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Speaker Showcase: Supercharge Your Business
-- Choose from 13 specialized education sessions for collaborative, tried-and-tested solutions

Education Designed for IGCs -- Hear From Experts Both Inside and Outside the Industry!

Bob Negen, co-founder of Whizbang! Retail Training
A professional retail speaker, consultant, business coach, and author. Bob motivates and trains independent retailers to improve and grow their businesses with practical, actionable tactics and strategies. He speaks to independent business owners in their own language using real-world retail experience and humorous stories from the trenches.
Conference Programs: Boot Camp -- How to Run a Business That Doesn't Run You!
KeyNote: The Omni-Experiential Future of Retail Marketing



Andrea Hill, CEO of Hill Management Group, StrategyWerx
Andrea owns Hill Management Group, LLC (HMG), which has four brands: StrategyWerx, WerxMarketing, MentorWerx, and ProsperWerx. Through those brands HMG provides strategy consulting, business development, professional development, branding, and marketing services to small and mid-sized businesses. Andea has over 30 years of professional experience as the CEO and president of start-up through mid-sized companies, and she has demonstrated serial success in leading companies through rapid and profitable growth. Her experience spans multiple industries.
Conference Programs: How to Master SEO for Small Business Owners
Get Your Life Back With Small Business Automation Strategies



David Kepron, NXTLVL Experience Design, LLC
David Kepron is former VP - Global Design Strategies at Marriott International and founder of Retail(r)Evolution, LLC and NXTLVL Experience Design, LLC. While at Marriott, his focus was on the creation of compelling customer experiences within Marriott’s “Premium Distinctive” segment which includes: Westin, Renaissance, Le Meridien, Autograph Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels and Gaylord hotels. In his new venture, NXTLVL Experience Design, Kepron brings years of retail and hospitality design expertise to the making of meaningful customer connections at brand experience places around the globe.
Conference KeyNote: Brands, Brains and Buying



Gretchen Peczkowski and husband Jacek founded Steel Heart in 1997
Today, Steel Heart Ltd is one of the leaders in metal home and garden decor. Jacek brings his design talent and artistic abilities he learned from working alongside his grandfather, the village blacksmith, in rural Poland. He is also an expert welder, which adds to his knowledge of design. In their spare time, the Peczkowskis love to work in their gardens, plant trees, raise peonies, tour gardens near and far, but most of all, spend time with their daughters and their families. Steel Heart, Ltd. has been in business over 25 years and has had extensive experience in shipping: containers from overseas; semis from Mexico; UPS; LTL; USPS, etc.
Conference Program: Are Shipping Rates Killing You



Joe Baer, Co-Founder, CEO and Creative Director of ZenGenius, Inc.
ZenGenius, Inc. which provides Visual Merchandising, Special Events and Creative Direction. His career encompasses over thirty years of experience working with many of the top retailers. His passion, drive and enthusiasm for visual merchandising and amazing retail experiences leads him to motivate and energize audiences around the world. Joe engages his audiences and creates experiential learning situations. He is well known for leading the annual Iron Merchant Challenge at IRDC to celebrate visual merchandising as an important aspect of retail design. Joe created ZenGenius with a vision to bring the knowledge of Visual Merchandising to the world and provide a unique type of creative support to retailers and businesses. ZenGenius is celebrating over 20 years of creative genius!
Conference Programs: Experiential Merchandising -- Increase Profits by Creating Stronger Visual Experiences



Katie Dubow, President of Garden Media Group
Garden Media Group is a second-generation women-owned and run public relations firm specializing in the green industry. Author of the annual Garden Trends Report, Dubow presents to audiences from Italy to Chicago. Dubow is also a guest host on QVC for Cottage Farms, a judge at the Philadelphia Flower Show, the inaugural recipient of the Emergent Communicator Award from GardenComm, president of the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association, and a member of the Forty Under 40 from Greenhouse Product News.
Conference Programs: 2022 Trends Report -- From Crisis to Innovation
-- Speak the New Gardeners' Language



Kim Hartmann, Consultant, Hartmann Consulting
Kim Hartmann has worked as a communication consultant, garden center manager and landscape designer for the last 35 years. On behalf of the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association, Illinois Green Industry Association, Perennial Plant Association and Garden Centers of America she has planned, organized and managed educational conferences, garden center and private garden tours and training sessions. She is a frequent speaker to both green industry and consumer audiences. She has a background in market research and training as well. She is a graduate of University of Illinois in Horticulture and Communication with considerable continuing education. She is an Illinois Certified Nursery Professional and was named ICN Pro of the Year in 2015.
Conference Programs: Meeting the Needs of Today's Garden Center Customers
-- Dealing with Tough Customers and How to Turn Them into Loyal Followers



Lyn Falk, Owner/President of Retailworks, Inc.
Lyn Falk is an author, award-winning designer, business owner, and international speaker, Lyn Falk has earned praise for her holistic, innovative, results-driven design philosophy. She has devoted over 35 years to teaching and helping retailers and business owners build purposeful and productive spaces that move hearts, minds & merchandise. Her expertise in retail design, business, consumer behavior and environmental psychology, has helped her develop designs that not only meet but often exceed her client’s projected goals. Falk’s clientele represents over 35 different retail industries. She has worked with hundreds of independent retailers across the country, helping them define their brand, tell their story, and create profitable shopping environments/experiences. Falk delivers a message to retailers that will change perceptions and inspire new ideas.
Conference Programs: Curb Appeal - Getting most out of this valuable front-of-house real estate
-- Lighting, Color, Signage - Critical elements to creating an effective shopping experience - are you doing them right



Ron McCabe, founder and president of Everbearing Services
With more than 30 years of experience in technology, Ron McCabe is an expert in the fields of e-commerce, social media, search engine optimization, hardware and software. He currently ranks No. 109 in the world based on demonstrated skill and expertise in SEO/SEM in the worldwide Moz SEO community. His extensive experience has allowed him to help many green businesses transition to e-commerce, as well as migrating legacy software to modern platforms. Beyond business, McCabe is an active gardener and member of the horticultural community. He is an accomplished cook and is interested in growing and cooking heirloom vegetables. He strongly believes in and supports many local nonprofits.
Conference Programs: Opening Up to E-Commerce
-- Creating Effective Social Media that Doesn't Drive You Nuts



Susan Markgraf, chief adventurer at GreenMark Media
Susan has worked for and represented horticulture and agriculture brands for the majority of her career, both as a working journalist and marketing communications strategist. Called a "visionary" among her employers and clients in the sustainable industry, Susan is a greenpreneur, brand builder, strategic storyteller and message strategist whose skill includes extensive background as a media relations professional and decades of leadership in traditional and new marketing communications. Her company, GreenMark Media, exclusively represents brands in horticulture, agriculture and environmental sciences.
Conference Programs: Embracing Change Begins with a Story
-- Lessons of Decade (so far) & Where They're Taking Us



Tom Shay, Principal, Profits Plus Solutions
Tom Shay is a fourth-generation small business owner. During the 30-plus years when Tom was a part of the family operation, the businesses were ongoing laboratories for the management and promotional techniques that Tom shares. He presents proven and time-tried ideas on the topics of marketing, business strategy, customer loyalty, business-management design, employee skills development, and financial control. The company website, Profits Plus, is the largest website designed for small business with hundreds of articles, and many calculators to assist in making management decisions. Profits Plus is provided to all as a free service, used by many consultants to help them in their work.
Conference Programs: Where Can I Find Good Employees
-- KeyNote: How to Find Good Employees



Mike O'Rourke & Scott Sandstrom, "Your Midwest Garden" Podcast!
A casual conversation about gardening in the Midwest with Toledo's Garden Guy, Mike O'Rourke and Rookie Gardener, Scott Sandstrom. Mike interviews various guests, from experts to local DIY gardeners in a relaxed conversation. While Scott keeps the subjects down to the weekend warrior level. We hope you enjoy each podcast episode, as even the most basic topics can reveal a surprise tip or hint you may not know about! Your Midwest Garden is sponsored by Black Diamond Nursery. Serving Toledo, OH area since 1953!
Conference Program: Reaching the Techno Kids Generation