Jillian Anderson has a reputation for cultivating strong relationships with co-workers, partners, and customers. In her current role, Anderson is a national key account manager at PepsiCo responsible for 7-Eleven cold drink. In this important role, it is critical to understand the customer’s vision and strategy, notes Anderson, who has won two Supplier of the Year awards. “Together we create a synergy to achieve targets and objectives, working to find a win-win partnership that drives sustainable growth for both organizations.” That partnership is significant: With more than 640 stores across Canada, 7-Eleven is a major player in the convenience and gas channel in Canada. “Decisions are made in the boardroom at a high level, but they need to be supported and executed at the store level,” Anderson stresses. Working together and supporting field teams across Canada is key to store execution, and where programs come to life for the consumer.”
As a teenager, Grace Caputo had a part-time job—her first—as a clerk in a convenience store.  Since 2003, she has been working with convenience retailers to provide a turn-key prepaid solution to retailers. “Back then, retailers would have to pre-pay for inventory, which was difficult due to the impact on their cash flow,” says Caputo. “By offering them a terminal, they would have access to all products all the time and would pay for products after they were sold.” It is a concept that has appealed to c-stores. Since Caputo started with the company, Now Prepay has grown its retail network from 30 points of distribution to more than 15,000 retailers nationwide. “Being involved from the beginning and leading this growth has been very rewarding,” says Caputo.  Inherent to that sense of satisfaction is Caputo’s philosophy. “[This] has always been more than just ‘selling’ a product,” she says. “We manage the category overall, making sure that retailers have the right mix of products to increase sales and remain relevant to their customers."
Hélène Drolet’s sense of teamwork and gift for developing and managing people helped her sprint up the corporate ladder. As Circle K’s vice-president, she’s in charge of all operational aspects for the Western Canada dealers’ network. Prior to joining the convenience industry, Drolet worked in various sectors including cosmetics, fashion and fuel. “My biggest accomplishments centre around building and rallying my teams,” says Drolet. “I’ve achieved incredible results because I lead by example. I make sure they’re engaged and motivated, and that they understand our objectives. The pride that comes from working together and being successful is very important to our people, and this is reflected at every level. Even our clients benefit from this in the quality of our customer service.” Drolet adds that working in a dynamic and supportive environment inspires her to reach higher. “I love that the challenges are never the same, and we always have incredible opportunities to improve our client offerings, boost our revenues and become a regular part of our client’s daily routine.”
For Jessica Friesen, working in the convenience sector is also about working in the family business. She is a third-generation owner of Gales Gas Bars, a petroleum company based in the Niagara region that has 14 service stations and four convenience stores, as well as wholesale and home heating fuel delivery. “We are one of the last truly independent brands of petroleum in Canada,” says Friesen. “We are wholly family owned. We fly our own flag.” Friesen joined the company 11 years ago after working as a registered nurse. “I like a challenge,” she says. “I really enjoy being in the family business. It’s succeed or fail, and you do both from time to time.” One pillar on which Gales is founded and continues to operate is community support. “We take pride in giving back,” says Friesen. “That resonates with customers. They appreciate that we are invested.”

Leslie Gordon loves that the convenience industry is constantly innovating to meet consumer needs. “We’re changing as the consumer changes,” says Gordon, who manages 17 categories and is directly responsible for half of Petro-Canada’s $1.4B in convenience store revenue. In her nine years with the company, Gordon has steered long term strategic development and annual category marketing plans for the c-store business at Petro-Canada’s 1,500 locations. She leads three category teams and mentors interns and new hires. As marketing lead for food safety, Gordon was instrumental in developing the company’s food recall response—the process was adapted for an equipment recall and her team won the Suncor President's Operational Excellence Award. “One thing I’m most proud of is my work as communications director with the Fort York Food Bank,” says Gordon, who joined the Board of Directors last year. “It’s been such a great experience, and I’m so happy to give back, especially during COVID-19. The need for food banks has increased; we’ve seen new clients and families with children who had never come before, and the community has really stepped up.”

Late bloomer. That’s how Kim Green describes herself and her entry into the convenience sector 10 years ago. For most of her career, Green was CEO of Tourism Charlottetown. However, when the offer to jumpstart a wholesale business that had closed came her way, she saw opportunity knocking and said “yes.” Since then Kay’s Wholesale, based in Charlottetown, has expanded five times, does $12 million in business, and employs 36 people. “It’s been quite a ride,” says Green. “I can’t believe I had the guts to do it. I can’t believe how far we’ve come.” One key to success is her dedication to customer service. “I’m here for my clients all the time,” says Green. “I’m in here every weekend meeting with a client who’s run out of something.” Green also believes in offering customers more than the usual merchandise. Kay’s, for example, partners with Prince Edward Island companies to provide local products—everything from potato chips to cough drops to chutneys. “That gives us an edge.”
Lesley Harany remembers her first day on the job with JTI-Macdonald. She was a receptionist in an age where there were no cell phones or iPads. That was the first of many jobs with the international tobacco product manufacturer. Her numerous roles included managing duty-free and trade relations. “I developed long-standing relationships with many customers,” Harany says. She also managed and hosted the Montreal Grand Prix for JTI for more than 20 years. “My biggest passion is connecting with people,” says Harany. She continues to do that today in a myriad of ways. The 2016 Large Supplier of the Year award winner volunteers and supports her community. She also continues to be an advocate for the work done by c-stores through her involvement with the Convenience Industry Council of Canada. “These are vital businesses. A lot of retailers have upped their offerings to meet the needs of customers.” Meeting customers’ needs is also second nature to Harany.
As president and CEO of Gateway Newstands, Mary Kelly oversees the operation of more than 275 stores throughout Canada and the U.S. Before taking on this demanding role two years ago, she spent more than 30 years in retail, including running Target’s pharmacy and HBA business south of the border, then moving to Canada to lead the merchandising teams for Shoppers Drug Mart and later joining Rexall to oversee the chain’s front store and pharmacies. “I feel like I’ve been in the convenience business my whole life” says Kelly. She notes that every Gateway store is a franchise, and she is enjoying the relationships with Gateway franchisees. “Our stores are small, tightly merchandised, high-traffic. The owners are entrepreneurs.” While the sector has seen tremendous change over the last three decades, including the evolution from in-store to digital—the industry, and Gateway, have adapted, Kelly says. “We’ve been able to be profitable. We’ve learned to work smarter.”
Fiona Kreschuk started her career in the convenience sector more than 20 years ago in British Columbia. When she and her husband uprooted to Calgary, Kreschuk continued along this career path working as a guest service attendant for Petro-Canada. In 2003, she became an associate. “I haven’t looked back since,” says Kreschuk. “I now run two stores, a very busy highway truck stop and an A&W car wash site.” During her 17 years with the company, Kreschuk has been nominated for and won numerous awards, but she says her greatest achievement is her team. “Over the years I have been lucky enough to train, develop, and watch them grow.” For the Alberta site operator, success comes from understanding customers’ needs as well as supporting her team. “We can create a positive experience for everyone,” says Kreschuk. “I believe in leading by example and learning all of the jobs throughout the business, the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
Mélissa Lessard has mastered many functions within Alimentation Couche-Tard since joining in 2011, including operations, marketing, merchandising and supply chain. While aligning marketing strategy for four Canadian business units to support the company’s traffic and sales growth strategy, Lessard and her team have transformed and delivered new projects in all those roles. She hits all her KPIs while maintaining a great engagement level among her team and fostering strong relationships with her colleagues and vendors.In 2019, Lessard launched gamification in Canada with ‘Rock, paper, prizes’, an online game played more than six million times in two months, and an advent calendar game in partnership with the NHL that increased brand love and traffic. She recently built ‘Circle K’s Little Thank You’ platform for Canada and Europe, which allowed customers to thank people helping them through the COVID-19 crisis by awarding them a free CK product.“I take great pride in building strong teams that work with purpose, and there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing my team reach their goals,” says Lessard. “Customer behaviour is changing rapidly, which keeps us on our toes to make the best business decisions. This leaves room for creativity, leadership, teamwork and entrepreneurship.”
Working in the convenience sector gave Elizabeth Loschiavo something few other jobs could: flexibility. She began her career in the industry 22 years ago as a part-time employee at Karrys Bros. on the order desk. “Initially part-time employment was a personal choice as it allowed me to focus on raising my two sons, which is my greatest joy and most fulfilling achievement,” says Loschiavo.  As her children moved on to post-secondary education and then careers of their own, Loschiavo moved into full-time employment and up the corporate ladder, starting as key account coordinator and into her current role with Core-Mark, where she is responsible for liaising with large chains accounts to ensure that the business runs efficiently for the customer and for the company. “My success is a direct tribute to the tremendous support I received over the years both at Karrys and Core-Mark,” she says.  The emphasis on family has applied to Loschiavo career as well as her personal life. “I’ve spent my career building collaborative partnerships with our clients as we work towards achieving mutually beneficial goals.”
Jasmine MacDonnell flawlessly juggles many tasks. She manages NSTC’s legislative engagement strategy, including issues management and key messages, and oversees its corporate communications and contraband tracking programs. Previously, MacDonnell worked in both municipal and federal politics, and she’s widely recognized for strong relationships with government officials and decision makers, which benefits not only the company but also the industry as a whole. For example, one core objective for MacDonnell’s government affairs team is advocating for more certainty and precision in how tobacco taxes are administered, she says. “In 2017, Saskatchewan amended its Tobacco Tax Act in line with our legislative proposals, which was a significant accomplishment,” she recalls. “And when Alberta last strengthened its underage access prevention legislation, it was largely based on measures recommended through our advocacy efforts.” MacDonnell co-leads NSTC’s corporate training and corporate responsibility programs, and leads NSTC’s employee development programming. She has organized industry events and volunteer days in support of Equal Voice, United Way and Habitat for Humanity. She especially enjoys riding alongside her sales reps and visiting retail customers. “Meeting the people who get to interact with our consumers regularly re-energizes me, and I always learn something from them.”

Convenience stores have been part of Melani Melnyk’s life since she was a young girl. Her grandfather owned an independent grocery store in a small town in Cape Breton and two uncles also owned a convenience store. “Every summer my sister and I made it our business to visit our favourite convenience store on a daily basis,” says Melnyk. “It was a treat and something we always looked forward to.” Now as shopper marketing manager for Mondelēz Canada, Melnyk gets to help develop those special somethings for a whole new cadre of customers. Recently, for example, she helped create customized programs for clients that offer up unique beverage flavours that leverage the Sour Patch Kids brand. “I love working with the customers in the convenience and gas channel,” says Melnyk. “I really enjoy the entrepreneurial spirit, the flexibility to test and learn new concepts and technologies, and the willingness to partner to develop programs that are win/win.”

Donna Montminy has been described as “the backbone of the entire OCSA organization,” thanks to her smooth leadership over the past 10 years. Montminy, who previously worked in the software industry, coordinates all facets of membership, event management, communications and charitable components. “Working alongside the OCSA Board, I'm proud of the work we do to have the voices of independent retailers heard and the challenges that they face on a daily basis,” says Montminy. “We have an amazing diversity of retailers and suppliers from various backgrounds that are a great pleasure to work with.” Montminy also organizes CStore Day, where MPPs visit thousands of locations, which raises funds for all four children's foundation hospitals in Ontario. “I enjoy engaging with so many people through our industry programs and events,” says Montminy. “A big part of my job is to create connections for both the retailers and suppliers to help them move their businesses forward. Bringing the industry together at OCSA events and Convenience U allows all of us to enjoy this wonderful industry.”
Robbie Mulder remembers clearly her first day on the job as a part-time clerk in a local c-store. “I was terrified,” says Mulder. Today, as district manager for Little Short Stop Stores, a family-owned business with an office in Cambridge, Ont. and 30 stores in the areas of Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Ayr and New Hamburg, Mulder helps the company put in place strategies for growth and increased customer satisfaction. “We build trust with customers,” says Mulder, noting that part of that trust is founded on the company’s commitment to keeping prices low. “We won’t bring a product in if we can’t keep the product affordable.” Like most companies in the convenience sector, flexibility has been a cornerstone of success. Major shifts are commonplace for stores—everything from Sunday shopping to grocery retailers opting out of lottery sales. “We’ve had to adapt quickly and execute changes equally quickly,” says Mulder. But then, it’s all in a day’s work for Little Short Stop’s district manager.
In the middle of completing her MBA, Olga Pigeon was hired by Imperial Oil to work in the company’s c-store group. “It was all new to me. I learned how to implement plans and to meet customers’ needs,” she says. What stood out most during that summer job: the people. “They were committed to finding a win-win-win.” Not surprisingly, when Pigeon was offered a full-time job with Imperial after completing her MBA, she jumped at the opportunity. “I’ve spent my entire career in the c-store sector without ever intending to.” Her current role with BG Fuels, a national network of 235 locations across Canada, offered new and satisfying challenges. Pigeon developed and launched an original backcourt brand called Waypoint. “It’s about finding a niche in the market,” she notes. Working with colleagues and suppliers to meet customer needs is a necessary attribute, Pigeon believes. “That has helped me along this journey.” On a personal note, the Schulich School of Business grad is most proud of her work as a mentor: While at Imperial, she co-founded and co-chaired TWIN, the Toronto Women’s Interest Network. 
Robin Poulain’s list of responsibilities is long. As Kind Healthy Snacks’ director of sales, Poulain oversees the convenience/gas, foodservice, and natural channel strategy for the company’s complete healthy snacking portfolio. She directly leads trade management, forecasting, and customer negotiations, as well as building customer-specific analysis and selling stories. Bottom line: Poulain helps retailers across the country understand how Kind can help them meet their goals and expand their sales and profit. Her co-workers applaud her ongoing efforts to champion the team’s interests, including training and development, ways of working improvements, and company events. “She finds joy in the journey, asks the tough questions, and grows the team and the business,” says Todd Kelly, Kind’s general manager for Canada. Indeed, in her first year with the food company, Poulain took it upon herself to meet with category managers and directors to build relationships, ensure clear understanding of channel needs, and the company’s strategic fit within it. Kind sees itself as small and mighty. Poulain’s colleagues and co-workers see her the same way.
Leadership comes easily to Paula Schaeffer, who oversees the sales, buying and advertising teams for Winnipeg-based Pratts Wholesale’s retail division. “I’m most proud when I’m mentoring a staff member and the light comes on, showing they truly understand what you’re telling them,” says Schaeffer. She Is involved in everything from purchasing to inventory turns, profit margins, sales and overall company profits. After starting off in the advertising department, Schaeffer is now known for her 24/7 customer service: She has taken orders at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday and fulfilled them within four hours. Her tireless efforts helped the sales team win ITWAL’s retail sales rep of the year award three years in a row. Schaeffer has not only built strong relationships with customers and vendors during 12 years with the company, but she also manages to remember birthdays, anniversaries and children’s milestones. “No matter how different our business is, we all have the same challenges, staff and stock levels, and true lifelong friendships have been made over the years with vendors, manufacturers and fellow sales people,” Schaeffer Explains. “Our motto has always been ‘Work hard, play hard’.”

Marie-Hélène Senécal is a trailblazer at the forefront of a sector that didn’t exist 15 years ago and is now a top revenue generator for convenience retailers. She recognized prepaid’s potential early, and helped develop it from paper gift certificates to prepaid card malls in c-stores across Canada and online. A valued leader at InComm, Senécal implements growth and long-term partnership strategy in retail, telecom, prepaid and fintech. She has signed and renewed billion-dollar agreements with national merchants in various channels, growing business tenfold during her tenure. “Prepaid convenience is a business of ascension and constant development,” says Senécal. “I thrive on orchestrating a collaborative approach to launch new programs to market, and to develop personalized initiatives to national retailers that make convenience stores a true prepaid destination.”She manages a team of account managers that handle merchant relationships and business development. “You’re only as good as the talent that surrounds you, and I’m proud to have hand-picked the best candidates and leveraged their talents to create a strategic, proactive, productive, client-focused, results-oriented team,” explains Senécal. “Together, we’ve achieved consistent growth with our national retailers, who are now premier Canadian destinations for prepaid product, churning compounded growth and results year over year.”

Laurie Smith did not anticipate a career in the convenience sector when she was recruited as a management trainee. “It was not a path I had considered, yet it turned out to be a life changing opportunity,” she says. “I had not realized the dynamic nature of the industry. Results are seen immediately—close to real time.” During the next three decades, Smith served in numerous roles with 7-Eleven Canada, training as a store leader, area manager, and HR coordinator. She was the company’s first female market district manager at age 30. Today, Smith, who is based in Surrey, B.C., leads the chain’s national communications and marketing. This includes in-store communications, traditional and digital advertising, and digital platforms for the 7Rewards loyalty app and home delivery, as well as proprietary foods and beverages brand management, community relations and internal communications. The fundamentals of the sector have remained constant, Smith notes, but the business is much more complex. “We’re still here to know and serve customers in our neighbourhoods. We’re still here to be a great employer. What has changed is how we deliver that service.” 

Hayley-Ann Swartz has spent most of her 30-year career in the convenience sector. The Winnipeg native began working as a sales representative for Imperial Tobacco after graduating from university and spent a great many days calling directly on all types of convenience stores. “It was at that time that I first gained my appreciation for the channel,” she says. Today, Calgary-based Swartz manages the non-fuels marketing business for Husky Energy. “I have been managing the team that delivers Husky’s retail ancillary sales in convenience, car wash and restaurant for six years.” What stands out most for Swartz over the last three decades is the people who have helped her develop, both professionally and personally. She is paying that forward. “One of my biggest achievements is seeing the growth, development, and success of my team of eight people. It is very satisfying to play a role in helping build their skills and assist in their career development.”

Straight out of university 11 years ago, Audrey Sylvain was hired as a category assistant at Ultramar. “It was my first real job and I had minimal knowledge about the convenience and gas industry,” recalls Sylvain, who is now responsible for the sweets and snacks portfolio in more than 800 locations across Canada. “I’m proud that I was the first woman hired in this role by my previous manager, who had more than 25 years of experience under his belt. Organizations evolving in the oil and energy industry used to be more male-dominated; this certainly has changed in the past few years, and it’s refreshing to see more women in top management positions, like Donna Sanker, who was appointed president of Parkland Canada in November 2019.” Sylvain appreciates the fast pace of the convenience industry, and finds this an exciting time to be part of her company’s team. “Things are always moving, and you need to be able to turn on a dime,” she explains. “And you definitely cannot be afraid of changes. It’s a challenging job, which certainly keeps the daily work interesting.”

Tiffany Taylor worked in health and beauty before joining Suncor Energy in 2015, and she brought her consumer-centric skills with her to the job. Known as a collaborative, energetic and results-oriented manager, Taylor is responsible and instrumental in leading the category management for the company’s retail store business to strategically deliver objectives and sales results. Her experience in retail pharmacy, marketing, operations and logistics has helped her become an effective problem-solver, strong negotiator and generous mentor. Working collaboratively with key vendors, Taylor is known in the c-store industry for the creativity and energy she brings to the business every day. She focuses on streamlined processes that increase efficiency and minimize downtime. As a category portfolio manager, Taylor has successfully driven the performance of several store categories to new heights. Along the way, she has also built strong relationships with key stakeholders, enabling her to expand her influence on other key areas of Suncor Energy’s retail business.

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