An the award goes to...Jessica Harling!
I have been waiting 25 years to hear those words, and I am so elated that it was the result of a decade of hard work and innovation. Since I was a fourth grade, it was my dream to be a famous movie star that would one day walk the red carpet and accept a nationally recognized award for my talents. Thank you to Vision Magazine for making that dream a reality. I am so honored to be amongst a rockstar team of millennials that have taken this industry by storm. Like any good awards show, there are so many more people that I have to thank that helped lead me to this moment and too short of time before the music plays. I want to take this opportunity and let everyone know how much you meant to me through this journey in the window covering world.
Where is all began...after 4 grueling interviews I was finally accepted as a showroom assistant and was excited to begin my career making a difference. Every year I was challenged by the owners, Carl Movrich, Mimi Harling, Susette Kubiak, and John Danaher, who kept pushing my knowledge, giving me opportunities to travel to conferences, and work with who would become my clients today. It is because of them that I am able to continue to do what I love and help the greater nation learn and create, while still keeping close to home with my continued training efforts of their new hires. I also want to thank a special group of people in my history at Drapery Connection.
Jody and Bruno Movrich - my great grandparents that started the company in 1939, without your vision, the company would not have been born. Jody still is the matriarch today at 101 years old, and still spunky!
Erin Hurkes - the very first employee I ever hired and managed. Not only was she a great worker and incredible talent, I could call her a friend and collaborator on taking the company to the next level. Working with Erin got me excited to lead others.
Patti Rozonkiewiecz - my most loyal employee I ever worked with. Patti's warmth and care for everyone around her is unlike anyone else I've ever encountered. She is creative and disciplined, an oximoron in my book, and she puts a smile on anyones face.
Ryann Reid - my most favorite employee. They always say you shouldn't have favorites in people, but I do, Ryann today still takes the cake. I have never had anyone be so enthusiastic about a role or company in my career of working with employees. Ryann's enthusiasm was in every aspect winning over the hearts of her clients, fellow workers and her constant drive to "do my job one day" made me love her even more.
David Pope and Vaiva Lydeka - who stepped into the leadership roles of Drapery Connection upon my departure and is doing an excellent job with the tools and processes I gave them to keep the company going strong and growing, while innovating on their own and re-shaping a phenomenal organization to take it into the future.
My Raving Fans
Rick and David Baker of Galaxy Draperies for giving me my first chance and being my biggest success. Your team knows the meaning of getting the job done and challenging each other to do great things every single day. David, thank you for being the other half of my brain. Our mastermind sessions always ground me and then inspire with a plan to take over the world.
Tina Engdahl of Apollo Draperies for being such a great cheerleader of what you learned, constantly pushing yourself, showing up prepared and encouraging others to be the best they could be. You make me proud.
Karen Essary of Couture by Karen for being a great support and forever student. I especially appreciate you letting me stay with you when I was starting my business.
Early on, the leaders of Drapery Connection realized their skillset was not in training. Because of them taking ownership in this, they afforded the opportunities to others to come in an train the team. Part of this training was from a phenomenal group of folks that have dedicated their life to the service of window covering dealers. In an often thankless position, these few stuck out to me as my favorite vendor trainers, that made a huge impact in both Drapery Connection's training program and my life.
Cathy Perse, Mike Sloan, and Russ Voelz of Horizons Window Fashions. Cathy Perse, when I began in the industry, was the woman that taught me to love window coverings. Her passion for the industry and long history with being a trainer made me want to continue the legacy of Drapery Connection. She used to come and spend a couple of hours once a week with me, watching me interact with customers, role playing on different ways to communicate, and infusing all of her technical knowledge into my brain. I am forever grateful for the time she gave me, and for Mike Sloan allowing that to even happen! I know it's rare to be able to meet so often with your account reps, and that made all of the difference. Over time, I began to develop a strong relationship with Mike Sloan as well. I have always looked at the two of them as mentors personally and professionally. A special thank you to Russ for being a constant source of inspiration on developing operations. He taught me to love the puzzle and figure out solutions to keep things lean. He has taught me more about operations than anyone has in my life.
Amy Hernicz and Tom Robinson of Lafayette Interior Fashions. Although Amy is no longer with Lafayette, I will never forget how much time she gave to me when I first started learning window treatments. Like Cathy, she came multiple times a month dedicating her time to giving me the star treatment. Tom over the years has become a great confidant starting with our time in Argentina together. His warmth and care about my growth is astounding that he cares about me to succeed.
Sue Welbourne of Comfortex for always being a great source of creative inspiration. At every visit, Sue would brainstorm with me on where to find opportunties. With her direction, I quickly learned how to think outside the box when building business.
Larry Siegel of RM COCO for being a brand ambassador of Drapery Connection. Larry helped me recruit more Designers than any other individual I worked with, and always put a smile on our faces with his joke of the day.
Holly Cauffield of Brimar and Maxwell Fabrics for being in my corner from the first month at Drapery Connection. Holly consistently worked with me on training employees and building new accounts.
Holly Zogheib of Lutron Electronics for energizing me and giving me the inspiration to put the best training program together in the country. Modeling after her leadership and Lutron's excellence, I sought out to help every new hire have an outstanding training experience.
Victor Razon of Mecho Systems for treating me like a queen when he came into town, and keeping me in the loop on the industry's past, present, and future. He is one of the most intelligent industry strategists and an incredible rainmaker that I admire.
Adam Miller, Bernie Golden, and Jan Opat of Springs Window Fashions for their constant support and collaboration on building two entirely different businesses in a matter of years. Without their keen eye on our best interests, we would not have been able to double in business in such a short time. A special thanks to Jan Opat for also supporting my theatre company, Benevolent Theatre.
Steve Bursten, Steve Wishnow, and the team at Exciting Windows for being a support to me for over 10 years. If it wasn't for Steve's wife Valerie, I wouldn't have the same passion for sales and flair for dressing in style.
Allan Meyer and the team at America's Window Covering Buying Network for giving me my first speaking opportunity and introducing me to an incredible Network of Window Covering dealers.
Ray Soltis of Solatech and Leading Edge Designers Alliance for being a raving fan and loyal partner to innovate this industry with.
Leslie Lipps at Power Your Brand for your creative input and sharp execution that always making my brand ROCK!
Susan Day and Kim Lyon for being my first mastermind group in Exciting Windows that challenged me to think of recruiting from their take as top knotch Designer Salespeople, and push me towards my goal of National Dominance (it came true ladies, in the timeframe we said it would!) Let that also be a note to all, set your goals - write them down - tell others...you'll make it happen!
Tom Miller and Neil Gordon for being thick as thieves and introducing me to the idea of managing a business like a play. That turned out to be one of the best pieces of advice I ever received!
Gary Falcon and Ana Dunigan for being the inspiration I needed to develop rockstar processes and become a leader of the people. The way their team responded to them with respect and gratefulness, it was masterful to see how they all communicated. They opened my eyes to what's possible.
Jean MacDonald for teaching me what it meant to be a leader. Like most young minds on a hot streak, I was blissfully unaware of the heart of a leader. I thought it was about respect and "managing" standards. Instead I learned in order to gain respect, I need to "lead" people.
Madeleine MacRae for showing me what's possible, and reminding me that anything is. I could have heard the message a thousand times, but you got through. Thank you.
Michele Williams for changing my perspective, learning to listen without assumptions. Your sharp wit, brilliant mind, and clear communication is a breath of fresh air to know exactly where you stand. There is no guessing with you, and I can find power in that.
Joanne Brezette for changing my life. I was a disbeliever, ready to change direction. You inspired me to love sales (a task that is not only monumental, but I thought impossible), follow a system to have repeated success, and work with me 1-1 to understand where I was coming from before assuming I didn't have an opinion of my own. You infused your knowledge into me, and I can now continue your incredible work.
My Friends and Family
Sean Murphy for being my bird of a feather. You have been a quiet rock in this industry from the very beginning. With your recruiting background you have given me guidance on what works. I will never forget our first call and the advice you gave me. I asked..."the owners want me to find a clone of me, how the heck would I do that?" and your response was "what would your resume look like?" and then the recruiting began...
Kati Maloney for always being there for me. She once said I would drop anything to run to a friend, what she doesn't realize is that's really her, and I'm just taking her direction. Kati has always been a rock of logic and loyalty.
Dora Johnson for being an incredible friend and even better employee. I've often struggled with the balance of working with a friend, but with Dora our professional hats are in sync.
Family: John, Mimi, Alyssa, Clare, Sean, Colette for driving me. From Alyssa proof reading my articles, to Clare and Sean working with me on projects, and Colette to making my hair look fabulous for the new virtual life we are in, my siblings always keep me on my toes and striving for great things. A big thank you to my parents for always affording me the opportunity to follow my dreams from allowing me to be an acting and direction major in college to taking a big step in the industry to help it for a greater need.
Andrew Kent for being my heart. Without you, I would not have been able to make the leap and create my dream. You are a sounding board personally and professionally, and I love you.
You all have made me a better person.
Watch the Top 20 Under 40 Awards Acceptance Speech from 7/30/20.