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Meet the Reps: Kim and Janai

Meet the Reps: Kim and Janai

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

It’s time to meet two more Moda reps. This time around we’ve got stories of traveling with a Featherweight, running a retreat center, and keeping an eye out for moose, eagles, and caribou! (That's Kim, second from the left in the photo below, and Janai on the far right.)

First up is Kim Polson, whose been a Moda rep for 15 years and in the industry for 19. In her former life, Kim was an Army Arts and Crafts director. Her territory includes all of North and South Carolina, and parts of West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, and one shop in Ohio. She covers an average of 1,000 miles weekly and is often on the road three or four nights a week.

What do you enjoy about being a Moda rep?

Kim: Fabric, lots of beautiful fabric. Secondly, I love the people and I love helping shop owners fulfill their dreams. Traveling is in my blood: I was an Army wife for 20 years and lived in 23 different places. I usually take my Featherweight (Back-seat Betty) but time is limited in the evenings. During the winter a machine or project is a must. Last December we had 13 inches and  got stuck for two days. Thank God I had a project! 

What’s a typical day like for you?

Kim: It starts at about 7:30 and I usually work until 7 or 8 p.m., especially if I am traveling. I don't eat at fast food (one exception: salad at Chick-Fil-a). I made that rule 19 years ago—there is way too much sitting time in the car. I try to see three customers a day. I have a very large territory.  I would rather work than sit in a hotel. Sometimes I might go out with a client in the evening or find something fun going on in the area, a museum or something. I love visiting local areas and have even camped in a couple of my areas. The owner of my one shop in Ohio is a widow and we always try to spend some time together having a meal, whether it’s breakfast or dinner. You build a lot of relationships with your customers. They are like family. 

Tell us about an especially eventful day on the road.

Kim: I had the pleasure of Mark Dunn (Moda’s founder and president) picking ME to see what life is like in the day of a rep. How exciting is that? Our first appointment lasted five hours and we were in a hurry to get to the next appointment. We jumped in the car and headed down the road an hour to Raleigh. He asked, “What are we doing for lunch?”  I told him we don't have time and I normally don't get lunch and that the “Dashboard Diner” was open (the glovebox had several power bars and an apple). The look on his face was PRICELESS. He said okay, but tomorrow we go to a restaurant for lunch. It was such an honor and pleasure traveling with Mark. 

Any tips for spending time on the road?

Kim: I have spilled so much coffee and dropped three cell phones in my coffee that I now have a “lid only” policy. I'm always looking for cheap gas. I have a 5 Cents Off from Pilot gas and I use Choice Hotels and love to use points on family trips. (All the states surrounding North Carolina have gas that is at least 20 cents cheaper.) Keeping organized is a daily task.  You have to know where everything is. We basically live out of our car! I am old-school and listen to books on CDs. I find them at thrift shops and the library. I just got Sirius XM radio this month and I am enjoying some of the talk shows and Broadway music. 

What do you do when you’re not on the road?

Kim: I am always busy. I fish, hike  and camp and my partner, Paul, and I run two Quilting Retreat centers in Western North Carolina Mountains (WWW.SummitQuiltretreat.com) We live at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains and we have had over 440 retreats to date. Our customers are like family and we enjoy when then return every year. Several customers are shop owners and it’s fun to see them at play—they are in their jammies and just having so much fun.

Anything else about life as a rep you’d like to share?

Kim: Being on the road is not for everyone. It’s lonely at times and is something you have to learn to embrace, but it can also be such a wonderful experience meeting and helping people. I miss home-cooked meals the most, but I actually sleep better in the hotel. Days are long, but it’s such a rush when your customer tells you about a very successful promotion or show they did. I chose Moda because of its reputation. I worked for a competitor and every customer would mention Moda, so one day I called Mark Dunn and the rest is history. Best decision ever!

Next up is another Moda rep with an appreciation for the great outdoors, Janai Comer.

Janai’s been a Moda rep for 5 years and might have the most “exotic” territory of any rep—Alaska and Hawaii. Because Alaska is so large, Janai usually spends 2 ½ to 3 weeks on the road—it sometimes becomes 4 weeks when she includes visits to customers who can only be reached by air. She puts an average of 1,700 miles on her car each time she visits customers on the road and notes that in Alaska people measure distances in hours, not miles. She visits Hawaii three times a year, where her travels include both air and road miles.

What do you enjoy about being a Moda rep?

Janai: I love seeing each release of the new collections and being excited to share them with my customers. I enjoy getting to know each of my customers, their shops, and their vision, and helping them achieve their goals. 

What’s a typical day like for you?

Janai:It depends on the time of year as to when I hit the road. During the winter months—October to March—I usually leave around 8 a.m. as traveling during daylight hours is important because of the wildlife you can run into on the road. During the spring/summer months—April to September—it's generally late afternoon, early evening. The visiting tourists and locals with their motor homes, travel trailers, and boats can lengthen the trip considerably due to two-lane roads and not lots of places to pass them. 

I generally see two to three customers per day, depending on which city I'm in and if I have long distances to travel to reach them. I try and travel with healthier snacks, nuts, cheese, fruit and nutritional shakes. I'll usually eat breakfast and skip lunch due to customer appointments. Depending on what time it is I'll have a shake or a light meal for dinner. I have found restaurants in each town that have become my favorites and try and stay away from fast food as much as possible. In the evening, I work on submitting my orders, answering emails and watching a little TV to relax. 

Any tips for spending time on the road?

Janai:I use Hotels.com to book my hotels as they have a reward program that I use—for every 10 nights you receive a free night. I collect those free nights over the winter so that when summer rolls around and the price per night goes up significantly, it's more affordable to travel. 

Tell us about an eventful experience on the road. 

Janai: Seeing wildlife is a frequent event and I usually see animals on each leg of travel. It’s very rare for me not to see a few on my 1,700 mile journey. Seeing this mama bear with four cubs was quite special, as usually they only have one or two cubs. In the fall/winter I've seen caribou, moose, lynx, fox, rabbits and in the summer—moose, bear, swans, coyote, eagles. I always enjoy seeing the different animals that cross my path, as well as the Northern Lights. 

What do you listen to to pass the time as you drive?

Janai: I usually listen to music (50's, 70's and 80's), and podcasts having to do with health and wellness and nutrition. 

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not on the road?

Janai: Spending time with my grandchildren, quilting, sewing (I make Halloween costumes for my grandchildren, but quilting is my favorite), decorating cakes for my grandchildren's birthdays, and relaxing at home. 

You could probably sell a lot of things—why did you chose fabric? 

Janai: It was an opportunity that fell in my lap and being a fabric lover, it made lots of sense to get paid for what I love! Gene Stewart was the previous rep for Alaska and I met him 15 years ago, when I attended Quilt Market with a friend who owned a shop in Eagle River, Alaska, and would meet with Gene at Market. When he decided to retire Alaska he contacted me to see if I would be interested. I was, and jumped at the opportunity to represent Moda. I enjoy the travel and visiting with my customers who have also become my friends. 

Stay tuned for more Meet the Reps post—aren’t you just loving how interesting and varied their stories are? 

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