2023 Speaker Showcase:   Stay Connected!
Education Designed for IGCs ... Choose from specialized education sessions for collaborative, tried-and-tested solutions that will improve your store's bottom line.

The Garden Center Show:  August 6 - 7, 2024 | Rosemont, IL

Conference Speakers:   Profiles, BIO, Session Descriptions + Feedback -- Stay Connected!

Nicole Leinbach, Founder and Publisher of RetailMinded.com
With a core concentration on independent retailers, small businesses, community, technology and how the various touchpoints of commerce influence modern merchants, Leinbach is a frequent guest and contributor to various media outlets that have included The Today Show, Forbes, Entreprenuer.com and countless B2B publications. Additionally, Leinbach has supported American Express’s Small Business Saturday as a Spokesperson and is the Author of the book “Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business” from McGraw-Hill. Recognized within the top 10 out 100 worldwide retail thought leaders since 2015 – including having held the #1 spot – and a retail “futurist” for IBM, Leinbach is also the Co-Founder of the Independent Retailer Conference. Learn more about Leinbach at RetailMinded.com.
KEYNOTE: What Will the Garden Center of Tomorrow Look Like

Tom Shay, Principal at 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, profitsplus.org, is the largest website designed for small business with hundreds of articles, and many calculators to assist in making management decisions. The website is provided as a free service, used by many consultants as a tool to help in their work.
KEYNOTE: Stop Trying to be the Garden Center You Were 4 Years Ago

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.
Two Conference Programs:  Webinar in a Box .... How to be a Better Manager

Anne Obarski, Founder, Merchandise Concepts
Anne is an award-winning speaker and author who works with organizations who want to become CONTAGIOUS….on purpose! She is the founder of Merchandise Concepts since 1984, a speaking and coaching service located in Charleston, sc. Anne has mystery shopped over 2000 businesses around the country looking for “consistent” excellence in customer service. She knows what works and what doesn’t. Driven by her extensive experience over three decades, Anne shares her wisdom designed to motivate you to take a deeper look at what your customer experiences every day.
Three Conference Programs:  "Undercover Boss": Clues to Create a Team of Superheroes!
9 Critical Points of Contact that Impact Customer Loyalty .... Value Acceleration: Command Top Dollar for Your Business

Dr. Bridget Behe, Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University
Dr. Bridget Behe is a Professor Emeritus of Horticultural Marketing at Michigan State University. Before she retired in January 2023 from Michigan State, she taught courses on marketing and management for horticulture majors. Bridget conducted over 500 consumer and market research projects on horticultural products, both edible and ornamental. She wrote nearly 1000 publications in the trade press and peer-reviewed journals.
Conference Programs:  The Art & Science of Pricing Products
-- Keeping New Clients Acquired During the Pandemic

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 Program:  Merchandising Displays Competition

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. 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: Selling Through the Senses
-- Lighting, Color, Signage - Critical Elements to Creating an Effective Shopping Experience. Are You Doing Them Right

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: 10 of the Best Garden Center Event Ideas and How to Plan Them
-- How to Help Your Customers Become More Successful Gardeners Inside and Outside

Chris Cimaglio - CEPA®, Certified Value Builder™, Managing Partner BEST Human Capital & Advisory Group, PivotPoint Business Solutions.
Chris has been part of the Retail Lawn & Garden and Horticulture industry for over 30 years. As the former leader of a multi-generational family-held company, he closely defined the business ownership succession, gaining deep insight into the legal, financial, strategic, and emotional challenges of multiple family stakeholders. Working with and advising business owners on their succession and exit planning has become a passion. Chris is a CEPA® (Certified Exit Planning Advisor), Certified Value Builder™, and an approved ExitMap® Plan Advisor. The CEPA® credential is the most widely endorsed exit planning designation in the world. He is also trained and approved in exit planning by The ExitMap® organization. Chris is a member of the AmericanHort and the NHPA.
Conference Program: Succession and Exit Planning in Action: Your Exit Strategy

Mel Toellner, Semi-Retired Founder and Co-Owner of Songbird Essentials
Songbird Essentials is a major producer of wild bird nest boxes, feeders, and accessories, and Gold Crest Distributing, the largest distributor of backyard nature products in North America. With his knowledge and passion for wildlife and nature rooted in his faith, Mel has served as a board member for the Wild Bird Feeding Industry and the Bring Nature Home – Grow Native Organization, founder of Wild Bird Expo, and Head Elder of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Mexico, MO. He has also written for and edited numerous publications. His column “Backyard Nature Notes” has been published in Pond Boss Magazine since 2011. Through these endeavors, he has made his name as one of the top experts in helping consumers attract and enjoy wild birds and other pollinators.
Conference Programs: Keys to Success -- Spring & Summer, Keys to Success -- Fall & Winter

Michael Fiore, fourth-generation nurseryman taking over the reins at Smith's Gardentown, a legacy family business.   Michael graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science before moving away to Costa Rica, then eventually to the rainforest city of Iquitos, Peru. After 5 years overseas, it was finally time to return back to Texas, but now he had a family of his own. He and his wife, Rosa, and their firstborn, Jasmine, moved back to Wichita Falls and jumped right back into the family business. Michael reignited his passion for plants and the industry as a whole. He loves teaching people, which naturally led to staff training, classes for customers, and educational videos on social media. This passion for teaching has propelled him to be one of the more influential voices in the plant social media spheres.
Conference Program:  TikTok Competition

Jackson Madnick -- Founder of Pearl's Premium
Jackson Madnick is a longtime environmentalist and water resources and sustainability expert who's work has been commended by two White Houses (first Bush and Clinton), the United Nations, John Glenn, National League of Cities and Al Gore, among others. Jackson helped renew the National Clean Water Act, with a low-energy, nationally-televised event that gathered one million signatures for a petition to renew the act. He has been researching innovative ways to save energy, improve surface and groundwater quality and create healthier lawns that require no fertilizer, dramatically less time, money, water and green house gasses. He lives in a sustainable house that he is renovating to produce 95 % of its heating, cooling and power from the sun and earth.
Conference Program:  Future Grass Technology

Amanda Thomsen Author, Garden Overlord @ Kiss My Aster
Amanda Thomsen is an author, speaker and garden overlord from suburban Chicago. Her monthly column, Kiss My Aster, can be found in Green Profit magazine. Her shop, Aster Gardens, is a quirky and creative plant & garden shop in historic Lemont, IL.
Panel Discussion:  Help Your Customers Become More Successful

Kenneth Lane - Founder/Owner of Hathaway and Lane
For the past 20 years, Ken has helped organizations build, execute and realize their strategic marketing plans. Prior to starting Hathaway & Lane Digital, his direct marketing career began blossoming at Staples in the early ‘90s. Next came a transition from BTB to BTC with senior-level stints at Jackson & Perkins/Harry and David, White Flower Farm, and FAR&WIDE Travel. At each stage, Ken honed his database-marketing and analytical skills to drive new-product introductions, marketing plans, pricing, and inventory management. A former board member of the Mailorder Gardening Association (now the Direct Gardening Association) and featured speaker at numerous national direct-marketing conferences, Ken has established a proven track record in database segmentation/analysis, Internet marketing, sales/inventory forecasting, catalog print/production, product development, operations/call center management and pricing/gross-margin planning.
Conference Program:  Get Better at Understanding and Acting on Your Financial Reports

Jennifer Brennan, Horticulture Information Specialist
Jennifer is at Chalet Home & Garden in Wilmette, Illinois. She spent 32 years as a staff horticulturist at Chalet Nursery and was responsible for sales in all areas – nursery, stock, perennials, annuals and related gardening products. She has spent 7 years as a continuing education instructor at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Teaching courses in groundcovers, vines, perennials, container gardening, herbs, bulbs and gardening with children, and 4 years as a staff horticulturist in the Plant Information Office at the Chicago Botanic Garden. She's a member of The Perennial Plant Association; member of the Board of The Perennial Plant Association; and President of the Board of the Perennial Plant Association. She earned a B.S. Degree in Ornamental Horticulture with a minor in Botany from the Univ. of Illinois where she learned woody plant materials from Dr. Michael Dirr.
Panel Discussion:   Help Your Customers Become More Successful


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