From the beginning, the Southeast NPA Board of Directors (SENPA) knew there was strength in numbers. In 1998, when the first annual Natural Products Day was held by the Natural Nutritional Foods Association, representation from the Southeast region was present. Each consecutive year thereafter participants from the Southeast continued to grow. In March 2015, the Southeast region proudly represented six states with 23 representatives making the delegation 25% of the total attendees’ for NPA’s 18th annual Natural Products Day.
“Our visits to Washington, D.C., allowed each member to bring home their lobbying experience with a much-improved view of the impact that even one individual can make, when they stand together, united, for such an important cause,” said Southeast president Frances Drennen, co-owner of Manna Grocery in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “With a variety of issues that pose both opportunities and challenges for our industry, participants representing the Southeast NPA region effectively convey to our nation’s leaders the impact and the important role that natural products play in everyday life, and, in particular, the importance of preserving and implementing the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA),” stated Drennen.
In recent years, the greatest numbers of the Southeast attendees at Natural Products Day have been from Florida. “Florida legislators in particular have expressed a desire to want to know what their constituents value and as a group we are able to make a strong and lasting impression,” said executive director Carylene Walker. “Advocacy on behalf of our members has and will always be one of our most important member benefits SENPA can offer,” stated Walker.
In preparation for the annual lobby day on Capitol Hill, position papers are prepared and shared with the SENPA membership via timely newsletters and email updates prior to their arrival in Washington. The staff at Southeast has a particularly long beneficial history and knowledge base within the natural products industry combining a total of over 90 years’ experience, and is viewed as a very respected resource for the membership.
However, lobbying is not the only work that the SENPA Board does when in DC. The Board realized many years ago the benefit of taking time during their visit to Washington to hold their annual strategic planning activities. SENPA’s Long Term Planning meeting provides the Board their opportunity to set the direction for each of the association’s committees for the upcoming year. At this year’s team building meeting, the SENPA Board decided to expand its membership efforts and will be traveling to Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia sharing business tips, legislative updates and providing education for current and potential new members. Likewise, the Board explored and developed additional educational and networking opportunities that will be included in the 2015 SOHO EXPO that will be held December 3-6 at the Gaylord Palm, Orlando, FL, and which continues to be the largest independent trade show in the industry with attendees from across the country.
Clearly, the SENPA Board and membership has seen and realized the importance for their longstanding participation in NPA’s Natural Product Day. In addition to ensuring that their voices are heard on Capitol Hill on the key legislative issues impacting the industry, SENPA has also taken the opportunity to network with other key and valued members of the industry, and has also used their time in Washington to both assess and develop their core strategic strategies for the upcoming year. SENPA encourages all members of the industry to continue and expand their presence at this very important event.
Carylene began her background in the industry when her father opened his first store in Clearwater, Florida, in 1950. She continued in the industry by joining him in 1971 and eventually taking over the family business. She was elected to the Southeast NPA board as Secretary in 1974 and began helping with the trade show. Now, thirty nine years later, Carylene is the full-time executive director (since in 1987) and operates the office in New Port Richey, FL with three staff members.