It’s hard to believe that it has been five years since the passing of my friend and mentor, Janelle Nevins. She is the one with brilliant smile in red on the second row behind the two crazy young whipper snappers in grey. Janelle has always been my larger than life hero and set the bar very, very high for me to attempt to go after. I started in this business while I was still in college. My first day on the job – I.got.SWAG! WHAT?!?! For a starving college kid that was getting paid to do a job, that was seriously cool. And from that day on, my love of promotional products became my passion and very much a part of who I am today.

Janelle taught me about work ethic. I would come in on the weekends, she was there before I was. She stayed later than I did (or could keep my eyes open for!). She was there in the mornings before I could even get in. Janelle knew the business inside and out. She asked questions. She never took a report for face value. We would come in and have a million post-it notes on our desk with questions about projects, numbers, and reports. Her knowledge about all aspects of the business kept her ahead of the game and enabled her to be a solution driver.

Janelle taught me to never give up. With over a million products in our industry, there was a solution for any challenge. Product stuck in customs? We have a solution. Out-of-stock? We have a solution. Not able to imprint just as the client would like? We have a solution. Same-day turn? We have a solution.

Janelle taught me the value of partnerships (before this was a thing). She showed me the POWER in being a human. She was constantly sought after with our supplier partners as The Coca-Cola Company was her largest and longest account (over 30 years!). She received crazy emails, product samples, phone calls – it was a revolving door of suppliers trying to get their products into the Coca-Cola catalog. And yet, she took the time to listen and to learn from everyone that came to visit.

Janelle never played politics. You always knew where you stood and she always shot straight. I can’t tell you how many times she would give me a look over her glasses that would simply say, “You can do better than that.” or “You know the right thing to do, just do it – even if there is a price to pay.”

Janelle taught me to be fearless. There are many legends and stories about my hero Janelle. But the one that I know for sure is true (I was there) goes like this: We were attending a conference in Las Vegas. There are thousands of people from our industry and many festivities and parties at night. One of the nights that we were there, we were invited to an exclusive party at MGM Grand. There was a group of maybe 5-6 of us and we were all trailing behind our fearless leader. The line at MGM was wrapped around the building. Janelle walks right up to the bouncer, whispers a few words in his ear, and we are escorted in past the crowd. This happens 3 more times until we are allowed entry into a very, very fancy VIP lounge. We felt like rockstars! Except, when we enter in, there is no one from our industry there. Not one person. She calls someone on their cellphone and discovers that we were at the wrong location! However, she got us in without being on a list, without having to name drop, without even knowing who was performing! She was fearless.

The teal in the InTandem logo was Nevins teal PMS #327. I miss her everyday. When a challenge arises, I would love to call her up and brainstorm with her. I would love to listen to her stories and see what direction she thought that the industry was turning. To keep her with me, to remind me to reach for the high bar, to do what is right (even if there is a cost), and to never give up, we incorporate her teal in all of our branding.

For every woman out there, you are a role model. You are impacting the next generation. You are being watched. You are leaving behind footprints in the sand. What is your legacy? What change are you creating for the next generation? Will you be talked about years after your passing?

May you be smiling brightly from heaven as your legend grows drinking a Kir Royale and toasting to us all!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In celebration of Janelle’s life and her passing, InTandem Promotions will be donating 10% of our profits from the month of August to her favorite charity the Orbit Village Project. If you would like to learn more about this organization or donate in honor of Janelle, please visit their website at:

http://www.orbitvillage.org/orbitvillage.org