The world of decorated apparel is truly full of supportive people, people who continually work together, help each other, and will do anything to ensure that a customer is happy. The people are one of Grace Schettler’s favorite things about the industry, in fact. As the vice president of sales for Cap America, she has worked with quite a few different teams throughout her career, and the one thing she continues to love is interacting with the people she’s known for years as well as meeting new ones.

The first female to hold the VP of sales role at the company, Grace serves with a leadership team that includes 11 other women. Things are great among her current professional group; however, Grace knows that it took confidence and communication to get there.

Fostering a Community of Unity

Grace got her start in the promotional products world as a young age with a distributor called The Very Idea. “I was ordering all of the merch for my sorority fundraiser, and they asked me to come work for them,” she says. From there, she moved to Boxercraft and has now found a home with Cap America.

In the early days, her youth was a challenge. “When I first started in the industry, I was young, and while I still am, at that time it was harder to speak up and be heard,” she notes. “I think I did move up quickly in my career; however, there were people along the way that used my age against me. I overcame this in most cases by excelling at my job.”

Not only has her strong work ethic played a role in her success, but so has confidence, especially when it comes to working with others and having a voice. “I never stopped speaking up — I never held back, so eventually people started listening,” says Grace. “I had to learn to accept people for who they are and learn that you have to work with everyone differently.”

Grace has found that to be particularly true when working with women. While she emphasizes that she loves working with her current team and has had many positive experiences, it hasn’t always been easy working alongside women. “One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced along the way has been working with other women with strong personalities,” she states. “I have worked with and alongside other successful women, but there have been times when I was not respected by different women in the workplace. Being a young female makes it hard to be taken seriously — some people have a hard time reporting to someone younger and/or female in general.”

Unfortunately, things like jealousy, insecurity, and stubbornness can often get in the way when it comes to a professional environment, and many women can and do experience this in their careers. Fortunately, Grace has taken an approach of encouragement with that. “I feel that, as a woman, it is important to support and encourage other women,” she says. She has kept an open mind to fostering a community of working together.

Have the Confidence

Over the years, whether it’s been in the entertainment, political, or apparel industries, more and more conversations have been geared toward inclusivity of women. Those have led to action and progress, something that’s not been lost on Grace.

“I have noticed over the last few years more and more women on boards in our industry,” she states. “I think women have worked their way to the top and are in more leadership roles as a result. This, in turn, opens more doors for other women just starting out.”

This progress can also be partly attributed to the people within the industry. Grace notes that she has had many mentors throughout her career, both male and female, that have helped her growth. “I owe the most to The Very Idea girls,” she adds. “They taught me how to be concise, confident, and how to multitask.”

Confidence is something she hopes other women can feel, wherever they are on their journey. “One of the hardest things as a woman is being confident,” she notes. But she doesn’t want that to stop a woman from progressing. “Don’t be afraid to speak up, and when you do, speak confidently. Don’t apologize for taking up space or time — be confident that you deserve to be there as much as the next [person]. If you’re confident about yourself, others around you will have confidence in you, too.”

Having confidence is just a little bit easier when working in a supportive community. “The people in this industry are great,” says Grace. “It is fun to build relationships with these people and watch them succeed.”

At the end of the day, keeping communication clear and confident will only serve to help relationships progress. “Communication is key in every aspect of our industry, whether it’s internally or externally,” Grace finishes. “Communication has changed so much over the years, from face to face, to over the phone, to email and texts, to video conferences. Being able to utilize all methods and adapt as needed and still communicate clearly is so important.”