Rising Up the Ranks

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Rising Up the Ranks


Just as women are becoming more of a presence in convenience stores as shoppers, females are becoming more of a presence in key leadership roles across the convenience store industry.

Women have long held a significant percentage of the store manager positions in the convenience channel and now, they?re making great strides in middle- and upper-management positions, breaking the glass ceiling in what was once a male-dominated business.

To honor and bring awareness to the achievements of females in c-store retailing, Convenience Store News presents the industry?s first Top Women in Convenience awards program, recognizing a diverse array of females in the industry, from leaders to mentors to role models.

Nominations were accepted for retailers, suppliers and wholesalers in three categories: senior-level executives, rising stars and store managers.

Based on achievements during the previous 12 months, nominators were asked to illustrate the candidate?s innovative corporate initiatives, extraordinary financial and strategic accomplishments, astute-problem astute problem-solving acumen, exceptional performance and selfless charitable participation, along with other attributes that go above and beyond the call of duty.

Judging was conducted by CSNews in conjunction with The Network of Executive Women (NEW). The judging panel selected 15 senior-level executives, eight rising stars and two store managers to receive the esteemed title of Top Women in Convenience for 2014.

In addition, the panel chose five nominees as the best of the best from among all the nominations and awarded them the title of Women of the Year. The CSNews Women of the Year are:

  • Kim Bowers, president and CEO of CST Brands Inc.;
  • Gwen Forman, vice president of marketing at Cumberland Farms Inc.;
  • Allison Moran, CEO of RaceTrac Petroleum Inc.;
  • Barbara Poremba, vice president of national retail sales, Foodservice in Retail Center of Excellence, at Coca-Cola Refreshments; and
  • Jennifer Rhoads, CEO of Ohio Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Association.

Read on for profiles of the inaugural CSNews Top Women in Convenience.

Women of the Year

Kim Bowers

CST Brands Inc., San Antonio

Having started at Valero Energy Corp. in 1997, Kim Bowers is now leading the company?s retail spinoff, CST Brands Inc., with 1,900 stores in the United States and Canada.

Prior to 1997, Bowers was working as a lawyer doing mergers and acquisitions for a firm in Fort Worth, Texas. She had been practicing law for seven years at the time, graduating from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with a double major in Spanish and International Studies; a master?s degree in Political Science from Baylor University; and a law degree from the University of Texas in Austin.

Then, opportunity knocked on her door. A headhunter contacted her about working for Valero, which at the time was a small company, Bowers told CSNews. She was intrigued by the offer and joined the company as general counsel, which included work with the retail side of the business as its chief lawyer.

?Refining was 90 percent of the company and retail was a smaller piece that didn?t need as much attention,? she recalled. But when word started to spread about spinning off the retail side to form its own company, opportunity knocked once again.

?The CEO of Valero said he wanted me to consider the opportunity of leading the new company,? Bowers explained. ?I was familiar with the convenience side because it was part of Valero, but in more of an oversight role rather than day-to-day exposure.?

The spinoff occurred on May 1, 2013 with Bowers as CEO and president of the newly formed CST Brands Inc.

Since taking on her new position more than one year ago, she has enjoyed spending time in the stores, meeting the customers and employees, and gaining a greater understanding of convenience retail as a whole. CST Brands instituted a Corner Store Time Program, where everyone above store level must work a certain number of days per year in the store. Bowers has a great appreciation for store employees.

?Working in the stores always gives me a new appreciation for how challenging it is and how tiring it can be,? she noted. ?I enjoy visiting with the employees and having more than a two-minute passing conversation with them.?

Bowers? leadership style is a collaborative one, taking the team approach and always trying to find a common ground or consensus. However, she will take the lead and make a decision when necessary, she said.

?It?s an honor to be considered one of the top women in convenience,? she said, explaining that with the demographic of the industry?s customers being at least 50 percent women and the desire for many companies to attract more women, it makes sense to have diverse leadership. When she first started at Valero nearly 20 years ago, it wasn?t uncommon for her to be the only woman in a room with 40 men, but that continues to change, she said.

?It never slowed me down to be the only woman in the room, but when I got into the retail side, there were a lot more women faces in the crowd,? Bowers said. ?However, I never want it to be about my gender. I want it to be about what I can produce. It shouldn?t matter what gender or race someone is, but what they represent and produce.?

What has been accomplished over the last year since the spinoff is ?remarkable,? said Bowers. One of the accomplishments she is most proud of is becoming a publicly traded company and having employee moral that?s ?to be envied, from top to bottom of the company.? One of the highlights for her was ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange in December to announce CST Brands as its own public company.

?Turning the corner toward the New York Stock Exchange and seeing this huge 90-foot banner with our logo and our rally cry of ?Delight More Customers Every Day? made it all very real,? she recounted.

Her advice to other women ? no matter what industry they work in ? is to take advantage of opportunities when they come along, something she has continually done in her career.

?If I had drawn my box coming out of college as a Spanish and International Relations major, I wouldn?t be here today,? she said. ?It?s important to have the willingness to extend yourself and know you can learn new areas, and certainly step into leadership roles. Do what you love and success follows.?

Gwen Forman

Cumberland Farms Inc., Framingham, Mass.

Overseeing one department in a convenience store corporation carries a multitude of challenges. As vice president of marketing at Cumberland Farms Inc., Gwen Forman oversees three: category management, merchandising and advertising.

Joining the Massachusetts-based retailer in January 2009, Forman found the type of challenging work environment she says best suits her personality.

?What I like best is that we are changing the tire while we?re traveling 80 miles per hour,? she said, noting how she loves the excitement of multitasking. From working on information technology projects in marketing to overhauling Cumberland Farms? former ?Cokes and smokes? c-store model to a food-centric model, Forman plays a key role in all of the retailer?s major initiatives.

?I look at what I have on my plate at any given time and there?s just so much, but it?s great stuff that?s making us a better company and building for the future,? she said.

Forman has been a key player in the development of Cumberland Farms? new stores, which boast an open layout, fresh prepared foods and state-of-the-art beverage machines. When she first joined ?Cumby?s? five years ago, the chain had rolled out a new foodservice model in eight stores. Many lessons were learned from these test stores and today, more than 200 Cumberland Farms stores have been remodeled, with more to come.

?It?s been a wild ride and it?s been really, very successful. I?m very proud of that, but I can?t take all the credit. It?s very much cross-functional,? she said.

She has also been responsible for the revival of Cumberland Farms? Farmhouse Brand private-label products, including recently launched trail mix, chocolate bars and iced beverages.

?That?s really fun and it obviously differentiates us since you can?t get necessarily those products exactly as they are at other channels or even our competitors,? Forman explained. ?I love all of the new initiatives that are building for the future. It makes it exciting and fun to come to work.?

As Cumberland Farms looks to the future, Forman?s credentials have made her an extremely valuable member of the executive team. Prior to joining Cumberland Farms, she was vice president of marketing for New England-based Shaw?s Supermarkets, where she oversaw the 200-store chain?s marketing department. When Shaw?s was acquired by Minneapolis-based SuperValu, the mother of four decided not to uproot her family and instead joined Cumberland Farms.

She has a background in consumer research, holds a Master?s of Business Administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management and worked in consulting for many years. Forman also holds an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis, and almost double majored in English. Her passion for the two very different disciplines can be seen in her efforts at Cumberland Farms, as she blends analytical with creative approaches.

For instance, she was a key partner in the development and launch of Cumberland Farms? SmartPay program, which provides customers a way to save 10 cents a gallon on gasoline purchases when they pay directly from their bank account through a mobile app.

She also oversaw one of Cumberland Farms? most successful advertising campaigns to date ? Farmhouse Blend Iced Coffee, or Iced ?Hoffee,? ads featuring David Hasselhoff. Noting the wild popularity of the campaign, Forman said, ?Something about his persona caught the public interest in a way that surprised even us.?

Additionally, Forman currently serves as vice president of the New England Convenience Store Association and sits on the executive committee. With new regulatory and legislative issues affecting convenience stores and the products they offer ? from tobacco to polystyrene cups ? testifying at hearings and writing testimony for colleagues is becoming a bigger part of her day, she said.

At the end of a busy day, though, the most rewarding aspect of her job is managing Cumberland Farms? corporate charitable activities. This past year, the retailer donated more than $350,000 to different charities, including the Believe & Achieve Scholarship program that granted more than $150,000 in scholarships to deserving students and the relaunch of the ?Cups for Kids? campaign, which saw more than $100,000 donated to local pediatric hospitals.

?There?s nothing quite like presenting a check to a hospital that takes care of sick children,? she said.

Allison Moran

RaceTrac Petroleum Inc., Atlanta

Some may say the convenience store business is in Allison Moran?s blood. While that may have turned out to be the case, it took some time for Moran to embrace the truth.

Her professional journey to CEO of RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. began 20 years ago, but the Atlanta-based business has been a part of the fabric of her life thanks to her father, Carl Bolch Jr., who previously served as CEO of the company that his father built.

Still, it was not always written in stone that Moran would follow in her father?s footsteps.

?RaceTrac has always been part of my life. Like most children of entrepreneurs and business owners, you convince yourself that you will ?never work for dad,?? she said, adding that the company was a frequent topic at home growing up. ?RaceTrac is a business my father is very passionate about, so we would talk about the business around the dinner table.?

Moran originally planned to pursue another profession. However, upon moving back to Atlanta with her husband 20 years ago, her father approached her with an offer to work on the creation of a store manager training program. It turned out to be the opportunity of a lifetime.

?Let?s say, the passion stuck. There was no turning back at that point,? she recalled.

Over the past two decades, Moran has been able to use her attributes, not only as an executive but also as a female executive, to develop and grow the company ? and not just in store count.

?I have appreciated the opportunity to apply my own strengths in a way in which I can directly impact the people of this organization,? she explained. ?That is what has been most gratifying. I have been able to have an influence and hopefully make people?s lives simpler and more enjoyable, and give them the tools they need to succeed.?

Although the convenience store industry ? like many industries ? is a male-dominated one, Moran is happy to see more women coming up the ranks.

?I think if we genuinely embrace women in the industry, we will benefit from diversity of thought,? she said. ?The more that you can have people around the table that have different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, the more equipped you will be to find the right solution.?

While many professional females feel the need to conform to a man?s world, Moran feels fortunate to be a woman and use what comes naturally as a woman to be endearing, nurturing and caring.

?I am able to be much more of my authentic self and actually use the fact that I am a female to my advantage as a leader,? she said. ?It is very humbling and gratifying to have a positive impact on people?s lives. If I saw myself as a leader, I don?t think I would be tapping into something that is very naturally a part of who I am.?

During her tenure at RaceTrac, Moran has played a key role in establishing a culture that reflects the company?s values, encourages high performance, and rewards dedication and productivity ? a role she counts among her accomplishments.

?I believe [RaceTrac is] now a place that really values our people above all else and recognizes that work can be fun and enjoyed,? she noted. ?You spend most of your waking hours at work and you need to enjoy what you do.?

In addition to her role as CEO, Moran serves on the board of trustees of her children?s school, which is also her alma mater, and the foundation board of Children?s Healthcare Atlanta. Professionally, she is involved with The Rotary Club of Atlanta and the Young Presidents? Organization.

Her advice to other women in the industry: speak up and be your own advocate.

?One of my strongest recommendations is to be willing to put yourself out there. You are the only one who is in charge of your own career,? she explained. ?Find what your signature strength is and use it to your advantage. Be your own advocate. Seek opportunities that you want to fulfill your career. If you are willing to have your own voice, it is more likely those opportunities will come.?

Barbara Poremba

Coca-Cola Refreshments, Atlanta

On the road to becoming Coca-Cola Refreshments? vice president of national retail sales and leader of its Foodservice in Retail Center of Excellence, Barbara Poremba worked in business-to-business roles in sales, marketing and management positions across such diverse industries as law enforcement, health care, education and scientific research.

In all of these positions, she listened to the needs of her customers and generated unique solutions to their problems. Those skills came in handy when she joined The Coca-Cola Co. 10 years ago. Today, her efforts are divided between working with Coca-Cola?s national account managers and their customers, and leading the Center of Excellence, which involves advocating for appropriate innovation, resources and capabilities to support the company?s field teams and customer needs.

?Each day is different, which I enjoy,? Poremba said. ?Coca-Cola?s Foodservice in Retail Center of Excellence looks through the lens of our national retail customers and leverages the expertise, insights, innovation and capabilities we have built for the restaurant industry.? The company then creates and adapts resources to match retailers? needs, and national account managers customize the tools for their specific customers.

?C-store retailers are using this consultative expertise to elevate their food and beverage offerings, and are effectively competing with restaurants in their areas,? she explained.

After being selected to lead the newly established Center of Excellence in 2011 based on her successful track record with national and regional restaurant chains, Poremba helped national c-store retailers post double-digit growth in Coca-Cola dispensed beverage sales.

?What inspires me most is helping our customers grow their business and compete effectively across multiple channels,? she said.

Outside of her work at Coca-Cola, Poremba is involved with the Network of Executive Women, Women?s Foodservice Forum and Coca-Cola?s Women?s LINC, which advises executives across the organization on ways to elevate women in business. She also serves as a foundation trustee for the national sorority Delta Zeta, which fosters women?s leadership development.

?The most rewarding part of my career has been leading people and helping them to reach their full potential, personally and professionally,? said Poremba. ?I have been fortunate to have had strong mentors, coaches and sponsors who were also great people leaders. By listening and absorbing their recommendations, I have learned from each of them and exported their best practices into my management approach.?

Her hard work at helping both customers and her own team members overcome challenges to find success is a key part of what makes Poremba a Top Woman in Convenience, and she plans to continue that work in the future.

?It is incredibly rewarding to hear news that a mentee or team member that I have supported has been promoted or successful in an area which was a stretch,? she said.

Jennifer Rhoads

Ohio Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, Columbus

As the first female president and CEO of the Ohio Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association (OPMCA) in its 94-year history, Jennifer Rhoads? top priority is to help facilitate a petroleum and convenience retail climate that continues to prosper.

To do so, the top tasks this former Ohio assistant attorney general tackles is educating the trade group?s membership and lobbying. Currently, underground storage tank regulations are just one area OPMCA is focusing on. ?Also in Ohio, we continue to lobby on tax-related matters,? Rhoads told CSNews. ?Ohio has a gross receipts tax on motor fuels. There are some significant implications that retailers here have suffered as a result in the past decade.?

Rhoads, who served as Columbus, Ohio-based OPMCA?s chief legal counsel since 1999 and became its president and CEO in 2009, is also currently working feverishly in the Buckeye State to pass a bill that would afford gas station operators liability protection when consumers fuel up with alternative fuels that are not compatible with their vehicles.

State government proposals to increase taxes on tobacco and liquor are two other crucial categories OPMCA lobbies against on behalf of c-store operators, she noted.

Rhoads did not grow up in the convenience store business like some of her fellow Top Women in Convenience, but once the holder of a bachelor?s degree from The Ohio State University and a juris doctorate from Saint Louis University School of Law joined the industry, she never looked back.

?This industry has undergone remarkable change in the past 10 years. So, being part of the change is a challenge that was attractive to me,? she said. ?I?ve stayed in this industry because it?s a privilege to be able to advocate on behalf of small, independent businesses.?

Rhoads doesn?t specifically think of herself as a female pioneer, but she is pleased to see that many women have taken on prominent roles in the c-store industry in the past 15 years.

?There is still a challenge of attracting women to the convenience store industry,? she stated. ?I distinctly recall attending my very first [OPMCA] meeting and being the only woman in that room. That really struck me. But I?ve seen things change and I expect to see many more women coming into leadership roles in this industry moving forward.?

When asked whom she admires, OPMCA?s chief said she admires so many other women in the industry, including her fellow honorees.

?There are so many women who are doing dynamic things to advance their businesses today in this industry,? she concluded. ?It?s difficult to choose just one person [I admire]. It?s difficult to even select a handful of people.?

Senior-Level Executives

Angela Angelilli

Royal Buying Group, Lisle, Ill.

Angela Angelilli, executive vice president of Royal Buying Group, joined the Lisle, Ill.-based company in 1999 as a membership account executive. In the ensuing years, she was promoted to membership account manager, director of membership and vice president of sales before assuming her current position in 2013.

During her tenure, Angelilli has helped create the foundation of the Shell Buying Club and the C-store Training Services division. She has also received numerous recognitions, including 2001 Employee of the Year, Award for the 5000th Member of Royal Buying Group, 10 Years Recognition & Appreciation of Dedicated Services, Recognition of Achievement Award and the 2013 Chairman?s Award.

Angelilli is a member of NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association, the Texas Petroleum and Convenience Store Association, and the National Association of Shell Marketers.

?Angela has taken Royal Buying Group to an entirely new level, and she recognized the need to increase the value to our customers. She has changed the face of Royal Buying Group and infused it with new ideas and a fresh perspective,? the company said, adding that her management model has helped increase revenue in excess of 600 percent.

Mary Banmiller

Warrenton Oil Co., Warrenton, Mo.

Several years ago, Mary Banmiller stepped outside the family business and operated hotels. She returned to Warrenton Oil Co. in the early 1990s and since then, has worked her way up from the trenches to retail operations director. In 2003, she merged her two experiences with the launch of the company?s hotel division and began overseeing its first hotel the following year.

In her current role, Banmiller budgets Warrenton Oil?s convenience stores and hotels. She is involved in all new store developments, inspects stores to maintain the company?s image, and is involved in new technology implementation, among many other responsibilities.

In the past year, she?s implemented a customer loyalty program, sought out a new business venture to add frozen yogurt to its foodservice offering and researched a new point-of-sale system for the c-stores.

Her company?s nomination stated she is involved in the hiring of each store manager. ?Relationship building has been key to her success.?

Lucia Romenello Crater

KIND Healthy Snacks, New York

Lucia Romenello Crater served as chairman of the NACS Supplier Board in 2012?13. At the time, she was vice president of retail sales for Cardtronics Inc. Today, she is director of sales, convenience, for KIND Healthy Snacks, the innovative healthy snack food company.

At Cardtronics, Crater was responsible for developing and implementing sales initiatives to maintain and grow the company?s retail client relationships across the United States. Prior to that, she spent nine years at US Nutrition, the last three as director of sales.

Crater also served more than a decade as vice president of sales at GSP Marketing Technologies, helping convenience store retailers implement signage and database system best practices.

She has been active in NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, since 1989 and was a founding member and executive committee member of the Network of Executive Women.

Paula Conti

PDI, Temple, Texas

As PDI?s vice president of customer service, Paula Conti and her team touch all aspects of the company, from providing application and technical support for PDI?s software products, to documentation and training materials for the products, to customer training initiatives ? just to name a few.

?Paula?s team maintains customer satisfaction levels of 9.75 out of 10 on a consistent basis. Her team receives significant numbers of unsolicited customer compliments. Paula?s customer support and user education teams also serve to build up new entry-level team members to be prepared for future roles in consulting, marketing and product management,? PDI President Greg Gilkerson stated.

In 2013, Conti led PDI?s Users Conference initiative, the largest technology conference dedicated to the convenience store industry. The event drew 400 retail attendees. Late last year, Conti was also tapped to serve as the internal project manager for PDI?s implementation of a new customer relationship management software. Outside of PDI, Conti serves as chairperson of the Conexxus (formerly PCATS) Lottery Working Group.

Susan Curry

XYIENCE, Las Vegas

As vice president of operations for XYIENCE, Susan Curry?s chief responsibility is to keep her finger on the pulse of the consumer. She oversees the development of the brand?s beverages and sports nutrition lines, including sourcing ingredients; researching, analyzing and predicting trends related to flavors and ingredients; working with flavor houses; and managing product schedules and budgets.

Curry also works closely with the company?s vice president of sales in the United States and Canada to develop products that meet the needs of both retailers and consumers.

Last year, the fruits of Curry?s labor finally hit retail shelves. On the beverage side, on March 1, 2013, Xenergy + Hydration Tea and Lemonade became available in West and Midwest states, with the rest of the country following later in the year. These beverages, which Curry oversaw from conception to finished product, marked the first non-carbonated offering for the brand. Her latest supplement products also reached retail shelves last year when XYIENCE debuted three new sports nutrition products.

Sonja Hubbard

E-Z Mart Stores Inc., Texarkana, Texas

Sonja Hubbard is CEO of E-Z Mart Stores Inc., one of the largest privately-held convenience store chains in the country with more than 300 stores. The first female chair of NACS, Hubbard is well-known for being an industry champion and trailblazer.

In December 2010, she was the first woman inducted into the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame, following in the footsteps of her late father, Jim Yates, E-Z Mart?s founder, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997, just a year before he died in a plane crash.

Hubbard began working for the family business as a teenager. After graduating from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, she worked for two accounting firms and attained her certified public accounting license before returning to E-Z Mart. She advanced from assistant controller to chief financial officer, and assumed the role of CEO upon her father?s death.

In addition to her achievements steering her own company?s success, Hubbard is noted for being a tireless worker on behalf of industry causes, such as credit and debit card interchange fee reform.

Kris Kingsbury

Robinson Oil Co., Santa Clara, Calif.

Kris Kingsbury began her retail career as a grocery product manager for Stater Bros. Markets in Southern California. Her entry into the convenience store industry was with National Convenience Stores, where she served as a buyer/merchandiser for the Western Region before being promoted to the Houston headquarters as senior buyer for 1,100 stores and eight marketing areas.

With partners, Kingsbury designed and built her own store in California and managed it for two years before selling it at a profit.

During her career, Kingsbury has worked at three major oil companies, opening new stores, remodeling existing stores, merchandising and managing all in-store categories, while building and enhancing store brands.

Currently, she is marketing and merchandising manager for Robinson Oil Co./Rotten Robbie stores, located in Santa Clara, Calif.

Kingsbury believes she was destined for retail ever since she was 8 years old and her father gave her a makeshift store, built of two wooden crates nailed together, as a Christmas present.

Jennie Jones

S&D Coffee & Tea, Concord, N.C.

Jennie Jones began her career with the Southland Corp., holding various positions and working extensively with the 7-Eleven Franchise Coalition. She joined Fas Mart Convenience Stores in 1988, where she was responsible for the development of its proprietary ?What?s Cookin? food program and served as vice president of marketing until the company was sold in 1997.

Jones joined S&D Coffee & Tea in 2004 as vice president of marketing for convenience stores. Four years later, she assumed responsibility for sales and marketing and currently shares responsibility for the convenience division, the second-largest division of the company.

Jones was a recipient of the 2008 Hedy Halpert Awareness Award, is a founding member of the Network of Executive Women and a 3-Star NACSPAC Contributor. She has served on the NACS Retail Board of Directors and was named the first female chairman of the NACS Supplier Board in 2010. She continues to serve on the Supplier Board as past chairman.

Amy Lane

The Parker Cos., Savannah, Ga.

Amy Lane, chief operating officer of The Parker Cos., started with the company at age 15. Since then, she?s risen through the ranks to oversee all of Parker?s soon-to-be 36 convenience stores and gourmet markets. Her wide range of responsibilities includes personnel, training and development, human resources, facilities management, foodservice, loss prevention, signage design and landscaping.

Lane credits her work ethic to her grandparents, who owned a convenience store where she worked from the age of 5, and created many happy memories. ?I was destined to be in the industry,? she said.

Her recent accomplishments include creating a manager-in-training program; implementing LED lighting; and serving as part of Parker?s senior management team that developed its new drive-thru store design, which will premier this month.

Lane is also overseeing a system conversion to NCR Corp.?s Radiant point-of-sale technology, a major task that involves significant retraining of more than 400 in-store employees.

Lori Lunt

Alliance Energy LLC, Norwalk, Conn.

After starting out as an associate with Exxon Mobil Corp., Lori Lunt climbed the ladder to become a division manager for Alliance Energy LLC, where she was recognized as Division Manager of the Year for 2013.

Lunt is responsible for all facets of the business, including human resources, merchandising, supply, and the training and development of her team. She currently leads six territory managers and 74 stores across three states in New England, with an average associate count of 750 team members.

?Lori achieved sales excellence in the Southern Division, hitting both her top-line and bottom-line targets; all this while battling significant headwinds in the economy and increasing competitive pressures,? her nominator stated.

In addition, Lunt ?flawlessly? managed the acquisition of an 11-site channel while negotiating her team through nine significant full remodels and two new-to-industry sites. She also participated in several focus groups around company initiatives for inventory management, scheduling and training.

Wendy Redmond

S&D Coffee & Tea, Concord, N.C.

Long before she took up the position of director of sales for S&D Coffee & Tea, Wendy Redmond earned her stripes working for a direct-store-delivery company in management training, which involved driving a box truck and delivering salty snacks to convenience and grocery stores.

?It was by far the hardest job I?ve ever done and the place where I learned a strong work ethic and a ?can-do? attitude that has served me well over the years,? Redmond said.

She credits several mentors and her husband of 12 years, John, for providing her with support, feedback and guidance, and hopes to pass on this level of mentorship to the next generation.

?Wendy brought well thought-out ideas and always executed flawlessly,? said Scott Hill, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Cash Depot, who worked with Redmond on the NACS Supplier Board. ?Her professionalism and demeanor is second to none.?

Mary Szarmach

Smoker Friendly International, Boulder, Colo.

Even if Mary Szarmach were just employed in one of the two roles she concurrently holds ? vice president of trade marketing and government relations for Smoker Friendly International and president of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) ? she would still be considered a Top Woman in Convenience.

But Szarmach impressively handles both roles, which has allowed her to double her impact on the c-store industry. In her NATO role, she was a key player in Colorado defeating a bill that would have raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21.

In her position at Smoker Friendly, Szarmach teams up with more than 800 retailers to develop and expand their businesses in an ever-changing tobacco environment.

In whatever spare time remains, Szarmach dedicates her efforts to the c-store industry and society as a whole. Her work on the NACS Legislative Committee and her service to the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association are just two ways she gives back to the industry.

Debbie Robins

Century Distributors

As the head of Mid-Atlantic-based Century Distributors, Debbie Robins oversees every aspect of the business while managing to stay involved with the American Wholesale Marketers Association (AWMA), NACS and other industry associations.

After spending some time with Nabisco brands, she returned to family-run Century Distributors, where she held a variety of positions before becoming president and CEO.

According to Robins, an average day can involve anything from reviewing out-of-stock reports and inventory evaluations to placing orders with manufacturers or managing multiple categories. She is also in charge of the company?s marketing and advertising needs.

?Debbie is one of the most effective owners of any company I know,? said Richard Wilshe, president of Wilshe Enterprises LLC. ?In a very tough industry, she is not only surviving but thriving due to her initiative, foresight and vision.?

Among Robins? latest accomplishments is spearheading the first Women?s Leadership Initiative event during the 2014 AWMA Summit.

Yvette Spears

Coca-Cola North America, Atlanta

As vice president of national retail sales at Coca-Cola North America, Yvette Spears manages the Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (Circle K) convenience retail account at both the regional and corporate levels. Spears and her five-person team also support the International Franchise Group as needed to ensure smooth transitions into new markets, and she works with global procurement and the European Coca-Cola team to help ensure a full understanding of the Couche-Tard business model.

Spears? team earned the Circle K 2013 Gold Award of Excellence for the West Region and increased packaged beverage sales for the third consecutive year systemwide.

Spears is involved in multiple organizations that support women in business, including the Network of Executive Women, the Women?s Foodservice Forum and The Coca-Cola Co.?s Women?s LINC.

Kathy Williams

Coca-Cola North America, Atlanta

For Kathy Williams, vice president of national sales at Coca-Cola North America, the number 13 is lucky. She has dedicated 13 years solely to the convenience channel, has 13 major c-store customers in the central United States, and along with her team won the 2013 most valued supplier award from Marathon Petroleum Corp.?s c-store division, Speedway LLC.

To win the award, Williams and her team ?tapped the company?s comprehensive tools, resources and expertise ? including brand commercialization teams, research and insights ? to establish Coca-Cola as [Speedway?s] go-to beverage partner,? according to Williams? nominator.

Williams manages an 11-member team of directors and account executives. She focuses on driving business relationships for long-term sustainable growth that are mutually beneficial for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola.

Rising Stars

Jeannie Amerson

Flash Foods Inc., Waycross, Ga.

CSNews recently announced Flash Foods Inc. as the winner of its 2014 Outstanding Tech Implementation Award for the launch of its GoBlue mobile app with mobile payment capabilities. One of the key players behind this project is Jeannie Amerson, the company?s advertising and loyalty manager.

Not only was Amerson instrumental in the launch of the mobile app that serves Flash Foods? 172 convenience stores in the Southeast, but she also manages the chain?s Rewards in a Flash loyalty program and recommends the budget for advertising.

Co-worker Phillip Settle wrote in his nomination that Amerson is a rising star in every sense of the word. ?She has most recently recognized new-age trends and developed social media, [the] website and the mobile app into a total program that works,? Settle said. ?She also manages a staff of three assistants that reinforce the Flash brand with our customers.?

Brittany Bayley-Murray

Martin & Bayley, Carmi, Ill.

As a Rising Star among the Top Women in Convenience, Brittany Bayley-Murray?s influence and ability comes from her solid background in store management.

From working and learning at the store level, Bayley-Murray rose through the ranks to become a buyer and category manager for Huck?s parent company, Martin & Bayley. Her day-to-day responsibilities include overseeing the perimeter of all Huck?s stores and buying for several product categories within Carmi Wholesale Distribution.

?Brittany always has her head in the game and we look forward to seeing her success, not just at Huck?s and Martin & Bayley, but also in the retail convenience industry,? the nominating entry stated.

Bayley-Murray believes it?s important to highlight not only women, but also young professionals who are just beginning their careers in the fast-paced convenience store industry. Active in her local community as a musical entertainer, Bayley-Murray enjoys donating her time and talent to charitable organizations.

Tanja Gassenmaier

The Parker Cos., Savannah, Ga.

Tanja Gassenmaier is one of The Parker Cos.? most seasoned district managers and an asset to the organization. She began her ascent at Parker?s in 1999 when she became store manager of the retailer?s heavily trafficked Statesboro, Ga., store located across from the Georgia Southern University campus.

Parker?s continued to build its footprint in Bulloch County and in 2003, Gassenmaier was promoted to district manager. In this role, she is responsible for the operations of nine high-volume Parker?s convenience stores and has managed to increase the bottom-line profit in her district.

?Every year, Tanja has the best labor control numbers in the company. Her district also has the highest scores for customer services and cleanliness,? said Amy Lane, chief operating officer at Parker?s and a fellow Top Women in Convenience honoree.

Gassenmaier is a single mother and resides in Savannah, Ga. In her spare time, she enjoys going to the movies and fishing with her 12-year-old son.

Madalena Ferreira

Bobby & Steve?s Auto World, Minneapolis

It?s certainly fitting to honor someone who has truly risen through the ranks as a Rising Star. Madalena Ferreira joined Bobby & Steve?s Auto World in 2001 as an entry-level overnight cashier. As a result of her exemplary work, she has been promoted so many times that she now serves as director of convenience store operations for the eight-store chain in the Minneapolis area.

Jared Scheeler, who formerly served in Ferreira?s position and is now managing director of The Hub Convenience Stores, felt compelled to nominate Ferreira because he is impressed that she serves two major roles at Bobby & Steve?s Auto World.

?First, she is the operations leader (general manager) at the flagship, highest-volume store in Minneapolis,? Scheeler wrote. ?Additionally, she is the corporate director of convenience store operations. In this role, she has companywide responsibility over every aspect of convenience retail, fuels, car wash and foodservice.?

Carly Goebel

GetGo & Giant Eagle Express, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Promoted twice in just two years at Giant Eagle Inc., Carly Goebel defines a Rising Star among the Top Women in Convenience.

Goebel began her career at the company in 2012 in the grocery merchandising department and that same year, was promoted to the position of assistant buyer for the convenience business. Today, Goebel is a category buyer responsible for buying all the fresh foods for GetGo and Giant Eagle Express convenience stores.

?Carly has been a key team member in converting us from a third-party, store-door distributor to self-distribution through our newly established small delivery network from our own warehouse,? said Doug Wells, director of fresh merchandising. ?Carly managed the setup and migration of over 3,000 SKUs.?

A 2012 University of Dayton graduate, Goebel coaches youth girls? field hockey, serves as a risk management advisor to Alpha Phi International Fraternity at Carnegie Mellon University, and volunteers at St. Lucy?s Auxiliary for the Blind and the DePaul School for Hearing and Speech.

Jedy Majovsky

GetGo, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Much like the name of her employer, Jedy Majovsky gets things done and goes the extra distance. As a merchandising specialist at Giant Eagle Inc.?s GetGo, Majovsky serves as the direct connection between the GetGo Fresh and Center Store Merchandising teams to drive program and strategy implementation in more than 40 GetGo locations.

One of Majovsky?s areas of expertise is GetGo?s restaurant/Sub Shop operations. Last year, she was responsible for the launch of the new GetGo Sub Shop strategic initiative in the company?s Columbus, Ohio, division. This endeavor involved the training of more than 60 team members in three different locations in a span of approximately 45 days. In order to meet the demands of this schedule, Majovsky resided in a Columbus hotel five to six days per week to get the store teams ready to deliver the new concept. All three Sub Shop locations opened successfully.

?After her experience in Columbus, Jedy volunteered to take ownership of traveling to train and open new Sub Shop locations in both Pittsburgh and Ohio, while maintaining her oversight of 40 locations as part of her ?day job? through 2014,? said Matt Lachut, director of merchandising. ?Jedy?s selflessness, dedication and desire to help each and every team member grow and deliver GetGo?s strategy makes her a Rising Star in the convenience industry.?

Majovsky resides in Youngstown, Ohio, and has two sons aged 18 and 20.

Cecilia Ottenweller

GetGo, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Cecilia Ottenweller came to Giant Eagle Inc.?s GetGo five and a half years ago after 16 years in the restaurant industry. This experience has served her well as GetGo transitions from a traditional fuel and convenience center to a quick-service restaurant selling fuel and tobacco.

Ottenweller began her career with GetGo as a store leader and was then promoted to c-store specialist and district leader. She currently oversees 19 GetGo stores and specializes in merchandising and customer service.

In the past year, Ottenweller has acted as a group leader for a companywide cost-savings initiative that will result in multimillion-dollar savings over the next four years. She also helped to deliver food sales increases of nearly 25 percent year over year.

?Cecilia was instrumental in reducing food-related shrink by nearly 50 percent through initiating best practices, internal benchmarking, continuing education for store teams and creating internal competition,? said Dave Daniel, vice president of GetGo, GEX operations at Giant Eagle.

Previously recognized by CSNews sister publication Progressive Grocer as a rising star, Ottenweller serves as retail chairwoman of the eastern division of Giant Eagle?s Women?s Business Group and volunteers her time to Strong Women, Strong Girls, a local charity that provides training to college women who mentor young girls aged 2 to 6.

Mila Spencer

Kwik Trip Inc., La Crosse, Wis.

Kwik Trip Inc. sits at No. 21 on the national list of Top Workplaces by Workplace Dynamics and Mila Spencer, benefits manager, has helped the convenience store chain get there.

?The excellent work that Mila does with our comprehensive benefits program enables Kwik Trip to rank so highly with regards to our corporate culture,? noted Kwik Trip colleague John McHugh, who nominated Spencer for the Top Women in Convenience program.

Spencer oversees the budget and all strategic initiatives related to benefits for Kwik Trip?s 12,000 employees, and guides and directs the staff of the benefits department under Human Resources. She is in charge of all communications to workers regarding benefits ? health, dental, insurance, disability, profit-sharing, etc. ? and has direct oversight of the company?s new onsite health care clinic located on Kwik Trip?s corporate campus in La Crosse, Wis.

?Mila has been instrumental in the creation, implementation and oversight of our new onsite Health and Wellness Center,? McHugh said in his nomination. The center celebrated its grand opening in January and is run in conjunction with Marathon Health. It offers basic care services at a fraction of the cost to employees, and aims to reduce Kwik Trip?s health care costs.

Over the past year, Spencer also has been drawing on her previous experience as a lawyer to help the company better interpret the challenging demands of the Affordable Care Act. In the fall, she and her team conducted more than 75 meetings for employees in the three states in which Kwik Trip operates to personally inform them of the changes to the health plan. Spencer is one of two company spokespeople who host Kwik Trip?s annual year-end meetings, as well.

Store Managers

Diane Hank

L&P Convenient Store, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

When it comes to improving her two L&P Convenient stores in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., store manager Diane Hank is always brainstorming new ideas and isn?t afraid to take risks.

?In the past year, Diane has been nonstop trying to always improve anything that has to do with either store. It has been a lot of work and has taken up a lot of hours in bookkeeping and brainstorming in trying to improve the stores, but we are succeeding,? said L&P Convenient employee Kellie Busch, who nominated Hank to be a Top Woman in Convenience.

As part of her efforts, Hank secured airtime on a local radio station to promote the company?s rewards program, which started last year. She also recently changed distributors and began selling homemade pizza, muffins and sandwiches in L&P?s downtown store.

?All in all, she is a risk taker and every risk she takes always seems to pay off in the end, making the company money and making the customers happy,? Busch said in her nomination.

Hank has been employed with L&P since March 1995.

Jan Phipps

Autumn Grove Tiger Mart/Subway, Salisbury, Md.

Jan Phipps, store manager of the Autumn Grove Tiger Mart/Subway in Salisbury, Md., is a leader, team player and role model, according to fellow store manager Danielle Schoolfield, who nominated Phipps to be recognized as one of the Top Women in Convenience.

?I consider Jan to be the [most] senior of the store managers because of her strong leadership skills and determination to manage a successful store. She has always been a leader and has passed some of her knowledge as a store manager onto me over the years,? Schoolfield said in her nomination.

Phipps has worked for J. William Gordy Fuel Co. since 2003. In addition to running her own successful store, she is constantly looking for new ways to bring together the staff members of all four Gordy Tiger Mart stores. She helped start the Gordy Olympics, now in its third year. The event includes competitions to see who in the company is fastest at pricing, sub making and ringing up beer into six-packs. The employees with the fastest times win medals.

?The Gordy Olympics is a serious competition, but a fun event between all the staff members. This has been a great morale booster and teamwork-building event,? said Schoolfield.

Phipps is also an advocate in the community. Last year, she encouraged all four Gordy Tiger Mart stores to raise money for Women Supporting Women, a local organization dedicated to providing awareness, education and support to those affected by breast cancer. She also participated in the Wicomico Women Supporting Women high heel race in 2013, and organized the Brooke Mulford fundraiser along with Gordy Tiger Marts to raise money for local children with cancer.