Family Matters | Kathy TeBrink & Kelsey Nemec

Mother/daughter duo Sales Team Kathy & Kelsey step into the spotlight for our family feature this month. With their short time at American, these two have learned how to utilize their strengths to create the best possible atmosphere for their business to thrive!

What was your first job and how old were you?

Kathy: I think I was a babysitter for my first job. I was 13 or 14 and watched my choir directors’ kids.

Kelsey: I worked at a firework stand in the summer at 14, setting up fireworks. It was hard, sweaty work and not as fun as it sounds!

Have you gotten the opportunity to work together before American?

Kathy: We actually have worked together many times in the past.  Most recently, we owned a business called Selfie Events USA and ran the branch out of St. Louis called St. Louis Selfie Events. We were a photo booth company that specialized in brand marketing for corporate events. We traveled all over the United States working with all different types of customers. We sold that business in 2020 during the pandemic.  

Kelsey: We’ve also worked together on a charity event for the last 10 years. Our family helped plan a Charity Raffle Run for motorcycles and raised money for the Ronald McDonald House and SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s’ Hospital after my brother had open heart surgery.  

What’s your favorite memory from Kelsey’s childhood?

Kelsey: Every summer we would go on a houseboat trip with some of our friends and family and I LOVED IT. We would get themed shirts, and my favorite was the Hakuna Matata shirt!

Kathy: I was in the promotional products business so one of those houseboat years, I suggested we do long sleeve denim shirts and polos, and my husband said, “Who wants to wear long sleeve denim shirts in summer?!” It was only 100 degrees in Missouri, it was perfect for long sleeve denim. My favorite memory from Kelsey’s childhood is when Santa brought her a black lab puppy for Christmas. The dog was sitting in the garage in a chair all curled up; it was one of those priceless childhood memories.

When did you both start working at American?

Kathy: It was shortly after Kelsey graduated from college in 2016. I’ve been in the industry longer than that. I was an internal sales rep on the distributor side for a headwear company and that’s how I started my career. Shortly after that, our family moved to Missouri, and I became part of my husband’s selling team for K-Products. After mergers and starting our own company, I finally moved to American.

Kelsey: I joined in September of 2016. I graduated with a different career in mind and my mom said, “Why don’t you come hang out with me for a while and see if you like it,” and it stuck!

What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on together?

Kathy: I think one of the things I really enjoy about working with Kelsey is the fact that she’s younger than me and she brings a whole new vision to a project with fresh eyes. (Think “Fresh Focus”, lol). She might look at a product or project differently than I and I love that. We come up with these different ideas and in the end, we come together. I love that part of our working relationship.

Kelsey: It’s great approach for us to take for our clients who are looking for new items, or who have a wide demographic. I also really enjoy working on our college spirit wear programs. I love thinking about what a student will want to buy and if I would buy it if I were still a student.  

Kathy: We think every sales team should have a seasoned person and a young person on each project; it makes for a winning team!

What’s the easiest thing about working together?

Kelsey: There’s a lot of pros in my opinion. I think the mother/daughter relationship makes it so easy to bring together our different ideas. We can sit and talk and laugh and have this great working relationship. I don’t think about it as just working with my boss, I get to work with my mom! I think it’s really nice.

Kathy: I realize not everyone can work with a spouse or child, but I get to work with my daughter every day. Kelsey is fun and smart and sassy and just like me quite frankly. What’s not to like? At the end of the day I think it works because we respect one another. When you respect each other, you have a good place to start.

What is the hardest part of working together?

Kathy: It’s the same! She’s smart, sassy and fun and we butt heads! But I think part of it is that we both understand where we’ve been, our background and our history. We know what has happened through the course of the week and understand why we might be short tempered today. It gives you a little bit more understanding and grace.

Kelsey: There are times when we’ve each had an “ick” day and a short temper, and then accidently been short to each other. We can be apart for 15 minutes, be irritated, but then both be fine. You just can’t help it when you’re so similar. You never hold it against the other person and we let each other come back and chat about it when it’s time.

What’s a fun fact about the two of you?

Kathy: Kelsey and I work together at American. Our husbands work in a different industry, but they also work at the same company, which is so strange! So, when we get together as the four of us, we all talk about work to each other.  

Kelsey: I know way too much about my husbands and Dad’s daily work life. I hear work stories from my dad and then from my husband.  

Why do you recommend working with family?

Kathy: Over the years, I’ve work with my husband, brother and now my daughter! It’s not always easy, but when you meet your goals and close deals, there’s no better feeling than doing it with someone who you love and who has your back. I think working with family makes your bond stronger.

Kelsey: For me, the only family member I’ve worked with has been my mom. It’s just made work for me so much happier and a healthier work life. I’ve actually enjoyed work more than anywhere I’ve ever been, and that sounds crazy but I love it! She teaches me in such a healthy and constructive way and I love coming to work!

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