MELISSA NIEKAMP, 28
Senior Account Executive
Touchstone, Mason, Ohio
Melissa Niekamp is a great example of her employer’s tagline “Create and Inspire Brand Interaction.” As a senior account executive at Touchstone, she helps clients in varying industries—from manufacturing and aviation to restaurants and health care—to improve their brand awareness through merchandise and apparel. She is inquisitive, always pushing customers to ask the “why” about their own positions and points of difference. And her nominator said she “brings a positive light and energy into everything she does.” Niekamp’s loyalty to the Touchstone family goes back to her college career at Ohio Northern University. During her marketing and management studies, she was part of a student-run business called Polar Merchandise. Under the leadership of her professor and adviser, Dr. Schakett, Niekamp and her peers ran a very small promotional products business of which Touchstone Merchandise Group was a vendor. After graduation, her contact at the distributor, Mike Welker, made some introductions and she aced her interview. “I started in a really unique program where I worked for the first eight months as a custom product specialist, or an inside sales support role,” Niekamp mentioned. “This way I was able to work to support many sales reps and learn the industry from the inside, as well as see different sales styles and operating systems, and learn firsthand how to work through challenges.” As a result, she was well-prepared for her first venture into sales in 2015. The rest is history.
Why she loves her job: I love getting to know my clients and learning their business and how best to promote and grow their brand. Although there are similarities in needs across industries, I love that every day is a little bit different and I get to be creative every day. I also love the culture. Touchstone is really focused on our growth—professionally and personally—and I thrive in that environment, even working from home. Ultimately, I love people and getting to be their brand partner.
Age roadblocks and advantages: Being a young woman in sales, I do feel like I have to prove myself daily on why my clients should choose to work with me over someone more seasoned. My age is also definitely an advantage because I am striving to learn and grow constantly, and I believe challenging myself has made me a better partner for my clients, as well as my colleagues.
Her biggest career influence: Mike Welker, who is now the vice president of retail and field sales at Touchstone. He has also been a colleague to work alongside when he was an account executive, as well as my supplier in college when I was at Polar Merchandise. I still remember the first time he invited us down to the office—it wasn’t the exact same layout as it is now, which is incredible, but my team and I were still mindblown! He set up the conference room and spent the whole morning with our team, explaining his role and his goals (as well as how we should set our own and accomplish them), talking strategy and giving of himself as a true partner rather than just a vendor. I have always admired his character and how genuine he is, and I strive to make my clients feel as great about choosing me as I did about Polar Merchandise choosing TMG. Fast forward to the end of college—he introduced me to the right people at Touchstone and encouraged me to start my career here. Almost six years later, I am so thankful I did!
Her most meaningful business accomplishment: Three years ago, I qualified for our Sales Club and have been a member of the club each year since. The first tier, Ambassador’s Club, is for account executives that have grossed $125,000-plus profit, and I was a member of this club for two years. The next tier, President’s Club, is for account executives that have brought in over $250,000 in profit, and I am now in this club. It is a really great feeling to set goals, establish a plan of how to reach them and surpass them. It’s also really fun to be a member of this club alongside my colleagues and friends.
Her differentiating factor: Touchstone has taught me that our industry is so much more than just swag or putting a logo on things. We are here to be a true brand partner and valuable resource to our clients. Despite the changes and challenges that coming years will bring, partnerships like that can’t be replaced with technology.
What she hopes to accomplish in the next year: Professionally, I would like to increase my sales by $100,000, but much more than that, I would like to help our sales team grow and thrive. I’d love to be a mentor and help a small team of account executives hit their goals. Personally, I am going to train for a half marathon and would also like to finish another obstacle race.
Why she believes the future is bright: Brands are so valuable! It’s how our clients connect their companies with the hearts and minds of consumers. I believe our industry will continue to thrive by offering creative and innovative solutions to share brands.
How the industry can better recruit young talent: I feel so blessed that I got to see and learn some of the inner workings of the promotional products industry while in college through our student-run business. I think continuing to partner with young adults is the perfect way to bring in young talent.
What she does for fun: I love hanging out with my husband, Zach, and our dog, Rocky. We enjoy camping, road trips, softball tournaments, hiking and mostly spending time with family and friends.
Additional thoughts: I am extremely humbled to be part of such an incredible organization and culture that we have at Touchstone! I've been exceptionally blessed to be part of such an incredible team, empowering leadership and awesome colleagues who have become friends. I'm excited to see where 2020 takes our Touchstone family! #IAmTouchstone