1. You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be?
Sue: Brilliant yellow, because I like to always consider the bright side of things; turning tough situations into opportunities and learning experiences.
2. Who or what inspires you most?
People and their stories. We all have our strong points – many of them gained by learning from our own experiences. Hearing what others have learned and how they learned it inspires me to learn, too, and to engage with people from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds and cultures.
3. What do you wish your brain was better at doing?
Working in project management programs. Understanding some of the newer applications that are supposed to make managing projects easier has not been my strong suit. I seem to work better with basic lists and calendar notes. However, since everyone is using these new applications and programs, I need to get on the ball and master them.
4. When people come to you for help, what do they usually want help with?
Everyday issues that that they face – the basic, “How do I deal with…xyz?” This is true both personally (“I just need someone to vent to …”) and professionally, like asking me for advice on reaching ASTRA members, gaining new business or, again, just venting.
5. What risks are worth taking?
Any risk that is not life threatening, or that could possibly cause your business, organization, or association to go under. We never know what will work if we don’t try new things. Everyone and every business needs to take risks to stay exciting and relevant.
6. What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?
Being out in nature. Oh, and cooking and baking! And blueberry picking! I love all the seasons and spend as much time outside enjoying them as I can.
7. What made you giggle lately?
My dog, Nellie. She’s a stitch when she wants something.
8. What is something that your friends and family would consider “so you?”
Having people over for dinner as much as possible. Everyone knows that I always keep enough food on hand to feed extras. They know if they stop in out of the blue for lunch, for instance, they can join us because I will have enough to go around. Our home is open to all. During the pandemic it was tough – we missed our gatherings and people stopping in.
9. When was the last time you did something for the first time?
Well, due to the pandemic, I was home for more than 12 months – no travelling. That was a first! Before that, it was a helicopter ride over the big island of Hawaii.
10. What kind of car do you drive?
It’s a Subaru Forester, because of the snowy winters here in Minnesota and the time we spend in the mountains of Colorado.
A Seasoned Veteran
After six years as ASTRA’s director of member relations, Sue guided the organization through the pandemic after the departure of Kim Mosley last September. Under her leadership, she and her small-but-mighty team held ASTRA’s successful Winter Camp virtual tradeshow in February, a sequel to last year’s Summer Camp held in lieu of an in-person tradeshow. In addition, Sue and her staff oversaw the selection of the all-important Best Toys for Kids finalists and published the first Look Book about them for retailers. Coming up in August is Marketplace & Academy, the in-person specialty toy tradeshow they planned.
Board Chair Amy Saldanha observed that ASTRA is lucky Sue cared so much about its future that she was willing to step up during an incredibly difficult time. “We look forward to the added stability she brings. Her leadership is greatly valued and needed,” adds Amy, owner of Kiddywampus toy store in Hopkins, Minnesota.
Sue is a 30-year retail veteran who began her career when she was in college. She worked as a part-time sales clerk for the Dayton’s department store chain in Minneapolis before moving on to become an assistant manager at a hobby and craft store.
Over the years, Sue worked for two major independently-owned retail chains in the Twin Cities, where she rose through the ranks to become director of retail operations. In 1990 she started a retail consultancy and worked with clients around the U.S.; in 1995 she became a toy rep. In 1999 she opened a furnishings and décor store with her husband.
Having worn so many hats during such a long span of time in the industry, Sue has become well-known, highly respected, and even beloved by many in the association, explains Amy.
When you see Sue in Minneapolis in August, stop and say hello. Ask her what Nellie is up to.