March 1, 2013

Although the American Pet Products Association Professional Women’s Network started in 2009, the group really its stride in 2011.

“We wanted a free service, something that wasn’t necessary for you to be a member of,” Diane Peterson, the chief sales and marketing officer for Mulligan Stew Pet Food in Jackson Hole, Wyo. and also the founding member of the APPA Professional Women’s Network said. “We wanted it to be open to anyone, retailer, merchant, business woman. We were trying to create something that was free to the pet industry. We wanted women to have a free resource that they could turn to.”

Peterson spearheaded the group with Marian Thielsen, Anne Ferrante and Jennifer Skelley from APPA, Michelle David from Pet Business and Callie Hartzell from Natural Balance.

To benefit women, the APPA Professional Women’s Network looks to continually provide resources, including a quarterly e-newsletter.

The newsletter features everything from nonprofit agencies, to different retailers, to manufacturers and all the way to sales and marketing information. It also shows how people have given back who are very successful and how others can give back.

“We provide resources, such as if a woman is an entrepreneur and doesn’t know where to turn, we will provide her and her staff some resources,” Peterson said. “It also provides networking opportunities. We have a professional site on the APPA site; we have conversations going on our LinkedIn page that anyone can join. It’s a great way to network and provide articles of other women and other businesses.

“One example of what we talk about on the LinkedIn page is an article I found about the second in command at Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. This was just one other topic to get people talking in the LinkedIn group; while the theme is about women in the pet industry, it’s always good to talk about women in other businesses too.”

Two other networking opportunities featured by the APPA Professional Women’s Network are at SuperZoo and the Global Pet Expo. For the second year in a row, they served a breakfast on the last day of Global that featured speaker Victoria Stilwell from Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog.”

“Victoria Stilwell talked about everything from balancing life, to balancing work and her family,” Peterson said. “It’s another platform about networking and information that we provide for women. It’s free just as everything we do is free.”

At SuperZoo the APPA Professional Women’s Network usually co-hosts a speaker. They have also have a  booth to help women with their businesses.

One thing stressed by Peterson is that the group isn’t just for women.

“The interesting part is that the name of the group has women in the title but it’s an opportunity to put women in a place where women and men can learn how to work more effectively together,” Peterson said. “Open communication where men and women can learn to interact in the workplace.

“If guys want to come and listen to Victoria (Stilwell) they are more than welcome to come, if they want the e-newsletter they are more than welcome to sign up. All the guys are invited to the LinkedIn page to talk. So it’s not just for women but also for men.”

There are two way to join the APPA Professional Women’s Network.

“Contact Marian at APPA and make sure they have your email address so you can get the e-newsletter,” Peterson said. “Or jump onto the LinkedIn page and be a part of the conversation.”

Peterson said the group plans to continue its growth and offer new services.

“We are trying to develop a project that is a fundraising project to help fund capital resource for interest loans for women planning to start a business,” Peterson said. “The pet industry is about generations. The daughters of people in the pet industry now need help to jump into the industry and be on their own. We need to provide resources so they have the tools to make that happen.”

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