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.
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."
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.
Karen Hinds is the Founder/CEO of Workplace Success Group. Karen serves as a trusted advisor to C-Suite executives committed to building talented leaders and inclusive cultures. Karen used her experience in building talent pipelines for financial services companies to launch her company over 20 years ago. Workplace Success Group is a global training and strategic consulting firm.
Karen 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 and More Profit; and A Young Adult’s Guide to the Global Workplace. Karen has been quoted and featured in, and written articles for Black Enterprise, Family Circle, The Boston Globe, The Hartford Business Journal, and The CIM Toronto Manager. Some of her clients include companies like Turner Construction, AVANGRID, Webster Bank, Raytheon, Access Rehab, Post University, and the Girl Scouts Organization 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 hosted an international global girl’s and women’s leadership conference on her native island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This conference was an opportunity to share her expertise with women from around the world, and at the same time showcase the beauty and culture of her homeland.
“It’s never too early to start,” is an adage Amy Bircher took very seriously at a very early age. In fact, by the time she turned 9, young Amy began working at National Dye Works, her family’s textile dyeing and finishing plant. It was there she developed a love for the industry and for business.
Forty short years later, Amy owns and operates MMI Textiles, Inc., a global industrial and custom textile firm. Much of her journey came full circle when she purchased NDW (formerly known as National Dye Works) in 2007, continuing the family business while growing her own.
As CEO and Founder of MMI Textiles, Inc. (1997) – now celebrating its 24th year in business – Amy leads her team in sales and product development. She is currently the Chairman of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI). In 2016, Amy invented and filed a design and utility patent for the creation of CTEdge™ - a concealed edge technology used in webbing and tape within the military and law enforcement markets. She has received the Weatherhead 100 award four years in a row, proving to be a dynamic and successful small business leader. Additionally, she was nominated as a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2016 and 2017, and was honored as Progressive Woman Entrepreneur for the Smart Business Network in April 2017. In 2020, Amy opened her own narrow weaving facility in Lenoir, NC to produce her patented webbing product and other military spec webbing to support the needs of our military and tactical markets.
Amy received a Bachelor of Science degree in Textiles and Clothing from West Virginia University in 1993. While advancing her career and the industry she loves, Amy has stayed connected to her roots, sharing what she knows with others as a part of the Visiting Committee at WVU. Most recently, Amy pledged to her alma mater for the development of a new textiles lab, which opened on April 17, 2021 and is names the Amy A Bircher Textile Laboratory. Amy is passionate about giving back and currently sponsors a scholarship for the WVU Davis College.
Amy lives in Bay Village, Ohio with her husband Rob, her son Josh, her daughter Samantha, and her dog Cubbie. You can find her cheering on whatever Cleveland sports team is playing, all WVU sports teams, boating on Lake Erie, golfing or enjoying being outdoors with her family.
Katie started Custom Marine Canvas in 1985 in an unheated shed in Connecticut where seagulls dropping clams on the roof would shake foundry soot down on her work, because she always sailed, and always sewed. Now in 3000 square feet of heated (and cooled!) space, she and her six staff members produce award winning work for boats and homes around the world. She joined the MFA board in 1993, eventually serving as chairman. Certified MFC in 1996, and IFM in 2006, she tirelessly promotes association activities. She united the MFA Upper Atlantic regional workshop with the Northeast Canvas Products Association’s annual expo in the 1990’s, and it stands out at one of the largest regional workshops. She has served four terms on the IFAI board and is the past chairman.
Director of Textile Technology Programs and Business Innovation, Textile Technology Center at Gaston College
Jasmine Cox serves as the Director of Textile Technology Programs and Business Innovation at the Textile Technology Center at Gaston College in Belmont, NC.
Prior to her role as Director of Textile Technology Programs, Jasmine served in various roles including: Physical Testing Laboratory Technician, Special Projects Coordinator and Process Coordinator. Textiles is truly in Jasmine’s blood. Her Eastern North Carolina family lineage traces back to the card rooms of the old Fieldcrest Textile Mill.
Jasmine’s passion includes working tirelessly to help rebuild the talent pipeline in the textile industry by assisting with training, recruitment and overall development for young textile professionals.
Originally, from Raleigh, NC Jasmine obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Textile Technology from the NC State Wilson College of Textiles. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in Textile Technology Management at the NC State Wilson College of Textiles.
From winning $10,000 in Liftoff Houston Business Competition, self-made and serial entrepreneur, Megan Eddings, turned Accel Lifestyle and Accel Unite into a multi-million dollar company: in 12 months. Megan Eddings left her successful medical-equipment sales career because of a common household issue: stinky laundry.
With a background in Chemistry and a Specialization in Biochemistry, from the University of Virginia, Eddings turned our universal fear of odors into a global activewear, mask and fabric conglomerate rooted in sustainability and ethical practices.
Her vision, risk-taking and game-changing attitude has successfully named Eddings an industry leader in public health, entrepreneurship and textiles, serving as a necessary resource to the medical community, the U.S. military, universities and beyond.
The entrepreneurial success story of Accel Lifestyle and Megan Eddings has led her to be one of the top mask manufacturers in the USA and sparked the launch of an additional company, Accel Unite. She worked with Infection Control to design a reusable isolation gown that can save a healthcare provider up to 50% on their gown budget, increase protection and be in line with sustainability initiatives.
Accel's reusable gown design is now patent-pending in 153 countries.
Megan’s passion and enthusiasm is contagious (you’ll experience it when you meet her) as she focuses on always being positive, inspiring confidence and how to authentically stay true to an ethical ethos, focusing on what is best for humanity and the environment. Houston’s May Turner named a day after Megan because of her philanthropy work in the city. May 24th is Megan Eddings Day in Houston.
Jennifer Fennell is the Director of Supply Chain for Polo Custom Products, a global manufacturing company specializing in sewing and radio frequency welding serving the OEM market. Reporting directly to the Chief Operations Officer, Jennifer also serves on Polo Custom Products Executive Team and participates in the company’s Mentorship Program. Jennifer holds a Lifetime Certified Purchasing Manager accreditation. Jennifer previously served on IFAI’s Military Division Advisory Board, and currently sits on the organization’s Board of Directors. Throughout Jennifer’s 21 years with Polo Custom Products, she has held various management positions of increasing responsibility in Purchasing, Logistics and Supply Chain.
Jennifer manages a talented global team responsible for sourcing, regulatory compliance, inventory management, purchasing and logistics. Jennifer has been responsible for leading the company’s Supply Chain team through significant market changes, including the pandemic and recent global supply chain disruptions with favorable results. Cost savings, cost containment, on-time deliveries, and minimal supply chain disruption are primary departmental goals. During these challenging times, Jennifer’s team regularly reports numbers significantly better than industry benchmarks.
Jennifer is an innovative and visionary leader who looks for faster and better methods to accomplish goals through people and processes. Jennifer is also a hands-on leader dedicated to serving and supporting her team and her customers through problem solving and collaboration, while focusing on strategy and vision.
Jennifer attended Wichita State University and lived on the east coast for several years before moving back to Topeka and accepting a position with Polo Custom Products in July 2000. Jennifer and her husband John have two daughters, Rachel (23) and Allie (16). When not at work, Jennifer can usually be found with family and friends enjoying a live concert, at a rink watching her daughter play hockey, or in her garden with the family’s two dogs.
Melissa Henkle serves as the Director of Brand Sales at Unifi, Inc. in Greensboro, NC working with global brands on creating sustainable and innovative products. Unifi is a USA publically traded US and global manufacturing company specializing in synthetic and recycled performance fibers. Through REPREVE®, one of Unifi's proprietary technologies and the global leader in branded recycled performance fibers, Unifi has transformed more than 30 billion plastic bottles into recycled fiber for new apparel, footwear, home goods, automotive and other consumer products. Before Unifi, Melissa worked at HanesBrands in Marketing and Merchandising for Champion athletic apparel. Melissa double majored in History and Education at Wake Forest University as an All-American on the NCAA Division 1 Top 5 US-ranked field hockey team where she also received her MBA in graduate school.
Kathy Schaefer, IFM, is Owner and COO of Glawe Awnings and Tent Company located in Fairborn, Ohio.
Glawe, a custom manufacturer of commercial, retractable and residential awnings, also offers rental tents of all sizes and other event products. In business since 1877, Glawe has proudly served generations of families in the Miami Valley along with numerous Presidents and dignitaries and also includes the Wright Brothers among its earliest customers. Today Glawe serves the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Carillon Historical Park, the Vectren Dayton Air Show and residential customers of all sizes.
Glawe Awnings and Tents offers superior awning products and is one of the region's largest tent rental companies.
Kathy's accomplishments include:
• Served on the IFAI Board of Directors for the last 11 years and worked on the ends and strategic planning committees
• Past Chairman of the Tent Rental division and also served on Steering Committee two terms
• Served as IAA judge for IFAI numerous years
• Served on IFM Certification Committee in 2010 to restructure program
• Gave PowerPoint presentation at IFAI Expo on two different occasions
• Served on the IFAI Expo planning committee in 2007 and 2010
• Wrote article and assisted in numerous articles for InTents magazine
• Wrote a five part article for InTents magazine on the progression of the 2011 season
• Was featured in the January 2012 IFAI Review magazine
• Member of Canvas Products Assn. Zone 7 for more than 25 years
• President of Canvas Products Assn. for 2 years and also served as Secretary/ Treasurer
• Served as a "Trainer for the Tent Installer" in the launch of the program