2023 Women in Print and Promo: Lori Bauer, iPROMOTEu
Senior Vice President of Affiliate Sales and Support
iPROMOTEu, Wayland, Massachusetts
Lori Bauer is one of those rare talents who continues to remain relevant after 25 years in the promo space. She gives her all to everything — from mentoring and relationship-building, to selling and advocating for women in business. She likes new challenges and isn’t afraid of failure.
“Lori is one of the most respected and recognizable leaders in the promotional products industry thanks, in part, to the ways she prioritizes leading and giving,” according to her nominator. “She has built countless relationships by providing best-in-class service, sharing her knowledge and insights, and providing meaningful support to her clients and colleagues.”
Bauer currently resides in Florida, but her story begins in Ohio. With a newly minted degree in business from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Bauer took part in an executive management program with Federated Department Stores headquarters (now Macy’s) in 1997. A year later, she and her then-boyfriend chose to relocate to Florida to enjoy the sunshine and relaxed lifestyle because why wait for retirement age, they reasoned.
An opportunity with BIC Graphic intrigued Bauer, who, of course, was familiar with the brand and product portfolio despite being an industry outsider. She was offered an assistant product management position two days after an on-site interview, got engaged that same weekend, and almost immediately headed to Tampa. Bauer quickly fell in love with promo, soaking up everything she could.
While working in the marketing department, Bauer advanced to product manager, to group product manager, then to department leader, and, finally, director of marketing after the company acquired Norwood Promotional Products. Wanting to expand to other areas of BIC, she was promoted and transitioned to the sales organization in 2011, starting out as vice president of field sales before stepping into the vice president of national accounts role, eventually overseeing the entire sales team as senior vice president of sales. (Bauer is humble, but her nominator points out that this title made her the first female in the history of the company to be a vice president in a sales or marketing role.)
Staying true to her risk-taking ways, Bauer left BIC Graphic (now Koozie Group) to learn about the distributor side of promo. In April 2021, she became iPROMOTEu’s new senior vice president of affiliate sales and support. In under two years as an executive leader with iPROMOTEu, Bauer’s input has helped launch new technology, tools, and resources that have driven strong affiliate growth. Her influence has also helped iPROMOTEu’s sales to increase by 9% in 2021 to $180 million, her nominator shares.
In total, Bauer’s team consists of 40 individuals across various departments, including affiliate sales development, marketing, affiliate services, company stores, and the company’s virtual assistant program and affiliate technology and operations. If she can support iPROMOTEu affiliates with the tools they need to succeed, Bauer considers that a job well done.
Her Proudest Career Achievement
One highlight of my career was the involvement in the launch of BIC Sticky Notes, which became a very important product line in terms of sales and profitability for the company. It was a great team across all disciplines and rewarding to see it through from infancy to maturity.
Personally, after ascending the ranks in the marketing department at BIC, I am proud looking back that I successfully transitioned over to sales in a senior leadership position. Though sales and marketing go hand in hand, they are vastly different in many aspects, and it was a step out of my comfort zone to expand my skill set. I am proud of what I accomplished, in step with an amazing team. I believe it is important to challenge yourself in new areas, and from new people and perspectives to continue to grow personally and as a leader.
How Failure Taught Her Resiliency
I fail all the time. If you never fail, you are never trying anything new or without risk that often comes with great reward. For me, people management can be the most challenging part of leadership, constantly learning to adapt to what motivates different individuals, how you support them, and how you ultimately win together and move initiatives forward. I recall a particular hiring decision that I made that did not work out. I was convinced at the time due to the person’s particular skill set that was desperately needed; however, it did not end up being a culture fit with the team and, therefore, proved to be more of a distractor for the department. This experience taught me the importance of finding talent that fits both the job description and the team/company culture.
Her Most Significant Barrier as a Female Leader
A barrier for me was being typecast into a specific discipline, and having to push hard and be vocal at times to expand beyond solely marketing to different aspects of leadership in sales, service, and operations, in order to gain the needed experience to lead at a senior level. As new opportunities would come up, it was sometimes a battle to move beyond what a great job I was currently doing where male leaders were often (and are often) prodded to gain experience in a variety of areas in order to advance to executive management and into the C-Suite. I do think our industry has made many improvements in this regard over the years, and I have had many supportive mentors and managers — male and female — that have helped me through my journey.
How She Thinks Companies Can Attract and Retain Female Talent
Companies can demonstrate the success and contributions from the female leaders they employ and showcase their true commitment to diversity. They can encourage their female leaders to advocate to attract talent and engage in this process.
Her Job Advice to Women
I would encourage other women considering a career in print and promo to seek out other women in the industry and talk to them about their paths, trends, and opportunities that may fit their professional aspirations. Attending a trade show or industry conference, such as PPAI’s Women’s Leadership Conference, is a great place to start. I think most would quickly discover the passion that many of us share and the growth prospects that exist.
Her Upcoming Goals
April will mark two years with iPROMOTEu. Professionally, I am excited to turn 2023 into a year filled with the launch of more new sales and marketing tools, business resources, and value-added services for our affiliates. I am thrilled to be part of this progressive organization with an unmatched tight-nit community and family vibe that exists amongst both staff and affiliates. My goal is to continue on to another record-breaking sales year for iPROMOTEu. Personally, I have a simple goal to be as present as possible for my family in every meaning of the word. My husband, Kurt, and I have been married for 23 years, and have two smart, sassy, beautiful girls, Brooke (19) and Ashley (16). We also have an adorable 4-year old rescue pup, Sully.
How She Recharges
Fitness is a passion to keep me recharged and energized. I do F45 high-intensity group training to stay in shape, along with walking and biking. Spending quality family time together is also important. We are a family that is always on the go! Our girls keep us hopping with their activities. Our 16-year old does competitive All-Star cheerleading, and we are on the travel circuit supporting her throughout the season. Our 19-year-old is a sophomore at Florida State studying history and criminology, pursuing law school. I am one proud mama. We all love to travel and always try to have fun-filled trips on the calendar to look forward to together.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.