CRS engages in a variety of activities including retail and sales education programs, conferences, seminars, student competitions, and conducting research in areas that affect the retail and sales industries.

Upcoming Activities

Meet the Experts is a 4-part speaker-series sponsored by the Council for Retail and Sales (CRS) at Penn State Lehigh Valley.  Each event in the series addresses an important topic in the retail and sales professions and feature a panel of subject matter experts. Our next Meet the Experts event, held on 9/25/19, will focus on the Changing Landscape of the Retail Industry.  Please check back for pricing and ticket information.

The 2019 Student Collegiate Challenge is a competition where college teams are presented with a real-world business challenge that the sponsor organization is currently facing.  The students teams will create a proposal that addresses the challenge and present it to a panel of judges from the sponsor.  The 2019 competition will be held on 10/17/2019.  Stay tuned for more details or contact to participate.

Past Activities

Meet the Experts: The Changing Landscape of the Food Industry

Bethlehem, PA – The Council for Retail and Sales (CRS) held its first Meet the Experts event at Factory in Bethlehem on April 25.  This first event focused on the Changing Landscape of the Food Industry and featured a panel of experts from various companies who have a vested interested in the food business.  The April event is the first in a series of Meet the Experts speaking engagements, each of which will focus on the changing landscape of a specific industry.

The panel of experts included Larry Davis (vice president of Food & Nutrition North America, Brenntag, Dallas, Texas), Keith Caldwell (operating partner, Factory LLC, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania), and Kiersten Hafer (vice president, Marketing & Innovation, Clemens Food Group, Hatfield, Pennsylvania).  The program was moderated by Shea Worman (food industry manager – Northeast Region, Brenntag, Reading, Pennsylvania).

Some topics of interest discussed by the panelists were the evolution of the consumer and the need for innovation, sustainability and social awareness. Approximately 70 guests attended the event including 10 students from various local colleges.

For Susan Sundaram, former QA Product Evaluation & Development and Sensory Analysis manager for AholdUSA, the event was of significant interest.

“The entire presentation was incredibly informative...the different backgrounds of the three speakers were well selected and complimentary to the focus of the presentation: a food manufacturer, an ingredient supplier, and a finance professional - all of whom have to adapt to the ever-changing consumer market,” Sundaram said.

The next event in the Meet the Experts series will be held on September 25 and will focus on the Changing Landscape of the Retail Industry.



Picture: 1:  Panel of experts (from left to right): Larry Davis, Keith Caldwell, Kiersten Hafer, Shea Worman. Photo credit: Elaine Thode
Picture: 1: Panel of experts (from left to right): Larry Davis, Keith Caldwell, Kiersten Hafer, Shea Worman. Photo credit: Elaine Thode
Photo credit: Tim Mattson
Photo credit: Tim Mattson

-Panel of Experts-

Keith Caldwell head shot

Keith Caldwell: Operating Partner, Factory LLC, Bethlehem, PA. Factory LLC acquires meaningful equity stakes in high potential food, beverage and pet health companies, and partners with them to rapidly build value. Prior to joining Factory, Keith worked for Fortress Investment Group, where he was a Portfolio Manager responsible for the day-to-day operations of a real estate portfolio in the U.S. and Europe. In his time with the firm, he was responsible for the management of over $3B in invested capital and over $8B in total asset value.

Larry Davis head shot

Larry Davis: VP Food & Nutrition North America, Brenntag, Dallas, TX.  Larry is a seasoned professional with a solid understanding of diverse business management applications including market analysis, sales & marketing, operations, administration, team-building, and budgeting. He has served in executive leadership roles within the Food & Nutrition Ingredient market space for several years guiding various multinational companies to exceed their growth targets and create exciting, innovative brands.

Kiersten Hafer head shot_clean_resized

Kiersten Hafer: VP Marketing & Innovation, Clemens Food Group, Hatfield, PA.  Kiersten is a strategic marketer, business development hunter, and growth architect trusted by companies such as NewellRubbermaid, The Hershey Company, Colgate-Palmolive, Heinz, Perdue Foods, KraftHeinz, MARS, IRI, and Clemens Food Group to uncover and unlock potential, facilitate change, and measure expansion.  In her current role at Clemens, Kiersten is responsible for its retail and food service business.

Shea Worman head shot_clean_resized

Moderated by Shea Worman: Food Industry Manager - Northeast Region, Brenntag, Reading, PA.  Shea has nearly 20 years of experience in strategic channel marketing, product management, product management, sales leadership, and commercial development.  As Industry Manager, she links the Innovation and Procurement teams of small to medium food and beverage manufacturers with leading ingredient producers, helping them to stay ahead of evolving customer demands and market trends.

-Event Sponsors-

Factory logo
Brenntag logo_F&N_CMYK330dpi

The CRS 2018 Collegiate Challenge

Powered by pastedGraphic.png

The Management of Sherwin-Williams, The Americus Group, Eastern Division, took the concept of “The Apprentice” television series and applied it to a collegiate competition in retailing. The competition involved regional college students. The challenge was for the teams to create a plan that focused on increasing sales in the residential repaint segment. The teams were judged based on the written plan, a store visit, and the presentation of the plan. Students prepared the project during the fall and/or spring semesters and presented their plans at the competition held Nov. 6, 2018 at Penn State Lehigh Valley. The competition was co-sponsored by The Council for Retail and Sales (CRS), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring together retail academicians, students and practitioners.

“Student involvement in these competitions prepare them for the exciting world of retail,” said James R. (Doc) Ogden, chair of the CRS, noting the talent and determination of the participants.

The judges of the competition were from Sherwin-Williams: Mike Williams, Northeast PA district manager, Chris Crocker, Northeast PA district sales manager, Jeremy Schmoyer, Eastern Division collection manager, Monica Schwab, Eastern Division marketing specialist and Jessica Furtado, area human resources generalist

“Involvement in student competitions allow us to see a different perspective to opportunities that we think about on a daily basis,” Williams said.

Five teams competed in the competition. The first place winners were from Penn State Scranton. The team took home a traveling trophy to be housed at their campus until next year’s challenge. These winners also each received a $250 scholarship from Sherwin-Williams.  Sweet Briar College took a close second place and each team member received $100 from Sherwin-Williams.

“This was a good experience that taught me a lot about how to present and research and figure out solutions to a problem I may not fully understand at first,” said Angelica Kalsi, first-year student at Penn State Lehigh Valley. “I think it was a good experience in leadership and in working with a group.”

While the judges deliberated, Elly Martin, North Area recruiter for Sherwin-Williams, spoke to students about career opportunities at the company and how to develop their resumes and prepare for an interview.

Previous sponsors of the competition have included:  Walmart, Z-CoiL, Sorrelli, Target, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, and Stuff’n Mallows.

If you have any questions, please contact Denise T. Ogden , Ph.D., from the Council for Retail and Sales at Penn State (


The Business of Entertainment Symposium

The VIP All-Access Business of Entertainment Symposium proved to be full of edutainment (education + entertainment) on the business aspects of the unpredictable entertainment industry, including Broadway and cinema. The event was held October 12, 2018 at the Penn State Lehigh Valley campus and hosted by the Council for Retail and Sales, a division of LaunchBox. Student from various colleges and people from the area as well as six states were present for the event.

Susie Krajsa, President of Broadway Across America (BAA) provided a behind the scenes look at how the subscription part of BAA operates. The theatre show, Hamilton, led to the “Hamilton Effect.” Krajsa explained that subscriptions to BAA rise considerably when Hamilton is part of a season’s line up.

Angela Shelton, movie actor, director and producer, spoke about her feature film, Heart, Baby! which brings light to an untold, historical true story. The film is premiering in New York City on November 16.

Pat Addiss, a theatre producer who is currently producing the off-Broadway hit, Desperate Measures, was interviewed by Liz Keptner, the Multi-media Innovation Center Director at PSULV. Addiss spoke about the struggles and successes of being a producer. She stated that producing live theatre is addicting.

Jack Maxwell, host and professional actor, made the audience laugh and cry when he shared the story of how a poor kid from Boston became an actor. Despite having had a chemo therapy treatment a few days before, Maxwell was in full energy mode and finished to a standing ovation.

Three breakout sessions were conducted by Frank Megna, director, actor and writer from Los Angeles who spoke about how directors work with the “suits” or business people. Lauren Yarger, a critic who reviews Broadway and Off-Broadway theater in New York and professional theater in Connecticut, discussed the changes in the profession. Bryan Tuk, an entertainment industry attorney, spoke about copyright laws and how important it is for entertainment professionals to hire a lawyer.