Recent studies show that Millennials aspire to executive roles just like previous generations, but they are seeking new ways to lead, which includes a less hierarchical approach. According to Forbes, “authoritarian leadership is out, and inclusive leadership is in.” An American Express survey backs that statement, finding that the core Millennial values of creativity, autonomy and reciprocity are the foundation to the future of business leadership success. That same survey says that seven in 10 American Millennial respondents believe that within 10 years, the CEO role will no longer be relevant in its current format. So, as we progress into the future, the question remains: How will Millennials transition into leadership roles within the industry? You’ll find some answers here— within the profiles below, and from some of our own industry experts throughout the issue.
As we introduce you to the Class of 2019 you will find the road to success is well travelled. There are up and comers, movers and shakers, director level doer’s and C-level champions looking to pave the road ahead as an opportunity to foster a balanced power structure to support workplaces that value fairness, integrity, teamwork and empathy – all in the name of moving their teams and brands forward. There is no doubt that demographics in the workplace are changing, with companies racing to adapt to these changes and to meet Millennial values and expectations. Millennials are hungry for growth, learning, and continuous development and they are eager to embrace innovation and new technologies. The Millennials selected for this year’s Forty Under 40 exhibit all of that, and more. Each of them carries a passion for the industry as they travel the road to success. With this new class comes new adventures on and off the road. We applaud you Class of 2019, and can’t wait to see where you go.
Dhyey Acharya, 31
Principal, Industrial Design Engineer
Purple Innovations LLC.
All those big words in Dhyey’s title still don't sum up everything he does at Purple. As lead industrial designer and product engineer, Dhyey is responsible for almost every aspect of Purple's product design, development and ideation. He is a talented engineer, industrial designer, product developer, inventor, and visionary thinker. Born and raised in India and now living in the U.S., Dhyey is a globally minded, philanthropic individual with high aspirations. Driven by passion, his honest approach and altruistic intention is the force behind everything he does. He consciously evaluates and deconstructs each design or product in painstaking detail to map out how it will elevate people’s lives and contribute to their well-being. His creations are not just aesthetically minded they are user minded and encompass the entire users ecosystem. Dhyey is described as a modern day "Renaissance Man" who is motivated, ingenious and wise beyond his years.
Melissa Alonso, 31
Public Relations Specialist
El Dorado Furniture
Melissa began her career at El Dorado Furniture as an event coordinator in 2013. She was responsible for all store related actives and customer events. Her attention to detail and sense of responsibility immediately got her the respect of her peers as well as management. She is now responsible for Internal and external public relations and communications. Using her fine tuned skills, Melissa represents the brand to mass audiences producing interview segments via broadcast media. She serves as Master of Ceremony’s at El Dorado’s internal events and as the external representative at community events. Using her writing skills to create content, she knows how to create awareness for El Dorado related to their purpose, mission and values, and publicly speaks on behalf of the retailer.
Among her many philanthropic endeavors for the company she leads the brand’s 50 Years/50 Families Community Relations Campaign. She also represented the store as a sponsor and a supporter for an organization whose mission is empowering children, youth, and families from the local Miami community.
Jana Angel, 30
Brand and Partnership Development Manager
FMG Buying Group Vendor Partner
Jana is an up and comer who jumped into the industry two years ago and has already been promoted at Uniters. In her initial position as Brand Ambassador, Jana served as the face of the company to build awareness. She created social media platforms, responded to online feedback and coordinated industry events. Under her watch Uniters became the first company to receive the Women’s Choice Award for Protection Plans in the history of the award. In her new role, she is creating a direction for the brand, assessing positioning and developing personality to stand out from competitors and ultimately build partnerships. Internally Jana is working to create a multichannel communication approach to streamline efforts and keep all of the brand’s North American locations connected. Jana was recently hand-picked to manage the company’s largest account. Uniters is a vendor partner
Jana sits on the Board of Directors for City of Hope and led the Pink Out effort in October 2018. She is also leading the charge to do it again in 2019. Passionate about giving back Jana is involved in various philanthropic efforts within her West Palm Beach community.
Eric Beiter, 33
Beiter’s Home Center
FMG Buying Group Member
A third generation family member, Eric Beiter works on store leadership development, sales training, and technology deployment, although his job is not limited to a prescribed role. He started working at the store when he was 14 and continued to do so on and off through college. Officially joining the family business was something he was initially denied, but when he was finally asked to come aboard he was determined to exceed expectations. Before he was a member of the leadership team he was the top salesperson for five consecutive years. He has been a key player in the transition to move the company into the future and was an integral part of the technology team that prepared for the transition from a paper inventory system to a barcode system.
Eric is a graduate of Leadership Lycoming and the Emerson Project where he was paired with highly regarded business, academic, and non-profit executives who mentored him in preparation for his entry into a C-level position. He is a former board member of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
Brad Bonham, 39
At 39 years old Brad has already made his mark on the furniture industry as one of the founders of Walker Edison. He is an enthusiastic leader that gets the job done right. Before he finally felt confident enough to settle into the CEO position, like many entrepreneurs he worked as the receptionist, the janitor, and the entire marketing department, doing what needed to be done to get the company off the ground. Brad is a resilient businessman. He has learned from the inevitable adversity and challenges that all startups face, whether caused by external forces or by internal decisions. He does not back down from a challenge. He empowers his employees to make decisions and act as entrepreneurs in their own sphere.
Brad has been recognized several times as an EY Entrepreneur of the year Utah Region Finalist. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board for Make-A-Wish Utah. Brad and his business partner, Matt Davis, created the Walker Edison Foundation in an effort to improve the lives of children around the world.
Cain Brodie, 37
Director of Marketing
International Market Centers
FMG Buying Group Industry Partner
A leader in the industry, Cain’s relationship building skills and marketing prowess have helped IMC build effective markets for the industry in both Las Vegas and High Point. His efforts have contributed to increased buyers at market and increased value offered to exhibitors. His many responsibilities include the development and execution of all marketing support, media planning and buying, and budget development. He is the leasing liaison that provides direct support to exhibitors. Cain also manages and executes exhibitor email campaigns, onsite product displays (including the trend program), and manages key events and initiatives for on campus and off-market events. He is tasked with working alongside management and tenants to create and grow the Las Vegas Design Center. Cain leads the Las Vegas off-market initiatives including a successful model for the Hospitality Link program, which is driving revenue for exhibitors.
As the lead on the Dining by Design event, Cain is an active participant in DIFFA and local design community organizations. In his downtime, Cain has volunteered as coach for his child’s soccer team.
Madison Bruns, 25
National Account Manager
Despite her job title, Madison has been involved in many different areas of Cozzia’s business. Her initial position with the company was social media director and her strategies to increase their content and social media presence were very successful. As part of her strategy, she created professional, original digital content, to produce a series of short informational videos called “A moment with Madison.” Each episode focuses on a single key feature of Cozzia’s massage chairs including assembly and operation. These videos have proven to be a valuable tool. Recently, Madison was promoted to national account manager. With her strong organizational skills and winning personality, she was immediately successful. She also took the initiative to evaluate and then improve employee satisfaction in the workplace, executing her plan with positive results.
Madison volunteers at her local church helping with programs to feed the homeless. She also volunteers at a local hospital.
Jay Bush, 34
Corporate Director of Project Management
A strategic thinker, Jay has driven a variety of operational improvements through lean manufacturing technologies and is responsible for developing the plan, scope, budget and schedule for a variety of complex projects. He is also responsible for recruiting, motivating and managing a team of functional managers, engineers, contractors and technicians for each project. Jay is passionate about perpetuating a culture of continuous improvement, and not afraid to explore uncharted territory if it can lead to improved operations. Part of the fourth generation of the family that founded HSM (formerally known as Hickory Springs Manufacturing), he leverages his engineering expertise and Six Sigma Black Belt abilities to help solve specific challenges. He is frequently trusted with the company’s most critical projects and company-wide strategic initiatives. In particular, he spearheaded a new manufacturing start-up that now generates significant annual revenue for the company.
Jay was a co-chair of Friends of Scouting, the fund-raising arm of the Boy Scout’s Lakeland District in Hickory, N.C. He was also a former assistant Boy Scout leader.
Will Carpenter, 28
Ecommerce Sales Partners
Will Carpenter was recently promoted from senior associate to principal at ESP. He joined the company in 2017 and helped drive exceptional sales growth for the lines represented with their largest Ecommerce dealers. He has achieved this with a clear-eyed understanding of their operation and technical requirements, promotional strategies and programs, while addressing enhanced merchandising and marketing standards. His work is lauded within the company. With Will’s background in IT consulting and project management, relationship management and marketing expertise, coupled with his technical skills he enhances ESP’s capabilities to help home furnishings vendors navigate this complex channel and maximize the growth opportunities it affords.
Will is a DC Rec League coach, a co-team lead for the Booz Allen Brians and Hearts campaign and raised money for St. Judes during DC Rock & Roll Half Marathon.
Gabriel Cohen, 38
FMG Buying Group Vendor Partner
Under his outstanding leadership abilities, Gabriel Cohen has grown Classy Art’s revenue by 1500% in 13 years while developing a brand that is widely recognized in the industry. He transformed a failing family business that had negative cash flow and over extended credit into a cash flush business with no debt. By re-engineering the company’s production process, his new systems allowed production to increase four times its previous level without increasing labor costs. Smart and savvy Gabriel placed 2nd, three times, at three different national business plan competitions. He is two-time recipient of the Cougar 100 Award, which is given to the 100 fastest growing companies owned by Alumni of the University of Houston. His work ethic is unparalleled.
Gabriel is an honest person with a huge heart. During the Harvey floods, though stranded himself, he spent countless hours connecting people that needed emergency evacuation with folks that had boats and trucks to help get them to safety. He raised over $5,000 for one of his staff members who suffered heavy losses from the flood, and gave every employee a $1,000 bonus to help with losses they may have experienced. He is high spirited and fun loving, and motivates everyone around him with his energy.
Jonathan Cohen, 36
FMG Buying Group Vendor Partner
Jonathan Cohen has sustained operations and liquidity through 13 years of double-digit growth, including over 50% two years in a row. He streamlined the company’s production processes to correct inefficiencies, and increased inventory levels to accommodate growth and support for major accounts while still remaining cash flush. Through his financial prowess, Jonathan helped transform the family-owned business that had negative cash flow and overextended credit into a cash flush business with no debt. He is the recipient of the Cougar 100 award 2 years in a row, for being one of the fastest growing 100 University of Houston Alumni owned business. Jonathan is also a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program.
Jonthan is the co-founder of a non-profit called the Bellaire Men's Club that teaches high school students accountability, business skills, and philanthropy. He has collected and distributed over 5,000 wrapped toys for kids in need during the holidays, and collected over 10,000 lbs. of non-perishable food for the Houston Food Bank.
Rhett Crockett, 32
Yuma Furniture Company
Rhett found his way into sales by selling steak and seafood out of a truck door to door an excelled immediately. He found his passion in sales and has built Yuma’s sales from $5 million in 2013 to $9 million in 2018. Rhett's most impressive achievement is increasing the company's mattress sales. His hard work paid off when he won a contest and a free trip from Tempurpedic for the highest sales increase. Overseeing a team of more than 10 Rhett conducts regular meetings to monitor individual goals and performance. He has a relentless passion for the business and is a morale-boosting expert. His main focus is persistently driving sales by training his team. As a result of his efforts, sales have increased 35% year-over-year resulting in being nominated three years in a row for the Ashley President's Award. He continues to self-improve by attending courses, listening to sales podcasts and passing on what he learns. He creates a positive and productive culture and his team knows they can depend on him for leadership.
Rhett's leads the planning for the store’s Hope To Dream event. He is very involved in the community and is known for his generous contributions.
Andrew Crone is a Servant Leader who motivates and inspires. His energy is infectious. He has created and implemented Chaddocks’ business plan and strategy to help develop products and services for a diverse blend of distribution channels for the brands’ custom crafted furniture. He has instituted creative merchandising programs to streamline the custom order process resulting in 92% complete and on time order fulfillment. He has attracted new talent to the industry and uses Chaddock College to offer designers and sales associates product knowledge and best business practices to help them be successful. His humility has allowed him to be responsive and accepting of new ideas. His sincerity allows him to gather support to bring ideas to reality quickly due to his ability to absorb, discern, and decide on paths forward that benefit the group.
Andrew is an active member of Greensboro F3 (Fitness, Fellowship, Faith), whose mission is “to plant, grow and serve small workout groups for men for the invigoration of male community leadership.” He also works with Community Housing Solutions to provide decent, safe and affordable housing to low-income families and has helped build Homes for Habitat for Humanity.
Ashley De Mara, 23
Customer Service Representative
Greenington Fine Bamboo
Ashley is a standout talent who can juggle a dizzying array of responsibilities without ever dropping a ball! She handles the toughest clients effortlessly, which is a skill that seems to comes naturally to her. She is a problem solver who takes a proactive approach to address challenges, making a dramatic difference in the productivity level of the Greenington team. Her outstanding product knowledge makes her an asset to the sales team. She offers improvements whenever she sees an opportunity, including developing an expedited shipping schedule; formatting a new QuickBooks layout for order confirmations/updates; and process improvements for container ordering, returns, claims, etc. With an excellent attendance record Ashley is truly dedicated.
Although Ashley works full time at Greenington, she also works part-time caring for her mother who suffers from a debilitating health condition. In fact Ashley is so dedicated to helping others she became a certified nurse’s assistant to care for her mother. She also volunteers her time to King County Lost Pets, and Nexxus Youth and Families.
Jackie DeRegis, 23
Ecommerce Sales Manager
Dunk and Bright Furniture
FMG Buying Group Member
Building an ecommerce department from scratch, Jackie DeRegis transformed how Dunk and Bright markets and sells online. She is responsible for managing all ecommerce operations including hiring, training, supervising and coaching ecommerce sales associates. She grows website, phone and store traffic by creating flash sales, email and text programs and social media promotions. Jackie and her team are also responsible for converting leads into customers using Livechat box and in-store showroom appointments allowing the retailer to compete in the digital age. Since Jackie's promotion to ecommerce sales manager, shopping cart sales are up 50% over last year. In addition to being promoted after only four months, she is one of our top sales associates and generates all of her sales through website and phone leads.
Jackie organized a Red Cross blood drive to be held at the Dunk and Bright store. She also volunteers at The Samaritan Center to help raise funds to end hunger for those in need. Jackie has volunteered at the Salvation Army soup kitchen for 15 years. LeMoyne College bestowed a community service scholarship to her for her dedication to the community.
Jordan Haws, 32
Global Logistics Manager
The Malouf supply chain team moves 7.1 million products around the world annually. Jordan Haws is the director of that team, the backbone of Malouf’s wholesale goods distribution. Haws’s management style and depth of knowledge has helped Malouf grow into an industry leader. He coordinates hiring and training for the logistics department, manages international logistics for 2,100 product skus, oversees the purchasing process and forecasting demand for 50+ online partners and 12,000+ retail locations in 22 countries. In his four years at Malouf, he has successfully facilitated growth from over 1000 containers in 2015 to more than 6000 containers this year. Thanks to Haws and his team, the company has maintained a 98.5 in-stock percentage. With the new tariffs recently imposed, Haws and the product development team, successfully transitioned from Chinese factories to locations in seven new countries without any disruption to customers.
The Malouf Foundation’s flagship cause is to rescue and shelter sexually exploited and trafficked children. For four years, Haws has Haws has organized the event raising more than $200,000 at the final sale. He also makes monthly donations to Operation Underground Railroad and CAPSA, and participates in charity golf events that benefit their partners.
Bobby Huber, 33
Oskar Huber Furniture & Design
Furniture First Buying Group Member
Bobby Huber is the sales manager for Oskar Huber’s Southampton, Pa. store. He is the 4th generation to work at the store. Growing up in the business, Bobby has worked in various departments including warehouse and delivery as well as on the dock. He has worked with the merchandising department learning how to create line up's and evaluate slow performers. He is currently transitioning from managing one store into a new position where he will shadow the 3rd generation as he is groomed to take the lead from his father and uncles. As a member of Furniture First, Bobby attends quarterly performance group meetings with his father Ron. He also attends the annual Furniture First Symposium and is a member of their "Next Gen" group.
Bobby looks to find ways to give back and help others including buying and delivering gifts for less fortunate families at Christmas-time. He is a supporter of the Bucks County Design House sponsored by the VIA whose mission is to financially support Doylestown Hospital.
Mark Kinsley, 37
President and CEO
High profile industry executive, Mark Kinsley brings a reinvigorated approach to the Englander brand. The newly appointed CEO (he was already president) is leading the development and execution of a dynamic growth strategy focusing on further developing the strength of the Top 10 bedding producer. At 37 years old, he is one of the youngest executives to lead a major bedding brand. Mark’s high profile is credited to his role as marketing VP at Leggett & Platt and being co-host of the mattress industry’s only podcast, Dos Marcos, with nearly 100 episodes under his belt. With his demonstrated knowledge and experience in marketing, branding, broadcasting and social media, he is blazing new trails for Englander, while setting an example for other leaders of brands.
A supporter of the Jr. Diabetes Research Foundation, Mark is also involved with the Trike Community Theater as well as Operation Jammies, whose mission is to make a childs stay in the hospital a little more comfortable.
Jessica Lee, 34
FMG Buying Group Vendor Partner
Jessica Lee is the senior most leader of the publishing team that builds, and manages the product catalogs for more than 300 suppliers at FurnitureDealer.net. She has set the standards and defined the way products are presented for the successful brand. She has played a large role in building the company. A quiet leader, Jessica is smart, talented and adept at training and mentoring new employees. Her work ethic and in-depth knowledge about furniture, furniture shopping, furniture consumers and the industry as a whole is the foundation for her success. She is credited with overseeing the entire product content library and the one person who has created the most products in the library as well as many of the best presentations. She is a “curious” problem solver, another characteristic that makes her so successful.
Brian Lundstrom, 28
Director of National Accounts
Spring Air International
Brian oversees Spring Air’s growing national account operations and logistics and works with the company’s 10 domestic licensees to develop and implement procedures to better service key retail partners. He also works with Spring Air’s product development committee to develop programs that coordinate product launches into these key retailers. During his first year on the job Brian successfully helped implement procedures that revamped the customer service operation at Spring Air headquarters. That success led to his promotion to director of national accounts earlier this year. Already his efforts have resulted in increased sales. He also added a variety of special events and promotions that have led to a boost in national account sales.
Brian strengthened Spring Air’s partnership with Love Your Melon, a longtime supporter of organizations working to eradicate pediatric cancer. He organized the distribution of Love Your Melon beanies to domestic licensees, who give them to consumers who purchased a mattress from its Hope Collection. He also successfully integrated the Hope Collection, which benefits pediatric cancer research, into the national product line made by all domestic licensees.
Samantha Meridieth, 30
VP, Branding & Business Development
Back in 2012, Samantha Meredieth fell in love with the home furnishings industry. She enjoyed listening to retailers tell their story’s and the moments of service where they go above and beyond for the people in their communities. For four years she enjoyed helping retailers grow their business, and now she is helping R&A grow theirs.
Samantha oversees the advertising planning and creative process for clients to ensure consistent messaging and image for their stores. She develops monthly advertising budgets, places media buys and ensures spends remain within budget. She keenly monitors sales results and advertising effectiveness as well as traffic generated via advertising (UPs per day and per month). Samantha genuinely cares about her clients and their success. She represents the best of what an advertising, branding and business development executive should be.
When she’s not working or “being a mom”, she serves on an Athletic Alumni Advisory Board for her alma mater. She enjoys playing competitive soccer occasionally.
Christina Naumann, 39
Sr. Director of Merchandising Operations
At Home Group
A seasoned member of the At Home team, Christina is responsible for shaping the merchandising fundamentals, processes and standardizations across all of At Home, to transform it into a high-growth retail concept by reshaping the product mix, transforming the store experience, and building an employee-centric culture. Christina manages all visual merchandising, visual strategies and the execution of all in-store programs. She works to ensure execution of projects, while also serving as a liaison to fulfill strategy obligations and ensure on-time execution of new product rollouts, vignettes and display items. She has played a critical role in developing and implementing reporting tools to measure success of in-store visual displays. An accomplished retail and design leader, she is a strategic thinker with a strong eye for trends, and a keen sense for analytics. She has an excellent understanding of global sourcing, merchandising management, purchasing, operations, and negotiations.
Christina is a local community supporter. She developed At Home’s sample sale program designed to offer extra inventory and older seasonal products for a discounted price to employees. At Home then donates all of the proceeds to a philanthropic organization.
National Accounts Marketing Coordinator
Home Meridian International
Christina oversees all marketing responsibilities for HMI’s National Accounts. She brings value to them through the creation of written and visual content. She manages and directs product imaging for accuracy, timeliness and budget with studios in the U.S., Vietnam, China, and Brazil. She helps create omnichannel marketing strategies and directs the creation of printed marketing materials including packaging, POP, hangtags, etc. She researches trends for relevant photography direction and showroom merchandising. An enthusiastic team player, Christina is constantly thinking of ways to offer better marketing assets to the consumer. She developed the ATHENA – Performance Fabrics for Surviving the Chaos brand to promote HMI’s upholstered performance products. Her efforts gained the attention of many multi-channel retailers. Last year she began managing all marketing needs for HMI’s largest customer – Costco and has transformed the way product is sold.
Christina is a member of WithIt and an HMI Community Outreach Committee Member. She has been a volunteer babysitter for children going through the foster program and helped with HMI’s “Puppy Love” campaign, which supports the Guilford County Animal Shelter.
Jonathan Payton, 35
General Store Manager
FMG Buying Group Member
At Walker Furniture, Jonathan is responsible for all store operations including staffing, scheduling, customer experience, and sales training development. He mentors the front line staff members. He is also in charge of managing the merchandising presentation, as well as P.O.P displays to support the store buyers. Jonathan is eager to develop his skills and often requests to be included in meetings regarding other departments even on his days off. He has impressed upper management with his desire to be exposed to parts of the business that he is not familiar with, so he can perform better and help the company succeed. He is dedicated, with a strong work ethic and is an asset to the store.
Jonathan is a dedicated husband and father. He volunteers at the San Diego County Homeless Shelter and Momma's Kitchen of San Diego helping to feed the homeless. He is also a Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce member.
Shaun Pennington, 38
Shaun is leading a fourth-generation family-owned business that his grandparents began 80 years ago. He is the visionary behind Diamond’s rebrand from a manufacturing company to a sleep wellness brand that included an all-new merchandising strategy and core product lineup, website and comprehensive web-based RSA training program for retailers. Diamond is achieving strong double-digit growth under Shaun's leadership. He has built and inspired a team of seasoned experts in their fields. He is an insatiable reader, learner and thinker who channels his passion for health and wellness into the sleep industry, determined to leave a positive legacy through his work. He speaks about and lives his personal and professional values of Gratitude, Intention, Faith and Transformation (also the names of the new mattresses). These ideas are very new to how we, as an industry, talk about mattresses and sleep.
Humble Designs is a non-profit that helps families transitioning out of homelessness. Shaun has donated mattresses as well as his time to this cause. He is also a board member and donates to the Long Beach Meditation Center.
Gui Peres, 36
Director of Global Sales
Gui oversees operations and sales activities on four continents for Ergomotion. Frequently working with distributors, he ensures the company’s products and marketing programs are tailored to the local market, and implements appropriate customer service strategies. He has opened multiple international markets for Ergomotion, which is now sold in more than 30 countries. The international business unit has become a key growth driver, helping the company weather downswings in the U.S. market. He opened international sales, operations and customer service offices on four continents, establishing multiple partnerships with key distributors in local markets. He also spearheaded the company’s largest customer acquisition in the past eight years.
Gui volunteers and financially supports Sports Outreach Institute International, a Christian non-profit that helps at-risk children in Africa and the Americas through sports, spiritual support and academics. He is also a children’s ministry volunteer at Santa Barbara Community Church and performs Volunteer work and provides financial support for Casa Hogar, a non-religious orphanage.
Michael Petersen, 27
Director of Sales
The Furniture Training Company
Michael is responsible for meeting potential customers, discovering their training needs, and proposing solutions to meet their needs. He maintains relationships with his customers to ensure their ongoing needs are addressed. He strives to learn everything he can about the industry and to understand why dealers sometimes struggle so he can help craft effective solutions for them. He is developing his leadership skills and continually demonstrates his ability to grow sales. Michael was instrumental in the development of products that address the sales management training needs of furniture dealers. He developed a new sales and marketing plan aimed at helping dealers who struggle to find resources to purchase training prorams for their sales associates. He was recently promoted to Director of Sales because of his abilities to effectively interact with clients and potential customers.
Michael put off his college education to be a full-time missionary in Argentina for two years. Since returning to the U.S. 10 years ago, he has been a Sunday School teacher at his church. He is also an accomplished pianist who is always happy to lift spirits through his piano playing.
Benjamin Pou, 33
Director of Supply Chain
W.S. Badcock Corporation (Badcock & More Home Furnishings)
A 5th generation owner, Ben is an up-and-coming leader at this 115 year-old family business. He was “born into the business" and exemplifies a work ethic that reflects leadership, dedication, and teamwork. He encourages the development of others through his challenge to "do it better than we currently do.” Ben is responsible for all aspects of quality assurance and quality control across the global supply chain. In 2011, Ben started the centralized collections program, which now includes two call centers and close to 60 team members. During that time, he continued to achieve the highest levels of certifications available including ACA international’s CCCO designation. Ben consulted with LIVEVOX on improving their call center software. They were so pleased with his work he was invited to speak at their annual conference last year. He is a graduate of Florida’s Retail Federation Retail Masters Program.
Ben serves on the board of directors for Ridge Art Association, a non-profit competition art gallery. Together with his wife Leigh-Anne they donate time and money to charities through the Junior League of Greater Winter Haven.
Doddy Rafieha, 33
Executive Vice President
Since 2008, Doddy has been part of the team that’s helped shape Abbyson into the brand it is today. There are very few positions that Doddy has not held, initially beginning with global manufacturing and supply chain, and over the years covering finance & banking, ecommerce operations & logistics, as well as overall strategic planning & leadership. He developed Abbyson's award winning drop-ship program.
His meticulous nature combined with his decisive leadership style makes Doddy a big part of why Abbyson has been thriving in the business world. He has a keen eye for detail that only allows excellence and quality to be the standard. Doddy’s hardworking and perceptive characteristics along with his sharp mind have been a transformative force in revolutionizing the ecommerce drop ship model within the home furnishings industry.
As an advocate for sustainability and the environment, Doddy has been involved with several sustainability committees in various capacities.
Robert Rosenberg, 39
Planned Furniture Promotions
As President of Planned Furniture Promotions, Rob oversees all aspects of the company, including client negotiations, merchandising, sales, team member recruiting and retention as well as all financial aspects of the company. He has successfully navigated the challenges of serving as president of one of the largest and most successful furniture high-impact event company’s in the country. Rob has been involved with PFP from a very young age. He worked his way up through the ranks, serving in virtually every position along the way, until finally taking over as President of the company, where his leadership has led to record-breaking results.
Co-founded Odies Orchard Hill dog rescue, Supports Jewish Family Services, Major donor and co-coordinator of one of the largest industry company based fundraisers in the U.S., raising millions of dollars to support children's charities, mostly those suffering from childhood cancer.
Denise Salcido, 37
Sales Support Manager
Denise Salcido is on track be an executive leader. She plays an important role in sales and overall operations for AICO. Although her title is sales support manager she takes on greater responsibilities as the executive assistant to the EVP, VP of sales and the president, and plays a supervisory role in the marketing department. Her decision-making skills are focused on what is best for the company to move sales and take care of customers. Through many promotions, Denise remains in tune to the importance of details, follow-up and leadership. Her professional approach is a winning strategy. She takes initiative and has the foresight to be proactive. She is a “go to” problem solver and has earned the respect of her fellow workers. Her biggest attribute is her ability to multitask and take on projects that are not being managed and then developing a team to drive those projects.
Denise has been recognized as Employee of the Year and earned the AICO Spirit of Excellence Award. She is a City of Hope Supporter, and a Chucks Ride for Hope Supporter.
Eric Sears, 37
Tasked with increasing PERQ’s home furnishing retail customers and ensuring customer success, Eric Sears helps develop marketing, messaging, sales processes, partnership efforts, and forecasting for his clients. He provides hands-on consulting to help them bridge the gap between their digital presence and brick/mortar storefronts. He helps clients build digital relationships with buyers in their local marketplace, using AI-driven software. Eric is adept at creating well-rounded programs for clients, while making implementation easy. He has helped the company Increase their customer base including six furniture retailers on the top 100 list, finishing last year at 151% to goal and as PERQ’s number one revenue generator. What distinguishes Eric is that he comes from a retailing background giving him a unique insight. This fuels his passion to help make furniture retailers’ jobs easier and is laser focused on ways move their businesses forward.
In addition to over 10 years of volunteering in the infant room for Heartland Church, as well as for Vacation Bible School, Eric participates in the Ante 4 Autism Poker tournament, and supports several other volunteer organizations.
Carol Sham, 37
Director of Marketing
Coaster Company of America
FMG Buying Group Vendor Partner
As head of marketing for Coaster, Carol Sham is directly responsible for overseeing all of the company’s marketing activities, setting the direction for the digital, advertising and creative teams. Carol has also taken a lead role in shaping Coaster’s new strategic direction, which included a corporate rebrand and the creation of three new sub-brands. As Carol spearheaded the creation of Coaster’s new visual identity, she also oversaw the design of a new website, the development of B2B & B2C corporate marketing strategies and the implementation of an integrated marketing campaign. Since Carol joined Coaster, her efforts have led to their on-going success. She continues to provide Coaster with innovative ways to market and grow sales in an omni-channel environment. Her branding efforts have elevated brand perceptions of Coaster, and her digital media campaigns have increased visits to the new website by 70% in just one quarter. The passion she has for her job and her positive attitude is welcomed by everyone she encounters.
Carol is an active member at her local community church, and participates in their community outreach programs. She is also a City of Hope Supporter.
Ashley Shaw, 27
Manager, Client Services
FMG Buying Group Vendor Partner
Ashley is a talented rising star who is influencing the way business is conducted for retailers and manufacturers in the home furnishings industry. When she joined ecUtopia in 2015 she had no knowledge of the industry, or supply chain management. Today she oversees all aspects of EDI transactions for the company and its’ clients, and manages and mentors the customer service team. Working with many of the Top 100 dealers in North America as well as many of the leading furniture manufacturers in the world, Ashley is driving improvements in supply chain services. She has successfully managed and delivered many impactful projects and continues to influence and drive efficiencies for retailers and manufacturers alike. She is a natural leader with a strong work ethic and a winning personality. She is well respected by her colleagues.
Growing up as a Pastors kid, Ashley has a charitable heart and gives back to the community in many ways including volunteering to feed and help the homeless at local shelters. She is an active member of WithIt and HFA’s Next Generation Now.
Alexandria Thompson, 33
Digital Account Manager
Alex focuses on digital marketing services and website platform marketing capabilities. With her marketing and technical expertise, she is making sure her customers are successful. She has risen through the ranks at MicroD from a Technical Support Specialist to an Account Manager to her current role as a Digital Account Manager. She has helped to grow the online success of many of MicroD's most important clients. Alex has a passion for her clients, the industry, and the technology that moves furniture businesses forward. With her diverse skillset she has the ability to generate revenue for clients by executing an omnichannel approach. Many of her clients are seeing double-digit increases. Her desire to consistently evolve lends itself well to providing clients with the newest strategies for growth and helps keep MicroD on the cutting-edge of the home furnishings industry.
Alex is a team captain for Relay for Life, Catawba. She is also the founder of Ladies of Longview, a group that makes improvements to the town. She is a WithIt member, and was recognized by her peers at MicroD as a “Woman who has made a difference in their lives and empowers them.”
Miguel Valle, 35
General Sales Leader
El Dorado Furniture
At 22 years old MIguel started his career as a sales associate for El Dorado. His career path progressed to the position he holds today where he directs and supports all retail showrooms. He demonstrates integrity, professionalism, leadership abilities, and strength of character, and has been recognized by the company for his professional growth. He oversees general sales objectives for all showrooms, evaluates sales productivity, quality of customer service, and overall customer satisfaction based on company standards. He recruits, trains, schedules, and coaches employees in assigned districts. As the store administrator of the Cutler Bay showroom, he consistently led his team to become the most exemplary store in the company. Miquel achieved Certified Master Instructor status at the EL Dorado Furniture University and is an appointed captain of Eldorado’s Five Star Service initiative. He obtained his MBA degree in 2013.
Miguel represents El Dorado Furniture at local schools on career day to speak about the company’s history and expose students to the retail furniture industry. He has a kind heart and hosted less fortunate families at his store during El Dorado Furniture’s 50 years/50 families charity event.
Travis Wagner, 32
Sr. Vice President of Global Manufacturing
Ashley Furniture Industries
FMG Buying Group Vendor Partner
At 12 years old Travis started racing cars where he constantly asked questions about what could be tweaked to gain additional speed. He spent countless hours using the resources around him to gain an advantage, a trait that would serve him well in his future endeavors. At 16 he started working at Ashley, loading/unloading trailers and helping customers on the weekends. In 2009 he moved overseas to help with manufacturing operations in Asia. His abilities were quickly realized and he was promoted to operations manager responsible for Ashley's first factory in Vietnam. He went on to oversee the successful start-up of four additional factories. In 2018, He returned to Ashley’s North Carolina facility where he currently runs three plants in the U.S. and four in Vietnam. He earned his MBA while at the helm.
Todd is supportive of Ashley’s philanthropic efforts and supports medical research at The Mayo Clinic, City of Hope, and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital to name a few. The statement “you must finish before you finish first” defines his philosophy in life, family and business.
Shannon Williams, 33
Home Furnishings Association
Director of Membership & Programs
FMG Buying Group Vendor Partner
Since landing at the HFA, Shannon has rebuilt the membership division and focused on growth and retention. Her efforts have led to a 300% increase in new members in Q4 2018 and 78% increase in Q1 of 2019— with 2018 being the best year for member retention in the history of the organization. In 2019 the HFA is on track to have the best year in the 99-year history of the HFA. Her primary responsibility is to oversee the membership and program departments. The membership department includes business development and customer service/retention specialists while the program department includes all vendor relationships and program/service offerings for retail members.
Shannon has been instrumental in shifting not only the direction and focus of the membership department, but the culture of the entire company. She is the spark HFA needed to progress within the industry.
When she’s not working Shannon volunteers with a non-profit teen program as a camp advisor to help teens work through the pressures of life. Over the past 15 years, she has volunteered more than 5,000 hours in Elementary Classrooms.
Jessica Wynn, 28
Director of Operations
High Point Market Authority
FMG Buying Group Industry Partner
Jessica is part of the team that manages, and executes top-level operations for the world’s largest home furnishings trade show. Her responsibilities include production of the Stars Under the Stars Concert Series, onsite collateral coordination, neighborhood activations and overall Market guest services. He role often includes tasks that can be overlooked, but are vital to the smooth execution of a successful event. Jessica has embraced her logistical role, moving from manager of special projects to director of operations, and looks for ways to improve processes and develop efficiencies. She is adept at idea activation and process organization and used those skills to bring depth to the markets’ sponsor program by assisting in its execution and developing new elements. With her go-getter attitude, team player mindset, and infectious enthusiasm, Jessica is always focused on growing professionally. Her work ethic and drive are worthy of recognition.
Jessica has a strong sense of civic duty and a hefty dose of community pride, leading her to be involved in a variety of ways in Greensboro, where she lives and in High Point where she works.
Michael Yarbrough, 37
Director of Digital Marketing
Lexington Home Brands
Mike has demonstrated exceptional leadership across a diverse set of responsibilities. He oversees all of Lexington's online properties across the company’s six brands as well as their Internet accounts. He also manages digital marketing for two company-owned trade showrooms, two retail stores, a factory outlet store, and works directly with the company’s 1,200 retail accounts on their traditional and digital marketing efforts.
Mike recently led the development and implementation of Lexington’s 3-D custom upholstery configuration program and Augmented Reality app, which is one of the most sophisticated in the industry. He also serves on the implementation team for a new multi-million dollar ERP system for the company.
Mike represents Lexington Home Brands, serving on the Board of Directors for United Way, Davidson County. Lexington was recently awarded the Donna H. Black Award of Excellence for having 85%+ employee participation in the United Way program. Mike has been a significant supporter of the City of Hope and involved with industry organizations such as Next Generation-NOW. He is currently enrolled in the MBA program at Wake Forest University, balancing a full-time graduate workload with his job responsibilities at Lexington.
A LOOK BACK
The best way to help Millennials grow as leaders is to teach them as much as possible. Give them the chance to lead and if they prove they can handle the responsibility, give them more. Millennials may need more direction than previous generations, but given the right support they can become the most valuable employees to any company.
The profiles you are about to read are those of individuals that have already received distinction in a previous class of the Forty Under 40 and have continued to succeed and advance in the industry. These individuals have become the future leaders we’ve talked about over the years. They are forging forward with new ideas, and new ways of conducting business to help sustain and continue to build the companies for whom they work. The continue to navigate the road to success.
Alana Stone Anderson, 32
Vice President of Marketing
BedMart Mattress Superstores
Alana has come a long way since jumping on mattresses in her family’s store at the age of 5. Today she is the future of BedMart whose footprint recently passed 47 stores in three states. We first featured Alana as part of the Class of 2015. Since then she has established herself as a leading mattress and furniture industry professional and is well respected. With a strong drive to excel, she leads her team with fresh ideas about advertising and merchandising to meet the challenges of the changing consumer market. She is a natural leader who knows how to capitalize on trends to help grow market share. She has developed training programs and revised BedMart’s vision and mission statements to more closely reflect company values. She continues to be the spokesperson of the company. With her bright spirit she leads a team dedicated to the growth of each other and the brand. She is clearly on the road to one day run the company herself.
Alana has worked hard to help the communities BedMart serves. She recently led the charge to provide mattresses to people whose homes where destroyed by lava during the recent volcanic eruption on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Greg Cattin, 34
Gallatin Valley Furniture
Furniture First Buying Group Member
Since 2017, when Greg was featured in the Forty Under 40, the business has grown by 33% and does not show any signs of slowing down. He is credited with completing a significant remodel to update the facade and interior of the company’s 36,000 square foot showroom elevating the curb appeal of an outdated building. The growth is not only attributed to the remodel but also to the development of a robust trade program for local designers and the development of Gallatin’s own internal interior design team (GVDG). Greg successfully created a boutique retail environment in the form of an individual store brand instead of using manufacturers POP and marketing displays, which is helping to drive revenue for the brand. He has developed a terrific company culture and attributes the company’s success to his team of nearly 20 who have helped him and his brother, who is also his partner, as they transform a 4th generation family business into one of the leading fine furnishing retailers in the Northwest.
Greg continues to find ways to help local nonprofits and led efforts to have his entire staff donate hours for the United Way.
Kyle Doran, 34
Since we last featured Kyle four years ago, he continues to lead R&A Marketing, which is a 2nd generation full-service marketing agency. R&A has seen tremendous growth under Kyle’s leadership. In his role as president/CEO he is responsible for overseeing the strategy, direction and profitability for the company as well as the profitability of their client base. Kyle’s focus has always been to help the independent furniture retailer succeed and he continues this mission today. He ensures that marketing and sales activities are aligned and he fosters an environment where ideas come together to create positive outcomes for the company’s clients. He is adept at keeping the focus on combining different creative and strategic ideas into executable campaigns and stays engaged in the process from start to finish, working hand-in-hand with his team and their clients. Every CEO copes with a multitude of priorities, but Kyle puts the marketing team structure at the top of the list to make a significant difference in the quality and effectiveness of their efforts for their clients.
Jonathan Kashanian, 34
The Kashanian family has been creating area rugs long before Jonathan was born but the family business runs deep in his veins. Today Jonathan continues to help his father lead the company into the future. As designers and importers of area rugs from India and Pakistan Jonathan learned the trade from his parents and has inherited his keen eye for color and design from his mother Gilda who is the lead designer for the brand. Jonathan understands the trends of the market and has mastered his craft. His primary focus these days, is on sales and customer relations. He inherited his father’s dedicated work ethic and channels that into keeping his customers and his employees happy. His ability to do this is a strong contributor to the overall continued success of the business. Jonathan embodies the values of this family lifestyle brand and never loses sight of the team environment that is so much a part of the brand. He continues to earn the respect and trust of his customers for the way he conducts business.
Jay Lorenzo, 29
As has become an accomplished sales professional. His work ethic and desire for greatness continues to evolve and he is now a leader on his team. Being selected to be the AICO sales professional in the central and northern part of Florida is an accomplishment in and of itself, as this is a critical territory for the company and one of the most important assignments. Jay is hungry to learn and grow in the art of selling and continues to move closer to his full potential. He has learned that good is the enemy of great. He understands that TRUST (not SALES) is the most important five letter word in business. Jay has received several prestigious awards from AICO including the "Rising Star" award and the "Spirit of Professionalism" award. He is just scratching the surface of what he can accomplish in this industry.
Jay is passionate about fitness and health and while coaching at a Crossfit gym he helped create events to promote awareness and fundraising for charities. He participated in three consecutive breast cancer events, and also has participated in Walk for MS.
The Millennial Toolbox: 3 Tips to Championing Next Gen Talent
If you're a millennial hoping to secure a place in the C-suite, whatever it may look like, here are some tips based on the findings of an American Express survey.
1. Put Employee Well Being First — Millennials care about feeling fulfilled in their work, and fulfillment goes beyond a paycheck or bottom line. A majority of survey respondents defined success as enjoying the work they do (62 percent) and also having a good work-life balance (58 percent) – and millennial leaders will try to engender these forms of success in others. This shifting definition of success encompasses not only individual career aspirations but the overall success of a business. To roughly three-quarters of respondents, a successful business "should be flexible and fluid in the face of volatile working environments and not enforce a rigid structure on employees" and "will need to support employees outside of work."
2. Set Clear Boundaries Around Technology — With the ubiquity of mobile technology, many workers never truly leave the office. Fifty percent of Millennials surveyed feel the pressure to be "always available." As digital natives, Millennials are uniquely equipped to establish best practices for the use of technology in the workplace. This can include restricting the use of email and other digital communication channels to office hours.
3. Emphasize Purpose-Driven Work — 68 percent of American Millennials surveyed "want to be known for making a positive difference in the world," and 81 percent say that, "a successful business will have a genuine purpose that resonates with people." Aspiring leaders should foreground corporate responsibility and create a standard of positive change, rather than simply following regulations and minimizing negative impact relative to your competitors. Nowadays, the public is savvy and often cynical. They can easily sniff out the difference between doing good and good PR.
Responsible Leadership: Tips for Successfully Guiding Those Who Have Chosen to Follow You
Whether you have stepped into your first ‘real job’ or you are a seasoned career veteran, and you have a passion for being an effective leader, there is one very important truth that needs to be understood: Leadership is a JOURNEY and not a DESTINATION, says Lorri Kelley, founder, Lorri Kelley Advisors. With over 30 years of experience in the industry Lorri is a coach and mentor to several young professionals on their career path journey. “You don’t simply arrive at the day when you can anoint yourself as an acclaimed and proficient leader. Each day should begin with a conscious effort to learn something new that will allow you the opportunity to grow and expand your leadership skills; first for the betterment of you, and then for the investment in those you lead.”
Kelley’s definition of great leadership starts with having a visionary mindset, a
courageous heart, a contagious mindset for all that is possible, and a sincere passion to actively participate in the success of others. "Having responsibility for the development of others you manage is not a designation to take lightly, she says. "How you lead your team will undoubtedly shape how THEY lead others that they will become responsible for in the future. So in reality, you hold THEIR ultimate success in YOUR hands!"
According to Kelley there are some common threads between those who truly lead and do it well. She offers seven proficiencies that are important to keep in mind as you consider your own leadership journey.
1. Great Leaders Inspire Others to Achieve More Than They Ever Thought Possible — Getting others to recognize their own strengths and passions is critical to helping them reach their full potential. I never assume that people know what their gifts are, so I make it a point to be observant and aware at all times.
2. Great Leadership is About Listening More Than Speaking— Most people love to talk! However, the more we listen to those we lead, the better the coach we will be. We must help them get to the result they want and not just simply tell them how and when to get there.
3. Great Leadership Begins With the Person and Not The Title — People want to follow successful and inspiring leaders regardless of what they do. Respect comes with, and is earned by, the person and not the position.
4. Great Leadership is About Wisdom and Not Education — Great leaders are ‘street smart’ to a stronger degree than they are ‘book smart’ and getting to that place comes with only opportunity and experience. While you can make an argument that respect can be earned through various degrees obtained, most of us look to the background and accomplishments that a leader has achieved, and that is ultimately who we want to follow.
5. Great Leaders First Become Great Followers — You can’t effectively lead if you haven’t first learned how to be led. We are all shaped in some way by our past and reflecting back on how we were managed at times during our careers helps to mold our own leadership style to be the best we can be and to have the greatest impact on others.
6. Great Leaders Demonstrate Stability While Driving Change — Leadership is hard. Difficult decisions need to be made every day, and exceptional leaders can provide a sense of calm and confidence while successfully guiding the team forward through growth and expansion.
7. Great Leaders Actively Look for the Next Great Leader — Perhaps one of the most
important responsibilities of any leader is ensuring that the next generation of leaders are in process and in place.
Along with leadership comes accountability. Being a great leader means setting clear expectations and managing your next generation leader to them. In doing this, you’ll create a next generation leader you can count on.