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From Home Furnishing Business

Hall of Fame Hires First Full-Time Staffers

Karen McNeillLauren EstepThe American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation has hired Karen McNeill and Lauren Estep as its first two full-time staff members.

McNeill, the founder of High Point, N.C.-based McNeill Communications, will remain as the foundation's CEO, while Estep, who had been vice president of media relations at McNeill Communications, will be the group's executive vice president.

For several years, the foundation had been a client of McNeill Communications, which was acquired last year by Steinreich Communications.

“Karen and Lauren have faithfully guided the Hall of Fame with professionalism and vision,” says Michael Amini, chairman of the foundation board.  “Largely due to their leadership and commitment, the foundation has grown substantially. Banquet attendance and revenues have increased five-fold.  The foundation has changed its name, updated its branding, created a new Wall of Fame and formalized its procedures with updated bylaws, policies and procedures, board member term limits and fully accountable financial reporting systems.”

“Most visibly, the selection process was transformed from an election contest to a points-based ballot based on specific professional and personal attributes that is cast by a diverse selection committee,” Amini added.  “Ultimately, the changes have established greater integrity, created growing value to our industry and provided a solid foundation for us to grow.”

“They have had the vision to understand that the Hall of Fame could grow only if we became more than a banquet and started to genuinely fulfill the first part of our mission – to preserve our history for future generations in new and relevant ways,” added Robert Maricich, foundation president. “The foundation has conducted 60 oral interviews, started work on a timeline history, and has professionally stored and digitally catalogued our memorabilia.  We have established a transactional website, and we are videotaping interviews with all inductees or their families.  Significantly, we have gained the top IRS classification, which enables us to pursue new funding needed to achieve our goals.”

McNeill Communications provided strategic communications, public relations, marketing and related services to home furnishings industry clients for more than 30 years. 

Earlier, McNeill founded McNeill/Lehman Inc., a High Point public relations and marketing agency now known as Creative Services, Inc.  She also was director of marketing and later director of the Design Center at the International Home Furnishings Center.

Estep joined McNeill Communications as media counsel in July 2004 and was promoted to vice president of media relations in 2013. She guided the firm’s media relations from strategic positioning to media placement and events that garnered greater visibility for her clients.

Estep played an instrumental role in the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation, including support for the board of directors, orchestrating the organization’s preservation initiatives and organizing the annual induction celebration.

“Lauren and I have long been passionate about the Hall of Fame and this industry.  It has always been so much more than just a client to our whole team at McNeill and it is an amazing opportunity to be able to take it into the future,” McNeill says. “This is a very special industry with stories that must be told and preserved for future generations in relevant new ways, and as an organization of leaders it is our responsibility to attract and retain the best and the brightest new leaders.”

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