NATIONAL REPORT — Convenience Store News will welcome 42 more female leaders into its Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) family this fall.
Now in its sixth year, TWIC is the first and only convenience store industry awards program that recognizes women making outstanding contributions to their companies and the industry overall.
Honorees are selected based on nominations from their peers that illustrate a candidate's innovative corporate initiatives, extraordinary financial and strategic accomplishments, astute problem-solving acumen, exceptional performance and selfless charitable participation, among other attributes that go above and beyond the call of duty.
This year's judging panel selected five Women of the Year, 17 Senior-Level Leaders, 15 Rising Stars and five Mentors to be inducted into the 2019 TWIC class.
This year's Senior-Level Leaders are:
Managing Director & Chief Financial Officer, Yesway
Ayles oversees all of the administrative, financial and risk management operations of Yesway. She fulfills a leadership role in financial decision-making by providing strategic financial input to Yesway's executive team, monitors and directs the implementation of strategic business plans, and develops Yesway's financial and operational strategy in line with company goals.
Ayles' sphere of influence extends to budget and forecasting oversight for Yesway. She directs all company analytics, trend analysis and KPI reporting; leads the risk management program for the company; and is responsible for reporting to investors. She serves on the company's Executive and Investment Committees.
Ayles developed a robust reporting platform and data analytics team during a period of significant growth in 2018, which included creating daily operational reporting to company stakeholders, which significantly reduced reaction time by operations teams, and established real-time and long-term data analysis for strategic initiatives to better understand bottom-line impact. In addition, she successfully integrated the reporting platforms of 11 separate acquisitions, including 63 new sites in 2018.
Senior Director, Global Brand, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K
Barron is responsible for developing the Circle K brand globally, managing brand royalties, delivering creative brand campaigns for all categories and marketing, overseeing the design team, and developing global brand strategy. She manages brand briefs from Europe, Canada and the United States and facilitates creative workshops for global colleagues based on different business challenges.
Barron joined Circle K when the company acquired the Topaz brand in Ireland more than three years ago. Since then, her influence on Circle K's marketing business, especially its growing brand, has been impressive and widely admired throughout the company. Barron is the lead manager responsible for Circle K's brand’s reputation and creative development — one of the company’s top priorities.
Barron and her team will implement a global strategy for the Circle K brand in the next fiscal year. "Margaret has a truly big responsibility in building, marketing and growing the Circle K brand worldwide," said Kevin Lewis, Circle K's chief marketing officer.
Director of Merchandising, Mountaineer Mart
Briggs has P&L responsibility for West Virginia-based Mountaineer Mart, a 17-store chain. She is most influential in the areas of marketing and promotions. In tune with industry trends, Briggs works with most manufacturers to ensure she is finding mutually beneficial, win-win outcomes for each organization.
Briggs has increased store sales by more than 20 percent with innovative promotional ideas and marketing campaigns. She also efficiently implemented PDI software, including auto replenishment. During this past year, she's focused most of her time on store layout and in-store promotion. With stores located in a wide array of markets, she has been methodically reviewing each store's offerings and making product changes appropriate for those stores in densely populated city areas vs. highway sites vs. remote small towns.
Briggs has managed Mountaineer Mart for more than 17 years and she is as dedicated to her employees as they are to her. She sends each employee a personally signed birthday card and, for office employees, she brings them their own personally prepared lunch. She delivers homemade fudge to all of the stores for employees to share at Christmas time — and even makes enough for the many vendors who call on her.
Vice President, Customer Experience, Skupos
Denault oversees all customer-facing activities with the Skupos platform, including ongoing support of retailers, software implementation, new account onboarding, and maintaining industry-leading levels of customer satisfaction.
Denault has grown customer experience at Skupos to 30-plus people supporting growth to 7,000-plus retailers and Fortune 500 brands on the Skupos platform. Her expertise in building processes to maintain high levels of customer support and proactive adoption have propelled Skupos into the fastest-growing software company in the convenience retail space.
Denault has been recognized as an industry leader in customer experience, garnering keynote speaking slots at software industry conferences like Pulse, and previously received Intuit's star award for top-performing employees. Away from work, she participates in the St. Bernard Project in her hometown of New Orleans, helping to build and provide housing for hurricane victims.
Ashley Englefield Dewitt
Director of Marketing, Englefield Oil Co.
DeWitt handles marketing for Englefield Oil's three divisions: Retail (Dutchess stores), Lubricants and Fuel. She oversees overall brand image and standards for store design and is involved in many other aspects of the business, including marketing and operations initiatives ranging from working with the Duchess merchandising team, to discussing new loyalty strategies with the marketing team, analyzing the financials of the stores, and working with the construction and design teams on layout and features of the newest store locations. Her ability to see the business holistically has allowed her to help it grow and make sure customers are satisfied.
A third-generation family member, DeWitt holds the most influence in the retail side of the company. She oversees everything from new store design concepts to building the brand through strategic sponsorships and community initiatives. She developed the Crown Card Rewards loyalty program and built it into a robust program that includes successful campaigns such as drink club promotions, deep discounts on in-store products and even surprising members with free points or items added to their card.
DeWitt is the driver behind Englefield Oil’s involvement in philanthropic communities. The company has donated financial resources to Ohio State James Cancer Hospital, as well as The Red Cross for many years.
Operations Manager, Company Owned & Operated Stores, Chevron Corp.
Duffy manages 40 employees responsible for ensuring consistent execution of operational standards, training and development, regulatory compliance, licensing and permits, and payroll activities for a network of 300 stores with approximately 3,500 employees. She has oversight of all aspects of daily operations for Chevron’s company-operated sites in California, Oregon and Washington.
Much of her career at Chevron has been in roles that have supported the growth of Chevron’s company-operated network, from managing and developing the current back-office system, to working in the franchise team developing new concepts to support the ExtraMile brand, working as a business consultant for both the retail and the company-operated organizations, and being part of Chevron’s original Convenience Retailing Group prior to the birth of the ExtraMile brand.
During her 30 years of experience with Chevron, Duffy has received recognition for various high-profile projects, including two back-office system projects, a new point-of-sale system and a new accounting system. In 2000, she received a Chairman's Award for supporting the transition to a new grocery wholesale distributor.
Director, Wholesale Fuel, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K
Dunten manages fuel supply and brand programs for approximately 2,000 wholesale customers across the U.S. This includes relationships with regional oil company reps, coordination of support for brand programs with the operational teams, and communication of brand information to wholesale customers. She is also responsible for credit review and security management for new and existing wholesale customers.
Dunten is transforming the way in which Circle K Wholesale Fuels manages fuel and collaborates with brands. Gerardo Valencia, division leader for Circle K Wholesale Fuels and president of CrossAmerica Partners, said: "Gena has been instrumental in leading our journey to become North America's best fuel wholesaler as we deliver our fuel optimization agenda for CrossAmerica by leveraging best practices from our legacy National Wholesale Fuels Circle K portfolio. This includes developing best practices for fuel pricing, managing brand programs, and leveraging Circle K Global Fuels capabilities to deliver value for CrossAmerica."
The recipient of multiple ambassador trip awards based on job performance, Dunten participates in the BP Amoco Marketers Association, the NACS Women’s Leadership Program, Habitat for Humanity and numerous other charitable programs.
Senior Director, Tampa Region, Reynolds American Trade Marketing Services
Garrison leads a Trade Marketing Region Team of 80-plus high-level individuals who have a significant impact on Reynolds American Inc.'s (RAI) business in Florida. She is accountable for the development and succession plans for her team and the future leaders for RAI. She is also accountable for the execution of business plans for a significant portion of the Florida business.
A 17-year veteran with the company, Garrison has been successful in multiple leadership roles that have had a positive and direct impact on the convenience industry. As a board member of the Florida Association of Wholesale Distributors, she has led and driven the vertical alignment engagement process for her convenience retail trade partners for the Tampa Region.
Garrison is extremely active in her community and her homeland of Brazil, especially when it comes to helping others in need. She is a founding member of FEED the Future, Brazil, which provides food and water to those in need in Brazil, and she’s also an active member of the Holy Trinity Homeless Shelter.
Vice President of Fuel Procurement, Casey's General Stores Inc.
Grimes manages the fuel procurement and logistical delivery of all petroleum products for Casey's more than 2,100 stores. She negotiates price, process and terms through over 150 terminals across 16 states, all while ensuring compliance with multiple regulatory requirements. She oversees a fleet of more than 300 gas drivers and fosters relationships with outside haulers to ensure none of Casey's stores go without sufficient supply. She also oversees the management of RINS and collaborates very heavily with fuel marketing, the digital team and store operations.
Grimes manages a multimillion-dollar budget and is accountable for more than $400 million in gross profit dollars coming from fuel sales. Gasoline accounts for the bulk of Casey's total sales and the company annually makes a commitment to its shareholders regarding fuel gallons sold per year, as well as margin expectations. In its 2019 and 2020 fiscal years, Casey's has placed an even larger priority on the fuels category with the release of its new fleet card program.
Grimes is a well-respected and trusted individual at Casey's, having been with the company for more than 41 years. In 2005, she became a Casey's director and in 2014, she became one of three female officers to join Casey's senior leadership team.
Strategic Customer Sales Executive, The Hershey Co.
Lafourcade manages $39 million in sales at six large national convenience store chains in the Southeast. She manages data, merchandising, budgeting and all aspects of the business model, including influencing decisions on product selection, placement and promotion. Her strong influence and knowledge have made her successful. Lafourcade has become the "go-to" person for all things candy and snacks.
Lafourcade is open-minded, confident and data-driven. She will try new ideas and be flexible but, at same time, she reminds her clients that everything is driven by number. She will fight hard for her customers' success.
Lafourcade won supplier of the year awards eight times from large chain customers and also received internal awards for mentoring and leadership.
Division President, Core-Mark International
McDonald has spent more than 18 years in the convenience channel. Prior to joining Core-Mark, her first 15 years were with 7-Eleven Inc. in various roles in operations, category management and product development.
While with 7-Eleven, she worked with a team to transform the way the retailer's franchisees ordered products to their store and the way vendors serviced those stores.
McDonald joined the Core-Mark corporate sales team in 2016 and, in her current position as division president, she provides leadership to more than 240 employees in the Denver division, which serves more than 1,200 locations across seven states.
Senior Category Manager, GPM Investments LLC
Sims began her career in the convenience store industry in 1991, holding various roles in operations, human resources and marketing. Prior to joining GPM, her previous experience included positions with Dairy Mart, Coleman Oil Co. and Speedway LLC.
She joined GPM Investments last year and now influences 1,200 locations in 17 states by managing categories to maximize sales and profits through product selection, pricing and promotional activities.
Sims has served on the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. retail council.
Senior Manager, Recruiting, Altria Group Distribution Co.
Strack leads a national recruiting team, which identifies and delivers highly capable talent to Altria's sales and headquarters departments.
She began her career at Altria as a sales intern in 2005, working through various leadership roles in sales and account management roles before taking on a new opportunity in human resources and talent acquisition.
Strack earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration and hopes to pursue a PhD in organizational behavior.
Vice President, Human Resources, OnCue Marketing LLC
Thomas transformed the way OnCue hires, retains and accommodates employees, while also cultivating a two-person human resources department into a six-person team that oversees all human resources functions for more than 1,000 employees.
Thomas was instrumental in proposing and establishing a retirement plan for OnCue's employees, resulting in the 2018 board approval of a 401k program.
She also initiated the Employee Advisory Committee, which allows employees from all levels of the organization to provide input to the executive team on any topic.
Todys brings more than 24 years of marketing and product development experience to the convenience channel. In her current role, she leads the marketing team responsible for creating holistic communication strategies for the c-store channel at Tyson Foods.
She played an integral role in the development and growth of the Pierre Foods/AdvancePierre Foods packaged sandwich and convenience foodservice business before transitioning that experience to the Tyson Convenience team in 2017.
Todys strives to bring forward thoughtful, insight-driven recommendations and oversight to help ensure innovative, trend-driven product solutions.
Director of Merchandising, EG America
A previous Top Women in Convenience winner in the Rising Star category, Veale is responsible for all areas of merchandising, advertising, loyalty and sales communication and execution. She oversees seven direct reports with a team of 40.
After joining EG America in October 2018, she began leading the category management team, recruiting and hiring strong foundational leaders and showing strong leadership skills as the company more than doubled in size.
Veale was promoted to her current role after demonstrating her leadership, business acumen and capacity for team engagement and communication in a fast-growing company with a changing environment.
Werth is responsible for the category merchandising team that supports more than 9,000 stores nationwide. Her team takes consumer insights and industry trends to build multi-year category strategies that include assortment, promotions, marketing, communications and merchandising execution at the store level.
She spent nine years at RadioShack in a variety of roles across merchandising, distribution and logistics before joining 7-Eleven. Since then, she has successfully managed a variety of food and beverage categories by collaborating with strategic vendor partners and working across departments.
According to her nominator, Werth has worked very hard to be ahead of the industry curve by placing big bets on innovations within beer and leveraging emerging consumer trends. Her leadership has been instrumental in holding her team accountable for execution that delivers positive results.