From Home Furnishing Business
What Defines Our Future?
For the first time since we started publishing the “Forty under 40” issue three years ago, the list of honorees is 100% new. The Class of 2016 Honorees may be fresh and new to these pages, but the names and faces are not necessarily new to the industry.
We were truly excited by the number of nominees received this year, so we decided to shake things up a bit and designate 2 groups in the Class of 2016. We will spotlight the new honorees and will also check in on the repeat nominees to see what they’re up to since their last nomination.
We honor all of them equally however, as they are the young folks among us who continuously push the envelope to create a brighter future for all of us as they leave fairly large footprints in the industry - at retailers, manufacturers and service providers alike. Their youth fills them with tireless energy, passion, and great ideas. These people are truly workers. They love the job as well as the industry. In fact, the joy in the job is what motivates them and ultimately makes each one of them so good at what they do.
In this year’s talented pool, there are industry leaders and corporate visionaries, but there are also movers and shakers, mentors, entrepreneurs and rising stars, each with great stories of fearlessly moving people, brands, and companies forward. These young people are driving growth, increasing revenue and making people around them better each day, and, in the process, making our industry better. We salute you and thank you for your contributions!
The profiles on the following pages are this year's best and brightest in the home furnishings industry as recognized by their peers and we’re proud to spotlight all of them! We hope you’ll use it to reflect on the accomplishments of your peers for next year’s nominations. 2017 Nominations are now open.
Don Bilyeu, 34
Company: Galleria Furniture
Position: General Manager
Don Bilyeu is living proof that if you work hard and smart, and build a successful team, anything is possible. Don started his career in a furniture store warehouse, and worked hard to become an experienced furniture technician. He also held the position of Warehouse/Distribution Manager and became General Manager at just 34 years old.
Bilyeu manages every aspect of a large 15,000 square foot showroom as well as a large distribution center, which handles output for 3 locations. He also handles advertising, buying and logistics.
Don is the kind of leader who sets an example for others and motivates those around him. He sets the pace for hard work and never asks anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself, including opening the warehouse after it’s been closed to load out furniture to accommodate customers.
In his spare time, Don is very involved in an annual event for the GTO foundation, raising money for rural schools in Oklahoma and often donates furniture and mattresses to worthy charities. Bilyeu also coaches Little League Baseball.
Michael Broughton, 39
Company: Bob’s Discount Furniture
Position: Service Manager
Michael Broughton is a rapid star on the rise. From voluntarily training colleagues on SAP to ensuring service technicians have been present for support of delivery installations at charitable causes, Michael makes hundreds of families lives better every day!
Michael leads the Outside Technician group for Bob's Discount Furniture nationwide. Under his leadership, both internal service technicians as well as outside service partners are guided to provide the highest level, most efficient repair and support service for all furniture lines. Under Michael's leadership, Bob's Discount Furniture service technicians have increased their service completion rate by 20% while driving improvements in customer satisfaction.
Broughton grew his career from a Core Customer Service agent to Service Manager in less than 5 years. He re-signed all third party service partners to extended term agreements allowing for more consistent service levels. He has served as the voice of the service department across the enterprise, including leading cross-functional discussions to improve the overall customer experience.
Michael is an active participant and supporter for the Bob's Discount Furniture Charitable Foundation. Additionally, he’s an active supporter for his community’s Tee Ball league and an award-winning photographer.
Jake Bumgardner, 38
Company: Donco Trading Company
Position: National Sales Manager
Jake grew up in the waterbed business and has been attending furniture markets since he was a toddler along with his brother Jerame and father Don. As a teen he helped set-up booths and absorbed everything he could about the industry. From sleep products, to futons and now youth furniture, twenty-five years later, Jake is the National Sales Manager for the family owned business and sets the bar high. He is involved in the day –to-day operations within the office focusing on sales. Jake is a regular at markets and always seems to land fresh, new accounts. He’s the consummate sales professional with a personable approach that makes him stand out from the rest.
Bumgardner is a real family man. He enjoys baseball regularly volunteers his time at youth baseball camps and tournaments. He’s also an avid outdoorsman and loves to fish, hunt and explore Texas with his wife and 3 children.
Chris Carroll, 34
Company: Constant Retail
Position: Vice President of Sales
Although he hasn’t been in the furniture industry for very long, Chris Carroll has the unique ability to blend the technologies and traditions of the furniture retail environment together for a common good. As VP of Sales for Constant Retail his duties are vast and involve the usual responsibilities of running sales and business development, but it goes deeper than that. Perhaps his most significant achievement to date is launching Constant Retail as the services division of Cymax.com.
Chris is not only proud, but feels fortunate to be leading a team of dedicated and enthusiastic people to introduce Constant Retail to Top 100 Retailers, small and large manufacturers as well as the “mom & pop” retailers. Although his primary responsibility is to lead the team in bringing in clients, his role has expanded into a one of consulting and educating to help retailers understand the digital space and how they can use it to drive customers to their physical locations.
Carroll has a passion for sailing and represented Australia in the 2000 America’s cup, sailing’s highest level of accomplishment. He credits his business success in part to his love of sailing because it involved managing teams and interpreting conditions which translates well to business activities.
Jen Chase, 34
Company: Rotmans Furniture, Mattress & Flooring Store
Position: Assistant Buyer
In her current role as Assistant Buyer, Jen Chase is a huge asset to all departments within the retail store. Her responsibilities include working with all vendors and assisting in the slection of furniture to sell on the retail floor. She also assists sales associates and helps tag and decoratenew items for disply and the showroom floor.
Jen goes above and beyond every day assisting her colleagues in all aspects at Rotmans Furniture Mattress & Flooring. Store associates have come to depend on her, knowing she is always happy to help with whatever is needed, at any time. She truly provides value to the store in every way, across all departments. Described in one word, Jen is fantastic!
Jen is a Suma Cum Laude graduate of Framingham State College. She is also a volunteer at her local church and donates regularly at Rotmans’ blood drives. Jen enjoys donating her time reading at the local library.
Asha Chaudhary, 37
Company: Jaipur Living
Position: President and CEO
As President of Jaipur Living, Asha Chaudhary is charged with leading North American operations and is involved in critical decisions to build the companies presence in the U.S. As the President/CEO of a family owned business with entrepreneurial spirit, Chaudhary guides market strategy and brand development creating partnerships both inside and outside the industry. Much of her recent focus has been on building a strong corporate culture to support the company’s future growth.
When Asha took over the helm ten years ago, Jaipur Living was a $2.8 million company. Under her leadership the company grew to $38 million and is now reaching for $100 million over the next three years.
With a passion for people, product and design, Asha is very involved in product development – from translating trends to leading expansion into new categories and distribution channels, as well as developing and maintaining relationships with key customers and suppliers.
Jaipur Living’s vertical distribution model currently provides a platform for more than 40,000 artisans located in remote tribal villages and marginalized communities throughout India. Asha’s long-term goal is to continue to create sustainable livelihoods where little opportunity once existed, and to grow the artisan platform to 100,000.
Asha serves on the Atlanta Advisory Board of the BB&T Corporation. She is an active member of the Entrepreneur’s Organization, the Atlanta Board of Young Presidents Organization, and a member of the Emory Board of Visitors, a group of key business people in the Atlanta area who act as ambassadors for the university.
Kyle Deets, 30
Company: Deets HomeStore
Position: Director of Sales and Marketing
Since joining Deets HomeStore a year ago, Kyle Deets hit the ground running with excitement and vigor. As Director of Sales and Marketing he represents the 3rd generation of the Deets family in the furniture, mattress and flooring business.
Kyle is responsible for the sales team including recruiting, hiring, training and statistical accountability. He is credited with very little turn-over on the sales side. He’s proud of the fact that he organized all marketing efforts including planning and budgeting and has put Deets HomeStore on the “digital map”. Despite a marketing budget cut, Kyle was able to maintain or increase many statistical area sales metrics.
In an effort to learn more about the business and the industry at large, Kyle recently attended his first Furniture First Symposium and is an active member of the Impact Consulting WiseGuys Sales Manager Performance Group. Kyle’s ambition is sure to serve him well.
Jeremy DeVore, 39
Company: Furniture Mall of Kansas
Position: General Manager of Sales
In the eight years Jeremy DeVore has been with Furniture Mall of Kansas, he has exceeded expectations in his personal development as well as his team development, guiding company sales growth to nearly 300 percent.
Jeremy is not only the General Manager of Sales for Furniture Mall of Kansas, but he has daily General Manager duties at the Olathe location as well. He has implemented multiple sales training techniques, modifying each to meet the growth requirements of the organization.
DeVore has overseen sales implementation through three store moving events and 2 significant grand opening events in three years.
Jeremy values his team as family so much, that he obtained certification and administered a wedding for two team members in the last year. As if that’s not enough, his loyalty to the company is so deep that he stepped aside from his sales management role and obtained a contractor’s license so he could be the project manager for the latest store remodel and opening! Now that’s some serious dedication.
Joshua Dewey, 32
Company: Dewey Furniture
Position: General Manager
At 32 years old, Joshua Dewey is a 4th generation furniture man and proud of it. The business is in his blood. Hard work and honest customer service are just a few of the traits that have been handed down to him by his father and grandfather.
Over the last 5 years, Josh has held the position of Buyer, Sales Manager and Display Manager before becoming General Manager for Dewey Furniture. During this time, sales increased from $3.5 million to over $5 million and margins increased by 5.5%.
As General Manager, Josh has taken over running the store, from day-to-day operations to working with their ad agency on the planning of promotions. He also secures new merchandise while attending markets. Additionally, he oversees and trains a staff of 11 sales associates.
His dedication to the store in terms of product, display, and sales has been a direct factor in improving the overall team atmosphere.
Josh participates in numerous local fundraisers for police and firefighters. Last Christmas, the store supported a local family in need by providing mattresses and several La-Z-Boy chairs to a local shelter.
When Josh is not working he spends much of his time with his wife and son. He also enjoys boating on Lake Erie.
Marin Dragojevic, 38
Company: Cory 1st Choice Home Delivery
As Managing Partner of Joseph Cory Holdings, LLC and President of Cory 1st Choice Home Delivery, Marin Dragojevic is responsible for the operational growth and efficiency of the company as it seeks to meet the goals of its strategic vision. Marin has served in operational leadership roles at all levels before assuming responsibilities at the corporate office. As Executive Vice President, Marin architected and managed the deployment of an ERP system that reduced overhead expenses by 2%. He also created and led the MIS department while overseeing the development of Cory’s strategic initiatives. After assuming his new role as President, he has initiated the company’s transition into a LEAN Six Sigma culture resulting in seven straight quarters of positive profitability and quality improvements. It was Marin who built the ‘new’ brand of Cory.
Being a life learner, teacher and believer in unleashing potential in others, Marin was instrumental in the development of Cory’s team empowerment programs such as Women@Cory, promoting the achievements and advancement of women in leadership roles.
However, he hasn’t stopped there. He is also a supporter and board member of the Joseph P. Cory Foundation, which seeks to further wellness through healthy living education. Additionally, he is a supporter of the company’s contributions to the City of Hope and an advocate of Women Rising, a local organization that helps support women and their families to build a better life within the community.
Marin proudly served in the U.S. Navy. In 2004, he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Old Dominion University. In 2009 he earned his MBA from the University of Miami.
Marin enjoys “urban hiking” in New York City and is fond of treating his admin team to a good meal and a show in the Big Apple each year.
Michael Fiacco, 38
Company: Bennington Furniture
As a kid, Michael Fiacco “grew up” in the furniture business. His mother founded Bennington Furniture in 1986. After graduating college, Michael worked on Wall Street but always had an interest in the furniture industry. In 2007 he took over the reigns at the store and has grown the business from 2 stores with 12 employees to 7 stores with 58 employees, expanding from a 1 state chain to a 3 state chain. Revenue increased approximately 500% along the way.
Michael is directly responsible for the store being voted as the “Best Local Furniture Store” for the last 6 consecutive years. He handles the day-to-day operations including marketing, real estate acquisitions, buying and managing the store team. He regularly attends six to eight trade shows a year and is an active member of the Furniture First buying group. This year, Michael opened the first Ashley Home Store Select in the country.
Fiacco actively donates to many organizations such as the Humane Society, a Battered Women’s shelter and Wounded Warriers. He’s also involved in the Make A Wish Foundation and furnished a complete bedroom set for a sick child.
Not only is Michael extremely passionate about the furniture industry, he is also dedicated to keeping up with the challenging retail environment. His forward thinking has lead to the success and growth of Bennington Furniture.
Brian Flegal, 38
Company: Flegel’s Home Furnishings
Position: General Manager
This 3rd generation furniture guy is following in the footsteps of his father, CEO Mark Flegel and Founder, Grandfather Arthur Flegel.
As General Manager Brian oversees all management operations, including the interior design staff, office and intern staff, human resources and the warehouse and distribution center. He has successfully taken over the helm of this 62 year old company and has maintained its profitability during past economically challenging years. He has developed a strong and loyal interior design team and has maintained and created strong new relationships with vendors.
Brian serves on the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce and developed a strong civic relationship with Facebook in Menlo Park. He founded and developed an annual downtown “Block Party” featuring local businesses and non-profits attracting 5,000 – 6,000 local residents annually. A thespian at heart, Brian has acted in off Broadway shows as well as several local theatrical productions in the San Francisco area.
Jack Forsey, 33
Company: Forsey’s Furniture Galleries
Position: Vice President
Stepping into the family owned business as a 3rd generation family member, Jack Forsey has innovated and built upon the traditional retail furniture showroom model by expanding web presence, promoting vendor-based merchandizing and catering to the design trade. As a result of these improvements, Forsey’s Furniture Gallery has seen a sales increase of approximately 30 percent in the last 3 years.
Jack oversees all operations. He manages the sales floor as well as the sales staff and is responsible for purchasing and merchandising alongside his father Robert. He recently took over many of the marketing duties. Attending manufacturer-training programs is something Jack keeps up with despite his busy schedule.
Jack is a graduate of the University of Utah. He also has a degree in entrepreneurship from the highly regarded Goldman Sachs 10k Small Business Program. He’s a founding member of the Highland Drive Merchants Association, a Board Member with the Salt Lake Modern division of the Utah Heritage Foundation and a member of the Holiday Rotary Club.
Tom Gadbois, 31
Position: Business Consultant
As a Senior Account Strategist, Tom Gadbois manages the accounts of 28 brick and mortar furniture retail clients. The core of what he does is to help his clients be successful by problem solving and implementing strategies to help them succeed. He serves as the liaison between retail clients and FurnitureDealer.Net's web developers and software engineers, to create efficient and cost-effective solutions. Committed to great customer service Tom makes sure he responds quickly to clients, even if it means working evenings and weekends.
Tom contributes to FurnitureDealer.Net networking events by presenting topics related to online strategies to the group. He enjoys working on the March Madness event the company plays with their clients each year.
Tom is motivated by ideas and loves to think but also likes to have fun. He never misses an opportunity to talk to his coworkers over a beer at happy hour, or drive remote control cars around the parking lot.
When this lifelong fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves isn't at work, he enjoys traveling and loves spending time with his family and friends.
Chris Gill, 34
Company: Gill Brothers Furniture
Position: Sales Manager
He started out on the delivery truck and over the course of the last 13 years, worked his way up to Sales Manager for a top-performing store.
A 3rd generation family member Chris Gill knows how to work hard.
Managing a staff of 10, Chris’ focus is not only on the sales persons but also on the positive experience customers take away with them when they leave the store. His daily duties include tracking all contact cards, ups and closes as well as individual sales performance including fabric protection. He also helps monitor merchandise on the floor to ensure all gaps are filled with new merchandise as needed. He has a proven track record for success.
Chris just welcomed his first son and enjoys being a dad when he’s not working.
Ryan Gill, 35
Company: Gill Brothers Furniture
Position: Warehouse Manager
Ryan Gill has a great work ethic. And, he takes a lot of pride in the work he does helping to lead the family business into the future.
Being a 3rd generation family member working in the business, Ryan started out riding on the delivery truck and learned the ropes from the ground up, right into the companies new warehouse! His primary responsibilities include; warehouse receiving, delivery routing, scheduling and managing MTO’s. He has exceptional service skills.
Ryan is always looking for ways to improve, and has taken service classes specializing in leather and wood touch-up. He is also a La-Z-Boy Master Certified Tech. As a civic-minded individual Ryan supports Habitat for Humanity. He’s also a Lions Club member and a Better Way volunteer. Close to his heart are the Walk a Mile for the Muncie Mission and the Feed My Sheep Food Drive.
He’s surely a rising star in the furniture industry.
Ashley Grigg, 33
Company: High Point Market Authority
Position: Manager, Communications
Although she may not be the most “visible person” the fruits of her labor certainly are. Ashley Griggs is responsible for managing and coordinating all marketing communications for the High Point Market Authority. In fulfilling these responsibilities, she works closely with the HPMA ad agency and PR firm as well as printing companies, video production companies, trade publications and various furniture industry and design trade associations. During Market Week, she manages MediaLink , the Market Authority’s media information and resource center. Ashley makes “all things market” happen.
Ashley goes above and beyond excellent execution of her duties. She always seeks new ideas and implements innovative solutions when needed. Her list of achievements include working with the ASID to improve and expand the CEU-accredited education program Design Viewpoints Series. Ashley assisted in the creation of MediaLink.
Although Ashley started working at the High point Market Authority as an assistant three years ago, her growth is the result of her high standards, team-oriented attitude and strong work ethic. She is truly an asset to all HP Market Authority stakeholders.
Griggs is a member of WithIt and is very involved with First United Methodist Church.
Kellen Harkness, 34
Company: Harkness Furniture
Position: Operations Manager
Working with the warehouse team and the office and sales staff to facilitate smooth interactions between departments is what Kellen Harkness does every day. He has drastically improved communication and helped set parameters for more efficient procedures in all departments.
As a 4th generation owner, Kellen is focusing on improvements. He ensures all new skus are entered into the computer system in a consistent format to help the reorder process. Additionally, he assists customer service and the warehouse manager with challenging customer situations to achieve resolutions, works with the warehouse manager and decorator to setup the floor and attends markets with the buying team to help select product for 2 stores.
Kellen handles the stores annual indoor golf tournament rotary fundraiser netting in excess of $20,000. He was a past member of the Tacoma South Rotary and has worked on a Winterfest community event to distribute new toys and cloths to 600 low-income students for Christmas.
A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Business Management, Kellen could have done any number of corporate jobs but instead chose to enter the family business and make a difference in the future of their store and the community. He has a 7-year old Golden Retriever named Kai’la.
Mark Holmes, 34
Company: Cozzia USA
Handling product design, development, operations and financials for Cozzia, Ogawa USA and Svago, Mark Holmes has been instrumental in the success of Cozzia becoming a leader of health & wellness seating in the furniture industry.
Mark has a passion for product development and developed a US design team who brought product to market that is now at major retailers across the United States. He also setup operational and finance teams within Cozzia when the Cozzia business model changed 5 years ago. At that time there were 4 people who started the new company. Today the company employs 80 people.
Mark devotes all his time to work and family and travels extensively around the world. He is a “brilliant young individual” who has advanced and expanded the massage chair category in the US Market.
Adam Hudson, 34
Company: Hudson’s Furniture
Position: Vice President
Adam Hudson is fully in charge of all merchandising and plays a key role overseeing operations, marketing and sales. He has a passion for the industry and has contributed to the stores growth in a big way over the last 10 years.
Hudson’s daily commitment to hard work and his proven history of forward-progress for the company is what won him this nomination.
Under Adam’s leadership, the store won the 2012 Florida Retailer of the Year Award. In 2014 the store was nominated for National Retailer of the Year and in 2015 Hudson’s was an Orlando ACG Finalist for Smart Growth Business.
Adam is an advocate of giving back to the community and is involved in the Hudson’s and Salvation Army Angel Tree Promotion, the Boys and Girls Club and works closely with the Moffit Cancer Center.
Joseph Gregory (Greg) Hunsucker, 37
Company: Cozzia USA
Position: Vice President
Greg Hunsucker has been with Cozzia for nearly 4 years and has done a terrific job of hiring, developing, mentoring and managing the Cozzia sales team. He has been instrumental in setting systems and structure for Cozzia USA.
In 2005 Greg received his MBA from High Point University. After landing a job at Berkline Corporation he successfully applied what he learned and managed the #1 volume territory for Berkline in 2010 and 2011.
Greg is a great guy and a passionate individual, committed to the success of Cozzia. He’s bright and creative and is credited with developing and implementing formal retail sales training programs for the brand. He’s been instrumental in the growth of the company in many ways.
Hunsucker is a financial supporter of City of Hope and cancer research in general. He also participates in volunteer work with community youth in Curry County, NC.
Ashu (AJ) Jain, 36 and Deepak Jain, 37
Company: Home Living Furniture
AJ and Deepak are bothers by birth and partners by choice. Their company, Home Living Furniture, has three retail showrooms, a growing online presence and two very “hands-on” owners.
Entering into business together in 2006, the brothers took over an under-performing company burdened by debt and not only survived, but thrived during the recession. They are energetic and passionate and pride themselves on thinking outside the box.
The younger brother AJ, is considered the “front end” person responsible for hiring, training, merchandising, advertising and business development.
The slightly older Deepak handles operations and is the creator and coder of the website and their proprietary POS and CRM system.
AJ, received his engineering degree in Physics and Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. He won numerous National and Junior Olympic titles in Table Tennis. He was the Chairman of the US Olympic Committees’ Anti-Doping Program from 2008-2012, and the Vice-Chairman of the US Olympics Athletes Council from 2005 – 2012.
Deepak excelled in academics and graduated from Cornell University with an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science degree. As a previous employee of Lehman Brothers, he was in the second World Trade Center Tower during the 9/11 terrorist attack, something he’ll never forget.
The brothers have been supporters of the New Jersey Shore community after Superstorm Sandy and other local business organizations. They also recently campaigned alongside Autism Speaks. Home Living is a member of Furniture First purchasing cooperative.
Alex Kirsch, 25
Position: Client Relations Manager & Business Consultant
Joining FurnitureDealer.net right out of college, Alex Kirsch has taken the company and the industry by storm. He has had a massive impact on the success of the company, his co-workers and his retail clients.
With very little business experience, Alex focused on managing processes to improve information and communication between suppliers, the company and his clients. He was so good with people and so eager to learn, that he was moved into the client relations team as a business consultant. Like a fish takes to water, he quickly learned this new role and has done an impressive job, serving clients.
In his consultant role, Alex works with clients to develop strategic business plans for the internet, that play seamlessly into the brick and mortar side of their businesses. He works on everything from website design to customer assistance to online visibility and marketing strategies. His clients love him.
Kirsch performs service throughout his community and actively participates in Next Generation-NOW, City of Hope and the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame.
Alex is young and smart, but has a soul and mind beyond his years. He loves his work and makes it fun for everyone around him.
Anna Lau, 28
Company: Cymax Group (Cymax.com)
Position: Director of Merchandising
In the furniture industry for 10 years, Anna Lau has been at the cutting edge of technology working closely with manufacturers and retailers helping them tap into online opportunities. Involved in the evolution of e-commerce best practices in the furniture and home décor field, Anna’s efforts have helped take the company from $15million in revenue in 2006 to $180 million in 2015.
Today, Anna leads a team of 40 people who are responsible for driving the Cymax e-commerce business through product sourcing and assortment planning, merchandise strategy execution, budgeting, forecasting and penetrating new product categories. Within the first quarter of 2016, she more than doubled the SKU count within the company’s product catalog and successfully positioned the company as a key online retailer for lighting, home décor and outdoor living products.
A guest speaker at schools and universities, Anna provides mentorship to undergrads and is recognized within the community as a role model for career advice and leadership.
Susan Lebow Moran, 29
Company: Symbol Mattress
Position: Sr. Account Representative
Susan is a 3rd generation furniture gal, who managed the families retail furniture business in Pennsylvania, achieving growth in all segments of the furniture and mattress departments, until the decision was made to close the store in 2013.
Today, Susan is a Sr. Account Representative handling the eastern Pennsylvania and Maryland territories for Symbol Mattress. Within three years of starting in sales, she was promoted to Sr. Account Rep. and was given more territory, including major accounts in Baltimore, MD. She provides presentations to retailers outlining product knowledge, conducts extensive sales training, offers floor placement direction and handles factory warranties for her customers.
Susan holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration as well as a Masters degree in Business Management from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA. She was captain of the Division 1 Softball team while at St. Joseph’s and was also a graduate assistant Softball Coach.
There is nothing Susan won’t do in support of her dealers, including “going the extra mile” - literally! She recently drove a truck with mattress samples to Baltimore to display the Symbol Mattress line.
Now that’s dedication. She works hard and smart!
Susan volunteers for Baptist Children’s Services and supports the Womens Golf Program at her high school alma mater and LPGA/USGA Girls Golf of Valley Forge.
Shane Mutter, 37
Company: Doerr Furniture
Shane Mutter is President and CEO of Doerr Furniture. He’s responsible for all aspects of this full service retail home furnishings company and is poised to provide short and long term strategies to assure continued success for this 78-year old brand.
In January 2015, after a 10-year career as Operations Director at Bedding Plus, he assumed his current position at the family owned and operated business.
He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management from Louisiana State University in 2001.
Mutter currently resides with his wife and two children in Old Mandeville as well as in the Marigny just a few blocks from the furniture store. Shane is an avid cyclist and enjoys music of all types.
Jessica Norby, 33
Company: MicroD, Inc.
Position: Business Development Executive
Jessica has distinguished herself in her role at MicroD, through developing new business and managing all sales activity resulting in profitable, revenue-generating programs from vendors and home furnishing manufacturers.
Not only does she initiate and build effective business relationships with C-level executives, she also creates long-range sales and marketing plans to help grow clients businesses. Norby, described as an “out of the box thinker” strives to establish and maintain regular contact with more complex existing clients as well as prospective new clients. She prepares proposals, negotiates contracts, and closes orders like a ninja!
According to her colleagues, Jessica is calm under pressure, pays close attention to her clients and remains exceptionally professional while going the extra mile.
A 2008 Graduate of Gardner-Webb University, 33-year old Norby has a degree in Business Administration and Management.
She continues to grow within the home furnishings industry through seminars, online courses and networking with mentors. She is very driven and has learned a great deal about the industry in short time.
Norby volunteers for The Salvation Army. She also supports Dress for Success, an organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and development tools. She is also on the board for the Downtown Winston Salem Partnership.
Melissa Ocampo, 40
Company: STORIS, Inc.
Position: Sr. Manager of Quality Assurance
Melissa Ocampo is an outstanding manager who has risen through the ranks at STORIS, through a combination of hard work and results.
Since starting as an administrative assistant in the year 2000, she has been promoted four times and now has complete responsibility for the most important departments within the company. Her exceptional people skills and ability to plan and organize processes and resources is what landed her this nomination.
As the last line of defense for insuring quality at STORIS, Melissa and her department help protect hundreds of businesses running the STORIS platform in the home furnishings industry. Her outstanding people skills have resulted in her nearly doubling the size of the department she took over and never experiencing a resignation by any member of her staff, in the nearly four years she’s been at the helm.
As a new Mom, Melissa navigates the delicate balance between work and home life beautifully. Her efforts and achievements have a direct impact on her team, as well as the retailers using the STORIS solution.
Benn Parsa, 31
Company: Dot & Bo
Position: COO and Co-Founder
When Dot & Bo was founded in 2013, the team set out to build something that didn’t exist. A story-centric home furnishings brand specifically targeted towards millennials. Ben Parsa conceived of and orchestrated Dot & Bo’s comprehensive content and marketing strategies and serves as the backbone of the company.
Dot & Bo replicates the traditional window-shopping experience. From providing day-to-day leadership and management, to fostering an entrepreneurial employee culture, Ben is responsible for ensuring critical business goals and objectives are met, and for helping to build an extraordinary content-meets-commerce shopping experience.
As part of his all-encompassing role, Ben directly oversees growth strategies and operations processes, having helped scale the company to nearly 100 employees, 17x growth and over 5 million members since the brand’s inception.
Having immigrated to the U.S. from the Netherlands in 1999, Ben received his BFA in Industrial & Graphic Design from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has an outstanding work ethic and a knack for conceptualizing innovative strategies. He is fluent in four languages.
Joey Ray, 33
Company: Garden City Furniture Co., Inc.
Position: Vice President
It’s difficult for long time furniture dealers to attract the under 40 set. Joey Ray is not only attracted to the business but is committed to making the Garden City Furniture Company and the industry a desirable place to work.
Garden City Furniture is a family owned business. Joey is a 3rd generation family member. When he saw the opportunity to apply his skill set and knowledge to the family business he took it and brought a new level of excitement to the company. Joey feels fulfilled when a customer offers a compliment or he see’s an enthusiastic employee. His forward thinking has improved the store and it’s culture.
As a graduate of Wofford College with a BA in Finance, Joey is certified in several Commercial Investment Management courses. He also holds a Real Estate license. He’s been appointed to the Horry County Planning Commission District 5, is a member of Murrells Inlet Rotary Club and a Murrells Inlet 2020 Member.
Joey participates in the Profit Systems Performance Group and is a member of Furniture First and NAHFA.
Emily Severson, 27
Position: Operations and Partner Relations
From systems to staff, Emily Severson represents all things related to operations. On any given day, you will find her streamlining in-house processes, building partnerships with manufacturers or mentoring employees through the phases of their careers. She’s always on the go!
Emily is part of the five-person senior leadership team that helps guide the direction of furnituredealer.net. She plays a major role mentoring employees through “thick and thin, fails and wins” and is also part of the travel team hopping from markets to conferences. She’s very passionate about the industry and her dedication is unparalleled.
A leader by example, Emily has a very strong work ethic and works tirelessly to establish relationships in the industry. She has built a reputation for herself of leaving a positive mark wherever she goes. Emily is genuinely invested in her work and in people.
Emily is a volunteer and advocate for Next Generation NOW and an active member of WithIt. Chances are you’ve seen Emily’s glowing face in the crowd - she has an endless supply of smiles.
Jennifer Sova, 32
Company: International Home Furnishings Representatives Association
Position: Communications Director
Managing the needs of a 2,300 strong membership is not easy. Yet, Jennifer Sova, Communications Director for the IHFRA does it without breaking a sweat! She procures benefits from third-party vendors, plans outings and events and cocktail receptions in Las Vegas and still has time left to be involved in the planning and execution of yearly Board Meetings, membership outreach programs and other vital planning aspects of the organization.
Jennifer manages this large and diverse membership with grace, style and creativity. She has advanced IHFRA's presence in the industry thanks to her efforts to update the web site, create apps for the members and expand social media presence. She is widely respected and well known among manufacturers, retailers and sales reps.
Jennifer has an integral part in the planning of the annual Furniture Industry Awards Gala held at the Spring High Point market. From procuring the awards, to setting up the seating, booking the entertainers and every other detail that makes the evening a success. She does it all.
The associations’ activities always include a charitable angle thanks to Jennifer. The Carolina HFA Annual Golf Outing benefits Brenner's Children's Hospital in Winston Salem NC. The City of Hope and Amigo's For Kids in Florida will be beneficiaries of this year’s FIAG proceeds.
It's hard to quantify all the diverse skills Jennifer possesses to make IHFRA operate well. Suffice to say, she is a great researcher, communicator and administrator. She’s definitely a mover and a shaker.
Bryan Steger, 28
Company: Steger’s Furniture
Position: Operations Manager
Joining the family business wasn't something Bryan Steger initially saw himself doing. However after working as an engineer for a few years he decided to give it a try. In three short years, he ‘s learned more about the business than most his age and has elevated Steger’s Furniture store to the next level.
Bryan is responsible for all advertising including direct mail, newspaper and television as well as designing store signage. He also manages the website, social media channels and all store promotions.
Bryan used his analytical skills to implement programs that lead to a 30% increase in sales, breathing new life into the business. Among his other achievements are leading the company’s warehouse expansion project and implementing a bar coding and bin location system for efficiencies. He also implemented data integration to the website which includes on display, in stock and pricing information. The customer satisfaction survey he created has lead to over sixty positive Google reviews.
Bryan is a member of Impact Consulting Services’ Motivated Wise Guys sales and general managers performance group and participates in the Furniture First Symposium.
Bryan works with the Pekin Community High School's vocational program by staging the homes they build. Additionally, he’s completed the Pekin Chamber of Commerce Leadership Academy and is the point person for numerous organizations Steger's supports throughout the year.
Andrew Steinhafel, 30
Company: Steinhafel’s Furniture
Position: Director of IT
In 2013, Andrew joined Steinhafel’s Furniture, the Wisconsin-based furniture retailer with 18 locations. He is the Director of Information Technology and the only fourth generation family member in the business started by his Great-Grandfather in 1934. He joined his father, Mark, the current Chief Operating Officer.
Prior to working at Steinhafel’s Furniture, Andrew’s career was centered in Boston where he worked for several venture-backed technology start-ups. He acted as an engineer, team leader, and product manager, directing the teams to significant development milestones, revenue capture and venture fundraising.
Since being at Steinhafel’s, Andrew spearheaded efforts to develop a new e-commerce site. His current major initiative is to work toward a system conversion including a mobile point of sale. He’s also focused on maintaining relevance by bridging consumer’s shifting preferences to keep Steinhafel’s Furniture on the cutting edge of retail.
Andrew is an active member of the TEC, a Milwaukee-based family business consortium. He’s been admitted to the Wisconsin School of Business MBA program and will begin the part-time program this fall.
Mitchell Stiles, Jr., 36
Company: WS Badcock Corporation
Position: Vice President Dealer Retail Operations
Mitchell Stiles, Jr. started at the very bottom as a summer intern 16 years ago. He joined WS Badcock Corporation full time - in 2002 and never looked back.
Mitchell proved to be one of the company’s top store managers earning the title “Manager of the year” in 2008. In 2009, he was promoted to Director overseeing 50 stores. His ability to project a positive attitude, inspired confidence in others and soon resulted in higher performance levels within his division.
As VP of Dealer Retail Operations, Mitchell manages operations for 218 dealer stores and guides the activities of four directors and thirteen area advisors. He also oversees the credit and collections obligations, advertising and promotion strategies, managing store expansion, construction, renovations, visual display and assisting with new dealer prospects.
The W.S. Badcock Corporation is on the verge of introducing a new dealer model, which requires a person with a rare combination of strong people skills and technical abilities. They found that person in Mitchell Stiles. Mitchell is a natural leader with exemplary character.
Charisma, leadership abilities and solid technical skills quickly led to Mitchell building confidence and earning the respect of his subordinates as well as top management. He has brought a new energy to the company and the fact that they can get another 30 years out of him is icing on the cake.
With his busy schedule, Mitchell still finds times to give back. He has served on the National Alumni Board for Florida Southern College and was a board member of the 6th Man Club. He’s coached little league baseball as well.
Larry Thibodeaux, 40
Company: WCC Furniture & Mattress Center
Position: Owner/General Manager
Larry Thibodeaux started his furniture career in 2007 when he took over WCC Furniture & Mattress Center. He came from a non-retail background offering a fresh perspective, which has served him and the company quite well.
Under Thibodeaux’s leadership, WCC Furniture has enjoyed double-digit growth every year, taking the company from a $1 million-dollar-a-year business to roughly $5 million-dollar-a-year business in less than 6 years.
As most owners do, Larry wears many hats. But his most important job is leading his team of 18 to provide the best value and service to the customer. Advertising, Merchandising, Buying, Business Analysis and Accounting all fall within his areas of responsibility.
In addition to his business contributions, Larry is very active in his local church and is committed to using WWC resources to help the less fortunate in local communities.
Larry attributes much of his success to the fact that he came from outside the furniture industry with a fresh perspective and was not bound by the “that’s how its always been done” mentality!
Josh Wasser, 32
Company: Wasser’s Exclusive Furniture & Interiors
As President of this third generation family business, Josh is responsible for the overall operations of the store including client relations, sales, orders, shipping and logistics, and e-commerce orders.
Wasser has been instrumental in the growth of the company and has added services that are unique to the store, including full turnkey remodeling and reconstruction along with furniture design packages that have become quite popular. He’s become an expert in custom upholstery projects including walls and headboards as well as other uniquely designed items that keep clients coming back.
Josh believes in creating a personal experience for every client who walks through the door and often shares his cell phone number with customers in case they have questions after their purchase. Since Wasser’s has an in-house delivery crew, clients are dealing with a member of the Wasser’s team from the top down. Josh feels this is the best way to leave a lasting impression on clients.
Building long-term relationships on the supply side, is also a strength of Josh’s causing manufacturers to appoint Wasser’s as the exclusive distributor for select products within the U.S. and Canada.
Josh is very involved with the Mobile School Pantry Charity whose mission is to provide nutritious foods to students and their families in low-income areas. “Just Say No To Hunger” is the mantra and Wasser’s commitment to this cause is unwavering.
Kristin Wermers, 35
Position: Senior Director of Serta Product Management
In a nutshell, Kristin Wermers leads Serta brand product development. The high performing team she oversees creates new products that achieve brand and customer goals.
Wermers is driven by a longstanding passion for the Serta brand and its’ retail partners. Her top achievements clearly reflect her ability’s. In 2015, she led the launch of a new Perfect Sleeper line, which continues to drive double-digit sales growth. Most recently, she led the launch of the new 2016 iComfort, Serta’s most innovative line to date. She worked closely with suppliers to secure exclusive comfort and support innovations to help differentiate the product at retail, and identified opportunities to bring more advanced comfort and support technologies into mid-level price points. The launch of a new 2016 product line developed for a key retailer, was also led by Kristin.
In her leadership position with Serta, Kristin has helped the company with its many charitable efforts over the years, including raising awareness for Chicago-based animal shelters and helping to build and deliver care packages to Fisher House locations across the United States. Her love of running in various 5K’s helps raise funds for her local community.
Kristin’s tenacity, focus and drive towards innovation and passion for the Serta brand is the foundation of her successful 11-year career.
Lily Chan, 31
Company: Euro Style
Position: Chief Operating Officer
After graduated from NYU in 2006 Lily Chan started her career in eCommerce at Mercantia.com managing the largest destination for kid’s loft beds online. She continued in eCommerce at ivgStores.com managing 10 buyers and led the way to their highest revenue-producing year.
Chan began her career with Eurostyle as VP of eCommerce. She was promoted to VP of Sales and is now COO of the modern wholesale furniture company. Her primary responsibility is to drive revenue and optimize profits, which she has done with record results for the second year in a row.
Chan successfully streamlined Euro Style’s operations and helped grow the company’s e-commerce business. She designed a corporate mentorship program that has resulted in a formal managing development program and reduction in churn and personally spearheaded an initiative to sign 3 new multi-million dollar partners.
Chan enjoys the mentorship of President and CEO Trig Liljestrand and considers them a “dynamic duo”. She previously served on the Board of the Vietnamese Youth Development Center as a way to give back to the community that assisted her family while trying to escape the Vietnam War over 30 years ago.
Chan is a well-respected leader in the home furnishings community.
Kyle (Bo) Coconis, 31
Company: Coconis Furniture/Mattress 1st
Position: Store Manager
Leadership is one of Bo’s strong qualities. He knows how to be firm but can also be caring and helpful when needed. He is well respected by the employees at the store.
Bo is 4th generation and is dedicated to the family business as well as to the industry. He’s involved in Next Generation NOW and is a member of Furniture First. He regularly attends functions at HFA and is a member of Impact Consulting’s Sales Managers Performance Group.
Although he wears many hats, Bo is currently involved with buying and merchandising while he trains to become the Store Manager. He’s been instrumental in improving many processes incorporating ideas on best practices for doing business today. Coconis Furniture’s future looks good with Bo in it.
A graduate of Ohio State College with a degree in Consumer Affairs, Bo was Captain of the Golf Team in his senior year. He was also awarded the Big Ten Sportsman of the year award.
Wanting to pay it forward, Bo is actively involved in the store’s “Tee It Up Fore Autism” annual golf outing raising funds to help local kids and their families dealing with autism.
Matt Huber, 33
Company: Belfort Furniture
Position: Executive Vice President
Looking fro ways to improve the business and the customer experience across all channels is what Matt Huber is all about. He oversees the day-to-day operations at Belfort Furniture in every way including the remodeling and expansion of the retail showroom, integrating a wine bar, local food and an expanded product line-up providing a “WOW” shopping experience for the consumer. And to bring those customers into the store, he has implemented a digital marketing strategy to reach consumers via geo-targeting.
Matt has earned local celebrity status in the Washington, DC area as the “style and design expert” on “Great Day Washington” a locally produced lifestyle TV Show. Each week he showcases a furniture category and brings it to life through his product knowledge, wit and charm.
Huber is involved in the Sustainable Furnishings Council and is passionate about restoring and preserving older properties. His efforts won him a Historic Preservation Enhancement Project award.
Raised in a philanthropic minded family, Matt continues to be service- oriented raising funds to send kids to camp through the corporate sponsored YMCA Loudoun County Charity Golf Tournament, raising a record-breaking $77,000.
Mandy Jeffries, 32
Company: Colfax Furniture
Position: General Manager
When Mandy Jeffries joined Colfax Furniture as the Assistant General Manager in 2008, she hit the ground running to help push the retail store into the next generation.
Fast forward to today, Mandy is now the General Manager and oversees all of the day-to-day operations including sales, merchandising, the central warehouse, accounting and human resources.
Mandy’s enthusiasm and fresh perspective is still evident in all she does to strategically improve processes and the overall culture of the company. Her efforts have helped reduce costs and bring in new ideas that have increase sales.
As the mother of 2 children under the age of two, Mandy does and outstanding job balancing the working mother role. She’s an inspiration to fellow working moms in the industry.
Mandy sits on the advisory board for Next Gen NOW and attends markets and conferences regularly throughout the year. As a representative of the store, she is active in local business organizations and is personally involved in efforts to support the American Heart Association.
Kyle Johansen, 31
Company: HOM Furniture
Position: Executive Director of Merchandising
Since we last featured Kyle Johansen, his level of responsibility at HOM Furniture has increased as he moved into a new position as Executive Director of Merchandising. He’s still a natural leader and provides strategic direction for HOM, Gabberts, and Dock86's overall product and merchandising mix. He manages a team of 24 buyers, assistant buyers, and re-buyers.
His extensive list of achievements at HOM include the “UPTOWN” Department, a lifestyle gallery that was in front of the “vintage” trend and is still popular today. He also led the way to create highly successful moves into area rugs, and outdoor categories. Kyle also assists the marketing department creating compelling marketing campaigns to drive sales in the showrooms. He is creative and well rounded, using his talent for sales training and staff development.
Being part of the furniture industry and the HOM family business has been a passion of Kyle's his entire life. He consistently participates in several important industry groups and is involved in many of HOM’s charity functions. He has dedicated his professional life not only to advancing HOM Furniture but to bringing more awareness and advocating advancement for the furniture industry as a whole.
Jason Phillips, 33
Company: Phillips Collection
Position: VP/Creative Director of Phillips Collection
An accomplished designer, 2nd generation family businessman and lover of technology, Jason Phillips is responsible for sales, marketing and design for the Phillips Collection. Under his leadership, sales have grown exponentially. His passion and energy for the business and the industry are very strong.
In 2009, Jason became the youngest recipient of the prized Pinnacle Award given by the American Society of Furniture Designers for products he called Rover Stone Planters. The Society also elected Jason as the youngest ever member of their Board of Directors. Today, he is the Chairman of the Pinnacle Awards.
In 2010 Jason was awarded the Product Designer of the Year award at the 21st annual Accessories Resource Team awards ceremony.
Phillips often travels internationally in search of unique design concepts. He has been interviewed regarding modern design trends by many industry publications.
Becca Blumkin Sudbeck, 33
Company: Nebraska Furniture Mart
Position: Senior Living Room Buyer
As a 4th generation family member, Becca has held a number of positions since joining the company in 1998, most notably her current role of Senior Living Room Buyer.
In her new role, Becca oversees the living room buying team and is credited with bringing new ideas, strong leadership a fresh perspective to merchandising living rooms. She has also been instrumental in expanding into new profitable categories including seasonal.
Becca has helped translate Nebraska Furniture Mart’s marketing efforts to capture the millennial demographic. Since the Mart has undergone a seismic shift in their business with the opening of their new Texas store last year, Becca has been the most visible of the young, energetic and ambitious group of merchandisers helping the Mart redefine furniture retail brick and mortar stores.
Becca is currently on the Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Center’s Guild board and is active in various Omaha Civil events. Additionally, she is active in various philanthropic enterprises .
Jaime Wasser, 31
Company: Wasser’s Exclusive Furniture & Interiors
Position: Vice President
Exceeding expectations is something Jaime Wasser does very well. Since joining Wasser’s Exclusive Furniture & Interiors 6 years ago, she has successfully increased their targeted market and volume projections, year after year.
As a direct result of her efforts, the 3rd generation family-owned business she runs alongside her brother Josh, has been awarded Best of Houzz for the last 3 years consecutively.
Jaime oversees the day-to-day operations, including in-store design consults, sales and customer service. She personally supervises all projects with designers. She also attends trade shows and purchases diverse products for their 20,000 square foot main showroom. Additionally, handling the advertising and maintaining the store’s online presence is a regular part of her repertoire.
Jaime’s love of the industry and passion for working with clients has created a rewarding experience for all. With her happy demeanor and outgoing personality, she instantly turns strangers into friends, which helps to build long-lasting client relationships. Her ardent pursuit of a healthy lifestyle has cultivated an exceptional cooking ability. She enjoys yoga, boxing and high intensity training.