Supply Chain Now
Episode 815

If any child believes that they are ‘less than,’ it's not just a problem for her or her family, it's a problem for society.

-Dr. Lisa Williams, CEO of The World of EPI

Episode Summary

Most people would jump at an offer to design a product line for Walmart, but Dr. Lisa Williams turned them down three times. It wasn’t until she watched an interview with a little girl who explained that she didn’t want to play with a black doll because she didn’t like the color of the doll’s skin that she called them back and said, ‘Yes.’

Dr. Williams is the CEO of The World of EPI, a global manufacturer of multicultural dolls, but she is not only a pioneering toy industry entrepreneur. She is also the first African American to receive a doctorate in logistics from Ohio State University, and the first African American to earn tenure at Penn State University. But even Dr. Williams’ qualifications didn’t make it easy to manufacture the line of dolls she had in mind. Her ‘yes’ was just the beginning of the journey.

In this episode, Lisa shares her amazing leadership story with host Scott Luton:

  • Why it was important that the manufacturer she chose to produce the dolls not just work with her specification, but also buy into her vision
  • The constant innovation and creativity required to stay competitive in the global toy business
  • How the strongest visions with the most pull won’t let you walk away, event when you’ve already given everything you have

Episode Transcript

Intro/Outro (00:03):

Welcome to supply chain. Now the voice of global supply chain supply chain now focuses on the best in the business for our worldwide audience, the people, the technologies, the best practices, and today’s critical issues. The challenges and opportunities stay tuned to hear from those making global business happen right here on supply chain now.

Scott Luton (00:31):

Hey, good morning, everybody. Scott Luton here with you on supply chain now. Welcome to today’s show. Hey, we’ve got an excellent conversation. Tee up today is we’re gonna be talking with a trail blazing leader, both in the active DIC field, as well as the toy industry. So stay tuned as we have quite an inspirational and intriguing conversation in store here today. So with that said, we’re gonna get down to business. We don’t wasting time here at supply chain. Now y’all should know that by now, uh, with that said, let’s introduce our featured guests here today. Our guest is made a variety of firsts in history, including as the first African American to receive a doctorate in logistics from the Ohio state university. Her research has been published in a wide variety of channels magazines across media. Our featured guest is a pioneering entrepreneur in the toy industry where she’s built a wildly successful company that makes it a priority to represent and include a wide variety of ethnicities. You can find our guest interviews in big time publications from essence magazine to Ms. NBC and TV one. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Lisa Williams CEO of world of E API. Dr. Lisa, how you doing?

Dr. Lisa Williams (01:36):

I am great. Scott, how are you? We’re doing wonderful. Uh, have really enjoyed, um, or our pre-show conversation as it were. And I’m really excited about sharing your journey and your expertise and your experiences with our global ecosystem here at supply chain now.

Dr. Lisa Williams (01:53):

So am I

Scott Luton (01:54):

Super excited? All right. You know, there there’s so much we could talk about just, just if we stuck to supply chain, you and I could probably, I think you could offer a masterclass on many things. Um, but we’re gonna talk about supply chain. We’re gonna talk about some of your first you accomplished. We’re gonna talk about your company, which is, is by and large changing the game. Are, are you bucking up and ready to go? I am, yes <laugh>. Okay. Right. So let’s get started. So you’re right where you are right now is in beautiful sunny San Diego of California, which I’m very jealous of. It’s it’s nice here in the Metro Atlanta area, but it’s, it’s, uh, temperatures have gotten a little bit more frigid here lately, but Hey, that’s okay. I guess it’s better than an 80 degree holiday season, right? Right.

Dr. Lisa Williams (02:37):

<laugh> and you know what I have to tell you, Atlanta’s one of my favorite cities. So

Scott Luton (02:41):

I love Atlanta. We do too. We’re we’re, uh, it’s, it’s a joy to live here. We’re on the friends of the Metro Atlanta area, but studios in town and it is an absolute joy and pleasure to do business, uh, with a home base, uh, operations in a city like Atlanta. Um, all right. But so now you’re in San Diego now, but that’s not where you grew up. So tell us, Dr. Lisa, where did you grow up and, and give us the goods on your upbringing a little bit.

Dr. Lisa Williams (03:04):

I grew up in Toledo, Ohio. So as we were talking earlier, holy Toledo, <laugh>, that’s my hometown. That’s where I grew up. Uh, had a great upbringing. My mom, dad, and my little baby sister, uh, that’s two years under me. And, uh, we grew up with our cousins. It was very family oriented. We spent Saturdays bowling <laugh> and doing all those really cool Midwestern things. So a wonderful childhood.

Scott Luton (03:29):

Okay. I gotta ask you who would win the bowling competitions, you or

Dr. Lisa Williams (03:34):

Come on Scott, come on now. Listen. None of my cousins are here, right? So course I won <laugh>

Scott Luton (03:41):

I love it. I love that bowling. You know, we’ve got that in common. I was a part of the Luton foursome back in the day with my brother and my two cousins and get this, we had a, down to the wire playoff battle with a foursome from, uh, the Johnson enterprises from <laugh>. Oh, we can write his story about those days, but anyway, so your upbringing, of course, family and bowling. And when you think about other elements that really make up, that you really, you know, reminisce on what else makes up big parts of your upbringing? You

Dr. Lisa Williams (04:12):

Know, my family, of course, as I said, and hanging out with my cousins and my aunt, but food, <laugh> what I think of all were when I go back home, the first thing I’m do, I have to check off a list right. Of my childhood favorites. So Tony Pacos, if any of you from, uh, Ohio or Toledo, they’re known for their hot dogs, uh, Jamie bar classic there’s other hot dog hamburger restaurants that I just have to go to. It’s not like, um, you know, California’s known for its fresh vegetables and fruit healthy. That’s not my hometown. <laugh>

Scott Luton (04:45):

Hey, that’s OK. The better. Yeah, you gotta splurge. And, and that’s what made, you know, made a big impact in your upbringing. I, I can relate barbecue was a big part of, of mine and, and, and Hey, who does it like good hot dogs and ribs and city, not in Toledo, but I think city barbecue’s still around in, in, in, um, Cleveland, Ohio, and, um, not Toledo, you know, I’m gonna have to, I’m have to do some research. I used to work in Cincinnati for Cincinnati firm and we would make the rounds of some other of the larger midsize cities in Ohio, in city. Barbecue was on every corner and Dr. Lisa, it was delicious. It was absolutely delicious. So if you

Dr. Lisa Williams (05:29):

Wanna just say, so if you went to Cincinnati or lived to Cincinnati, then, you know, skyline chili and skyline, hot dogs, see, that’s also

Scott Luton (05:35):

Really good. It really, you know, it, it, it is, it’s a huge tradition and it for folks, haven’t had it put in a little bit of, you know, cuz each of the places has maybe different secret and ingredients, but I think a little bit of chocolate, right? A little bit of chocolate’s a senior secret ingredient. Have it on spaghetti, having it own hot dogs, skyline chili is where it’s at, right? Oh my God. Yes.

Dr. Lisa Williams (05:57):

<laugh> you know, Cincinnati just for a bowl silly.

Scott Luton (06:02):

We’re gonna have to go grab, break bread after our interview here today. Love it. Okay. So let’s talk about, let’s kinda switch gears a minute. So from Toledo now in San Diego, we both have a love for all types of good foods. Let’s talk about your academic career, which was before your big entrepreneurial exploits. So can you share, can you share a few roles that you enjoyed the most when you were in the academic, uh, field and, and why?

Dr. Lisa Williams (06:30):

You know, I loved being a teacher when I was a kid going back to Toledo. When I was a little kid, they said, well, what is one of your fondest memories of being a child? It was one of getting this great Christmas gifts. My, my parents got us a, uh, or got me a chalkboard. And I remember vividly, like it was yesterday lining all of my stuffed animals around the chalkboard while I taught them the days lesson <laugh>. So I have always been a teacher and educator at heart, and that’s what I enjoyed. I enjoyed, you know, every aspect of my education. I enjoyed the undergrad, the masters, the second masters and the PhD, all because it was centered around education, whether it was research or educating executives, PhD students, or MBA students in the classroom. I just loved it. I loved that. That a moment, you know, when you can see that the light bulb has just gone off in your student’s head, oh, that’s nothing better than that.

Scott Luton (07:24):

<laugh> well, that really resonates with me. I can, I can remember some of the, my favorite people in my entire life are great teachers that enjoyed that same moment and worked with, with me and the others to get to that moment. And sometimes for many, you know, whether it’s math for me or whomever, you know, what other subjects for other folks, it doesn’t come easy. So I really appreciate, uh, how much you enjoy those moments. Um, now you mentioned a lot of different degrees you’ve earned. You know, it’s really important to talk about as you are having those a as you are powering those aha moments and, and helping others, uh, advance and learn and educated, you were, you were knocking out some barriers and making some first, all along the way. Um, as I mentioned on the, on the front end, you know, the first African American to earn a logistics PhD from the Ohio state university, which is a big time. Uh, so we got a lot of pedigree when it comes to, uh, supply chain education. And then as if that’s not enough, uh, help me with the first at Penn state university, cause one was ti. One was a first for a female and one was first for an African American. So tell me about what you did at Penn state. I was

Dr. Lisa Williams (08:29):

The first African American, um, hired in the department and I was the first African American female to receive tenure from Penn state university. Wow. And I loved

Scott Luton (08:40):

Two, gosh, so many question a little time. Does it run your family to be the first, to be the pioneer, to be the trailblazer? Where did you, where do you get the motivation to do these things? And all of that was on the academic side of your career. I didn’t even get into some of the things we’re gonna talk about on the entrepreneurial side, where do you draw straight from?

Dr. Lisa Williams (08:58):

Well, that’s a really good question. I, you know what <laugh>, it comes from a conversation I had with my mom when I was a kid I may have been, I don’t know, seven or eight. She probably doesn’t even remember it cuz it’s one of those little teachable moments, but really small in another, in the other person’s life. But we were in the living room, I think we’re getting ready for a family event or something. And she just kind of casually said, you know, you can be anything you wanna be, you could be a doctor if you wanted to. And I’m just like a doctor. Hmm. And I actually ended up becoming a doctor, not a medical doctor, but a PhD doctor. So when you ask, where did it come from? It was that spark that said, there’s nothing I cannot do. So that started it.

Dr. Lisa Williams (09:37):

And then as I progressed in my life and in my career, I just found things that interested me or things that I was passionate about. And so it was the why that drove me to keep moving. Okay. And each of the things that I, that you just mentioned and other things would talk about, none of it was easy as matter of fact, all of it was a great, it’ll be hard. Gosh. But when you kind of know your why and why you’re doing it, and you think it’s important, it’s gonna make a difference for others. That’s the, that’s the energy that propels you to go from day one to day two. And then you kind of just look around and you’re like, wow, <laugh> I a, you know,

Scott Luton (10:14):

That it really, you know, you make a great point. It isn’t easy, right? None of these things are given to you folks, you know, don’t bend over backwards and give you anything. You gotta earn it. And I can only imagine, you know, the stories of the book you could write, you know, as you bust through and make these milestones. Uh, and hopefully I’m sure just like the conversation you have with your mother helped you made, be take some blinders off of what the art of the possible was you and what you’re doing are doing that for all these other folks that, that want to be the next Dr. Lisa Williams. And that’s so important. So let’s talk about your big, bold bet you made in 2003. Now I can, this resonates with me all of this does, but this particular as a fellow founder and entrepreneur, uh, just Marvel at what you’ve been able to accomplish on this side. So in 2003, you made a big bold bet and you launched your company, the world of E API. Before we talk about your while there let’s define what E API means for folks. That’s

Dr. Lisa Williams (11:14):

The world of entertainment publishing and okay.

Scott Luton (11:19):

And as we talked about, pre-show in supply chain, as you know, we love our acronyms around here. So everyone added a new one. So the world of API. So what was your why behind launching what’s become a, uh, a really successful business?

Dr. Lisa Williams (11:31):

Well, you know, let me step back a little bit and tell you kind of how I got there, because as you just said, I was the first African an American to get a PhD from the Ohio state. Then the first to later get tenure at Penn state. And then one of my biggest accomplishments, I became the highest ranking professor in the entire field. So I became a full full professor with two multimillion dollar endowed chairs. So now I’m the highest ranking professor be it black, yellow, green purple blue.

Scott Luton (12:00):

<laugh> right. Anyone in the seller system <laugh>

Dr. Lisa Williams (12:03):

Right. And gender. So I’m now the highest ranking. So light is good, right? I’m teaching my classes. I’m having a great time. And then Saturday do on afternoon, I decide to watch television. Okay. And I am watching an updated Anderson Cooper, did an updated study on the famous doll study. And the doll studies was done in like the fifties and sixties with Kenneth and Mami Clark, where they asked African American children, as well as Caucasian children at the time, what doll did they wanna play with? And almost UN unilaterally or unanimously. That’s the word <laugh>, although unanimously that you were, they all selected the Caucasian doll, even the black children. And of course we, we get that cuz this is Jim Crow era. It’s the fifties and sixties mixed. Perfect. Well this Saturday I’m watching it. Now it’s 2009 and I’m expecting different things. At this time.

Dr. Lisa Williams (12:54):

We have African American celebrities and the cousins of magazines. They have their own TV shows. We have, you know, D diversities everywhere. So they ask this beautiful little black girl, what doll does she wanna play with? And when I tell you I’m half ha half hardly watching this show. Cause I’m like, okay, I know what she’s gonna say. <laugh> right. Well, I was shocked when she said she wanted to play with the black doll. Oh sorry. With the white doll. She did not wanna play with the black doll. Right. And then what broke my heart is when she explained why. And she said, I don’t wanna play with the black doll because the black doll skin is nasty. And then she touched her own hand as to indicate that her skin tone was nasty too. And it broke my heart and still breaks my heart to this day. And, um, I get emotional about it because if any one child believes that they are less than, it’s not just a problem for her or her family, it’s a problem for society, right? Because we will not be able to really benefit from all the talents that this young lady has. So that day I said, something has of change. This cannot happen on your watch. And so in essence, the world of API was born sitting on my living room sofa, right after watching the Anderson Cooper story.

Scott Luton (14:05):

Uh, I appreciate you sharing that. I can, that how I perceive that moment is it’s. I can only imagine how powerful and how it kind of stops you in the tracks. And I love what you just shared there a second ago. Not on my watch, not on my watch and gosh, you know, in a world full of lip service leadership, regardless of function industry, you know, you name it. There’s plenty of it. Gosh, if you hadn’t acted on that, uh, on what you on, on that, your, uh, epiphany you had on that Saturday and to say not on my watch, you went, you went to work. So now that you’ve really shared the why tell us, um, and, and, and please, if you, uh, I want, I don’t wanna short change that story, I guess, before we define what ward of API is, what’d you do after that Saturday? Where, where did you get started? What, how did you uncover that it was gonna be, you know, the world of APIs as what your mission life was gonna look like?

Dr. Lisa Williams (15:00):

I didn’t even know that at this time, I really just knew that I had to do something and I was fortunate enough that my last, uh, position in the academy was at, uh, the university of Arkansas. Okay. And that’s where I had the multimillion dollar endowed chairs. And through that relationship, I ended up becoming very close to Walmart and some of the members of the Walton family and the Walmart executives. And they had already asked if I was interested in doing dolls. And I said, yeah, see, when I first came there, well, let me back up even further, because talk about how life will put you on a trajectory or path that you have no plans on walking. Right. Right. So I’m a professor, like I said, very happy doing great things as a professor. And I wrote a book and in writing a book, I interviewed several executives in the supply chain area, cuz the book was about, it was a supply chain leadership book.

Dr. Lisa Williams (15:51):

Right. And I had the opportunity to meet with Lee Scott who at that time was the president of Walmart. Okay. And Lee and I bonded because he has an undergraduate degree in supply chain management. Okay. So we would have great conversations and I end up centering some of the book around him. So when the book came out, they asked Walmart if they could sell the book stores and I’m like, oh wow. Yeah, yeah. You can <laugh> how quickly can I say yes. Right. Yeah. So they said, yes, can we have the book in our, and I said, yes, you can absolutely have the book in the store. And the book did well. And then we started writing a line of children’s books because I wanted to empower and uplift children

Scott Luton (16:31):

And was this so the line of children’s books. So the first book that went into Walmart stores was focused on supply chain. And then that led to a series of children’s books, which were about

Dr. Lisa Williams (16:41):

What about children’s issues? Right? Little things like, uh, a little girl can’t find her favorite, stuffed animal, someone else going to the zoo and having experienced there, uh, someone having a, take a bath and not wanting to just basic children issues. Right. But they were well received and all the books were completely multicultural. So we had Asian, Caucasian, Latina, African American, everyone was represented in the books and the books did very well. So that’s when Walmart came back and said, you know, we think you can kind of know about dolls. Would you like, would you like to do a line of dolls for us? And I’ll say, oh no, <laugh> really what, no, thank you. I knew nothing about making dolls in my childhood. My sister played with dolls a lot. I did not. I, I read a lot, but I wasn’t really one who with a lot of dolls. So I didn’t have any, any background to, uh, to call upon. So I said, no, no, thank you. Uh, I’ll pass on this one. And then I watched that, that interview with that little girl, it changed my life. And so then I called back and I said, I will do it. I would, after turning them down three times, wow. That I will do it. And so I embarked on this journey of creating a line of multicultural dolls that represents some beauty in all. Children

Scott Luton (18:00):

Love that and love the, the purpose behind it. Cause it, you know, if we’ve heard now, I’m not sure we’re, we’re around a thousand episodes. Here’s supply chain now with a wide variety of guests. And, and one of the, one of the many common themes we’ve heard from any guests is, you know, that, that see it and be it, which is along the lines of what you shared around that epiphany you had on that Saturday. And I can only imagine, well, you know, I wanna learn from you. So I’ll save that question. So you turn ’em down three times and then on the fourth you said, Hey, let’s, let’s get started. So how, how did you get it? We, we, we, we will define all the world of API is involved in now, but I’m curious, how did you, how did you go about doing your homework and kind of figuring out how one opens a bus, how one goes about making toys and dolls and making get a business out of it? How how’d you do that?

Dr. Lisa Williams (18:51):

Well, I didn’t know anything about, I mean, I can’t stress how I knew nothing about this <laugh> I knew nothing. But what I did know unfortunately is that there were no factories here in the United States that made vinyl dolls. And that, by the way, I didn’t even know they were made from vinyl. Just let you know. I knew nothing, but as I found out, I’m like, well, there are no factories here. So me I’m a as a former professor. So I researched factories and I picked out a few that I thought could probably express my vision. And then I contacted them. And the top three, I literally hopped on a flight, flew to China and met with strangers. <laugh> I have to tell you this story <laugh> because I literal really did that. I caught a plane landed, um, at the airport and it wasn’t until that point that I realized that how, what I had just done was perhaps dangerous and little reckless, because I didn’t know who was picking me up and I’m by myself.

Dr. Lisa Williams (19:44):

I don’t speak the language. I can’t tell someone to come pick me up on the corner of, you know, seventh and 30th. I’m in another country, right? These men picked me up. They put me in a van, <laugh> a van that at least in San Diego probably would not pass standards. <laugh> in the us and they’re driving. And I kid you not 90 miles per hour. Wow. Wing around these, these cliffs. And by the way, there are no barriers on the cliff. <laugh> and I’m just holding their white knuckle to the seat, like, oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. It’s almost like, Lord, if you get me outta this one, <laugh> I

Scott Luton (20:22):

Promise, oh, you won or maybe a hundred. I don’t know exactly

Dr. Lisa Williams (20:25):

Because I was. So at that time, the reality of what I had embarked upon hit me, but I was so driven to make sure that that little girl that I’ve never met, had a daughter look like her. So I get to the factory and they were very nice. And they start though trying to convince me of why I should not try to do anything unique or different that just, you know, the most expensive thing about doing a, a doll is the sculpt it’s the face. And they were like, you know, we have tons of faces in this room. Just pick one that you like do that don’t create from scratch. It’s too expensive. And they kept saying, trust us, we know what we’re doing. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust them. It’s just that I knew in my heart again, without any experience, I knew enough to know that it had to be real. It had to be authentic. And it had to be something that children and adults alike, their parents could relate to. And so it took a little bit of banter before I got them to bend down to my will and give me a doll that was totally from my heart and for my vision. But it took a while. And, and again, <laugh>, I kept saying to myself in the back of my mind, you’re in another country, you have no with you. And you’re arguing with these men, but

Scott Luton (21:39):

<laugh> so did you have to meet multiple suppliers before you found one that would, would embrace your vision and, and enact on it? Yeah. Yes I did. And you, you weren’t gonna give in, uh, until they could deliver, they could see it, uh, and make it happen. And I love that. I love that. Um, this is what I want. This is my vision. This is what we’re gonna do. And you’re with me, or you’re just not part of the solution. Exactly.

Dr. Lisa Williams (22:06):

And that’s by the first lead leadership came leadership skills that I had to use is because I had to convince, I couldn’t make dolls. Right. I, I can’t do, I don’t have a factory in China. Right. So I had to, I had to have them to see my vision too. It was important that they saw it and see why we were going those extra steps to get this doll made. So I had to rally them and, and in a way, like I said, inspire them to this worth vision is worthwhile cause of changing children’s lives. And thank goodness one factory bought into that vision.

Scott Luton (22:34):

No kidding. Cause it really has grown into, um, well, well tell us what has the, the, um, the doll lineup grown into, uh, and I’m not sure I’m not up you’re, you’re talking about some things you weren’t sure about. I’m not up speed to my doll and my toy terminologist. So bear with me. So what did the doll line grow into? And then if you would, to also touch on where the company has grown into. Cause it’s, it, it, it is more than just dolls, I believe, right? Oh

Dr. Lisa Williams (23:02):

Yes. It’s a Marvel to me, but yeah, we started with two dolls originally and now we’ve gone into, oh geez. So many of skews and we bought into different collections. So we started out with positively. Perfect. Uh, there were two skews. Yeah. Two, initially two skews there. I can’t even count the number of skews, but there’s now so many. So we have seven different collections of dolls where we started off with one. Wow. And we are now moving into licensing, other companies products. So we are creating dolls for other entertainment companies, which we’re absolutely thrilled about.

Scott Luton (23:35):

Okay. So talk to me about some of the, um, I bet you hear from all corners of the world in terms of, um, you know, how, how important and meaningful your products have been, you know, since you launched a company. So before we move into, uh, maybe dispelling, uh, some assumptions around the, to industry, what has the, what have you heard back from the market around all your good work?

Dr. Lisa Williams (23:57):

Oh my gosh. I think the, the thing that really strikes my heart the most is when I see a little girl or boy, can we do boy dolls also say the, if this doll looks just like me, that means the world to me, or when a parent writes me and says, my daughter will not allow us to leave the house without her positivity. Perfect doll, love it. Or when I hear that schools make exceptions, there was one little girl that had her doll that she wanted to take it to school every day. And the school’s like, we’re so sweetie, but you can’t have doll or any toys in school? Well, she was as persuasive as any adults. I know of. Cause she got the, the school to change their policy. So she was allowed to bring her fresh, do to school with her. So those things really touch my heart. And even when I hear adults, I did an event once and literally parents came to me crying. I mean, tears crying because they were saying how they’re so grateful that their children have these dolls. And they wish they had had them when they were younger, because it could have made a different in their self-esteem. So, you know, it’s not just the vinyl, but it’s really the impact that we’re making on, on people’s lives that make all the difference.

Scott Luton (25:03):

So I I’m sure that’s rewarding on a wide variety of levels, but speaking toward one in particular from, if you, as you remember that Saturday, and you remember that interview the child’s and dolls thing, and you remember the, the resolution and the commitment that you made to taking action to being to, to, to appreciating where you are now and hearing from the market, that’s be an immense rewarding self self-fulfilling rewarding feeling that you feel, huh?

Dr. Lisa Williams (25:34):

I do it, it, I do. When I look, I go to the stores. I mean, again, I have an amazing team, but I started off as one woman by herself with this vision of making sure no other little girl thought her skin was nasty. So to come ’em from that, from my living room sofa, to be able to walk into a Walmart or a target or see it on Amazon or at Macy’s or Walgreens or CV numerous, it’s just, it’s, it’s a pinchable moment. Like you really wanna pinch it. And then when you see them in movies, our dolls were featured in four films this year. Wow. And then, oh my gosh, how could I forget the biggest one or the biggest, and that is being recognized by Oprah, Oprah Winfrey as one of her favorite things. Wow. All of these things are just like, is this real <laugh>

Scott Luton (26:16):

Well, and, and, and the domino effect, you know, just like when you first met with that first supplier or, or the one that finally gave in and they just, they wanted you to follow their lead rather than follow your vision. You know, now hopefully all of your good work and how the market house resonate with the marketplace. There’s less resistance to perhaps more diversity across the toy industry. Is, is that, is that your take? Oh,

Dr. Lisa Williams (26:39):

That is very true. I, yes. And you’re right. So we’ve gone from one factory. Uh, previously now we have over five factories that we work with now to produce, and we do dolls. We do electronics, we do doll fashions. We, our business has expanded significantly.

Scott Luton (26:56):

So before we talk about, you know, I bet all kinds of folks have assumptions maybe based on their own childhood about the toy industry. Anything else? It sounds like world of API is, is continued on the grow, diversifying its product lines, all the different things and markets that you’re in. Anything, you know, as you look up over the next couple of years, what can folks expect from, uh, where you’re going next?

Dr. Lisa Williams (27:19):

They can expect to see some of their favorite characters that are on, on the big screen being made and manufactured by the world of API. Wow. They can expect to see some of their favorite characters on television being made and manufactured by the world OFPI and they can expect to continue to see the current fresh, positively perfect doll line expand. We’re doing more collections, more dolls, more doll, type, more dolls, sizes, more representation. So my idea is that we create a sacred space for children for all children. So when they wake in the morning, they are surrounded by images that look like them from their bedspread to their shower, curtain, to their toothpaste, to, to their dolls, to their backpacks. I really wanna create that sacred space. That’s sacred environment for them. And that’s what you’re gonna continue to see from the world of E P. Wow.

Scott Luton (28:11):

Okay. So to this point, uh, and again, this could be like a 12 hour miniseries on all these things you’ve described already. It’s been part leadership and, and part academic trailblazing, the pioneering that epiphany on that Saturday leading to, uh, the world of API, which clearly has already done big things. And sounds like there’s a lot more big things coming. And I love how you tell folks can expect this and this and this man. It’s gotta be invigorating. Now I want broaden that a little more to the toy industry before we talk supply chain a little bit more and Walmart a little more, what what’s one thing maybe that it would, it would blow people’s mind or just surprise ’em maybe about how the toy industry works.

Dr. Lisa Williams (28:53):

Wow. How it works

Scott Luton (28:54):

Well, or just about the twin industry in general, your, your pick,

Dr. Lisa Williams (28:57):

You know what, it’s hard, <laugh> tough. You think toys, toys, fun, laughter joy. And it is all of that, but it is definitely a business. So it’s highly competitive and it is demands a great deal of creativity. The lifespan of a toy is probably three years, three, maybe five. Maybe you can pull it out to five years. So it’s constant innovation. So even though you have a product that’s on the market that comes out, say for Christmas, literally I never stop working on the next iteration. The next version, because our, our customer base that little three to six year old is very demanding <laugh> they don’t want the same doll year after year. So the constant innovation and the constant creativity and the constant nonstop work probably is what I would say. I love that, but it’s incredible, incredibly full of joy as

Scott Luton (29:49):

Well. Perhaps the most demanding consumers on the face of the planet, that 30, 30 to six, cause they’re not gonna change what they wanna play with maybe. And, and they want the latest and greatest, quick aside before we, we’re gonna talk about your work with Walmart here in a minute. And, and some of your accomplishments there, have you seen any of the toy docu there’s a couple of toy documentaries on Netflix, I think in particular and one in one talks about the star wars, toy market and kind of how, you know, the movie kept getting delayed. And, and then they were kind of in limbo with, uh, the toy, many factoring and they, and they didn’t know it was gonna be the hit. It was gonna be so, so that was kind of factoring to the investment. It is fascinating how, even as you’ve described this far, the entertainment industry, like movie TV and that wasn’t how closely that’s tied to the toys we find, you know, in on shelves and then getting sold from shelves. Any comments around that, or have you seen the documentaries?

Dr. Lisa Williams (30:45):

I have not seen them. I’ll be honest. I have not seen them. Um, actually I will be in a few of those documentaries upcoming, but I have not seen them yet. Um, but what I will say, we talk about that. It’s kind of like when you look at your favorite television show, the primary purpose of your favorite television show is to have ad space for the commercials that come along. And that’s kinda similar to the entertainment industry. I mean, the idea is to create really good content so that people will wanna have a part of that content come home with them, which includes in our case having toys. So I didn’t realize how, not only how connected they are, but sometimes how much input we actually get into some of the content. Mm

Scott Luton (31:27):

It’s really fascinating. And, um, let’s talk about, so Walmart, you, you, you mentioned, I love how that factors into, um, and, and, and there are multiple requests and eventually because, uh, as you put it, I think life, you find your self in the right spot at the right time to, to really fulfill ultimately what your legacy is meant to be. So Walmart bestowed upon you supplier of the year, which gosh, it’s gotta be given all the suppliers they work with specifically from what I can tell when I, my research for your visionary leadership. So tell us about your work with Walmart and, and how that’s been a big part of maybe, uh, the rewarding journey.

Dr. Lisa Williams (32:09):

Yes. I mean, I can’t say enough wonderful things about Walmart, as I said, um, it was the Walmart family and the Walmart company that brought me to the university of Arkansas as, as that full end out professor many, many moons ago. And that allowed me to have access to their executives, which ultimately resulted in my writing the book about leading beyond excellence, which was a book about, again, succeeding as a supply chain management leader. So Walmart has like, they’re the fiber that kinda runs through this entire story, uh, of my <laugh> of my professional life. Right? And so once the book got out there, like I said, they, they wanted me to do two children’s books. And then we did the dolls and the image and likeness of the characters in the books. And I think I exceeded their expectations. I think they were thinking I do one or two dolls, but I had a bigger vision once I, once I saw that little girl. And once I saw and felt her inability to really see who she was, I was driven to not just give her one doll, but to give her again, that sacred environment so that everywhere she looks, she sees a reflection of her beauty and her power. So, because I saw that and I was able to move from what Walmart had initially asked me to do. They saw me as a visionary leader and I was, am still deeply honored to be recognized as a visionary leader from

Scott Luton (33:27):

Walmart. And clearly you are, you know, the, the visionary and, and leadership and, and, uh, all kind of terms are thrown around quite some time, but fewer much fewer actually do it. And it’s in the results. It’s in the impact as you’ve clearly established with your track record just thus far. And, and it sounds like your, your, your, uh, writings new chapters to be released right around the corner. So before we talk supply chain, I can’t wait to supply chain nerd out with Dr. Lisa here. So when you look back at 2021 and, uh, unique, uniquely challenging, uh, uniquely innovative, just a transformational year that it, that it, uh, it was what’s one Eureka moment that stands out.

Dr. Lisa Williams (34:10):

I wanna answer that. I wanna go back something you said, just really sparked an idea, uh, that I wanted to share with you. Sure. When you were talking about, you know, starting the visionary leadership and it clearly that you are thank you for that. I appreciate that really there’s things that you cannot do. You know, when something either taps into your heart or inspires you on a level, you may actually say, I’m not gonna do it. The dolls, for example, I said, three times, I wasn’t gonna do it. <laugh> right. Right. And even, well, not so much recently now things are much, much better, but in the early days, there are many nights that I went to bed saying, I’m done, I’ve given it all. I put all my money into it. I put all my expertise, my time I’m done, it’s not working, but then it doesn’t let you go.

Dr. Lisa Williams (34:51):

It’s like the vision holds onto you. So even when you’re trying to shake it off, like I’m done with this, it won’t let you go. So you wake up the next morning and you’re like, okay, I’m gonna give it one more day. <laugh> they laugh until, you know, the next 10 years. Uh, so I did wanna say that. Um, yeah. And then, great, great point. And then in terms of what did I see, or what am I seeing from the pandemic in 2021? I think one of the things that strikes me is the great resignation. And we probably heard of that where so many people after coming out of the pandemic are having, or making life changing decisions, if they weren’t happy in their position previously they’re resigning. And so many of us did that, that they’re having a term called the great resignation. Sure. I think that is what hit me, but in a different way, because I’m so passionate. And so in love with what I do, that I know that my life is on the right path, but it’s so wonderful to see other people saying what I’m doing now. That’s not the right path I need to, I need to do something different. And I admire that. And I think it’s gonna ultimately reap huge benefits for society as

Scott Luton (35:56):

A whole. I completely agree with you. And, and, and even though it’s throwing industry for a loop, yes. Uh, they didn’t see it coming, uh, still for all those individuals that have, uh, and I’m generalized of course, but you know, you and I both have probably sat down with folks that have made these decisions and are, are part of the movement. And they sit down and really look at their life and look at what makes ’em happy. And look, they’re, they’re tired of putting up with, and they, they established new priorities. And in so many cases, as we’ve seen, it doesn’t mean that it’s, that traditional, whatever job they’ve been working and industry will, you know, it will evolve. And it will, you know, uh, as just like it has with work from home, you know, imagine Dr. Lisa, we had one panel and, and, and this is good.

Scott Luton (36:37):

It, as we kind of break into supply chain, we had a panel of supply chain leaders. Uh, I don’t know, it’s been a year or so ago now. And we got to point this conversation and it was a, it was a, it was from a variety of sectors. And this one executive from a big hardware company, uh, mentioned this small little thing that they were, that their management team, it was being requested by their employees, from the management team, pre pandemic. It was something related to, uh, approving expenses and just making their life employees life a little bit easier to get reimbursed for things. And they refuse to do it for, as she said, some kind of nonsensical reason. And then they get into the pandemic where folks are working from home and those kind of things they have, you know, you can’t submit hard copy seats cuz you know what, not in offices.

Scott Luton (37:20):

So something they did instantly. And she said the rest of the panel to, to our audience, what the heck were we thinking? You know, meaning why do we make such a big deal? You know, pre pandemic. I mean, we just gotta find a way to serve our employees and, and just like we serve our, you know, our customers and it, it was, it was such a great moment in, in some of our conversations we’ve had, but let’s, let’s move that into, as we talk supply chain with, with an incredible, uh, industry thought leaders such as Dr. Lisa here, when you survey what’s going on, whether it’s the great resignation you just touched on, whether it’s, um, you know, the E E ex employee experience, I just touched on digital transformation. So many things it’s such a fascinating time to be in industry. As you know, what’s a couple things that are really, when you look at and survey the global supply chain ecosystem that really are our front and center for you. Well, I

Dr. Lisa Williams (38:13):

Do think that what we just talked about, the great resignation is really having a, a huge impact because we’re not able to find people. I think eventually everyone find the right seat right on the bus. Right, right. So we’re all moving around now saying, oh, I don’t wanna do this. I wanna do something else. But ultimately we’ll have the right people in the right seats and that’s gonna be fantastic for the industry. But right now it is a, it’s a shake up. And additionally, you know, finding the right raw materials that you need. I mean, we, we have this issue. We are creating, as I said earlier, some electronic toys and they require chips, the same chips that you need in your automobile. And guess what? There’s a shortage of chips, which means it’s a shortage in our ability to manufacture the quantities that we need.

Dr. Lisa Williams (38:52):

So I think we’re gonna continue see those shortages. We’re gonna see shortages in, in people shortages in raw materials. I think we’re gonna continue to see, uh, empty shelves and we’re gonna continue to see, uh, product delays. But I do think all of that is going to gradually work itself out in the next probably two years. I think it’s gonna be a little longer than what we may want. Uh, some industries may be than others and some may be slower. I think in the beverage industry, for example, it could be as late as 20, 25 or 2026 before we start seeing our shells fully stocked with our favorite sodas.

Scott Luton (39:27):

Yeah. So beyond levels of inventory, uh, and some things that companies doing there, what else sticks out to you about this, this, uh, fascinating time, uh, in Seppa?

Dr. Lisa Williams (39:37):

I think it’s a great opportunity for innovation and creativity, from anything to technology and communications. My dissertation is actually on electronic data interchange or Eddi another old acronym. So that was technology was the, you know, the greatest back in the day. But I think there’s gonna be more opportunities for improvement in technology and creativity. We’re gonna have to do business very differently, uh, because of the pandemic, you know, talking about the toy industry, our biggest event of the year, which is the toy fair in New York was literally just canceled last night because of the pandemic. So things that we are planning, you know, the pandemic is like, no, no, no, no, no, <laugh> not quite yet. So where, how we work is gonna continue to evolve because people are gonna be coming back into their offices. I think it’s gonna make more opportunity for entrepreneurial spirit, even in, within the corporate environment, because we’re gonna have to come up with something that’s new and innovative. And so that’s where that entrepreneurial spirit comes in. But basically it’s gonna be all based upon human creativity and innovation, cuz this pandemic is here to stay for a while. But so is our demand for our customers or the demand that our consumers and customers have. How do we solve that with these new challenges? Talk about sensitivity analysis from college. That’s what we’re facing now. And I think the innovation, number one, creativity and technology, and better ways of communicating because the earlier you have information, the better decisions you can

Scott Luton (41:02):

Make. Absolutely. I, I love that and I love also how you, you touch on it’s powered by humanities. It’s powered by humans, right? Global supply chains, despite all the, the, the digital transformation, all the great technology and everything we have at our fingertips these days still is powered by the folks that make these decisions you’re referencing. And, uh, we gotta find a way of getting more information, right information at, at the right time. So we can make smarter and quick decisions, uh, to react more, faster and faster and, uh, not just react, but to get out ahead, right. Predict and all the different types of, of predictive analytics that, um, that leaders are embracing these days. It’s really fascinating. And it’s really

Dr. Lisa Williams (41:45):

Great. Scott, what you just said is amazing because it talks about the evolution and the strength of our industry. I mean, we did, we move from, to just in time from holding inventory for everything, because it was more efficient, it saved money and it saved cost. Right? Well now the, just in time with the pandemic is causing us headaches because we don’t have all the materials that we need to make final products. So what’s gonna happen. We, the humans, the innovations gonna come up with a different way perhaps is a hybrid, but some way of making sure we have the product we need, that’s not clogging up our warehouses so that we can actually deliver to our customers.

Scott Luton (42:18):

That’s right. That’s right. Um, alright, so we’re gonna have to, um, we saw a snippet or two of a masterclass by Dr. Lisa in supply chain. We’ll have to have you back. So we had the full, full class, so many, so many, so many things that folks can learn, I think from your journey through all of its various chapters. And that’s where I wanna go with this next one of our final questions here. You know, we get asked quite a bit. I bet you get asked quite a bit from, uh, folks that are, you know, getting through high school and getting through college and the earliest parts of their, um, their careers. And they wanna know how can they break into supply chain and, and then know, move up the up the chain of command into C-suites like, uh, like you, Dr. Lisa, if you had a room full of young young folks that, uh, and had their captive attention, one of those rare things, it’s like, it’s like a, a lottery, a ticket, right? What would be some advice you would offer that room full of young folks? Oh, wow. That’s a

Dr. Lisa Williams (43:11):

Great question, Scott. Number one, do indeed get the, the information or the education you need. And, and that can be gathered from a wide variety of ways. You know, it can be just pure experience. It can be going to a great university like Penn state or Ohio state that I did, but get the experience and get the knowledge. And then what I found for me that <laugh>, that’s so important is self appreciation and self, um, believing in yourself. When I, when I transitioned from being a professor to being a dollar entrepreneur, one of the first things that I realized is that I didn’t have the self confidence, cuz I didn’t know anything. I’m looking at the big companies, you know, I’m working with Walmarts of the world, I’m looking at my competitors or all these major. And I’m like, what the heck are you doing in this big river on a little bitty boat?

Dr. Lisa Williams (44:00):

<laugh> here, you’re outta your league, young lady, but I just kept believing. And again, that why that little girl that’s my why? So I kept swimming in very deep waters. That’s what I would say. You’re gonna feel. Or they’re probably gonna feel that they’re over, around they’re undereducated and they don’t have what they need to succeed. All that’s false. What they have is a newness, a unique perspective. And as long as they keep that drive that fire in their belly, that fire in their heart that will keep them moving day to day. They will end in the sweets. This the C-suites no doubt about it because we are looking for that talent. We’re looking for that innovation, but we have to believe in ourselves. Usually we take ourselves out of the game because we say I don’t have enough. I don’t know enough. I don’t know who I need to know Walmart supplier of the year. Would I go back to that? I would’ve never envisioned that they’re major, major toy companies that have, and have not received supplier of the year, but I didn’t take myself out of the game. So always stay in the game, always believe in yourself and keep moving, keep moving. Don’t

Scott Luton (45:06):

Stop. I love that two final thoughts before we make sure folks, when I, how to connect with, uh, Dr or Lisa William CEO of world of E API, would you, what would your advice be? You know, as, as you mentioned on the, on the first half interview, you were at the height of your academic career, life was good, right? And then you had that Saturday, uh, moment that clearly impacted the rest of your, your career and your life and your, your calling. Would you advise for folks, you know, to find they gotta find their purpose too? I, you know, I think before you find your purpose and, and you know, I, I am very thankful that I have found mine in life. It it’s just maybe the human nature that you check in and check out, you know, you just, you do the work you’re getting paid for whatever it is. And, and you pays the bills and, and you know, you’re kind of going through life and you may not have of just stumbled on your purpose yet. And sometimes finding that purpose means stepping outta your comfort zone and, and finding new experiences, but speak to that for a second. Cause clearly from that one Saturday, it had such a big impact. How would you talk about finding your purpose with folks? That’s

Dr. Lisa Williams (46:09):

A, that’s a great question too, sta and you’re right. We are, are so incredibly blessed and fortunate to know what our purpose is because some people don’t, but your purpose may change a little bit or, or may take a different, um, perspective. So my purpose was always to be an educator. I wanted to educate, like I said, even my stuffed animals, <laugh> with my Christmas chalkboard, love it, educating them. And then I started educating humans <laugh> and school. And so when I was doing that, I was loving it. That was my purpose education, empowering students, adults, PhD, students, executives, that I was all in for that. But then life took me in a different direction, which I didn’t plan. And now it’s all about little girls and boys on the plane with their dolls on the floor and I’m all in for that. So my purpose has morphed.

Dr. Lisa Williams (46:54):

So that guess what I’d say is follow the purpose you have at the time, because it may take you in a different direction and kind of you even think about your life too, Scott, you know what you love doing right now today? And this is your passion, right? Well, if you go back probably five, maybe 10 years, there was something else that you really liked to do, right? It just morphed. And then 10 years from now, your vision is gonna expand. Your passion is gonna expand. And so it’s kind of a moving target, but it’s a love, it’s a loving embrace journey and you’ll have the whole journey of self discovery as you’re doing it.

Scott Luton (47:26):

Love that. And that leads me. That’s a great S segue to my final question for you is part of your story here today was finding those partners that are willing to embrace your passion and embrace your vision. And whether that was the first supplier in China, that finally you gave in, or whether that was Walmart, that, that saw it and presented a good rate partnership that seemingly it seemed like y’all, the relationship y’all had was really deep. So that really fostered the type of communication you had and whether it was about the vision or about the, the, the, the line or whatever it was finding and embracing the right partner seems to be a really important part of your journey. Would you agree?

Dr. Lisa Williams (48:06):

I totally would agree with that. And I just say you’re that Walmart and I have had a long, uh, journey together, but it has been one of vulnerability on my part. I, if you have time, I’ll tell you this really short little story and you’ll see what it means. So the very, very first order that Walmart, uh, ordered from me, I’ve told my factory that I’ve been over back and forth to China several times. I’ve given them exactly what I needed them to do. I talked about the, a design of the doll, skin tone, blending, hair, texture, everything. This all was gonna be perfect. Cause she’s my first one. The buyer calls me fast forward several months, a weeks, the buyer calls me and says, Dr. Lisa, I said, yes. And it was like, Hmm, maybe three weeks or so before Christmas, I could tell the way that he said hello, Dr.

Dr. Lisa Williams (48:46):

Lisa, that there was a problem. You can just tell, felt the energy and true enough. He said, the dolls arrived bald, bald. They took the hair, they put it in a, in a, in a rubber band, but they left it. They only put hair around the circumference. So the perimeter of it. So in the inside, when the hair shook coming over from, from Asia, the rubber bands is a of cases of ribbons fell down. And what you saw or was revealed was a bald doll, not good. So when they called me to tell me this, it was my first time hearing it. I immediately said, well, they said we could discount the dolls and still sell them. I said, no, we cannot do that. We have to destroy them all because this is my first time out. I did little girls to believe that this was a doll that was worthy of them.

Dr. Lisa Williams (49:35):

Once again, now I’m lowering their expectations of what they deserve. And secondly, and I didn’t realize I was really doing this, but I endeared myself on some level to Walmart because they said, she’s honest, she’s forthright. And she’s gonna fix it. I wasn’t trying to cover it up. Wasn’t trying to say, Hey, well, you know, instead of, you know, getting your margin, take a slightly shorter, a less margin. No, I, I stood up, I took responsibility for it. I corrected it. It cost me a mint and almost put me out of business, total transparency, but it showed Walmart a little about who my leadership style was. So that vulnerability and authenticity has helped to endure the relationship. And I say that because sometimes people who are starting in business, they look at these huge suppliers, like your Walmarts, your targets, whomever, and they say, oh, they got more money. They can afford this loss or that loss, or I can overcharge it. Yeah, you can, you can, that’s certainly an option. But if you are really trying to develop a relationship more than purely based on transaction, if you really want a partnership, then you have to be a partner. And that requires being honest and also in some cases, vulnerable and always looking for the best thing or your partner also, not just the best thing for you.

Scott Luton (50:50):

Very well said. I, I really appreciate I’m. I’m glad, I’m glad we asked just a couple additional questions before we connect you with our listeners. Very valuable lessons learned. And one of the, one of the things I heard there is, you know, sometimes as a leader, you gotta call time out and you gotta make that really tough and costly decision, but it’s still the right one and it’ll pay off in the long run. Yes. Uh, so thank you so much for sharing and being, uh, transparent throughout all the journeys. There’s so much that you’re teaching folks, uh, both from your academic time, from your entrepreneurial time and you know what, there’s more, <laugh> what right. Folks, there’s a lot more, so we’ll have to have Dr. Lisa Williams back with us here. Let’s make sure folks how to connect with you. And I know, I know your, your research is everywhere. Your interviews are everywhere. Your, um, your products are everywhere, but how can folks connect with you and learn more about the world of API?

Dr. Lisa Williams (51:43):

Ah, thank you for that. Well, Instagram we’re really we’re on Instagram. So for Instagram, it’s the fresh dolls or at the fresh dolls. And then to reach me directly, it’s at the Dr. Lisa. So at the Dr. Lisa

Scott Luton (51:58):

Wonderful. It’s just that easy. Well, uh, Dr. Lisa really admire all that you’ve done. And I think as busy as you are to take, you know, the last hour or so, and spend some time with us and you, and share your journey and your learnings, your accomplishments, and, and a lot more with our global audience. Uh, we’re very grateful for that. So big, thanks to Dr. Lisa Williams, CEO of world of E API. Scott.

Dr. Lisa Williams (52:21):

It’s been a pleasure, an absolute joy. Thank you for having me.

Scott Luton (52:24):

You bet. We’ll have to have you back again really soon. I’d love it, listeners. Hopefully you’ve a enjoyed this. I, I told y’all this this hour is gonna be inspirational and intriguing. And, uh, that just scratches the surface of just an hour with Dr. Lisa, if you’d like conversations like this, be sure to find us supply chain now.com. Find us wherever you get your podcast from click to subscribe. So don’t miss conversations, just like this one, but Hey, if you hear anything here today beyond I, I’m not, not sure about you. I’ve got about 17 pages of notes from Dr. Lisa’s journey, but Hey, Scott, Lutons signing off for our team here. Challenge you to do good. Give forward. Be the change. Be just like Dr. Lisa, and we’re gonna be a better place. And we’ll see you next time. Right back here on supply chain now. Thanks everybody.

Intro/Outro (53:08):

Thanks for being a part of our, our supply chain. Now community check out all of our programming@supplychainnow.com and make sure you subscribe to supply chain. Now anywhere you listen to podcasts and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. See you next time on supply chain. Now

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Dr. Lisa Williams had reached the highest levels in her academic profession. She held multi-million dollar endowments and was the highest ranking professor in her field. But after seeing an updated doll study where a little girl says she didn’t want to play with the black doll because the skin was nasty and indicated her skin was potentially nasty, too. Dr Lisa was so affected, she left it all and started the World of EPI. EPI is the classic Cinderella story — and is now the largest multicultural doll company. She has dolls for girls, boys, babies all the way to preteens. Her dolls can be found at all major retailers and their Oprah’s Favorite Things. Connect with Dr. Lisa on LinkedIn.

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Scott W. Luton

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Vicki White

Controller

Vicki has a long history of rising to challenges and keeping things up and running. First, she supported her family’s multi-million dollar business as controller for 12 years, beginning at the age of 17. Then, she worked as an office manager and controller for a wholesale food broker. But her biggest feat? Serving as the chief executive officer of her household, while her entrepreneur husband travelled the world extensively. She fed, nurtured, chaperoned, and chauffeured three daughters all while running a newsletter publishing business and remaining active in her community as a Stephen’s Minister, Sunday school teacher, school volunteer, licensed realtor and POA Board president (a title she holds to this day). A force to be reckoned with in the office, you might think twice before you meet Vicki on the tennis court! When she’s not keeping the books balanced at Supply Chain Now or playing tennis matches, you can find Vicki spending time with her husband Greg, her 4 fur babies, gardening, cleaning (yes, she loves to clean!) and learning new things.

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Scott W. Luton

Founder, CEO, & Host

As the founder and CEO of Supply Chain Now, you might say Scott is the voice of supply chain – but he’s too much of a team player to ever claim such a title. One thing’s for sure: he’s a tried and true supply chain expert. With over 15 years of experience in the end-to-end supply chain, Scott’s insights have appeared in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and CNN. He has also been named a top industry influencer by Thinkers360, ISCEA and more.

From 2009-2011, Scott was president of APICS Atlanta, and he continues to lead initiatives that support both the local business community and global industry. A United States Air Force Veteran, Scott has also regularly led efforts to give back to his fellow veteran community since his departure from active duty in 2002.

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Allison Giddens

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Allison Krache Giddens has been with Win-Tech, a veteran-owned small business and aerospace precision machine shop, for 15 years, recently buying the company from her mentor and Win-Tech’s Founder, Dennis Winslow. She and her business partner, John Hudson now serve as Co-Presidents, leading the 33-year old company through the pandemic.

She holds undergraduate degrees in psychology and criminal justice from the University of Georgia, a Masters in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University, a Masters in Manufacturing from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Certificate of Finance from the University of Georgia. She also holds certificates in Google Analytics, event planning, and Cybersecurity Risk Management from Harvard online. Allison founded the Georgia Chapter of Women in Manufacturing and currently serves as Treasurer. She serves on the Chattahoochee Technical College Foundation Board as its Secretary, the liveSAFE Resources Board of Directors as Resource Development Co-Chair, and on the Leadership Cobb Alumni Association Board as Membership Chair and is also a member of Cobb Executive Women. She is on the Board for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Northwest Area Councils. Allison runs The Dave Krache Foundation, a non-profit that helps pay sports fees for local kids in need.

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Greg White

Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain Now and TECHquila Sunrise

When rapid-growth technology companies, venture capital and private equity firms are looking for advisory, they call Greg – a founder, board director, advisor and catalyst of disruptive B2B technology and supply chain. An insightful visionary, Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams in creating breakthroughs to gain market exposure and momentum – increasing overall company esteem and valuation.

Greg is a founder himself, creating Blue Ridge Solutions, a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader in cloud-native supply chain applications, and bringing to market Curo, a field service management solution. He has also held leadership roles with Servigistics (PTC) and E3 Corporation (JDA/Blue Yonder). As a principal and host at Supply Chain Now, Greg helps guide the company’s strategic direction, hosts industry leader discussions, community livestreams, and all in addition to executive producing and hosting his original YouTube channel and podcast, TEChquila Sunrise.

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Chris Barnes

Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain is Boring

Talk about world-class: Chris is one of the few professionals in the world to hold CPIM-F, CLTD-F and CSCP-F designations from ASCM/APICS. He’s also the APICS coach – and our resident Supply Chain Doctor. When he’s not hosting programs with Supply Chain Now, he’s sharing supply chain knowledge on the APICS Coach Youtube channel or serving as a professional education instructor for the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistic Institute’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) program and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Center for Professional Education courses.

Chris earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University, an MBA with emphasis in Industrial Psychology from the University of West Florida, and is a Doctoral in Supply Chain Management candidate.

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Karin Bursa

Host of TEKTOK

If there’s one Supply Chain ‘Pro to Know,’ it’s Karin. She’s earned the title for three years and counting – culminating in her designation as the “2020 Supply Chain Pro to Know of the Year.” Karin is also an award-winning digital supply chain, business strategy and technology marketing executive. A sought-after speaker at industry conferences, you will find her quoted in a variety of supply chain publications – and active in forums like ASCM/APICS and CSCMP.

With more than 25 years of supply chain experience, Karin spearheaded strategy and marketing for Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader and IDC MarketScape Leader, Logility. Karin has the heart of a teacher and has helped nearly 1,000 customers transform their businesses and tell their success stories. Today, she is a sought-after advisor helping high-growth B2B technology companies with everything from defining their unique value propositions to introducing new products and capturing customer success. No matter their goals, she makes sure her clients have actionable marketing strategies that help grow global revenue, market share and profitability.

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Kevin L. Jackson

Host of Digital Transformers

Kevin L. Jackson is a globally recognized Thought Leader, Industry Influencer and Founder/Author of the award winning “Cloud Musings” blog.  He has also been recognized as a “Top 5G Influencer” (Onalytica 2019, Radar 2020), a “Top 50 Global Digital Transformation Thought Leader” (Thinkers 360 2019) and provides strategic consulting and integrated social media services to AT&T, Intel, Broadcom, Ericsson and other leading companies. Mr. Jackson’s commercial experience includes Vice President J.P. Morgan Chase, Worldwide Sales Executive for IBM and SAIC (Engility) Director Cloud Solutions. He has served on teams that have supported digital transformation projects for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US Intelligence Community.  Kevin’s formal education includes a MS Computer Engineering from Naval Postgraduate School; MA National Security & Strategic Studies from Naval War College; and a BS Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy. Internationally recognizable firms that have sponsored articles authored by him include CiscoMicrosoft, Citrix and IBM.  Books include “Click to Transform” (Leaders Press, 2020), “Architecting Cloud Computing Solutions” (Packt, 2018), and “Practical Cloud Security: A Cross Industry View” (Taylor & Francis, 2016). He also delivers online training through Tulane UniversityO’Reilly MediaLinkedIn Learning, and Pluralsight.  Mr. Jackson retired from the U.S. Navy in 1994, earning specialties in Space Systems EngineeringCarrier Onboard Delivery Logistics and carrier-based Airborne Early Warning and Control. While active, he also served with the National Reconnaissance Office, Operational Support Office, providing tactical support to Navy and Marine Corps forces worldwide.

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Enrique Alvarez

Host of Logistics with Purpose and Supply Chain Now en Español

Enrique serves as Managing Director at Vector Global Logistics and believes we all have a personal responsibility to change the world. He is hard working, relationship minded and pro-active. Enrique trusts that the key to logistics is having a good and responsible team that truly partners with the clients and does whatever is necessary to see them succeed. He is a proud sponsor of Vector’s unique results-based work environment and before venturing into logistics he worked for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). During his time at BCG, he worked in different industries such as Telecommunications, Energy, Industrial Goods, Building Materials, and Private Banking. His main focus was always on the operations, sales, and supply chain processes, with case focus on, logistics, growth strategy, and cost reduction. Prior to joining BCG, Enrique worked for Grupo Vitro, a Mexican glass manufacturer, for five years holding different positions from sales and logistics manager to supply chain project leader in charge of five warehouses in Colombia.

He has an MBA from The Wharton School of Business and a BS, in Mechanical Engineer from the Technologico de Monterrey in Mexico. Enrique’s passions are soccer and the ocean, and he also enjoys traveling, getting to know new people, and spending time with his wife and two kids, Emma and Enrique.

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Kelly Barner

Host of Dial P for Procurement

Kelly is the Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point and MyPurchasingCenter. She has been in procurement since 2003, starting as a practitioner and then as the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris. She has covered procurement news, events, publications, solutions, trends, and relevant economics at Buyers Meeting Point since 2009. Kelly is also the General Manager at Art of Procurement and Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. Kelly has her MBA from Babson College as well as an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and she has co-authored three books: ‘Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals’, ‘Procurement at a Crossroads’, and ‘Finance Unleashed’.

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Mary Kate Soliva

Host, Veteran Voices

Mary Kate Soliva is transitioning from active duty in the US Army. She is currently in the Doctor of Criminal Justice program at Saint Leo University. She is passionate about combating human trafficking and has spent the last decade conducting training for military personnel and the local community.

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Jeff Miller

Host

Jeff Miller is the host of Supply Chain Now’s Supply Chain is the Business.  Jeff is a digital business transformation and supply chain advisor with deep expertise in Industry 4.0, ERP, PLM, SCM, IoT, AR and related technologies. Through more than 25 years of industry and consulting experience, he has worked with many of the world’s leading product and service companies to achieve their strategic business and supply chain goals, creating durable business value for organizations at the forefront of technology and business practices. Jeff is the managing director for North America at Transition Technologies PSC, a global solution integrator, and the founder and managing principal of BTV Advisors, a firm that helps companies secure business transformation value from digital supply chain technologies and their breakthrough capabilities.

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Amanda Luton

Chief Marketing Officer

Amanda is a marketing veteran and entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience across a variety of industries and organizations including Von Maur, Anthropologie, AmericasMart Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In 2016, Amanda founded and grew the Magnolia Marketing Group into a successful digital media firm, and now she develops modern marketing strategies, social campaigns, innovative operational processes, and implements creative content initiatives for Supply Chain Now. But that’s just the beginning of her supply chain impact. Amanda also served as the VP of Information Systems and Webmaster on the Board of Directors for APICS Savannah for several years, and is the face behind the scenes welcoming you to every Supply Chain Now livestream! She was also recently selected as one of the Top 100 Women in Supply Chain by Supply Chain Digest and IBM.  When she’s not leading the Supply Chain Now marketing team, you can find Amanda with her and her husband Scott’s three kids, in the kitchen cooking, or reading.

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Clay Phillips

Business Development Manager

Clay is passionate about two things: supply chain and the marketing that goes into it. Recently graduated with a degree in marketing at the University of Georgia, Clay got his start as a journalism major and inaugural member of the Owl’s football team at Kennesaw State University – but quickly saw tremendous opportunity in the Terry College of Business. He’s already putting his education to great use at Supply Chain Now, assisting with everything from sales and brand strategy to media production. Clay has contributed to initiatives such as our leap into video production, the guest blog series, and boosting social media presence, and after nearly two years in Supply Chain Now’s Marketing Department, Clay now heads up partnership and sales initiatives with the help of the rest of the Supply Chain Now sales team.

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Trisha Cordes

Administrative Assistant

Trisha is new to the supply chain industry – but not to podcasting. She’s an experienced podcast manager and virtual assistant who also happens to have 20 years of experience as an elementary school teacher. It’s safe to say, she’s passionate about helping people, and she lives out that passion every day with the Supply Chain Now team, contributing to scheduling and podcast production.

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Billy Taylor

Host of Dial P for Procurement

Billy Taylor is a Proven Business Excellence Practitioner and Leadership Guru with over 25 years leading operations for a Fortune 500 company, Goodyear. He is also the CEO of LinkedXL (Excellence), a Business Operating Systems Architecting Firm dedicated to implementing sustainable operating systems that drive sustainable results. Taylor’s achievements in the industry have made him a Next Generational Lean pacesetter with significant contributions.

An American business executive, Taylor has made a name for himself as an innovative and energetic industry professional with an indispensable passion for his craft of operational excellence. His journey started many years ago and has worked with renowned corporations such as The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (GT) leading multi-site operations. With over 3 decades of service leading North America operations, he is experienced in a deeply rooted process driven approach in customer service, process integrity for sustainability.

A disciple of continuous improvement, Taylor’s love for people inspires commitment to helping others achieve their full potential. He is a dynamic speaker and hosts "The Winning Link," a popular podcast centered on business and leadership excellence with the #1 rated Supply Chain Now Network. As a leadership guru, Taylor has earned several invitations to universities, international conferences, global publications, and the U.S. Army to demonstrate how to achieve and sustain effective results through cultural acceptance and employee ownership. Leveraging the wisdom of his business acumen, strong influence as a speaker and podcaster Taylor is set to release "The Winning Link" book under McGraw Hill publishing in 2022. The book is a how-to manual to help readers understand the management of business interactions while teaching them how to Deine, Align, and Execute Winning in Business.

A servant leader, Taylor, was named by The National Diversity Council as one of the Top 100 Diversity Officers in the country in 2021. He features among Oklahoma's Most Admired CEOs and maintains key leadership roles with the Executive Advisory Board for The Shingo Institute "The Nobel Prize of Operations" and The Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME); two world-leading organizations for operational excellence, business development, and cultural learning.  He is also an Independent Director for the M-D Building Products Board, a proud American manufacturer of quality products since 1920.

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Chantel King

Social Media Manager

My name is Chantel King and I am the Social Media Specialist at Supply Chain Now. My job is to make sure our audience is engaged and educated on the abundant amount of information the supply chain industry has to offer.

Social Media and Communications has been my niche ever since I graduated from college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. No, I am not a West Coast girl. I was born and raised in New Jersey, but my travel experience goes way beyond the garden state. My true passion is in creating editorial and graphic content that influences others to be great in whatever industry they are in. I’ve done this by working with lifestyle, financial, and editorial companies by providing resources to enhance their businesses.

Another passion of mine is trying new things. Whether it’s food, an activity, or a sport. I would like to say that I am an adventurous Taurus that never shies away from a new quest or challenge.

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Lori Sofian

Marketing Coordinator

Lori is currently completing a degree in marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing at the University of Georgia. When she’s not supporting the marketing efforts at Supply Chain Now, you can find her at music festivals – or working toward her dream goal of a fashion career. Lori is involved in many extracurricular activities and appreciates all the learning experiences UGA has brought her.

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Katherine Hintz

Sales and Marketing Coordinator

Katherine is a marketing professional and MBA candidate who strives to unite her love of people with a passion for positive experiences. Having a diverse background, which includes nonprofit work with digital marketing and start-ups, she serves as a leader who helps people live their most creative lives by cultivating community, order, collaboration, and respect. With equal parts creativity and analytics, she brings a unique skill set which fosters refining, problem solving, and connecting organizations with their true vision. In her free time, you can usually find her looking for her cup of coffee, playing with her puppy Charlie, and dreaming of her next road trip.

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Ben Harris

Host

Ben Harris is the Director of Supply Chain Ecosystem Expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Ben comes to the Metro Atlanta Chamber after serving as Senior Manager, Market Development for Manhattan Associates. There, Ben was responsible for developing Manhattan’s sales pipeline and overall Americas supply chain marketing strategy. Ben oversaw market positioning, messaging and campaign execution to build awareness and drive new pipeline growth. Prior to joining Manhattan, Ben spent four years with the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation for Logistics where he played a key role in establishing the Center as a go-to industry resource for information, support, partnership building, and investment development. Additionally, he became a key SME for all logistics and supply chain-focused projects. Ben began his career at Page International, Inc. where he drove continuous improvement in complex global supply chain operations for a wide variety of businesses and Fortune 500 companies. An APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), Ben holds an Executive Master’s degree in Business Administration (EMBA) and bachelor’s degree in International Business (BBA) from the Terry College at the University of Georgia.

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Page Siplon

Host, The Freight Insider

Prior to joining TeamOne Logistics, Page Siplon served as the Executive Director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, the State’s leading consulting resource for fueling logistics industry growth and global competitiveness. For over a decade, he directly assisted hundreds of companies to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities related to the movement of freight. During this time, Siplon was also appointed to concurrently serve the State of Georgia as Director of the larger Centers of Innovation Program, in which he provided executive leadership and vision for all six strategic industry-focused Centers. As a frequently requested keynote speaker, Siplon is called upon to address a range of audiences on unique aspects of technology, workforce, and logistics. This often includes topics of global and domestic logistics trends, supply chain visibility, collaboration, and strategic planning. He has also been quoted as an industry expert in publications such as Forbes, Journal of Commerce, Fortune, NPR, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, American Express, DC Velocity, Area Development Magazine, Site Selection Magazine, Inbound Logistics, Modern Material Handling, and is frequently a live special guest on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Radio Show. Siplon is an active industry participant, recognized by DC Velocity Magazine as a “2012 Logistics Rainmaker” which annually identifies the top-ten logistics professionals in the Nation; and named a “Pro to Know” by Supply & Demand Executive Magazine in 2014. Siplon was also selected by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Georgians” for 2013, 2014, and 2015. He also serves various industry leadership roles at both the State and Federal level. Governor Nathan Deal nominated Siplon to represent Georgia on a National Supply Chain Competitiveness Advisory Committee, where he was appointed to a two-year term by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and was then appointed to serve as its vice-chairman. At the State level, he was selected by then-Governor Sonny Perdue to serve as lead consultant on the Commission for New Georgia’s Freight and Logistics Task Force. In this effort, Siplon led a Private Sector Advisory Committee with invited executives from a range of private sector stakeholders including UPS, Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Georgia Pacific, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. Siplon honorably served a combined 12 years in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force. During this time, he led the integration of encryption techniques and deployed cryptographic devices for tactically secure voice and data platforms in critical ground-to-air communication systems. This service included support for all branches of the Department of Defense, multiple federal security agencies, and aiding NASA with multiple Space Shuttle launches. Originally from New York, Siplon received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering with a focus on digital signal processing from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned an associate’s degree in advanced electronic systems from the Air Force College and completed multiple military leadership academies in both the Marines and Air Force. Siplon currently lives in Cumming, Georgia (north of Atlanta), with his wife Jan, and two children Thomas (19) and Lily (15).

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Kristi Porter

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Kristi Porter is VP of Sales and Marketing at Vector Global Logistics, a company that is changing the world through supply chain. In her role, she oversees all marketing efforts and supports the sales team in doing what they do best. In addition to this role, she is the Chief Do-Gooder at Signify, which assists nonprofits and social impact companies through copywriting and marketing strategy consulting. She has almost 20 years of professional experience, and loves every opportunity to help people do more good.

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Kevin Brown

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Kevin Brown is the Director of Business Development for Vector Global Logistics.  He has a dedicated interest in Major Account Management, Enterprise Sales, and Corporate Leadership. He offers 25 years of exceptional experience and superior performance in the sales of Logistics, Supply Chain, and Transportation Management. Kevin is a dynamic, high-impact, sales executive and corporate leader who has consistently exceeded corporate goals. He effectively coordinates multiple resources to solution sell large complex opportunities while focusing on corporate level contacts across the enterprise. His specialties include targeting and securing key accounts by analyzing customer’s current business processes and developing solutions to meet their corporate goals. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.

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Sofia Rivas Herrera

Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol

Sofia Rivas Herrera is a Mexican Industrial Engineer from Tecnologico de Monterrey class 2019. Upon graduation, she earned a scholarship to study MIT’s Graduate Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and graduated as one of the Top 3 performers of her class in 2020. She also has a multicultural background due to her international academic experiences at Singapore Management University and Kühne Logistics University in Hamburg. Sofia self-identifies as a Supply Chain enthusiast & ambassador sharing her passion for the field in her daily life.

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Jose Miguel Irarrazaval

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Jose Manuel Irarrazaval es parte del equipo de Vector Global Logistics Chile. José Manuel es un gerente experimentado con experiencia en finanzas corporativas, fusiones y adquisiciones, financiamiento y reestructuración, inversión directa y financiera, tanto en Chile como en el exterior. José Manuel tiene su MBA de la Universidad de Pennsylvania- The Wharton School. Conéctese con Jose Manuel en LinkedIn.

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Demo Perez

Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol

Demo Perez started his career in 1997 in the industry by chance when a relative asked him for help for two just weeks putting together an operation for FedEx Express at the Colon Free Zone, an area where he was never been but accepted the challenge. Worked in all roles possible from a truck driver to currier to a sales representative, helped the brand introduction, market share growth and recognition in the Colon Free Zone, at the end of 1999 had the chance to meet and have a chat with Fred Smith ( FedEx CEO), joined another company in 2018 who took over the FedEx operations as Operations and sales manager, in 2004 accepted the challenge from his company to leave the FedEx operations and business to take over the operation and business of DHL Express, his major competitor and rival so couldn’t say no, by changing completely its operation model in the Free Zone. In 2005 started his first entrepreneurial journey by quitting his job and joining two friends to start a Freight Forwarding company. After 8 months was recruited back by his company LSP with the General Manager role with the challenge of growing the company and make it fully capable warehousing 3PL. By 2009 joined CSCMP and WERC and started his journey of learning and growing his international network and high-level learning. In 2012 for the first time joined a local association ( the Panama Maritime Chamber) and worked in the country’s first Logistics Strategy plan, joined and lead other associations ending as president of the Panama Logistics Council in 2017. By finishing his professional mission at LSP with a company that was 8 times the size it was when accepted the role as GM with so many jobs generated and several young professionals coached, having great financial results, took the decision to move forward and start his own business from scratch by the end of 2019. with a friend and colleague co-founded IPL Group a company that started as a boutique 3PL and now is gearing up for the post-Covid era by moving to the big leagues.

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Kim Winter

Host, Supply Chain Now

The founder of Logistics Executive Group, Kim Winter delivers 40 years of executive leadership experience spanning Executive Search & Recruitment, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Advisory, Motivational Speaking, Trade Facilitation and across the Supply Chain, Logistics, 3PL, E-commerce, Life Science, Cold Chain, FMCG, Retail, Maritime, Defence, Aviation, Resources, and Industrial sectors. Operating from the company’s global offices, he is a regular contributor of thought leadership to industry and media, is a professional Master of Ceremonies, and is frequently invited to chair international events.

He is a Board member of over a dozen companies throughout APAC, India, and the Middle East, a New Zealand citizen, he holds formal resident status in Australia and the UAE, and is the Australia & New Zealand representative for the UAE Government-owned Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), the Middle East’s largest Economic Free Zone.

A triathlete and ex-professional rugby player, Kim is a qualified (IECL Sydney) executive coach and the Founder / Chairman of the successful not for profit humanitarian organization, Oasis Africa (www. oasisafrica.org.au), which has provided freedom from poverty through education to over 8000 mainly orphaned children in East Africa’s slums. Kim holds an MBA and BA from Massey & Victoria Universities (NZ).

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Nick Roemer

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Nick Roemer has had a very diverse and extensive career within design and sales over the last 15 years stretching from China, Dubai, Germany, Holland, UK, and the USA. In the last 5 years, Nick has developed a hawk's eye for sustainable tech and the human-centric marketing and sales procedures that come with it. With his far-reaching and strong network within the logistics industry, Nick has been able to open new avenues and routes to market within major industries in the USA and the UAE. Nick lives by the ethos, “Give more than you take." His professional mission is to make the logistics industry leaner, cleaner and greener.

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Alex Bramley

Sales Support Intern

Alex is pursuing a Marketing degree and a Certificate in Legal Studies at the University of Georgia. As a dual citizen of both the US and UK; Alex has studied abroad at University College London and is passionate about travel and international business. Through her coursework at the Terry College of Business, Alex has gained valuable skills in digital marketing, analytics, and professional selling. She joined Supply Chain Now as a Sales Support Intern where she assists the team by prospecting and qualifying new business partners.

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