Keynote Speaker: Cinda BaxterCinda Baxter

Cinda Baxter understands small business from the inside out, having once been a retailer herself. As past recipient of two national Retailer Excellence Awards and with press coverage in outlets ranging from Modern Bride to the Wall Street Journal, she now pays it forward to retailers and vendors through her consulting company, Always Upward, and as founder of The 3/50 Project, which Fox Business News referred to as "the formula that could save some local businesses that might not otherwise survive the recession."

Baxter is widely recognized as an expert in the gift and stationery industries, and her resume includes seats on numerous influential boards including AmericasMart Atlanta and Gift for Life; speaking engagements throughout the U.S. and abroad; and as contributing editor for the trade publication Gifts and Decorative Accessories Magazine. Her blog,, is considered a "must read" in the industries that she serves.

Considered a social-networking pioneer in gift and stationery circles, Baxter is also the founder of successful online communities RetailSpeaks and Brilliant Ink. Her launch of The 3/50 Project in March 2009 marked the start of a national Buy Local campaign unlike any other; through its viral growth, the grass-roots movement garnered more than 10,000 registered supporting businesses and more than 16,000 Facebook fans in its first few months alone.

Debbie MacomberDebbie Macomber

With more than 100 million copies of her books in print worldwide, Debbie Macomber is one of today's leading voices in women's fiction. readers clamor for her heartwarming books about small-town life, home, and family, women who knit, and enduring friendship. In 2008, Leisure Arts, publishers of the Knit Along with Debbie pattern booklets, launched a complete line of Debbie Macomber knitting notions. Macomber donates the profits from the sale of her pattern booklets and notions to charity. she recently introduced an eponymous yarn line, the Debbie Macomber Yarn Collection, with Universal Yarn.


Debi Ward KennedyDebi Ward Kennedy

Debi Ward Kennedy is a retail visual designer providing design services to independent retail merchants, artisans, and retail industry shows and showrooms. Ward Kennedy is a frequent guest speaker at retail and gift industry trade shows across the country, and her articles have been published in industry magazines such as GiftBeat, Business Journal, Country Business Magazine, OneCoast Advisor, and the Design*Sponge blog. She frequently appears as a retail expert on Country  Business Online and the Gift & Home Channel.


Jeffrey SmithJeffrey Smith

An internationally renowned brand design strategist, Jeffrey Hamilton Smith has maintained a successful career that spans more than a quarter century. Working at the visual core of brand development, he realizes his passion in the creation of aesthetic magnetism for names like Abercrombie & Fitch, Pac Bell, Boeing, and microsoft, among many others. In 1989 he founded Smith Design Works, receiving ADC awards in both 2007 and 2008. His many accolades earned him a seat as Director of the American Branding Association in 2001, a position he still holds.


Linda CahanLinda Cahan

Linda Cahan has been in the field of visual merchandising, store design, and display since 1791. Cahan consults on store renovation, design and visual programs specializing in layout/flow, surface specifications, fixturing, staff training for visual merchandising, and feng shui. She has written custom visual standards manuals for companies including Saks Fifth Avenue, Lancome Cosmetics, American Express, and Singer. Cahan frequently writes for various trade magazines, including her ongoing role as columnist for Gifts and Dec Magazine. She is the author of Feng Shui for Retailers and A Practical Guide to Visual Merchandising.


Joe GrushkinJoe Grushkin

Business coach Joe Grushkin has an extensive background in direct sales, general sales management, marketing, and leadership of small and mid-sized businesses. During his 25-year career, he has assisted hundreds of independent business owners and trained more than 20,000 salespeople. Grushkin is intimately involved with the yarn business: In addition to having coached yarn shop owners on improving LYS operations, his wife of 22 years, Pam Grushkin, is a knitting blogger, designer, and yarn shop employee.


Jeanette NydenJeanette Nyden

Recognizing in 2003 that businesspeople needed relevant and practical advice on negotiations, litigation attorney Jeanette Nyden launched her own mediation practice. Since then, she has trained and coached hundreds of people at businesses ranging from powerhouses like Microsoft to start-ups like NetStar Communications. She is the author of Negotiation Rules! A Practical Approach to  Big Deal Negotiations, a hands-on guide to winning great deals without sacrificing your bottom line. In addition to her roles as professional mediator, business attorney, and adjunct professor, Nyden is an avid knitter.


Tom ShayTom Shay

Tom Shay's experiences as a fourth-generation merchant provide him with the knowledge and background to rpesent tried and proven ideas to assist owners, managers, and staff with the day-to-day operation of their businesses. During the 25-plus years that Shay was a part of the family business, the stores were ongoing laboratories for the management and promotional techniques that are the backbone of the seminars he now produces. Shay is author of EZ Cashflow, a book teaching business owners how to accurately forecast their next 12 financial sheets, and a series of books of management tips, beginning with 100 Profits Plus Ideas for Power Promoting and 100 Profits Plus Ideas for Power Managing. His articles have appeared in more than 60 trade publications.