Show, Amber May (left), who celebrated her birthday just as the Power Summit was kicking off, got some help celebrating from her girlfriend, Lindsay Troncelliti.
ASI Marketing Tim and Barb
(From left): ASI’s Marketing Communications Manager, Kate Malone; Amber May; ASI Marketing Director of Membership Services, Jack Flohr; and Cheryl Childers. Tim Andrews and Barbara Ambrose, enjoying some downtime before the Power Summit officially opened.
Dana Zezzo Dana and Dan
The always-gregarious Dana Zezzo, shown here with the plush towel with the Power Summit logo that his company, Pro Towels Etc., supplied to event attendees, who coveted them. Dana Zezzo and Dan Weisberg of the distributor Branded Solutions in Pittsburgh.
Dan O Joanna Grant
(From left): Texas-based (hil-arious!) distributor Sean Roark of Promopros Inc.; whip-smart Ottawa-based distributor Raman Agarwal of Akran Marketing; ASI’s executive vice president of distributor services, Dan O’Halloran and Jim Thompson, owner of Graphco Line. Super, super nice guys! The very enigmatic Joanna Grant from Affinity Express, one of ASI’s best affiliates.
Power Summit Power Summit
(From left): Kevin Nord, owner of Pro Towels Etc.; Dana Zezzo; and my girl Jilly Albers, from the Ohio-based distributor Shumsky. A word now about Jilly: At events like this and trade shows we both attend, Jilly shares my room … and the rock star, libertine antics follow henceforth. As I’m fond of saying, I don’t have any sisters, but if I did, they’d be Jilly and our pal Sharon Biernat (missed you, Shar!), of Creative Promos in Chicago! David Woods (left) president of Counselor Top 40 distributor AIA and CONRAD FRANEY, president of Counselor Top 40 distributor Gateway/CDI. Why did I put his name in all capital letters? BECAUSE EVERYTHING HE SAYS IS VERY LOUD AND IT JUST CRACKS ME UP!!! His business partner, Chuck Fandos (missed you, Chuckles!) calls him “Foghorn Leghorn” and if you know CONRAD, it is apropos.
Power Summit Power Summit
(From left): Vice President of Sales for Counselor Top 40 supplier Sweda and a dear friend of mine, Kellie Claudio, CONRAD FRANEY, and one of my all-time favorites, Sweda president Jim Hagan. At my table for the Power 50 dinner during the Summit, I was lucky enough to have quite the cast of industry characters, including Galaxy Balloons’ Terry Brizz and Shepenco’s Dan Townes. Needless to say, there was tons of hooting and hollering at my table.
Power Summit Power Summit
One of PPAI’s newest board members (she’ll do an excellent job!), the luminous Natalie Townes (left) from Shepenco and Jilly Albers. One of my oldest — and closest — friends in the industry, Craig Nadel, president of Counselor Top 40 distributor Jack Nadel Int’l. (left), shown here with my pal Jason Grindall from the Arizona-based supplier, Graphco Line. Jason was present during my one and only appearance on an Advantages’ road show tour (there were cocktails…and there were fireworks in a field… Oy.) and we lived to tell the tale.
Power Summit Power Summit
Here’s my girl Jilly with Josh Ebrahemi, the top sales rep for Jack Nadel Int’l. Both Josh & Jill (who did not, incidentally, go up a hill…) graciously allowed me to put them on our “Marketing Smackdown” panel at the Power Summit and they — along with their fellow panelists Terry McGuire from HALO and Stephanie Leader from Leader Promos — KILLED it!!! At the ages of 28 and 31 respectively, Jilly and Josh are the future of the industry. Jilly with one who could be accurately described as the industry’s mayor, the Honorable Fran Ford. I think it’s fair to say that a high number of people in the industry have been mentored by and taken under Fran’s wing — and they’re all the better for it. Fran’s company, J. Charles Crystal, supplied the Power 50 and golf awards and they were stunning.
Power Summit Power Summit
Vice president of business development for Counselor Top 40 supplier Norwood & BIC Graphic North America, Dave Saracino (left) with Memo Kahan, president of Counselor Top 40 distributor PromoShop. Fun fact about Mr. Saracino: In quite a few bars in certain cities across the U.S. the bartenders actually know — from memory — how to make a “Saracino,” a drink named after our industry friend. LOVE that! If this industry had a Rat Pack, he’d be the Chairman of the Board. Like Sinatra, Dave’s the straw that stirs the cocktail. Memo Kahan with the always-charming Paul Lage, president of Counselor Top 40 supplier Gill Studios. Want to know the epitome of California Cool? Spend some time with Memo… He has such an effortless joie de vivre and chill insouciance, your blood pressure will drop 10 points just by standing next to him.
Power Summit Power Summit
Terry Brizz and Dan Townes with BrandFuel’s co-owner, Robert Fiveash. In a recent profileI wrote about him, I compared him and his longtime business partner and childhood friend to Keith and Mick. I stand by that statement, on a multitude of levels. Truly, it’s no surprise that BrandFuel is consistently named to Counselor’s Best Places to Work list, based on their employees’ feedback — that’s how much they rock. After the Power 50dinner, everyone gravitated to the bar for some after-hours high-level discourse. And that’s the story I’m sticking to. Here, we see Pro Towels’ Dana Zezzo with Glen, one of The Fabulous Hersh Boys.
Power Summit Power Summit
Shumsky’s Jilly Albers with BamBam’s Dan Taylor, one of our favorites in the industry. If we gave out Mr. Congeniality Awards, Dan would get one. Industry celeb Brett Hersh and a member of this year’s Counselor Hot List, the always-dazzling Anita Emoff from Shumsky/Boost Rewards.
Power Summit Power Summit
CJ Schmidt, vice president of sales for CounselorTop 40 supplier Hit Promotional Products, shown here with Sandy Gonzalez, president of the distributorship Made to Order. Much like Shumsky’s Jill Albers and Jack Nadel’s Josh Ebrahemi, CJ represents the next generation of our industry — a very good thing. My BFF Craig Nadel with Aakron Rule’s owner/president, Devin Piscitelli, someone I’d always heard of but never met. Having finally gotten to spend time with him at the Power Summit, I can say that he’s just as delightful as I’ve been told.
Power Summit Power Summit
Shumsky/Boost Rewards’ Jilly Albers and Anita Emoff, shown here with a very happy Dana Zezzo. (From left): Craig Nadel, Tim Andrews and Josh Ebrahemi.
Power Summit Power Summit
Here we have Paul Bellantone, an industry veteran and PPAI’s newly-installed president/CEO, and Tim Andrews, ASI’s president/CEO. My opinion? The industry couldn’t be in better hands with these two at the helm. I was thrilled to have Paul attend this year’s Power Summit, as I’ve known him for years and have always found him to be beyond gracious. Two of apparel’s best — Ira Neaman, owner of CounselorTop 40 supplier Vantage and Glenn Oyoung, COO of CounselorTop 40 supplier Tri-Mountain/Mountain Gear, such a classy guy!
Power Summit Power Summit
Two of my favorite people in the industry, David Nicholson — president of CounselorTop 40 supplier Polyconcept North America and the person (along with his colleagues Philippe Varnier and Yann Leca) named #1 on this year’s CounselorPower 50 list — and Ira “the Yoda of Wearables” Neaman. Too Kooky To Be Believed Fact: The heads and/or founders of FOUR Counselor Top 40 suppliers are from Pittsburgh and went to the same high school: Jeff Kramer, who founded Bullet Line; Tommy Bernstein, who founded Leed’s; Bill Korowitz, the owner/president of Magnet LLC and Ira, who owns Vantage. What are the chances of THAT??? Throw Pro Towels’ owner Kevin Nord and Branded Solutions’ Dan Weisberg (both from Pittsburgh) into the mix and you’ve got what has to be the breeding ground for industry success stories! And last but not least, we have Jetline’s vice president of business development, Joe Hoffman — always one with miles of smile and ready to have some fun. I’m always telling Joe that when I’m in a certain mood, I can be like a lawn dart at a bar — I plant roots and never move. I don’t think he believed me until after the Power 50 dinner, but he sure as hell does now! ; )