“Come work for me.” With these words, John Pritzker persuaded Francine Pepitone, CMM, MAS, to trade a successful hotel sales career with Marriott and Hyatt for a new one in the promotional products industry. Initially working for The Corporate Choice, she then launched her own promotional products company, Francine Marketing Inc.
"I was able to transfer the service and relationships that I had built for my hotel background into my promotional products business. Still today, that is my focus – the convention, association and hotel industry. I am passionate about my business and grateful for the opportunity to continue to work in this great industry,” she said.
Running her own company required much hard work and learning, but Francine Marketing was profitable from the first year and every year after that. After 15 years, InnerWorkings, Inc. (NASDAQ: INWK) purchased the company. Today Francine serves as Vice President, Business Development for the new ownership, selling print and promotional products management.
Service is an ongoing theme in Francine’s life and career. “Through my involvement with PCMA (since 1989), I have recognized the value and importance of volunteering and actively participating both nationally and locally.” She is a founding board member for the Greater Midwest Chapter, is a past secretary, and currently is a member of the GMC Awards Committee. For PCMA, she is a past chair of the AMPC Marketing Committee and the Awards Committee, and has actively contributed to several other PCMA committees.
“My ongoing participation and connection to the association has helped guide many of my career and business decisions throughout the years,” Francine said. “Many of my most significant long-time business partnerships have come through involvement with PCMA. On a more personal level, the networking contacts I established from the beginning have easily turned into some of my closest and dearest friends.”
She has served on committees and boards for other organizations such as Meeting Planners International (MPI), MPI Chicago Area Chapter, Association Forum of Chicagoland, Network of Women Entrepreneurs, and Promotions Industry Council. Francine is the outgoing Northern Illinois University Alumni Association President and serves on the Advocate Illinois Masonic Development Council. She chairs the Friends of Marlene Hetzel Palmerson, a group which has created a fund within the Maggie Daley Center for Women’s Cancer Care at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Francine is a big proponent of involvement in industry organizations and their committees. “The more you broaden your horizons, the more you broaden your experience.” She encourages “connecting with business leaders outside of your industry. This is always a good thing, and sometimes these connections lead to great opportunities you might not have thought about.” Such connections can also lead to mentoring opportunities. She has connected several former employees with business community leaders.
Francine’s biggest challenge is a common one these days: “Finding time to do everything in a professional and efficient manner, keeping up with ever-changing technology, and scheduling time for family and community. I am a big believer in time management. Be disciplined and stick to your plan.”
Asked if the planner side of the industry ever appealed to her, Francine replied that she tackles the planner role as she plans events, including a trade show, for her company and for her volunteer organizations. “We’re all in the planning business,” she said. “I love that part.”
She provided the following career advice: “Think before you speak. When speaking, be genuine and be direct. Also, if you’re in a career and you’re not passionate about it, move on and do something else. Spend your time following a career path you are passionate about, which can lead to a more successful and fulfilling future.”
Her busy schedule obviously requires much energy – and luckily, Francine has a high energy level. She maintains it with healthy and nutritious food choices, which she identifies as the key to getting things done. She takes good care of herself by working out and taking dance, yoga, ands stretch classes. Oh, yes – red wine helps, too!
Francine’s favorite quote is by E. E. Cummings: “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” Her husband Steve “has an incredible sense of humor.” He and her beloved dog JoJo bring joy into her life and support during challenging days.