PPB September 2021

Katie Kahler, CAS Age 31 Account Executive American Solutions for Business Tempe, Arizona M any will remember March 16, 2020 as the first day of stay- at-home orders as the U.S. tried tomanage the spread of COVID-19. For Katie Kahler, CAS, it also has a special significance: it was her first day at distributor American Solutions for Business. Shortly after lunch on that Monday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey held a press conference, and the Tempe teamwent home thinking they would only be gone for a fewweeks. Although it was an unexpected start to her career in the promo industry, she quickly learned to adapt as the most unprecedented year in recent history unfolded. Fortunately, Kahler had a wealth of work experience to rely on. After graduating fromUniversity of Arizona in 2012 with a degree in marketing, she spent eight years with retail giant Macy’s in various roles throughout Arizona, California and Nevada. Her last position there was as a district merchant for San Diego and Orange County. “Retail taught me somuch about interpersonal skills, business development andmarketing,” Kahler says. “Much of the product knowledge carries over to promotional products and apparel, where we can help our clients developmeaningful marketing campaigns with inspiration from retail quality, presentation and trends.” When she was ready for her next career step, she listened to her father, Mike Kahler, a 40-year industry veteran with 10 years at ASB. “My dad suggested that I explore a sales role at ASB. He has always spoken so highly of the entire team, and we spent some time job- shadowing together to learnmore,” she says. “When he showedme the ecommerce brand stores that he provides for his customers with a wide range of solutions, I knew it would be a good fit. The welcoming atmosphere from the entire teamquickly confirmed that.” Nominator Taylor Borst, director of marketing, events and public relations at ASB, has gotten to knowKahler through their involvement on the company’s Client Engagement Committee and shared presentations in company webinars. “Over the course of the last year, Katie hasn’t just caused a ripple within ASB, she is a force of nature inspiring waves of change within American. I’ve never seen someone enter our industry and hit the ground running so hard,” says Borst, who was a PPB Rising Star in 2019. “Many of our salespeople struggle with social media and some also discount it because they claim there is little or no ROI, but Katie is helping to prove themwrong. She has taken a very strategic, consistent approach to social media and is very good at engaging and educating her audience. She’s changing the narrative,” adds Borst. Nominator and ASB’s VP of Sales West WayneMartin says, “Katie has establishedmany ecommerce programs that have seen double- digit growth, even during COVID. She has done this by hosting virtual Teams meetings with each customer, reviewing activity on the site and introducing new products for consideration. These weekly meetings keep her and her customers connected and focused.” Biggest challenge in the past year: Over the course of my first year in the industry, I did not meet any of my clients in person, and it was exceedingly difficult to make connections in my local community. Just like many others, we quickly adapted to working together through video calls and learning the importance of a social media presence. Although this was challenging, it allowed me to create meaningful connections with customers, colleagues and supplier partners throughout the country. Proudest career accomplishment: My biggest accomplishment has been helping my customers create a “swag-in-hand” experience for their virtual events. We have collaborated to tie together branded merchandise, key messaging, multimedia technology and custom packaging to create a personalized experience for each event ranging from pre-event kits, to customer thank-you gifts and pop-up stores for contest winners. In most cases, the end goal was to increase participation and improve attendee engagement before, during and after the event. One of our first key event kits was a sales rally event box used as an early-registration incentive for more than 1,200 employees. Ultimately, its use doubled the number of attendees who registered early compared to previous years. You could feel the excitement as their team members posted unboxing videos and selfies prior to the event. Continued on page 28 Continued on page 28 FEATURE | Rising Stars 20 | SEPTEMBER 2021 |