Under 40: Danielle J. Kay, Stylerite Label Corp.
Danielle J. Kay, 39
Sales Executive Manager
Stylerite Label Corp., Rochester Hills, Mich.
How she got her start: I’ve always had a lifelong passion for the printing industry. [Having been] born and raised in the industry—it’s in my blood. My grandparents, Joe and Verna Kay, started a small print company [Kay Toledo Tag] in the mid ’40s, having five sons who later took over the business in the ’70s, passing on their exceptional knowledge and entrepreneurial skills before retirement. I always knew I had a strong passion for manufacturing and selling print. I’ve dreamed of owning my own printing business since childhood and look forward to the journey that awaits. Since childhood, I watched my father, Daniel J. Kay, and followed him diligently as a business owner and salesman. Learning from him as he spoke with customers and our employees and going on sales calls in my mid-teen years while still in high school—I absolutely loved seeing how my dad was driven to love, serve and care for [everyone].
During my senior year of high school, I was in a school release work program, and I decided to work for both the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and my father in the printing business. After graduation, I pondered going full-time into the Coast Guard, but my heart’s desire was in print. I compromised for both passions, and worked full-time at our family print business, while staying active in the evenings after work and weekends serving in the Coast Guard. I decided not to enlist, and dedicated my whole life to the print industry and still, to this day, I don’t regret the decision. I believe it was with the knowledge and support of my father coaching me that I would be able to strive in making a better carrier for not only myself, but for the printing industry as a whole, and for our customers.
Her current role: My current position is the sales executive manager for Stylerite Label Corp. in Rochester Hills, Mich. A few of my daily roles in this position are to provide our current customers the support, knowledge and guidance in growing and servicing their accounts. I help with the development of new business growth for our customers, recommending solutions and many new growth opportunities by finding leads, as well as going on sales calls with them to offer support and guidance. I look daily for new prospects while growing our Supplier Diversity program through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
What she likes best about her job: I love the communication I have with our customers and new prospects. I enjoy speaking, servicing and helping both strive for repeat and new business growth. Knowing at the end of the day that I have made a difference in our customers’ daily lives by building a strong trust and bond gives me the drive and passion to keep pushing hard for them.
Age roadblocks and advantages: The biggest challenges I see with my age group would be that most are not sticking [around] and are leaving to find new corporate carriers, which, in the end, are not in the print industry. We have very few knowledgeable sales executives left in our industry due to retirement, with no children or family following in their footsteps. Most adults around my age group have had parents sell the companies or have no desire to follow into the family tradition. We need adults in my age group to stand up and keep pushing for growth in the print industry.
The biggest advantage I see with my age group would be the small support groups we have for those who are left or starting up in the print industry. Even as competitors, we support each other and want to see each other grow to be successful. [Because] not many are left, we tend to stick together [hoping to] grow our industry back to the good old days when the mom-and-pop, family-owned and -operated businesses [thrived] … once again putting true value, trust and honesty back into our Industry.
Her biggest career influence: My father, who has since retired from the industry, has been the most influential in my print career development. During the last 21-plus years, he has led me in a very sophisticated manner. He’s allowed me to be aware of the industry’s pros and cons, and has allowed for me to have a better understanding of printing that not many in our industry would be able to comprehend. His unparalleled knowledge, support and confidence in me, [helped mold me into who] I am today.
Her most meaningful business accomplishment: I would say my greatest accomplishments would be building mutual trust, respect, significant credibility and personal relationships with all my customers. This has driven me to strive daily to support and value each customer in a unique way to better service and care for them all. I never tell a customer “no”; I will do anything I can to find a greater solution if needed.
Her differentiating factor: Our industry has indeed seen many formidable opponents and with that being said, we need to find unique niches to service and help our customers go after and sell for us. I have been able to train and job-shadow many customers, giving the support and knowledge needed to keep unique printed items in our industry. Due to unforeseen cost increases and new technology, I am always looking for a cost-effective way our customers can save production time and money.
Why she believes the future is bright: There are many new growth opportunities: Connecting, learning and becoming a go-to leader that stands out in print, with knowledge and support will always allow our industry to thrive. We continue to stand together as a team, [since] supporting each other and choosing to build a reputation as influencers for our industry, will always allow the print and promo sectors to thrive.
Final thoughts: I would like to say to you all: Share your dreams; inspire others; believe in yourself; imagine beyond limitations; hope for the best tomorrow; nurture your mind, heart and soul; and strive to be a better person daily. When we create a happy and peaceful environment, we can explore everyday life with freedom, courage and beauty, and treasure what an amazing life we truly have.