SAN ANTONIO, Texas—Karen Brandvold will break another barrier for women when she takes the helm next spring as the first female to serve as president of NAHAD: The Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution.
But as she was preparing to assume that role, it dawned on her that she'd had difficulties connecting as a female member of the NAHAD. So she wondered what the group, which also has a large contingent of manufacturer members, could do to attract and promote women to the hose industry in general and NAHAD in particular.
That led to the formation of the group Women in NAHAD—or WIN for short—which was launched during the annual convention this past April in San Antonio. And now she and members of the group are working to determine what the long-term aim will be for WIN, and how to ensure it's not an initiative that's brought up during the annual conventions and then forgotten about the rest of the year.
Life in the hose business
Brandvold is vice president and chief financial officer for Omni Services Inc., a hose, accessories and rubber product distributor based in Massachusetts. Her father, Robert Michell, founded the company in 1976, and it now boasts 17 locations running from the Northeast to Winston-Salem, N.C.
She said her father, who was honored posthumously at this year's NAHAD meeting with the George Carver Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Industry, was passionate about learning and people. Brandvold was about 12 years old when Omni was founded, and her father always had her and her sister making catalogs and answering the phones. They worked there during the summer and on school breaks.
After going to school, however, Brandvold went into a high-tech industry, working in a financial development program. "My dad was always trying to get me to come back," she said. "I wasn't sure what it would be like to work for my dad. Hose and connectors are not glamorous."
She later decided to go to business school because she wasn't happy where she was working. She took a year to apply to business school and work for her father to see how it worked out. "I went into marketing for him," Brandvold said of her father, who died in 2014. "It turned out to be really fun because he embraced new ideas and new technologies. I'm really grateful for the time I had with him."