“Take 5” With Laurie Tokarz: New ISPA Chair Shares Vision and Goals

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Join Kathryn Greene, senior editor for Sleep Savvy and BedTimes magazines, in this special edition of “Take 5” as she interviews Laurie Tokarz, president of Restonic Mattress Company and newly elected chair of the ISPA board. Laurie shares her excitement about her new role, the importance of diversity in the sleep products industry, and her goals for ISPA’s future. Don’t miss this insightful conversation about industry trends, leadership, and the power of diversity.

Transcript

Kathryn Greene
Hi, this is Kathryn Greene, senior editor for Sleep Savvy and BedTimes magazines. I’m here today for a special edition of Take 5 with Laurie Tokarz, president of Restonic Mattress Company.

Laurie, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you?

Laurie Tokarz
Oh, I’m well, thank you. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Kathryn Greene
Thank you for joining us.

You know, you were just elected as the new chair of the board of ISPA, and this is a bit of a full circle moment because the first woman to serve as the chair was Gigi Giersch, who was also from Restonic.

Kind of tell me a little bit about that. And, you know, how excited are you?

Laurie Tokarz
Well, I am very honored to have this role and appreciative that the team thought I was capable of it. And it is really coincidental because Gigi was not just with Restonic, but she was also the owner of the factory that, back when I started with Restonic, we purchased her facility.

I had the opportunity to work with Gigi a bit during that transition. It’s not just coincidental, but it’s really very nice to be able to follow in her footsteps because I have such respect for her. She was a trailblazer in her own sense.

Kathryn Greene
Yeah, sure. There’s a cool bit of history, and this is a new chapter in ISPA history. You know, we have Ryan Trainer, who’s retiring. Alison Keane will be assuming the role of president. Now you’re in this new role. I would love to hear a little bit about your thoughts on diversity in the sleep products industry and where you think we’re going.

Laurie Tokarz
Yeah, I’m really happy to dig into that a little bit. I have been a big proponent, not just of females, but of having more diversity throughout our industry and not just bedding and home furnishings industry. And women really influence over 80% of purchases that are made. And yet, when we look at the executive level and upper tier of our industry, you just see so few women. And, I want to be sure that I’m clear that I don’t think that people should be put into positions based on gender or race, but really based on qualifications.

Laurie Tokarz
But we need to groom people so that we can have a more diverse ability to step into those roles. And, you know, I’ll tell you very honestly, it’s been a vast improvement from when I started in this industry to today. It’s just that I think we’ve got a little bit more to go.

Kathryn Greene
As you step into this new role as chair, what are you excited to accomplish and focus on for the next two years?

Laurie Tokarz
There are a few things that I want to focus on. One of the most important things to me is spreading the word about what ISPA does. As an organization, I think we do a lot for the industry in terms of legislation that we follow and try to protect the industry. And I don’t know that all of our current and future members might understand how much work goes into that.

So, if we can spread that word more in digestible bites so that it’s not overwhelming and people will understand what we’re doing, that might help, it would not just increase awareness but also increase your pride in membership because we do such good work.

Laurie Tokarz
One of the other things that ISPA provides is industry statistics, and I think that’s important. We’re working to improve those and to bring different elements of the statistics to our membership. I think manufacturers look forward to those numbers to use them as a benchmark to see how they’re performing against the industry.

Kathryn Greene
Speaking of that, ISPA recently released its spring forecast, which is exciting. Members can check that out now by logging in through their accounts.

Kathryn Greene
And for those who will be in attendance at the July Las Vegas market, it sounds like there’s something that they won’t want to miss.

Laurie Tokarz
Yes. Alison Keane, the new president, will attend the July market, and I’m hopeful that she’ll be able to meet many of the ISPA members and people within our industry. Let’s show her how welcoming we are.

Kathryn Greene
Fantastic.

An exciting new time for ISPA for sure. Laurie, thank you so much for joining me today.

Laurie Tokarz
Appreciate the time. Thank you.

Kathryn Greene
See you in Vegas.

Laurie Tokarz
We’ll see you there.