- October 15, 2020
Being in marketing and promotional products, Heather VanBrummelen has a front-line seat to the damage the pandemic has caused to area businesses. That’s because some companies, in a desperate move to keep the doors open, have cut back on marketing — even though that step can be hurtful in and of itself.
“We’ve had to shift our client’s mindset,” says VanBrummelen, a Southwest Florida-based marketing and branding specialist with Pro Forma DHJ Promotions, a Palm Beach County company her dad, Craig Roma, has owned for years. “We’ve had to work with clients on their marketing budgets and places where they are going to cut. It takes a little bit of thinking on your feet and problem-solving.”
That kind of environment is the just-right place for VanBrummelen, who says she enjoys seeing a marketing campaign come to life. Both her grandfather and father were in marketing and promotional products, and after a few years as an admissions counselor at her alma mater, Hodges University, that’s where VanBrummelen went. She worked in sales at Pro Forma DHJ and then Allegra Naples for a short stint, fine-tuning her customer service skills. “I’ve always been kind of attracted to the marketing field,” she says.
The 28-year-old VanBrummelen says one of the biggest challenges she faces, working with decision-makers and other top executives of Southwest Florida companies, is an age gap. “Everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve always been the youngest one,” she says. “People are used to working with someone older in my position.”
VanBrummelen tackles that challenge by proving herself through her work ethic and product knowledge. That tends to take the edge off any age-related issues.
Taking on the age challenge stretches to VanBrummelen’s community volunteer efforts outside work, where she was recently named president of the Naples chapter of the American Association of University Women. The group, which locally has a membership base in Naples that skews to an older demographic, awards grants and fellowships to women and nonprofits geared to gender issues. The organization also works with college and K-12 students, helping find more opportunities for women and girls in science, technology, engineering and math. The last task is close to VanBrummelen — a mother of three young children, including one daughter.
Although the AAUW’s big-picture goals remain focused on gender issues, the pandemic has pushed it toward focusing on short-term needs, such as refilling food pantries. “It’s a way to say, what do people need right now?” VanBrummelen says.
Years on the Gulf Coast
Single with three children
Bachelor's degree in marketing and branding/professional sales
What community group or organization are you most involved with?
AAUW Greater Naples
What's the weirdest job you've ever had?
Coach for 4-year old's T-ball team
What's your top tip for being productive?
Complete the task in front of you. A lot of people want to jump from A to Z, but you can learn more and execute a plan more effectively if you focus on each step one at a time. Eventually, everything will fall into place, and you have a completed project.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be?
Professional wine taster
What's your favorite off-hours activity?
Being a mom of three
What's your favorite board game, game show or video game?
Card game: 13 down
What’s your go-to delivery service? (DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub, Bite Squad, etc.)
What do you use most — Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google Meetings?
What’s the best binge-worthy show you have enjoyed during the pandemic?
What’s the longest virtual meeting you’ve been on since mid-March?
How many times had you used video for a work meeting prior to the pandemic?
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic?
Problem-solving. With the pandemic, a lot of our supply factories closed down, so we had to help clients think of new ways to keep their marketing active. We had to do this in a way that they could shift their already existing marketing plans in an effective way without jeopardizing the reach to their target customers, all while majority faced budget cuts.
What do you miss most about the world pre-pandemic?
Kids sports games. My 8-year old daughter was in martial arts, volleyball and cheer. My middle son, who is 5, was in martial arts and baseball. I miss the practices, Saturday game-day traditions and the competitions. I've always been team mom for my kids, and I miss hanging with parents and the kids being together.
What have you been spending more time doing during the pandemic?
Finishing the house. We moved right at the start of the pandemic, and I was able to build my home office where I was still able to work but be home for my kids during these crazy times. It also gave me the ability to talk with clients in different time zones more because they were not limited to my office hours.
Do you prefer working from home or working from an office?
I love home, but I miss the office
How have you kept up camaraderie with colleagues during the pandemic?
For a while we just relied on Facebook, but then a friend of mine started a group that meets in different parking lots where we bring camp chairs and coffee on Sunday mornings to get out of the house. The best part it was it was a chance to get a break from work, kids and chores.
What’s the first thing you’ll do after the pandemic?
Travel! I have always wanted to travel, and I never have. Being told that I couldn't travel made me want to travel even more, so I am planning on taking a well-deserved vacation!