Mary-Cathryn Kolb has been a visionary leader in the apparel and textile industry for a decade and a half. She founded brrr° in 2014 with a vision to improve the performance and comfort of the fabrics we wear and touch in our everyday lives.
A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Mary-Cathryn began her career working for the Von Dutch brand, and she gained increasingly senior sales and business responsibilities there and at Seven7 Jeans.
In 2008, she collaborated with Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes to help him launch the company as his first hire, which gave her a front-row seat to the intensity of starting a company from scratch.
Mary-Cathryn then joined SPANX in its early years, rising to Director of Sales. She helped grow the company through strategic initiatives, and ensured that sales targets were met or exceeded. She was also involved in product development, sales and profit projections, and other critical business functions.
Now Mary-Cathryn is leading brrr° through a pivotal stage of growth and expansion as the company deepens its investment in research and development to create new cooling performance yarns. brrr° has a proprietary blend of natural cooling minerals, active wicking and rapid drying technologies that work together to create a “Triple Chill Effect” that instantly and continuously draws heat and moisture away from the skin. The cooling properties of brrr°’s library of 500 fabrics and products are rigorously tested and verified by independent globally recognized labs to prove that they outperform other products in the marketplace.
In 2019, Mary-Cathryn was selected for the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women program that identifies successful women whose business show potential to scale and provides them with support and resources to support that growth. She was named Small Business Person of the Year for 2018 by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Carly Patterson is the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal at a fully attended Olympic Games (2004). She was nominated for an ESPY Award in the “Best Olympic Performance” category. She was featured on CNBC and NBC and appeared on the The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and the movie Stick It. Carly was recognized in 2004 as Glamour Magazine’s "Women Of The Year” and honored as the March of Dimes’ “Sportswoman of the Year”. Most importantly, Carly has adorned the front of a Wheaties box. She is the author of her autobiography “Be Strong.” Patterson now spends her time involved in Special Olympics, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Taylor’s Gift, and Children’s Miracle Network.
Government Affairs Manager, Unifi Manufacturing, Inc.
A native of North Carolina, Jane began her career in government relations on Capitol Hill working in a Senate press office and later in the House of Representatives as a press secretary. Upon returning to North Carolina, Jane joined Unifi to establish the company’s government relations program.
Jane’s experience has included her service on the Board of Directors for the National Council of Textile Organizations, the U.S. Industrial Fabrics Institute, the North Carolina Forum for Research and Economic Education, and the North Carolina Job Training Partnership Council. Jane currently serves as a member of the President’s Industry Advisory Committee for Textiles and Apparel in Washington.
Associate Professor, Department of Textile and Apparel Technology and Management, Wilson College of Textiles
Kate Annett-Hitchcock, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University. She has a BA in Art History from the University of Manchester, an MA in Clothing & Textiles from Michigan State, and a PhD in Clothing & Textiles from Virginia Tech. Prior to NC State, she taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Virginia Tech, and East Carolina University. She studies design and product development for under-represented populations in the apparel field, and also has a strong interest supporting women in entrepreneurship. She is passionate about community engagement, especially engaging sustainable strategies to serve all populations with high quality apparel and textile products. She believes that a human-centered approach to design can facilitate change in many aspects of the community, industry and the environment. She is co-founder and current Director of the Advancement for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) at NC State, and founder of Textile Products for People with Disabilities, now known as Fashioning Health and Well-being. She has won awards for academic work, including the Senior Faculty Award at the International Federation of Fashion Technology Institutes in Amsterdam (2017), and the Equity for Women award at NC State in 2017. She is also Community Engaged Faculty Fellow at NC State. She is also an amateur musician and is a vocalist and instrumentalist in two local bands.
Marcia Ayala is an engineer and textile manufacturing executive with experience in fields as diverse as nuclear energy, carbon materials, coatings and textiles. She was originally hired by Aurora Specialty Textiles Group as Director of R&D and in the 14 years since has been promoted several times – most recently to the post of company president. In that role she now leads the manufacturing, R&D and sales operations of one of North America’s leading textile coaters and finishers.
Her entire career has been in manufacturing and through her various roles at Aurora, she has supported programs that encourage today’s college students to pursue manufacturing careers. She also sits on the Board of Directors of the Valley Industrial Association, the industry association that supports the manufacturing industry in Northern Illinois, including greater Chicago. Marcia has both an MBA and a master’s in chemical engineering and earned both degrees working full time.
“I am honored to be the first female president within Meridian Industries, the parent company of Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, and look forward to taking Aurora Specialty Textiles Group to new levels of success. We have an innovative team at Aurora that is constantly looking for ways to improve our products and processes, develop and customize products, and be good stewards to the environment.”
Principal Textiles Engineer- Hand Tools, Milwaukee Tool
Apurba Banerjee is the Principal Textiles Engineer at Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation and leads their Textile-related Safety initiative with personal protective gear. Utilizing her background in functional fabrics and protective textiles, she collaborates with several cross functional teams to develop protective products that save lives in a variety of fields such as construction, plumbing, remolding, etc. She has a passion for sustainability in material selection and product longevity and plans to develop products in the protective textiles field. In the past she has worked on thermoregulation products at brrr˚Inc.
Outside of Milwaukee Tool, Apurba is also an Associate Editor for the AATCC (American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists) Journal of Research, is the Vice Chair of the AATCC Technical Committee on Research (TCR) and leads several AATCC standards committees (Thermoregulation, Young Professionals Committee, etc).
She is a 2017 graduate of the PhD program of Polymer, Fiber and Textile Science from the University of Georgia and a 2016 graduate of the master’s program of Apparel and Merchandising at Colorado State University. While at Georgia, she spent years researching biodegradable plastics (Polyhydroxyalkanoates) that are derived from marine algae and their application in the biomedical field.
Vice President Human Resources, Seaman Corporation
Ms. Anna Gluck joined Seaman Corporation in May of 2018 as Vice President Human Resources. Anna comes to Seaman with a broad leadership background in human resources from Q Holding Company, Moen, and The Timken Company.
At Q Holding Company, which is a global industrial and life sciences manufacturer, she was the Global Vice President Human Resources and a member of the Executive Leadership Team. Prior to that, she was the Senior Human Resources Manager at Moen and worked in various HR business partner roles with The Timken Company.
Anna currently serves on the Advisory Council for the Wayne Economic Development Council and plays an active role in the Workforce Innovations Network. She has an MBA and BS in Education from Cleveland State University and holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources Certification (SPHR).
Author; Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Workplace Success Group
Karen used her experience in building talent pipelines for financial services companies to launch her company 20 years ago. Workplace Success Group is a strategic, talent development firm that works with organizations to cultivate and retain their next generation of leaders.
She is the author of 5 books and her most recent include Get Along, Get Ahead: 101 Courtesies for the New Workplace; Networking for a Better Position & More Profit; and A Young Adult’s Guide to the Global Workplace. She has been quoted in, featured in or written articles for The Hartford Business Journal, The Boston Globe, The CIM Toronto Manager, Black Enterprise and Family Circle, to name a few. Karen is a frequent guest on radio, television and podcasts. Her company has worked with clients such as Webster Bank, TD Bank, AmeriHealth Caritas, United Technologies, Duncaster Retirement Community, the Girl Scouts, Turner Construction, Hamilton Sunstrand, Travelers, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Caribbean Tourism Organization, and Harvard Business School Executive Education, to name a few.
Originally from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Karen left the island at age 15 with her parents and siblings to pursue educational opportunities in the United States. The transition to a new country, culture and school made it imperative for Karen to learn how to quickly adapt to change, thrive as an outsider and build strategic relationships. Karen regularly shares her experiences in her keynotes and workshops as she teaches on leadership, diversity and inclusion, and adapting to change.
A graduate of Bowdoin College with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish, Karen was chosen as one of 65 recipients for the national Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship, a grant that enables recipients to pursue a yearlong independent study outside of the United States. The Fellowship was established by the children of Thomas J. Watson, a former Chairman and CEO of IBM.
For 15 years, Karen wrote a business column for an international newspaper and hosted a global women and girls leadership conference for a number of years on her island.
Samantha (Sam) Marion is the Textile Development Manager at Top Value Fabrics (TVF), an international textile supplier that is 100% employee owned. Sam grew up immersed in the world of textiles, often accompanying her mother, a veteran of the industry, on international business trips. Sam graduated from Cal State Northridge and has been with TVF since 2012, where she began her career as a sales assistant. Sam’s leadership skills, her genuine curiosity and her willingness to take ownership of projects and problems propelled her swift trajectory into Management. Sam cares deeply about the team she works with and is always looking for ways to improve team performance to better serve TVF customers. Sam is passionate about empowering women at work. She demonstrates particular skill in mentoring working Moms and helping them thrive in the challenging balance of work/family life.
Sam lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband, son, and retired movie star pug (ask her about it!) She loves to travel, garden and bake.
Laura Martin is the Purchasing Manager for Top Value Fabrics, an international textile supplier that is 100% employee owned. A graduate of Columbia College Chicago, Laura has applied her keen eye for detail to nearly every aspect of Operations since she joined the Top Value Fabrics team in April 2004.
Under her leadership, Top Value Fabrics has expanded its compliance program and improved its supply chain functionality. Laura’s expert grasp of global trade has allowed her company to effectively navigate the current complex trade environment.
Laura is working to become a Certified Professional in Supply Management, a process she is confident will continue to develop her as a leader. Of course, she is always looking to find new ways to overcome her impostor syndrome and help the women around her fight theirs as well. Laura and her family live in Noblesville, Indiana, with their dog, cat, and two guinea pigs.
Rachal McCarthy is President of NTI Global, a family owned and operated industrial plastics and textile manufacturer. She was named President at the age of 26 and has spent her tenure modernizing the manufacturing processes and shaping company goals. She co-filed her first patent at 18 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts at 20. She is an avid reader and enjoys spending leisure time with her husband, their two dogs, and large extended family. As the fourth child of six, and the only daughter, she has a great depth of understanding the rewards and challenges of working in a family business. Her go to quote is, “The measure of a (wo)man is determined by the size of the problem that alters their course."
Director Advanced Product Development for Apex Mills
Stephanie Rodgers has been at the forefront of textile and component product development for luxury and flagship automotive interiors for General Motors, Magna International, Fisker Automotive and newly emerging electric vehicle companies for the majority of her career, however also, the first textile engineer at Microsoft Corporation, she challenged and collaborated with XBOX and SURFACE researchers and engineers to design and develop with textiles. Receiving two Microsoft applied US Patents pending in integrated electronic textile applications and for developing a user attachment for handicapped XBOX players. Stephanie is also a specialist in color development and is passionate about the use of engineering simulation, rapid prototyping as predictive development tools and manufacturing.
She has been putting her Bachelor of Science degree in Textile Engineering from Philadelphia University to work for 30 years. In addition to traveling the global textile community, she has lectured about textiles to design and engineering students of all disciplines. She currently works as the Director of Advanced Product Development for Apex Mills using yarn as a vehicle for innovation. Additionally, she is an advisory panel member of the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Institute and co-chairs the IPC committee developing the first industry consensus standard for e-textiles materials.
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