The Women of Foodservice Equipment Tell Their Stories

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The foodservice equipment industry remains heavily male-dominated in 2023. While more women have joined the ranks over the last few decades, they’re still in the minority. The ones who decide to pursue a career in foodservice equipment, rather than just take a temporary job, are few and far between.

Who are these women? What have their professional lives been like?

Easy Ice decided to find out.

Meet the Women

How does a woman end up building a career in the foodservice equipment industry?

By chance, usually. Where some women start dreaming in childhood or adolescence of becoming doctors, lawyers, engineers, artists, and otherwise, the women of our industry—much like the men—usually arrive here without planning on it or even realizing beforehand that the industry exists.

That’s all the more reason it stood out just how long these women have been in the foodservice equipment industry, establishing themselves as seasoned experts despite how few women they saw doing the same when they were starting out.

“I have 34 years in the industry to date, and I still love what I’m doing!” said Nancy Yount, Divisional Sales Manager at Easy Ice. She has spent her entire career working with commercial ice machines, having joined Easy Ice as a former employee of Ice-Masters following its acquisition.

“In the late 80’s, I had the opportunity to join [Ice-Masters]’s first branch office, specializing in commercial ice machine sales, service, and rentals,” she said. “I learned the business and industry from the ground up, including the technical side of the equipment.”

Kelly Marincik, Southcentral Regional Sales Director at Hoshizaki America, has a similar history: “I started working in this industry as a customer service representative for a refrigeration company while going to school. When I completed school, I was offered a sales position in foodservice equipment and was excited to pursue it.”

But like Nancy, Kelly didn’t take that first job expecting to stick around long-term.

“I would have never imagined having a career in this industry,” she said.

Char Carothers, Account Supervisor at N. Wasserstrom, echoed that sentiment: “The opportunity to work in the food service equipment industry wasn’t something I really sought out…. However, it’s turned out to be a very fun, interesting, and rewarding career choice that found me.”

Trying the foodservice equipment industry on for size is one thing. A job is a job, after all. Choosing to make a career out of that first job is something else. So, why did these women make that choice?

For Nancy, being a part of a disruptive movement within the commercial ice machine world kept her job exciting in the early days.

“We were working to change the way people thought about renting ice machines with full service included instead of owning them,” she explained of Ice-Masters, where she got her start. She could not have predicted she would one day join a national company attempting to do exactly the same thing, for which her time at Ice-Masters prepared her. She, along with Char and Kelly and so many other women who landed in foodservice equipment, simply followed her instincts when choosing her career path—and it has led her to a leadership position where her specialized knowledge makes her a highly valuable asset.

For Char, belonging to a major foodservice equipment dealership continues to offer her dynamic, stimulating work even after all these years. “I’m involved in so many different parts of it, which keeps things fresh every day, and I see myself on a great path.”

What they’ve enjoyed about this industry aside, don’t underestimate what it takes women like Nancy, Char, and Kelly to maintain their staying power in foodservice equipment. They may be comfortably rooted in our industry now—but it took time and a willingness to face challenges for them to reach this point.

What’s It Like for Women Here

Nobody likes being the odd one out, and in any male-dominated industry, that feeling can discourage women from joining, then staying put. The ones who do take that leap make it easier for other women to enter their industry or their company in the future, which is undoubtedly what Nancy, Kelly, and Char have done over the course of their careers. They serve as examples not only of women being able to carve out a place for themselves in foodservice equipment but of how doing so can ultimately change the industry for the better.

“When I started, there were not many women selling this type of equipment, and I had to work hard for the respect of our customers,” Nancy said. “This meant learning the product, understanding how it works, and being able to knowledgably speak of the required water, drains and electrical configurations. In the early days, it was common for someone to say to me, “Wow, I’m surprised you know so much about ice machines!”

That kind of heightened scrutiny and skepticism of her competence could easily make a young woman abandon foodservice equipment for an industry where she has less to prove. Nancy didn’t. More than three decades later, she manages the entire Midwest division of America’s only national ice machine subscription company.

Luckily, the commercial ice machine industry and the foodservice equipment industry have definitely changed for the better since the 1980s.

“I feel our industry has improved and has developed opportunities for women to advance from the standard roles we contributed through before,” said Kelly over at Hoshizaki America. She should know, given she has risen through the ranks of her organization—one that is international in scope—to become a regional sales director. How many women held such a position twenty years ago, in this industry? Not many.

“Moving forward, we need to continue to mentor and invest in the development of women,” Kelly said, reminding us that, of course, there remains plenty of room for improvement.

Char agreed with Kelly that the career outlook for women in foodservice equipment is generally positive these days. “If you have a desire to succeed, I feel the opportunities are available.”

Whether or not young women want those opportunities is a different matter. Should they become a part of our industry? That depends heavily on how much our industry wants them.

What Women Bring to the Table

Why should we want to see more women working in the foodservice equipment industry? Do they actually bring something different to the table compared to their male counterparts? And how valuable is it if they do?

“I believe women have a unique way of looking at things,” said Nancy of Easy Ice. “Let’s face it, ice machines are a problem. Women can offer a unique strategy for solving problems.”

This point about women’s talent for problem-solving came up again, when we spoke to Char of N. Wasserstrom. “Being a strong yet engaged listener and problem solver is a key quality to [women’s] success.”

Women are well-versed in smoothing out the wrinkles that occur in their personal lives. As daughters, mothers, friends, sisters, and spouses, they routinely find solutions big and small to maintain harmonious relationships, spaces, and events. It’s no wonder they excel at problem-solving on the job; it’s a transferable skill they started developing in youth and constantly practice off the clock.

But that’s not all women can contribute to our world of our commercial ice machines, refrigerators, freezers, and the like.

Kelly Marincik expanded on how women’s presence benefits us all this way:

“Women bring a different perspective when developing business strategies and engagement with the customer. We can adapt and be resourceful in challenging situations. We can have a business mindset but take an empathetic approach to help resolve issues.”

Empathy isn’t just a powerful tool when it comes to conflict resolution. It can also be a saleswoman’s secret weapon. When a customer feels as though your goal is to help her rather than profit off her, she’s far more willing to talk to you and to listen. Nobody wants to be sold to, even when they’re looking to buy. The empathetic saleswoman knows how to make a customer feel not like she’s buying a product but like she’s getting her needs met. Raised to put others’ comfort above their own, women know how to approach selling with empathy not in a manipulative way but in a genuine one. Customers can sense that—and they respond favorably.

“In my development of building sales strategies, I keep the customer perspective in mind,” Kelly said. “How are we interacting with the customer as a company? What benefits do we provide to the customer? I’m always looking for new ways to approach situations and improve the customer experience.”

It’s relationship-building with customers that Nancy credits herself for the most: “I contributed to the growth and success of the [ice machine] subscription program in Kansas City and surrounding markets by establishing solid relationships with our customer base through trust, knowledge, and the ability to provide them quality equipment and outstanding service.”

Char described how she’s combined these two strengths—problem-solving and relationship-building—to great effect throughout her career: “I bring both sides together to work out any differences and to problem-solve situations that may be getting in the way of resolution.”

And Char’s focus on relationships has never been limited to those she’s had with customers. She added, “I also want my teammates to succeed and will work with them to ensure success by training them with open and free-flowing communication.”

It’s that dedication to developing positive relationships with co-workers, in addition to customers, that often distinguishes women in our industry and others. Not only do women possess the skills to create great relationships—they also have the desire. For that reason, even the most success-driven, competitive woman is likely to be highly cooperative with her colleagues. She helps her company succeed both internally and externally, recognizing that it isn’t just our relationships with customers that matter but also our relationships with peers.

It’s no surprise, then, that Nancy, Kelly, and Char all had warm and generous praise to give the women who have inspired them in foodservice equipment.

“Developing a career within this industry was challenging, but I was fortunate to have mentors along the way to support me and help me develop into the role I have today,” Kelly said.

Nancy credited her mentors as well: “I found my passion in the food equipment and service industry, and I absorbed as much knowledge as possible from my mentors while building working relationships with manufacturers, distributors, and dealers.”

One woman in particular holds a significant place in Nancy’s professional history, without whom she might not have stayed in the commercial ice machine world: Judy Tramposh, former VP of Tresko and Ice-Masters.

“Judy took a chance on me when I was just out of school, believed in my abilities, and taught me the business management side of the industry,” Nancy said. “I learned so much from her in inventory management, staffing, and day-to-day operations.”

Kelly also had a specific woman in mind from her early days in foodservice equipment, who made a lasting impression on her. “I was really intrigued by a woman I worked with at the refrigeration company where I started. She began her career as a receptionist, then worked her way to customer service, and then into sales. She has developed her career into a principal at a foodservice rep firm. She was open to taking on more responsibilities to gain knowledge, asked questions, and shared her ideas to help improve processes. She was never afraid to approach an opportunity. When she hit a roadblock, she looked for other avenues to work around it. I learned a lot from her that helped me develop my own career.”

Like Nancy and Kelly, Char immediately identified a woman in foodservice equipment who she admires and who has inspired her. “Our COO Treva Weaver has made a big impression on me in that she owns her own franchise business and brilliantly leads us at N Wasserstrom. She’s a true pioneer and a strong female figure who was recently presented the Ambassador Award from the Ohio Restaurant Industry.”

What Kelly, Nancy, and Char may not realize is they are quite likely to be the women that other, younger women one day cite as professionally inspiring in this industry. They, like the women they pay homage to who came before them, serve as examples to the next generation of women in foodservice equipment simply by being present and doing what they do well.

Advice for Women Joining Now

Now that they have decades of experience behind them, what do Nancy, Kelly, and Char have to say to those younger women just starting out in our industry?

“Be yourself!” is Kelly’s tip. “Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and concerns. Ask for advice and be open to receive advice. Look for avenues where you can learn new practices and engage with people. Have a good work ethic.”

Char has similar wisdom to share: “Bring your best game, work hard, learn everything you can, and don’t back down because success is in every one of us if we choose to release it. You’ll be amazed at the places you can go.”

Meanwhile, Nancy challenges the women following in her footsteps to meet the high standard she set all those years ago in a little Kansas City ice machine rental office. “To earn the respect of your peers and your customers, learn your product and everything that is needed to make it work in the customer’s application. Continue to educate yourself daily and be able to sell three things to your customer: you, the company you represent, and the product.”

Consider this an open invitation to young women searching for a career path. Come share your talents, skills, intelligence, and potential with the foodservice equipment industry! Whether you choose to work for an equipment dealer, a manufacturer, or an ice machine rental company like Easy Ice, you can make a positive difference—and we welcome it.

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