3 Influential Women in the Gift & Home Industry

Today, on International Women’s Day, we wanted to share some inspirational thoughts and business advice from members of our senior management team: Jennifer Kohn, Monica Loving, and Nancy Lee.

These three influential women in the Gift & Home Industry share how they got their start in the Industry as well as business advice tailored to their area of expertise.


Jennifer Kohn

Jennifer Kohn | VP Operations

Q: How did you get your start in the Home & Gift Industry?
A: After graduating from college with a degree in Communications, my 1st job was with a public relations firm in NYC, promoting an arthritis medication. Needless to say, I made every effort to find a new career path. My brother owned drummers inc., a NYC based rep group in the gift industry, so I asked him if there were any opportunities to work for a retailer or vendor. Coincidentally drummers inc. was exhibiting at the National Stationery Show so I worked as a Sales Market Associate. When one of the vendors wanted to hire me permanently, my brother jumped in and asked me to join him as Operations Manager…wow that was 32 years go! As a partner in Ivystone, I am fortunate to have been involved in the extensive growth our company has experienced, while working with such a progressive and talented group of professionals.

Q: What technology advancements are you most excited about for the Gift & Home Industry?
A: The digital world moves at such a fast pace; the pandemic jump-started numerous opportunities for our industry. Key elements will be to have more efficient sales tools that provide visibility, ease of use, and the capability for data to flow seamlessly. At the same time, developing cohesive platforms that allow the users to manage the data to best suit their sales needs.

Q: Can having the proper data make or break a company?
A: In order to effectively manage one’s business -- whether it be a sales associate, retailer, vendor, or management - data is a fundamental component. Having the tools and skills to organize the data to meet the needs of the intended audience should result in success for all involved; so long as it’s reliable, communicated & trained properly and thoroughly.

Q: What advice would you give to women looking to thrive in male-dominated fields?
A: Persevere…. find your passion and stick with it. Use the confidence and knowledge that you’ve gained through each phase of your life. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, take chances, speak up, and ask lots of questions. Each chance you can, learn new skills, as you never know where or how they may help in your advancement. “Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live” ~ Anne Sweeney (Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks, and President, Disney/ABC Television Group, Walt Disney)


Monica Loving

Monica Loving | Vendor Relations

Q: How did you get your start in the Home & Gift Industry?
A: I started my career in wholesale apparel right out of college. I always knew that I wanted to be involved in selling fashion. I did that for about 15 years and then joined a large sales agency, The Kennedy Group, that was one of the largest and most successful sales agencies in Home and Gift in 1996. This ultimately became One Coast and then in 2010 we split off the Home division to merge with Ivystone.

Q: How do you find new vendors?
A: I watch for trends by reading all of the trade publications. I walk the Home and Gift shows in America and occasionally in Europe and I network across the many relationships I have. 

Q: What key elements do you look for in a new vendor?
A: Do these products complement other products that we sell? Are they currently retailing and will they make our customers money? Will they drive traffic into their stores? Is the company financially stable and can they provide the sales tools that are needed to support our sales teams?

Q: How has Ivystone helped buyers and vendors succeed?
A: We carefully vet our vendors to make sure that they are a good fit for our sales team, our customer base, and that they uphold the same standards of excellence that we believe in. Our buyers know that Ivystone represents solid companies that will retail in their stores. We also make sure that our sales team is trained well on the products so they place them into stores that are a good fit. It is important that we not only sell into our retailers but that we also support their sales to the consumer by providing strong marketing and social media.

Q: What advice would you give to a novice vendor?
A: Passion and hard work are the corner stones for success in this industry.  Make sure that you have a good quality product that retails. Be willing to sell it yourself for a while to learn what works and does not work for your customer. Once you start to establish a base of customers and you know that your product retails, then you might consider joining a professional sales agency to capitalize on what they do best, sales.


Nancy Lee

Nancy Lee | VP Marketing

Q: How did you get your start in the Home & Gift Industry?
A: I graduated from College with a degree in Interior Design and was fortunate to work at Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha where I grew up. Nebraska was a great place to grow up but at 23 years old I needed a new adventure and decided to move to Denver as I loved the mountains and the outdoors. I started as a rep working for a wonderful woman, Mary Dickinson who taught me a lot. I bought her Denver Agency in 1989, merged with One Coast in 1999 and then when One Coast split in two different companies in 2010, we merged the Home and Lifestyle Division with Ivystone. After 35 + years in the business I still love what I am doing!

Q: Ivystone recently moved to the 11th floor in Atlanta, to a much larger space. How did you work to bring both Ivystone’s and AmericasMart’s vision of a Lifestyle Destination to fruition? 
A: That is an interesting question, as I made numerous trips in January and February pre-Covid to begin the planning process merging many showrooms in to one and trying to look past walls and existing finishes envisioning it as one showroom. I thought I would have many more trips throughout the process, as I am very visual, but with Covid I had to guess a lot. I had great support from our showroom manager and team on the ground, sending samples and finishes back and forth in addition to many virtual walk throughs. We have more to do but thrilled we were able to open in July and continue to tweak things as we live in the space.

Q: With all the change in 2020, what changes in digital marketing do you think will be most impactful moving forward and why?
A: I would not call it change, but we have really had to speed up the process to bring products to our customers through digital marketing including social media, videos, zoom tours, and 3D showroom walk throughs. We also launched our new Retailer Resource Center in an effort to better collaborate and stay in touch with our customers. I do feel that the use of short videos, whether they are used in social media or through our website, are the most impactful digital marketing piece. This is a creative industry and not only seeing the product but connecting with our brand partners and sales team through video brings their story and products to life.

Q: Do you have a favorite marketing tool or tactic?
A: All of the technology that we have including our improved website with now over 80 brands is fantastic. I am very thankful that Ivystone is on the cutting edge with our digital enhancements, but for me there is nothing better than being in the actual environment and taking in the entire experience! I may be old school but I still feel that our best marketing tactic are our showrooms when we all can safely travel again. You can’t feel the wonderful texture of a beautiful throw, see the embellishments on a pillow, taste the newest gourmet treat, or smell the crisp scent of a new home fragrance launch through a monitor. I do think that digital technology is a great tool when combined with our showroom experience and our team strives to continue to bring our clients a great experience.


We hope that you found our Q&A insightful. The Gift & Home industry, including our Ivystone team, has a large female population and seeing everyone work together collaboratively and creatively, especially this last year, is truly inspiring.

Additionally, we would like to acknowledge the women-owned brands that we represent as well as the many women-owned retail stores of our customers.