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  • Sunday, September 17, 2023 6:43 PM | Heidi Stevens (Administrator)

    From Kansas City, MO to London, UK: How ITC KC Changed My Calling in Life

    by Tamara Dancheva

    My journey with the International Trade Center of Greater Kansas City began almost 16 years ago. In May 2007, I was recruited to run the organization’s day-to-day operations as part of an internship scheme run by Rockhurst University. As an international student from Bulgaria majoring in International Business, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to gain valuable experience in international trade while strengthening several other critical skills such as communication, program management and basic accounting.

    It was my first office job, and to say I was initially overwhelmed and intimidated would be an understatement. However, I was fortunate enough to be guided by two incredible colleagues who remain close friends and mentors today: Norman Burkart and Keith Hustings, former ITC KC Vice President and Corporate Secretary, respectively. Both spent precious time and effort teaching me the ropes and, more importantly, instilling a sense of hard work, ethics, and dedication, all critical skills and lessons that defined my later career.

    What started as an internship grew into an incredible opportunity to get to know the international business community of the Greater Kansas City area. I forged valuable contacts and learned – firsthand - why international trade is critical for global and regional economic development. I was particularly fascinated by the Trade Wins initiative: an international trade simulation ITC KC for students to spark their interest and allow them to experience hands-on what it is to be an executive of a company which trades internationally.

    In just a short 8-month internship, I witnessed the transformative power of international relations, sparking a passion that has guided my entire career. This journey led me to the London School of Economics, where I earned my master's degree in international relations.

    Before delving into my studies in London, I embarked on a 6-month traineeship with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) of the European Commission. In a candid moment, my supervisor revealed that my international background and education, particularly my recent internship with the ITC KC, positioned me as a standout candidate among my peers. These experiences deepened my understanding of European foreign policy.

    Following my master's degree, I pursued a 6-month New York internship with the Uni. My role within the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly allowed me to witness the intricate dynamics of intergovernmental negotiations, providing invaluable insights into the formation of multilateral agreements.

    After my time at the UN, I returned to London and began a remarkable 7-year journey with Liberal International in London, UK, where I served as the Head of its Human Rights Program. As the global federation of liberal and progressive democratic parties, LI offered a unique platform for me to immerse myself in international politics and extend support to liberal movements worldwide, even in authoritarian countries.

    For the past 4 years, I have served as the Senior International Relations Manager at GSMA, the global trade association for the mobile industry. In this capacity, I actively advocate for and champion GSMA's policy recommendations for digital gender inclusion. I also oversee global initiatives to reduce the gender gap in digital skills and leadership roles.Top of FormBottom of Form

    As part of my role, I proudly Co-Chair the Skills Coalition of EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age, a global public-private partnership co-founded by GSMA in 2016 with organizations including the International Telecommunication Union, International Trade Center, UN Women, and UN University.

    I have also been a member of the European Union Delegation to the Women 20 Engagement Group of G20 for the past 3 years. I have served as Co-Chair of various working groups to deliver digital gender equality and equity for women and girls.

    It is no secret that international trade is critical to this endeavor. I have seen first-hand the benefits of empowering women and girls with mobile money and mobile technology, particularly across the Global South. Whether on their journey to become entrepreneurs or simply seeking greater digital and financial literacy, digital platforms and tools such as Shopify or M-Pesa have proven invaluable for women seeking financial independence. One of the current programs I run, called “EQUALS Her Digital Skills”, aims to deliver gender-transformative digital skills and mentoring to underprivileged women and girls across the globe. As such, introducing tech through e-commerce forms a key part of the program's curriculum.

    Research shows that educating girls to the same level as boys could contribute at least $112 billion to low and middle-income countries. On a global level, advancing gender equality could contribute $12 trillion to global growth. ITC KC members can consider this when next faced with a choice as to whether they should invest or work with a women-led business.

    I very much hope to see more young people, particularly women, represented in international trade and innovation as - much like the tech sector - there is much to be desired regarding gender balance among women-led businesses and women-led innovations and start-ups. We cannot afford to leave half of the population behind, and more critically, if we truly want to foster women-led development, we need to put women at the heart of business and product development. As for my success story, I can confidently confirm that the decision Norman and Keith made all these years ago to hire me has been paid forward as I continue to empower women and girls most in need as part of my professional and personal mission in life.

    My career has been a dynamic blend of academic excellence, hands-on experience, and a fervent commitment to shaping a more equitable world through international relations. I have also been lucky enough to visit over 60 countries, further enriching my global outlook and solidifying my belief in the critical role cross-cultural experiences play in every aspect of one’s life. As I reflect on my journey to date, my experience with the International Trade Center of Greater Kansas City catalyzed my passion and subsequent determination to pursue a career in international relations. I couldn’t be more thankful for my time there and its lasting impact.

  • Wednesday, September 06, 2023 8:32 PM | Heidi Stevens (Administrator)

    With the launch of ITC's Global Learning Series, Import 101, there is a lot to be learned. This series of 3 events not only expands the knowledge base about importing but are also eligible for continuing education credits when attended live.  Those who had a chance to hear Brian Murphy, Esq last week now have more knowledge on the First Sale Rule.

    But what if you didn't catch everything Brian had to say? What if you had a question after putting things in practice? What if you couldn't make it to the event? 

    As a member of ITC, we have you covered. Your membership and login give you access to the educational video library.

    How do you find that? Glad you asked!

    From the ITC home page International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City - Home ( you will click on the "About" section.

    Scrolling down you will find the "Members" option. Be sure you are logged in, as this section of the website is available to members only.

    From there, you will click on the "Educational Videos Library".

    This will direct you to the video archive which includes the Import 101- First Sale Rule event and so much more.

    Don't have access to the educational video library? Become a member today!

  • Tuesday, August 22, 2023 8:12 PM | Heidi Stevens (Administrator)

    Family oriented, world traveler (30 countries and counting), dedicated leader, and a musician may seem diverse, but they are all words that can describe Sara Engber, SVP of Operations North America at Huhtamaki,  one of the newest board members for ITC.  

    Sara has been a along time member of ITC, drawn by her interest in global topics, desire to enhance her knowledge of international trade, and the opportunities to network with others. When starting at Huhtamaki, she was focused primarily on the commercial roles (marketing, brand management, product development , and sales). Now there has been a shift to operations, which has led to a variety of opportunities and experiences. What advice would she give others wanting to get into international business and gain experiences? "Jump in! There is a demand for people who want to engage in international careers, and there are few businesses nowadays that are not involved in international trade in some way." And if someone has the desire to be in international trade, "join groups like ITC and talk to people doing this work" get the experience through internships and volunteering until you can make it your career.

    The excitement of her job stems from getting to work with a variety of dedicated people with diverse projects.  Since Huhtamaki operates all around the world, she has the opportunity to work globally. And is "humbled by the people who work in our manufacturing facilities, often 12 hour shifts in physically demanding jobs". In fact her main goal is to get the nearly 4,000 employees home every day safely. Focusing on the individuals who make up the workforce, balancing work and life, and taking care of their health in a reasonable way, which is not always seen in a professional setting. 

    Fun Facts & Interesting Info

    Where have you traveled to and what was your favorite place you visited?

    • I have been to probably 30 countries, so it would be a lot to list them all, but I can say that I have enjoyed seeing so many different parts of the world and all have things that I could easily point to as “favorites” – some for the natural beauty, others the urban energy, food, adventure, human creativity.  It is always a dilemma for me to decide whether to visit someplace multiple times to explore more and more what a place has to offer or to go someplace new.

    Name 3 people (dead or alive) that you would invite to dinner:

    • My family together for dinner including those who have passed
    • My best friends from college and grad school who are scattered all over the world
    • I guess that’s more than 3...

    What else would you like to share that is not generally known?

    • I am very proud to be an introvert.  I prefer to listen and observe, and I have learned how to succeed and thrive in a world that often feels like that personality type is less valued and people are talking at me/over me.  I always try to advocate for other introverts when I spot them. 
    • Also I grew up playing the violin and piano and up until a few weeks before I had to choose a college, I planned to go into music as a career.

    Who inspires you?

    • My family – my parents and sister and my husband.  They are all such kind, caring, accomplished, creative and interesting people.  I love spending time with them, I owe my education and drive for excellence to them and my world view.  I truly see myself as as a citizen of the world.

    What is something coming up in your life that you are excited about?

    • I am not too many years out from retirement and look forward to finding my second career!
  • Monday, July 10, 2023 12:00 PM | Heidi Stevens (Administrator)

    At the end of June, Port KC shared with ITC what the forecast looks like for imports in the Kansas City area and the future looks good!

    A trade study prepared for Port KC by KPMG shares:

    "International trade depends on the two-way transit of containers. Kansas City has much to offer in loaded exports of regional products such as animal feeds, grains, and meats. The 2021 outbound rail volume is estimated at 190,000 loaded TEU. Consistent with America’s history to import more than it exports, and the need to balance rail car movements, Kansas City’s outbound intermodal trains handle a considerable number of empty containers in addition to export cargoes. Looking ahead, Kansas City’s demographics and the expectation for continued economic gains is attracting industrial development of buildings and logistics parks for retail distribution, e-commerce, agricultural product transloading, and general manufacturing. These commercial expansions, and the consumer spending that fuels them, portents sustained growth in container imports. The forecast includes a compound annual average volume growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% through 2030. This nearly matches the 6.0% CAGR achieved between 2016-2021 despite the depressing economic impact caused by the pandemic. The 2030-2040 outlook anticipates import gains averaging 3.9%. Longer term, conservative planning is likely to be more useful than reasoned projections acknowledging how recent unprecedented external shocks to the global economy and its trade activity lowers forecasting confidence. For 30 years forward, an estimated CAGR of 1% to 2% for Kansas City’s economic performance and its parallel trade volume expectation is considered reasonable."

  • Tuesday, July 04, 2023 9:08 AM | Heidi Stevens (Administrator)

    Anyone who has had the pleasure to meet Frederick Baehner, President and Publisher, has undoubtedly been captivated by his stories. His thirst for knowledge serves him well at, where he enjoys interviewing CEOs from all over the USA about their international business. He began IBNewsmag in 2004 focusing specifically on small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that conduct international trade with practical news and information in support of their business. This in turn lead Fred to be nominated for the US Industry Trade Advisory Council (ITAC 9) for SMEs as a cleared advisor to the US Trade Representative (USTR) for free trade agreements. 

    Fred has been a long standing member of ITC, holding numerous positions within the organization, and even President twice! Former member Mayor Dick Berkley and current member Doris Ganser, who was long-time ITC Secretary, first encouraged him to join the ITC. Two years later he was elected President for the first time. "Back then we held our Board meetings at the old Rockhill Tennis Club for lunch. (We all loved the location and the food.)"

    His stories and memories aren't limited to just international trade and ITC. This raconteur has a variety of interests and stories to tell. He even once auditioned for a part, and got it, in a community musical, “Somebody to Love,” inspired by Freddie Mercury with intermittent one-on-one humorous dialogs as seen in the movie, “When Harry Met Sally.” While it only played for three nights, it sold out every night. 

    More Fun Facts & Interesting Info in his own words...

    Something unique about you, that many people don't know?

    • I’m also a big fan of Formula One racing. 

    What was the last book you read?

    • The last book I read was The Code Breaker about advances in gene editing (CRISPR) by Walter Isaacson.  I’ve just begun reading Quantum Biology (Sub -title). I guess I’m part nerd. 

    Who inspires you?

    • To that point, the person who inspires me is Dr. Jennifer Doudna who developed a pursuit of science and gene editing based on her reading of The Double Helix.  

    What is your favorite place to visit?

    • I’ve traveled to many countries. One of my favorite cities is Sydney, Australia, where I lived for a couple of months on an assignment for Telstra International (Australia Telecom). 

    What are your current professional goals?

    • My primary goal is to expand readership of to 17,000 SMEs. 

    What advice would you give those getting into International Trade?

    • My advice to young wanting to get into international business is to immerse themselves in international news and events from around the world and read widely. 

  • Wednesday, May 31, 2023 11:30 AM | Heidi Stevens (Administrator)

    Paula Kimkleinschmidt, Global Procurement Ops Manager at Design Resources Inc., is making an event of joining the ITCGKC!  Not only is she one of our newest members, she has taken a very active role as part of our events committee. After attending events, like the Women in International Business, and networking with other members, she knew she wanted to take advantage of all the educational and community engagement opportunities.

    Paula's road to international business started in the food industry, helping her parents out with their restaurant and in the Korean Market. This passion for food and baking specifically, brought her to Kansas City to be a pastry chef at a French bakery. It was her contacts created and her International Business Degree that lead her to DRI, where she has grown over the last 10 years in all areas! She has covered all the basics importing/exporting, supply chain/logistics, and was an Import Manager before taking on her current roll. 

    Her advice to someone wanting to get into International Trade is to "stay up-to-date with the constantly changing industry and travel and explore as much as you can." This coupled with "being open minded and get(ting) out of your comfort zone by educating yourself with the diverse business culture and etiquette" and "learn to be flexible and adaptable", are great words of wisdom in all areas of life! 

    Fun Facts & Interesting Info 

    What languages do you speak?

    • Korean and Elementary Mandarin

    What was your favorite international trip?

    • My favorite trip was the first time I visited my parents' homeland in Seoul and Busan, South Korea. Being able to experience the beauty of both the city and countryside was so rewarding. Other than the AMAZING food, the country is known for its Triple Threat: K-Pop, K-Drama, and K-Beauty which always leaves me wanting more!

    Something that is uniquely you? 

    • I'd like to consider myself an amateur food critic that loves trying new places and taking pictures of food. I also enjoy gardening with my husband in our backyard which we nicknamed P2K2 farms.

    Three people (dead or alive) that you would invite to dinner?

    • My Father- I miss him everyday and would love to see his face and hear his voice again
    • Lisa Ling- I have so much respect for this journalist who uses her platform to give people the opportunity to use their voices and share their stories
    • Anthony Bourdain- As a foodie myself, bonding over good food while discussing our appreciation of the culinary world would be a dream come true
  • Wednesday, May 03, 2023 8:54 AM | Heidi Stevens (Administrator)

    Caleb Hall, the Customs Brokerage Manager for Scarbrough International, is the newest member to the ITC board as of April, 2023.  He has been a general member of ITC for a few years, but is excited at the opportunity to take a more active role in developing KC area businesses, and himself as a professional. 

    Caleb is not new to navigating changes, which happen frequently in the international trade world. He started at Scarborough International as an intern while looking for a teaching job. During the search, he found that he was more at home in logistics and within a corporate structure. After starting out in exports he quickly moved over to imports, where he relishes learning as much as he can to be a greater resource to Scarborough.  For the last four years he has loved being the Customs Brokerage Manager for Scarborough. 

    There is still a teacher deep inside him, as he wants to continue to not only grow himself, but to teach and mentor those who work for him. His goal is also to continue learning, gaining a better understanding of all international logistics processes. He counts learning something new everyday and the opportunity to problem-solve as the most exciting part of his job.  And while he may have first pursued his Masters in Education, he "often say(s) that there are not a lot of folks who intend to work in this industry, but most of us couldn't imagine working anywhere else after we are in it!"

    Fun Facts & Advice

    • Who inspires you?
    My grandfather, who was the most honest, hard-working man I ever met, and he spent his entire retirement in Excelsior Springs doing everything he could to improve the community
    • Job experience?
    My first job was as a dishwasher at The National Golf Course club house.  I  was also the general manager of the Sheridan's Frozen Custard on Barry Road for a few years and can actually tell you the difference between ice cream and custard, and why custard is the undisputed winner in the head-to-head match up.
    • Upcoming life experience you are excited about?
    My five-year wedding anniversary is this year, and the wife and I are trying to decide where to go for vacation to celebrate!
    • What advice would you give for someone who wants to get into  International Trade/Business?

    If you stop learning you stop growing. Always be open to the idea that what you learned when you started will change.

    • What do you love about KC?

    I love the BBQ, the Chiefs, and the fact that I'm from a place where people are so kind to the point that we're almost made fun of for being "Midwest Nice"

    • Who are some of your professional mentors?
    My former bosses, Jennifer Kahmann and Alyson Schroer, have both been hugely instrumental in my growth as a professional. I wouldn't be where I am without them!

  • Monday, March 20, 2023 2:10 PM | Mary Odom

    Change is in the air.  Change is neutral.  It can be good or bad or anywhere in between.  It can be planned, discovered, or fallen into.  This change is bittersweet.  Our wonderful Executive Director, Mary Odom, CAE is leaving the International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City (ITC), and her last day is April 15, 2023.  Also, I'd like to introduce you to ITC's new Executive Director, Heidi Stevens, and her first day with ITC was March 15, 2023.  Yes, it all happened fast, so let me go back and explain. 

    Throughout the second half of 2022, Mary was seeking counsel from her doctors for some new health challenges she was experiencing.  It took a lot of visits, tests, and discussions.  By the time 2022 was completed, answers were found.  The diagnosis was ALS, which is a terminal diagnosis which can go as quickly as a few months or could last a few years.  In January, Mary shared her devastating news with ITC's executive group and the board.  The plan, at that point, was to continue working together as long as Mary's health allowed.  A short time later, Mary's doctor advised her that it was time to begin scaling back on her activities to focus on her health.  Naturally, Mary took her doctor's recommendation and submitted her resignation letter to ITC.  None of this has been easy.  All of the feelings and fears you can imagine are very real and raw.  In my eyes, Mary has faced these circumstances with an incredible amount of courage.  Her courage comes from her faith in Jesus. 

    Before February was completed, the executive team brushed off the job description to begin a search.  Before the job was posted or advertised, we received a referral.  We acted quickly to interview Heidi Stevens.  We gave it some time for thought and further discussion, and then extended an offer. 

    Heidi comes to us from extensive work experience in the pharmaceutical industry managing a large, regional sales team.  After a strong season with this team and company, the company made some structural changes.  Heidi found herself at the crossroads of these changes, and she chose Option 3 to be a homemaker and mother for her children.  When she was ready to join the workforce again, one of her highest priorities was to find work she could be passionate about.  How does one find a job that feels like you're truly giving back to the community and finding personal fulfillment while also retaining balance and flexibility for your family?  This can be a tough needle to thread, but it's a balance that fits ITC well. 

    I honestly don't know if you'll get a chance to see Mary between now and April 15th.  I know this community loves her and has many kind words to share.  Please reach out at  For your first opportunity to meet Heidi, please join us for our Slam Dunk Joint Networking Event (ITCGKC & MADEC) on March 30th to welcome her to the team.  Keep an eye out for future event opportunities as well. 

    Thank you to all of you in our ITC community who represent our amazing city and region, globally.  All the best to you as life carries on in each of our busy environments.  Yes, life can be full of surprises, and for some, life can be shorter than we'd prefer.  We don't know, yet, how Mary's story will end, but we do know her story is not over.  Have courage!  Take heart!  Stay connected!

    President Joe Lohman

  • Tuesday, February 28, 2023 2:49 PM | Mary Odom

    Joe Pandolfi has a heart for Ethiopia, its people and economic situation. This is what motivated him to join the International Trade Council (ITC). He has  traveled to several countries in Central and South America, China, and Ethiopia. My favorite place is Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

    He is the owner of American Land Professionals, LLC, a fairly new company which handles real estate matters for pipeline, utility, and energy companies. He has been in the real estate industry for 40+ years. His journey to the present was by way of his creative business nature and being a serial entrepreneur. Additionally, life in Addis Ababa with the mission of helping non-profits with their self-supportive business endeavors, has certainly shaped his current career.

    Joe's main goal is to responsibly structure and grow his business to create passive income in order to create business and income opportunities for those less fortunate.

    Fun Facts & Advice

    Name three people (dead or alive) that you would invite to dinner.

    I would invite my grandparents to dinner.

    What was the last book that you read?

    The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

    Who inspires you?

    My inspiration comes from Jesus Christ and a variety of friends and family members.

    What advice would you give someone who wants to get into International Business/International Trade?

    I am just learning, but I would say team up with someone who knows the ropes and is market/industry/country-knowledgeable. Also, be prepared for delays and glitches along the way.

    What’s something coming up in life that you’re excited about?

    Planning a trip to Addis in spring/summer.

    What languages do you speak?

    A little Spanish and Amharic (Ethiopia).

    Have there been any memorable surprises or unexpected twists in your career?

    While real estate is my life-long work, when the industry slowed in the mid-eighties, I became a Deputy U.S. Marshal for a short while in Washington, D.C. - quite enlightening and very memorable.

    What else do you want to tell us about yourself/what is something unique about you that is generally not known?

    One of my greatest joys in life is being “papa” to the best grandchildren ever.

  • Tuesday, January 31, 2023 1:02 PM | Mary Odom

    Velia Calcara

    Velia is a new member of ITC and has always been curious about international trade. She was lucky to win a raffle for an ITC membership during Global Entrepreneurship Week 2022.

     "I am from Mexico so, visiting my country is a normal thing to do. I love my country and all the beauty in it from natural to man-made. I love it there! We have a lot to offer and so many gorgeous places to enjoy. There's no place like home."

    Velia works as a program manager for a non-profit organization, Community Capital Fund where she has been for about six months. She likes to say that she “borrowed” the field of languages while raising her children. She knew it was going to be hard to re-enter the business world after having a gap in employment (many women face that), so she became a freelance language service provider. It was a very rewarding experience.

    She never thought about working in the non-profit field until now. Velia was very fortunate to be referred by the Women Employment Network, which is a fabulous organization in Kansas City. She was hired on the spot as a contractor, and later became a full-time employee. She recognizes that all her previous experiences became handy while performing her current duties.

    What are a few goals that you have in your career?

    • I want to improve my leadership skills
    • Build a solid reputation as a management professional with an eye for quality and efficiency
    • Serve others with my skills and knowledge

    Name three people (dead or alive) that you would invite to dinner:

    • Thomas Alva Edison – I admire his invention, and the fact that he never forgot where he came from.
    • Gaspar Yanga– I admire his courage.
    • Leonardo da Vinci – He was a genius in several fields.

    What was the last book that you read?

    Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Who inspires you?

    Individuals who have achieved despite odds against them, I include here both of my grandparents.

    What advice would you give someone who wants to get into International Business/International Trade?

    I am in no position to give advice about it, I would like to learn more about it and explore other horizons.

    What else do you want to tell us about yourself/what is something unique about you that is generally not known?

    That I have a dream project for my retirement years involving learning and capturing knowledge about celebrations and traditions in my country.
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ITCGKC is a 501(c)3 Organization

The International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City is a network of international business professionals, educators, and students that actively work with each other and the community to build a stronger support system for international trade in the Kansas City region.

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Kansas City, MO 64116


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