About five years ago, Jennifer Kushnir was setting up and working a booth at a fastener-related trade show when the one beside hers kept catching her eye.
“All of these women kept stopping by that booth, talking, hugging, connecting — they all looked so supportive of one another,” she shares. “And, of course, you couldn’t miss the bright pink lanyards they were all wearing. I wanted to learn more about what that organization was all about.”
The organization was WIFI, or Women in the Fastener Industry, which represents a team that educates, mentors, and encourage one another, “for the express purpose of advancing women in the fastener industry” (according to the website).
“I was so impressed an organization existed solely for women to network and help one another grow each other’s businesses,” she says. “I knew I wanted to be a part of it in some way.” Kushnir had been in the fastener industry for more than a decade at that point, starting with a small “mom and pop” electrical supply company that had a fastener division.
“My fastener experience since 1999 has led to my current role at D.L.P. Coatings,” she says. Kushnir has served as sales manager for the last five years with D.L.P. Coatings, Inc., a provider of quality painted fasteners. “So, when Mary Lou Aderman, co-founder of WIFI, learned more about my history and experience in the industry and then asked me to join, I said yes.”
WIFI was launched a decade ago by Aderman, who’s now retired but was president of The Aderman Group, which served to support manufacturer distribution, and Pam Berry, executive VP and co-owner of Advance Components, a master distributor.
“Initially, the two met and started branching out via LinkedIn in an attempt to connect women in the industry…and eventually, WIFI was formed and developed into the success it is today,” says Kushnir. “In fact, last year, WIFI celebrated its 10th anniversary.”
Kushnir began volunteering as a member on the board and today serves as WIFI president. “The opportunity to network with other women in the industry, learn about their stories and passions, and truly support each other, has been unbelievably rewarding,” she says. “So, when you see someone wearing that bring pink lanyard at a trade show or event, you know they’re part of this team and there’s instant camaraderie there.”
Along with educating members through workshops and webinars, WIFI also offers annual scholarships. It recently announced its newest scholarship in honor of Margaret Davis of ISSCO, INC/BTM Manufacturing, who sadly passed away last year.
“Essentially, Fastener Fair USA asked to partner with us for this scholarship, which provides an all-expenses-paid opportunity for the receiver to enjoy free airfare, accommodations, and entrance fees to the Fastener Fair USA, while meeting and connecting with WIFI members at the show,” says Kushnir. “So, this is a wonderful opportunity for someone who works in fasteners but has never gotten the chance to go to such an event.” Fastener Fair USA runs May 18 to 20 at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, NC.
In addition to its scholarships (four are available in total), WIFI is also is the process of launching a mentorship program. “Later this year, we aim to pair women — one mentee that we can match with a mentor, depending on the sector of interest. For example, if someone is in marketing or seeking guidance at a VP level, we’ll match that person with another who can provide support and advice.”
Currently, WIFI has more than 250 companies that have joined in support of the organization. Corporate memberships are $200 annually (that’s for up to nine members) and individual memberships are also available for $50 per year.
“I’d encourage any woman involved in the fastening industry in some capacity to learn more about us, either online or stop by our booth at one of the industry trade shows,” says Kushnir. “WIFI has provided me with a community of support. It’s truly been one of the best decisions I’ve made.”