Building Strong Connections
Equip Exposition brings together diverse voices from across the country. Here’s why three leaders keep coming back.
BY LINDSEY GETZ
Contractors from across the country come to Equip Exposition to network, learn, and grow. We recently caught up with three of them to learn why they go, and what attending the show means for their businesses. Donna Vignocchi Zych In the Chicago market, which sometimes has an “old boys’ network” feel to it, Donna Vignocchi Zych, president of ILT Vignocchi, says that she has had to work harder to earn the same amount of respect over the years. In fact, there was a time when she just needed to take a break from attending industry events, as there was really no place for women to be involved. Now, she says it’s exciting to see so many women at the Equip Exposition. Currently in her 29 th year in the business, Vignocchi Zych’s industry story begins just out of college with a degree in telecommunications and a plan to go into broadcasting. But Vignocchi Zych says she was nervous—so instead she asked her father for a job. “I got started doing the ‘gruntiest’ of the grunt work—even cleaning the toilets,” she recalls. “It taught me an enormous amount of humility. But my dad was kind enough to let me apply some of my marketing knowledge, and my goal was to get the business into the high-end residential arena. It was just the right timing because the stock market boom was beginning.”
Donna Vignocchi Zych, Presidnet of ILT Vignocchi in suburban Chicago (right) and Barb Stropko, Owner of New Desert Gallery in Tucson, speak at a focus group for women in the industry at the 2021 trade show.
the field,” she says. “While the reluctance is understandable, the show holds so much potential for all of us.” Vignocchi Zych says that she is looking at how she can be “better and more efficient” with new equipment while attending the show. But she adds that networking is her other key goal. “Human interaction is what makes the world turn and makes you better as a person, and there is nothing like interacting with other people at the show,” she says. “We tend to miss out on these opportunities a lot and get stuck in the way that we’re doing things. But the show is a chance have some of that interaction that we’ve been missing and make genuine connections. We all have so much to learn from one another.”
It was around this time that Vignocchi Zych also started getting more involved in attending shows and connecting with the industry on a more national scale. But she was discouraged by the lack of diversity at the time. There were very few women working in landscaping—and even those that were, weren’t coming out to the shows. More recently, she came back— speaking last year on a panel about what it’s like to be a woman in the industry. She says the experience was refreshing and reinvigorating. Still, she says the intimidation factor can linger. “When you come to this big show in Louisville, the demographic is still dominated by men, and it can be intimidating for women who are new to
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