2023 Women in Print and Promo: Dawn Conway, Boost Engagement LLC dba Shumsky
Boost Engagement LLC dba Shumsky, Dayton, Ohio
In seven short years, Dawn Conway has accomplished what many promo veterans aspire to in a lifetime. As CEO of Boost Engagement dba Shumsky, she is responsible for overall corporate leadership and execution of all brands within the Boost Engagement portfolio. She takes every measure to ensure employees are equipped with a safe and secure environment. In 2020, she boldly — and successfully — converted the company’s offerings to PPE, including face masks, hospital gowns, and sanitizers, in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
She is also committed to an ethical supply chain, and is the co-founder and a member of the Global Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Under Conway’s watch, Boost Engagement has implemented a zero-tolerance policy against human trafficking, and she holds its suppliers to the same standard.
Conway was exposed to promo at a young age, with her parents owning an advertising and printing company. At the time, joining the family business didn’t appeal to her. Instead, she nurtured her innate skills by working at two Fortune 500 software organizations. For 21 years, Conway held a variety of global senior roles for LexisNexis at its Dayton, Ohio office, and later served as chief operating officer for Chicago-based Cision. But four years of commuting between Chicago and Dayton, where her husband lived, was taking a toll, so she moved back home. That’s when Conway met Mike and Anita Emoff, co-owners of Boost. Conway’s commitment to providing clients with white-glove service energized the Emoffs, and the rest is promo history.
“Coming full circle, I joined their family-owned business in 2016, and we are the No. 1 advertising agency in Dayton,” she says. “My corporate background and their creativity and passion were a perfect fit. Aside from that, this is a fun, ever-evolving, creative industry!”
Soon after completing the onboarding process, Conway became involved as a principal, and is now on the board of the Peernet Group, a strategic alliance of promotional product distributors, working together to provide the most advanced technology, product decoration, fulfillment, and service to their network of clients.
“Dawn leads with a servant style of leadership centered on our team members,” her nominator says. “She ensures we have the right culture to support the sense of engagement and professional development of our team members and, subsequently, the growth of the company. Dawn frequently solicits feedback, and attempts to foster an atmosphere where our staff members feel free to be open and honest.”
Her Proudest Career Achievement
I am most proud of the evolution of our company from selling products to selling engagement solutions that include branded merchandise, print, e-commerce, and employee recognition solutions. Our team has embraced this transition and have become experts in culture and employee engagement. I am also proud of our team who made it possible for us to again be named “Best Places to Work” and “Business of the Year in 2022” by the Dayton Business Journal. A key achievement in my career as a whole is my involvement as a member and co-founder of the Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking, whose mission is to leverage the business community resources to prevent and contribute to the efforts to eradicate human trafficking and support survivors, co-founded in 2010. The coalition was established as the first cross-sectoral business alliance focused only on eliminating human trafficking in company operations and supply chains, with the critical mission to harness the power of business across sectors to prevent and reduce human trafficking and support survivors. The coalition became internationally recognized when President Obama announced the launch of GBCAT during the UN General Assembly in September 2012. At Boost we require all of suppliers to sign a Zero Tolerance Policy ensuring ethical labor practices.
How Failure Taught Her Resiliency
I don’t usually look at mistakes or bumps in the road as failures, but as opportunities to learn and improve. Being resilient was never an option, but with experience it has gotten easier.
Her Most Significant Barrier as a Female Leader
Honestly, the most significant barrier in my career was me. I had to learn to believe in myself and seek out mentors and sponsors to help me since no one can know it all, and not be afraid to ask for help. One of my mentors along the way gave me great advice: As soon as you are comfortable, push to take on other responsibilities that make you uncomfortable.
One specific example is when I was vice president of licensing of LexisNexis, and an opportunity came up to be senior vice president of global corporate responsibility, which other than a passion for giving back, I had no experience in. That led to establishing the Global Coalition Against Human Trafficking, which led to opportunities that I would never have had if I didn’t take the chance. I wouldn’t be where I am today without taking risks and seeking out the advice of many people — both male and female.
How She Thinks Companies Can Attract and Retain Female Talent
I think most companies have inclusive policies and proactively seek to have a diverse workforce. However, to attract female talent you need to showcase female talent both in your leadership ranks and board of advisers. When researching a company, and there are no female leaders on the leadership team in key positions, that is a red flag. If you want to attract female talent, you need to demonstrate a pathway to leadership.
Her Job Advice to Women
Reach out to those female leaders in the industry today and ask for a meeting, just an information share about the industry and their journey. I have yet to find someone who is not willing to have the conversation.
Her Upcoming Goals
Professionally, I would like to continue to develop the employee engagement journey incorporating promotional products and print as more of an engagement solution with a purpose behind the product. Elevating solutions for employee engagement and boosting brands with a purpose, as well. As a company, we continue investing in our engagement solutions focused on brand and employees. Given the changes in the workforce over the last two years, moving to a remote/hybrid workforce, and increased competition for talent and retention challenges, focusing on company culture and reputation has never been more critical. Culture and brand have never been more important than now. I was appointed by Governor [Mike] DeWine to the Wright State University board of Trustees in 2020, and took on the role as chair of the academic affairs committee this year. Personally, I want to give back as much as I can to ensure the success of Wright State and its students. It’s completely different from the corporate world — a new challenge for me!
How She Recharges
I get my energy from people, so spending time with friends and family and socializing outside of the office is one way of recharging. I am also an avid Peloton user, [and a] huge Sam Yo fan! #YesYo
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.