Automatic Merchandiser's 2024 Most Influential Women in Convenience Services Award winners

June 17, 2024
Automatic Merchandiser recognizes outstanding women who have made a difference in the vending, micro market and office coffee service industry.

Automatic Merchandiser is proud to present the 2024 Most Influential Women in Convenience Services Awards. We recognize these individuals who have made a positive impact on the convenience services industry or their organization. This award is a celebration of their achievements and spotlights influential women who are shaping the future of the industry.

Congratulations to the following 2024 award winners!

Stephanie Beerman

Stephanie Beerman is the Western regional sales manager for Barcel USA. She has served the convenience services industry for almost 13 years consistently proving herself as a dynamic leader and force behind numerous successful campaigns and initiatives. Beerman’s journey began at the Atnip Company in 2011 where she gained invaluable experience developing the marketing department through the execution of sales strategies, marketing tactics and data analytics. Her passion for growing brands and helping customers led her to Barcel USA in 2023 where she transitioned to sales. The same enthusiasm for her work has been instrumental in forging lasting relationships and driving growth for her customers and team. Beerman embraces opportunities to learn from her peers and mentors to expand her knowledge. She sees each day as an opportunity to expand her skill set and deepen her understanding to grow and thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of the convenience services industry.

Jennifer “JB” Bulcao

Jennifer “JB” Bulcao is the executive director of the Foundation of the National Automatic Merchandising Association, a charitable organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the convenience services industry. Bulcao’s current focus at the NAMA Foundation is to provide industry members with advocacy tools to make their voices heard and educate policymakers at every level, in addition to conducting research that empowers businesses to make informed decisions and inspires industry innovation by delivering critical data on workplace, consumer and technology trends. Additionally, Bulcao has served for over three years as NAMA’s board and governance liaison. In this capacity, she works closely with NAMA’s president and CEO on designing and executing the activities of the association’s leadership bodies. Bulcao finds this position extremely rewarding, working closely with the top leaders on strategic planning for the continued growth of the industry.

Chrissy Carson

Chrissy Carson is a sales and service representative with Ray Coffee Service. After studying history at Armstrong University, Carson remained in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, working her way up to managing a popular local restaurant for seven years. Six years ago, she discovered the vending industry, and she was able to take that knowledge gained from the service industry and apply it in a completely different environment. It was an exciting challenge for her. “The service industry has always been the place my skills as a people person and communication representative have been put to best use. I look forward to what the future holds for the vending industry and being a part of it.” For Ray Coffee Service, Carson has been invaluable in securing new accounts, handling current accounts and providing insight into future company projects.

April Cathcart

April Cathcart is a CPG veteran and brand enthusiast, with a career spanning multiple categories and channels. As the director of sales for unattended retail at Mars Wrigley, Cathcart leads the strategy and execution for the U.S. market, including vending machines, micro markets, new business models and technology. During her tenure, the Mars Wrigley team has expanded both in resources and expertise, bringing best practices and thought leadership to drive convenience services growth and relevancy. Cathcart subscribes to a people-first work style and is known for bringing a unique approach of partnership combined with a passion for driving results and maximizing value. In 2023, Cathcart assumed a board of directors position for the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) and is honored to contribute to and advocate for key initiatives transforming the convenience services industry. Cathcart is most proud to hold the title of “working mom” as she balances a fulfilling career with raising three spunky kiddos.

Jolene Conway

Jolene Conway is the founder and CEO of Dible Dough. She single-handedly created a new category in the snacking industry – Cookie Dough Bars. This indulgent cookie dough concept started when Conway was the team mom in charge of the concession stands for her daughters’ athletic teams. Selling individualized servings of dough was a huge success, and this is where Dible Dough was born. Having a background in sales and catering, Conway’s continued hard work, dedication and persistence has resulted in the creation of four flavors of an all-natural cookie dough treat that is sold at 6,000+ stores nationwide. Dible Dough is an individually wrapped, grab-and-go cookie dough bar that is full of simple, recognizable, non-GMO ingredients, leaving no room for preservatives, artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners.

Jen Corto

Jen Corto serves as the president and co-founder of Buffalo Strive, a leading micro market company in Buffalo, New York, which she established with her husband, Jon, 13 years ago. With Jen’s expertise in business finance, holding both an MBA and CPA, and Jon’s background as a professional NFL player, they have successfully expanded their business. Today, Strive is the largest independent operator in the region, employing over 70 people across western New York. The company thrives in various sectors, including markets, coffee, water, catering and vending and is renowned for its fresh food offerings prepared daily in its state-of-the-art commissary. In 2024, Strive plans to begin wholesaling these fresh products. Committed to empowerment and leadership, Strive is a woman-led enterprise. Outside of her professional life, Corto is devoted to her three children, managing both her family and Strive’s accounting and financial operations.

Becky Day

Becky Day is the vice president of national sales at Ellis Coffee Company. Day’s journey to this position is a testament to her relentless drive and her deep passion for coffee and the family values that Ellis Coffee represents. Before joining Ellis Coffee, Day had a successful career in the nonprofit educational sector. Despite her success, she yearned for a more intimate, value-driven professional setting. This desire led her to transition into the coffee industry, drawn by the opportunity to work in a family business that mirrored the entrepreneurial spirit of her father’s own enterprise. At Ellis Coffee, Day quickly made her mark by spearheading the company’s expansion into the southern and midwestern United States. Her strategic initiatives and deep understanding of these markets significantly increased Ellis Coffee’s footprint, establishing the brand as a beloved choice among coffee enthusiasts in these regions. Her efforts have not only grown the business but have also strengthened the company’s reputation for exceptional customer service.

Rhonda Dunn

Rhonda Dunn is the owner/operator of Machine Cuisine. Since 2001, Dunn has worked in California and Arizona, earning accolades such as Arizona Automatic Merchandising Council Operator of the Year four times since 2013 as well as sitting on the board as acting treasurer of the AAMC since 2013. She has also contributed to the NAMA Tradeshow Advisory Committee for the past 10 years. “Little did I know that when I agreed to help my family with their side hustle for retirement, that one day I would be running a multimillion-dollar-per-year company. Starting out as an owner/operator gave me an edge most companies don’t have. Personal experience in the trade is what lit my fire. Being an entrepreneur, one is always looking for an opportunity.” Dunn is a progressive businesswoman that has built a highly successful organization, and she leads her team with the utmost enthusiasm on a daily basis.

Catherine Feeley

Cathy Feeley is Southwest sales manager with CBI & Associates. She has been in the industry for over 40 years, starting with Kraft Foodservice on the East coast and then moving to the West where she “retired” with Kraft in 1993. After a five-year hiatus, she came back into the convenience services channel via the broker world. She has been with CBI & Associates since 2015. She currently serves on two NAMA committees and as an officer for Arizona and California’s state council boards, which helps her keep her pulse on the refreshment services world. Feeley was honored to be voted by her Arizona peers as the AAMC Supplier of the Year. She was also an Automatic Merchandiser Pros to Know award winner in 2021 and 2023. Feeley says she currently enjoys being an additional resource to her clients to help them develop marketing strategies, overcome obstacles and grow their business. Her passion is selling coffee and healthy snacks and beverages.

Karen Foster

Karen Foster joined Brokers Unlimited, Premier Broker Sales & Marketing, in 2015 as an account executive. Her territory is North Carolina and South Carolina, working with operators and working closely with Vistar N.C. and Vendors Supply N.C. and S.C. Throughout her career, Foster has always been involved in sales. She has relied on her people skills, sales skills, effective communication and relationship building. Being employed with a distributor and now a broker has helped her grow in the industry. “I really enjoy and love what I do, and I hope I’m making a difference.” Foster is a current board member of NCVA and ACE, a former board member of VAMA and a member of the WIN NAMA advisory council.

Carly Furman

Carly Furman has been an integral part of Nayax since she joined the company in 2014 as chief financial officer of Nayax’s subsidiary companies at its R&D headquarters in Israel. In 2016, Furman relocated to Hunt Valley, Maryland, where she established Nayax’s North American office, serving as CEO since then. Furman has been responsible for growing Nayax’s North American customer base to over 25,000 unattended business operators, making the North American branch the largest Nayax subsidiary. She has been heavily involved in taking Nayax public, as the company made its debut on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in 2021 and its listing on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in 2022. Furman has a B.A. in business economics and accounting from the University of California, Santa. She is honored to be an award winner – as a role model to her daughters and other young woman, showing that they can have both a family and a demanding career if they choose, which is made easier with a great support system.

Andrea Garcia

Andrea Garcia is CFO of Agora Refreshments and has been with the company for eight years. During this time, she has helped grow the company through triple-digit growth and has mentored other operators and women in the industry. Garcia has helped preserve the financial viability of the company during major growth stages as well as the unexpected market downturns.

Navreet Gill

Navreet Gill entered the convenience services industry in 2019 following her early career in sports and entertainment, which fueled her passion for event management and large-scale projects. After Avanti Markets joined the 365 Retail Markets family, Gill established herself as a leader within the marketing group, resulting in her 2022 appointment as director of marketing for 365. She currently oversees all marketing and communications activities across multiple brands and geographic regions of the growing 365 Retail Markets portfolio. She is currently leading a comprehensive branding effort for 365, bringing together many different components of the business to unite them under one common purpose, mission and narrative. Under Gill’s guidance, the marketing team has expanded their activities to include demand generation in new sectors, educational content for existing customers and prospects, enhanced digital marketing capabilities, account-based approaches and data-driven decision-making.

Tara Giordano

Tara Giordano, VendCentral’s director of operations, has been an integral part of the company since its inception over 15 years ago, originally part of a dynamic duo with Neil Swindale. As Swindale would close sales, he would pass the clients over to Giordano, ensuring each one received not just a new website but also the utmost attention and care. Today, Giordano’s role remains rooted in that personal touch, now supported by an exceptional team. She oversees operations, client services and web development and manages recruitment, having brought in and mentored a large part of VendCentral’s staff. Giordano lives by a simple motto: leading through service. She believes exceptional customer experience is paramount and continuously strives to improve the customer journey. Through her unwavering dedication and tenure, she has made a positive impact on hundreds of vending operators, ensuring they receive the marketing support and guidance they need to thrive in their businesses.

Jamie Guadagnino

Jamie Guadagnino is a seasoned leader with over two decades of dedicated service to Vistar, demonstrating a remarkable journey of growth and accomplishment. Since joining Vistar in 2000, Guadagnino transitioned through various pivotal positions encompassing customer service, purchasing, sales management, national account sales, as well as some operational experience serving as president of Vistar Arizona for seven years before moving into her current role as vice president of sales for vending/OCS/campus. Guadagnino’s commitment to a customer-centric approach shines through, with a mission to elevate Vistar to always be the supplier of choice. With the support of her outstanding team of professionals, she is dedicated to leading Vistar into new realms of success, ensuring unparalleled service and satisfaction for all clients.

Vonda Jenkins

Vonda Jenkins has been with Canteen Vending for 30 years as a route driver. She started her career in 1991 with Service America. In 1994, she made the move to Canteen. She has had many accomplishments in her career with Canteen, including being named Driver of the Year in 2018. She services over 30 locations and has received many 5-star ratings from clients. Jenkins started out in vending, and eight years ago, moved to mostly markets. Along with a good-size route, Jenkins also runs the satellite warehouse and does all her own ordering of all the products. Her philosophy is, take care of your customers, whatever it takes, take pride in your work, and stay positive and upbeat for your customers.

Michele Lee

Michele Lee is an experienced entrepreneur who has owned and operated a variety of successful businesses, including real estate, fitness centers and vending routes, before founding Optimal Station. Lee believes that anyone can be successful despite any odds if they have support and care from others. She recently envisioned and then pioneered an ambitious and visionary smart city cafe called “Good Life Station” to engage the community while attracting and encouraging visitors to frequent other area businesses. Lee is deeply committed to nurturing the next generation of business leaders, particularly in the automated retail and marketing industries. She is dedicated to mentoring young entrepreneurs, fostering entrepreneurial spirit and building positive team cultures. She is tireless, dedicated and fierce in her vision, execution and commitment to her businesses and her community.

Lexi Levang

Lexi Levang has extensive experience in CPG and vending. She’s worked with P&G and Conagra Foodservice, prior to joining Raybern’s. Levang is making waves in the vending world as a strong woman leader in the rebrand of the Raybern’s line.

Mia McDonough

Mia McDonough started in the vending industry in 1995 at VSA Southeast. She was the only female in the Southeast at that time. McDonough’s dedication to her customers and her loyalty to her employer proved to be a fruitful career for her. She has been in the top 10 sales nationally most of her career with Vistar. After she retired from Vistar in 2019, McDonough joined Cooper Street, a woman-owned cookie company, in June 2023, hoping to help empower women in the industry. McDonough has been recognized as a 2008 Supplier of the Year for NCVA as well as 2008 Supplier of the Year for VAMA at the 2009 ACE Convention, as well as a 2001 Automatic Merchandiser Distributor Rep of the Year and a 2018 Automatic Merchandiser Pros to Know recipient. She is a former board member of GAMC, TAMA and NCVA. She has also been involved in her community, such as fundraising campaigns for underprivileged children and neighborhood improvement programs.

Margaret Nyamumbo

Margaret Nyamumbo is the founder and CEO of Kahawa 1893, the first nationally distributed Black- and woman-owned coffee company in the United States. Kahawa 1893 sources specialty-grade coffee beans from woman-owned farming cooperatives in Africa and gives back to support them. Nyamumbo grew up on her grandfather’s coffee farm in Kenya and saw firsthand that women provided about 90% of the labor, but they weren’t always compensated. Kahawa 1893’s packaging contains a QR code that enables consumers to digitally tip the farmers, enabling them to invest in their businesses, families and community. Kahawa 1893 has been featured on the TV show Shark Tank and The Today Show and can be found in retailers like Target and Sprouts. Nyamumbo is a graduate of Harvard Business School and Smith College. Kahawa 1893’s compostable soft pods and frac packs are now available to OCS operators nationally through a partnership with Alliant Coffee Solutions.

Stefanie Oller

Stefanie Oller is senior vice president of sales for Five Star Breaktime Solutions. Oller has earned her position navigating a male-dominated industry over the last 15 years. She started in the industry as a sales manager in 2009 with a Canteen franchise that was purchased by Five Star Breaktime Solutions in late 2020. She is a graduate of Western Kentucky University. Oller has an infectious personality and a fiery passion for the industry like very few others. She leverages her passion and expertise to get the most out of her sales directors, driving record sales numbers for the company in recent years. Oller carries strong convictions of high-quality service and a never-say-die attitude to work daily. This has been proven successful for her in building business and strategic supplier relationships over the years. She pushes the boundaries on what’s possible, driving her team and the rest of the company to innovate and improve.

Malin Östman

Malin Östman has elevated Selfly Store, a European company, to the forefront of retail innovation. Under her leadership, the company achieved a significant milestone with the launch of the groundbreaking Selfly Freezer in the Metaverse. Östman has skillfully shaped and boosted the visibility of key collaborations with renowned brands across various industries, and her strategic efforts have redefined vending into a sophisticated,proactive service that blends seamlessly into daily life. More than just a marketer, Östman and her team develop stories, collaborations and campaigns that inject excitement and convenience into the retail experience, ensuring that Selfly Store is celebrated for its compelling marketing and cutting-edge solutions. Her initiatives have transformed Selfly Store into an example of innovation, demonstrating that vending solutions can do much more than provide convenience – they can anticipate and satisfy consumer needs, offering timely and efficient access to goods with no waiting time and less food waste.

Amanda Patel

Amanda Patel is the owner and CFO of KNP Enterprises LLC. With a career spanning two decades, she has climbed the ladder of success and left an indelible mark in every role. Her belief in the value of every individual’s contribution, coupled with her commitment to excellence, sets her apart as a trailblazer. Her journey from the grassroots level to managerial positions underscores her unparalleled work ethic and determination. Patel’s journey reaches its pinnacle as she transitions into an entrepreneur, co-founding her own Biometric Smart Vending Machine company alongside her husband and business partner. By leveraging cutting-edge technology and industry insights, she is revolutionizing the convenience services landscape.

Carolyn Peacock

Carolyn Peacock is lead senior small business solutions manager with Cantaloupe Inc. A former organizational accountant and QuickBooks ProAdvisor, she joined Cantaloupe Inc. after 17 years at Styer Associates, PC. Her meticulous attention to detail and fiscal precision elevated the financial health of her small-business clients. Now with Cantaloupe, Peacock brings her extensive small-business knowledge to a thriving consumer market. She attributes her success to her personal connection with small-business owners, the quality of her products, and Cantaloupe’s strong brand recognition. Peacock’s client base continues to grow as she offers not only financial expertise but also guidance and support, recognizing that their success is her success. She was also awarded Inside Sales Representative of the Year in 2023.

Staci Ryan

Staci Ryan is the founder and CEO of Convenience Brigade. Ryan is second-generation in the industry, having grown up and worked in the family vending business across three decades. She wanted to remain in the industry after her family sold the business in 2022. She began consulting for operators on special projects, primarily helping them optimize their Cantaloupe platforms. Convenience Brigade assists vending operators by teaching them how to extract data from Seed and turning it into actionable information that they can use to make intelligent business decisions. Convenience Brigade also aids with converting to Cantaloupe platforms, such as Seed Market and Seed Warehouse. Ryan’s team is second-to-none, consisting of long-time and well-known industry veterans, as well as military spouses. Ryan is a military spouse herself, and she currently lives at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, with her husband and their two children.

Linda Saldana

Linda Saldana is the co-founder and CEO of Seventh Wave Refreshments. She joined the industry 12 years ago as a sales director at Southern Refreshment Service and fell in love with the industry. Seventh Wave Refreshments was established in 2020 with a mission to “Bring Joy to the Workplace” in the most unsettling time in refreshments. With a deep passion for the customers and a heart for innovation in the industry, Seventh Wave Refreshments has led a refreshment revolution in Atlanta – pioneering new ways of servicing and offering a white glove approach to hundreds of offices in just three years.

Debi Hansard Seiter

Debi Hansard Seiter’s journey began at a very early age since her father, Larry Hansard, was one of the original employees of Coin Acceptors Inc. In the summer of 1977, she worked at CA’s Service Center in her junior/senior year of high school. After graduating, she began full time in the engineering print/file room. She ran blueprints, dealt with internal/external customers, and had clerical duties. After displaying excellent customer service skills, Seiter was promoted to a newly created position – sales coordinator over gaming/amusement, which evolved into vending as well. In April 2018, she lost her job when CA sold off the Coinco product line to SuzoHapp. With her take-charge attitude and professionalism while training SH’s people, she was not out of work for one second. “I’m very grateful to CA as well as PayComplete for taking a chance on me. The best thing about my position is the customers. They are the best, and I love everything vending!”

Amanda-Marie Spilchen

Amanda-Marie Spilchen has spent almost a decade in the convenience services industry and is currently the micro market specialist at The Pelican Group. As an early adopter of the micro market concept within the Canadian marketplace, she saw the opportunity to create exceptional client experiences right in their lunchrooms. By maximizing product selection, excellent pricing and ensuring merchandising standards, Spilchen has helped to create a nationwide micro market program that thousands of clients enjoy on a daily basis. By establishing supplier relationships, developing standardized processes and guides, Spilchen has been able to assist multiple operators expand into the world of micro markets thus growing the industry significantly.

Amber Starr

Amber Starr brings over 15 years of experience at G & J Marketing and Sales, now serving as the national sales manager for hot beverage. In this pivotal role, Starr crafts and executes comprehensive sales strategies, nurtures key relationships, and drives sales growth for Nestle Coffee Partners Solutions Lab. Previously, as vice president of implementation, Starr showcased her collaborative prowess by spearheading the development of sales resources and streamlining processes. Her diverse background, including roles as interim controller and sales support manager, equips her with a deep understanding of company operations. Starr served on the 2016-17 NAMA ELN Steering Committee and currently serves on the NAMA board of directors. She has achieved CPSP and CPSL certifications and successfully finished the ACE Leadership Foundation program with NASP.

Bonnie Trush

Bonnie Trush is co-founder and COO of Capital Provisions (CP), a roll-up of the vending industry in Southern California. She has cultivated a team of 50+ individuals – some recruited and some faced with the difficult prospect of integrating into a new team after their company was acquired by CP. Prior to CP, Trush co-founded a VMS, Vagabond. In doing so, she helped hundreds of small businesses become more profitable. She co-founded CP with the expectation that she could build a team that treats teammates, partners and vendors with the same loving care and passion as she did for her customers. Outside of work, Trush actively supports women and minorities as part of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Prior to joining the convenience services industry, she earned degrees from Brigham Young University and University of Phoenix before gaining extensive operational experience in the healthcare management and technology fields.

Laurel Whitney

Laurel Whitney is co-founder of Push Beverages LLC, an Oklahoma-based beverage manufacturer offering over 30 different products within six distinct product lines distributed in 46 states nationwide. Since its inception in 2009, Whitney has overseen product development, operations, finance, logistics and production aspects of the business. Previously, she and her husband ran the largest independent vending company in New Jersey, sold in 2013. Drawing from that experience, Whitney’s goal is to help vending companies use Push Beverages as a tool for maintaining strong profit margins and a competitive edge in their market. She takes great pride in Push Beverages’ longevity within the vending and convenience space as a disrupter in the cold beverage category, long dominated by only two national brands. Her work with Push Beverages has also been recognized by ROI-NJ who named her a Women in Business Influencer, ACG-NJ for the Innovation and Corporate Growth Award and included her as a Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs.

Brenda Williams

Brenda Williams joined 365 Retail Markets in 2019 as a senior manager of customer support with a team of 38 people. Since then, there has been tremendous growth for both the company and the support team. Williams was promoted to director of support in 2022, overseeing most brands within the 365 family and now heading a team of 150. With a mission to provide customers with a best-in-class experience, Williams has taken on the challenge of supporting a growing portfolio of solutions, understanding that the support experience can be a differentiating factor for customers in their choice of whom they do business with. Williams is especially proud of the leadership team they have built and the team of agents in place to ensure success for 365 customers and the company. The team has improved the customer experience by reducing response and resolution times, improving the quality of delivery, and offering expanded coverage hours and multiple channels to access support anytime, anywhere.

Lynn Winkler

Lynn Winkler has been in the OCS industry since the early 1980s, first as an operator, and later in 1991, she started Holiday House Distributing, a unique place built by two very different individuals, who had an idea and made it into an incredible company. Winkler’s contribution in the building of the companies is organization. “I’ve learned over the years that you cannot teach someone how to do a job if you haven’t done it yourself. I’ve done every job from unloading trucks to packing orders. This experience allowed me to eliminate redundancy, explain necessity and streamline the flow of orders through our building through effective training.”

This article has been updated since publication to include additional biographical details about some honorees.

About the Author

Molly Rogers | Editor-in-Chief

Molly Rogers was the editor-in-chief of Automatic Merchandiser and VendingMarketWatch.com, bringing 20 years of experience in custom publishing, B2B and B2C magazines, as well as advertising and marketing. She is dedicated to serving readers by covering the latest news in the vending, office coffee service and micro market industry and helping companies connect to their audiences through strong editorial solutions. Molly is based in Birmingham, Alabama, and she can be reached at [email protected] or (205) 409-0843.

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