WithIt 2019 Student Outreach Programs Support Next Generation of Industry

The women's home and furnishings leadership development network's 2019 initiatives have impacted more than 200 students.

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WithIt student outreach programs
Student attendees at the 2019 WithIt Professional Conference in Alexandria, VA

In a recent analysis, WithIt, the women’s leadership development network for the home and furnishings industries, found that their student scholarship efforts have resulted in a 99% retention rate for the industry.

“Our student outreach programs are critical to the future success of our industries,” said Amy Van Dorp, Executive Director of WithIt. “We aim to attract, build and retain talent in the field of home furnishings. This is an important part of WithIt’s mission as a leadership development network. The future of our industry depends upon engaging and integrating this pool of talented young people. We want to give them the tools to become leaders. By supporting WithIt, our members and sponsors are investing in leaders today and for years to come.” 

Several WithIt programs for students support this mission, including Student Mentoring Day at Fall High Point Market, Rising Leaders program at the June Professional Conference and Educational Scholarships, which are awarded every Spring and include a trip to the professional conference.

This fall Market’s Annual Student Mentoring Day was sponsored by the AHFA Furniture Foundation and served 107 students from five colleges and universities. Participating students majoring in interior design, furniture design, and interior architecture represented five area colleges: Appalachian State University, Central Piedmont Community College, Meredith College, Randolph Community College, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The annual event is designed to give students real-world exposure to the industry as well as facilitate connections for internships and career networking. 

“WithIt's Student Mentoring Day is a unique event that gives students the opportunity for an introduction to our industry” said Victoria Valentinas, sales and marketing manager for Bernhardt Interiors and WithIt Emerging Leaders Chair. “From showroom tours to round table discussions, students get a chance to interact with industry leaders as well as see and learn about market from a variety of perspectives.”

This year’s event kicked off with a presentation from Christi Barbour and Christi Spangle of Barbour Spangle Design on their career path and business partnership, followed by round table discussions hosted by WithIt Members on topics ranging from “Standing Out In The Hiring Process” to “Trends vs. Dollar Signs – how being a buyer is a game of tug of war.” Following that, students were taken on a guided showroom tours throughout market by WithIt members and were hosted for a networking lunches by Fairfield Chair Company, Norwalk Furniture, Universal Furniture and Zuo Modern.

Also during Fall Market, WithIt executive director Amy Van Dorp addressed two groups of students from Florida State, UNCG and masters candidates from North Carolina State University about how to network and opportunities available in the industry.

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