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  • 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.
  • Sunday, November 27, 2022 9:35 AM | Mary Odom

    Jaime Sikes

    Jaime is a new member of ITC and was recently elected to fill  a vacant term on the Board of Directors. She is also the Vice Chair of the ITC Events Committee. Jaime joined ITC because of an invitation from Anh Sirridge who told her about ITC on the first day she started working for Design Resources Inc. " It sounded like an interesting and rewarding opportunity…mostly because these types of groups were not readily available to me when I started in the industry," Jaime said. As the Import Manager at DRI since February 2022, she is in her element and wants to keep doing importing until she has nothing left to learn (basically forever).

    Jaime started to work at Fritz as a freight forwarder fresh out of college. She spent close to 9 years as a freight forwarder before jumping over to the importer side. She likes that being a freight forwarder led her to importing.

    So far, Jaime has only travelled domestically, but her favorite city in the US is Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

    Fun Facts & Advice

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

    • Tony Hawk
    • Roy Lichtenstein
    • Andrew Garfield

    What was the last book that you read?

    I’m usually reading several at a time (long story) …I recently re-read “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton

    Who inspires you?

    My daughter Marleigh

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

    This industry is a lot of “hurry up and wait”. Remember to have an open mind, take lots of notes, and always bring your patient pants.

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

    I could spend hours in an art museum and never get bored or tired. Also, I can go somewhere just once and remember everything about it. 

  • Thursday, November 03, 2022 8:14 AM | Mary Odom

    ITC Young Professionals and several board members hosted a booth at the recent international career fair at the Kansas City Convention Center. The event was focused on high school students from 21 area schools. Over 1200 students attended the event.

    Caleb Hall, Hans Peter, Samantha January, Lourdes Kessler, and President Joe Lohman explained to students what a career in international trade requires in terms of education and experience, as well as the many options for forging a career path in our industry. Students were asked to sort 10 products into "Import" or "Export" baskets such as bananas, lightbulbs, bulldozers, tractors, etc. Students also received a handout about a variety of careers in international trade.

    ITC was one of 63 international organizations participating is this annual event organized the International Relations Council. A big thank you to all of the volunteers who invested their time in this workforce development project.


  • Thursday, October 06, 2022 4:52 PM | Mary Odom

    Sarah Vogelsmeier (Faubel)

    Sarah is the Logistics & Compliance Coordinator for Essense of Australia where she started working in February of this year. She  was eager to become a member of the International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City for networking, education, and community engagement opportunities.  

    Sarah has travelled internationally to Mexico, Ireland, and England. She really enjoyed exploring the Cliffs of Moher, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and London. Her and her husband are wanting to visit Germany and Greece in the next few years!

    Fun Facts & Advice

    What is a book you have enjoyed or are currently reading?

    One of my favorite reads is a daily devotional called, “New Morning Mercies”, by Paul David Tripp.

    How has your career unfolded and led you to where you are today?

    Prior to joining Essense, I spent near five years of my career in multi-mode, transportation management, supporting clients with freight solutions and strategic initiatives. I greatly enjoyed building meaningful, account relationships, problem solving, and executing continuous improvement projects.

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

    Be proactive in your educational development and seek mentors. There is always something new to learn in the industries of supply chain, trade, and logistics, with ever-changing conditions. From there, use your experiences to encourage and help others with their professional growth.

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

    In addition to logistics, a few passions of mine include fashion, my faith, and playing volleyball. My family and I are also big, Nebraska volleyball fans, and are beyond excited to watch their season this year!  

  • Wednesday, August 03, 2022 8:00 AM | Mary Odom

    Trisha Nikolova is the International Logistics Specialist at KGPCO where she has worked for 1 year. She recently joined ITC because of the useful and relevant information and a variety of helpful resources.  She specifically enjoys the webinars.  “It allows me to continue learning about international trade.  The events are a great place to connect with peers in the international trade community.”

    Trisha has travelled several times internationally visiting Italy, Greece, France, Turkey, Mexico, and Bulgaria.  She spent the most time in Bulgaria, where she has family (Plovdiv, Bulgaria). She is fascinated with the culture and history of Bulgaria.  “It’s not a very large country but there is so much beauty.  Each time I visit, I discover a new food or dish that I love.”  

    Trisha has been in Transportation and Logistics in some form for the last 20 years.  She started out handling export for a flour milling company and then transitioned to railcars and domestic trucking for the same company. After that, she worked about 10 years in Freight Forwarding where she handled Ocean and Air Import.  A year ago, she moved to KGPCO where she works on all international business, whether it’s import or export. Trisha believes the time she spent in Freight Forwarding has really helped to give her a full picture of the international trade, although there are always new things to learn. “It’s my goal to learn more about operational efficiency, improving communications across departments, and achieving cost savings just to name a few.”

    Fun Facts & Advice 
    Name three people (dead or alive) that you would invite to dinner: 

    • Ruth Bader Ginsburg is fascinating to me. She did so much to help women during her lifetime, and I would love to get insight from her on the current situation we see regarding Roe v. Wade being overturned. 
    • Michelle Obama is very intelligent, and I love hearing about her life experiences.
    • Amelia Earhart was a real pioneer in her time. She really pushed women to value themselves and excel even in a time when women weren't valued by society.

    What was the last book that you read? 

    "Good Morning, I Love You" by Shauna Shapiro. This book is about mindfulness and self-compassion practices that I have begun to incorporate into my own life and the lives of my children. It's never too late to change your brain.

    Who inspires you? 

    There have been several people who have inspired me in my life and career. Whether it's a leader, a friend, or my sister, these people encourage me to be a better person, better colleague, a better wife, and a better mother. Without these inspirations in my life, I wouldn't be the person I am today.

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

    Continue educating yourself! There are always new things to learn. You can't possibly know everything about this industry. Regulations change often, so it's important to stay up to date.

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

    I love all things paranormal (ghosts, cryptids, etc.). I listen podcasts, read books, and watch movies on this genre.

  • Thursday, July 07, 2022 1:53 PM | Mary Odom

    Kurtis Walter was introduced to ITC by a coworker when he asked Kurtis to participate as one of the featured speakers for the virtual training session on export documentation.  Meeting some of the members and learning more about the council, he realized this would be a good opportunity to meet and connect with other international trade professionals in the Kansas City area. 

    Prior to his career in international trade, he used to work in the footwear industry, which took him to some cities in Mexico and Canada, but his primary travels were to China and Taiwan.  Kurtis has visited several major cities in China like Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Chongqing. But if he were to pick a favorite city in China, it would be Xiamen.  It is a smaller coastal city across from Taiwan with much less people, less metropolitan, and more natural beauty.  What he likes about international travel is the opportunity to experience and better understand other cultures.

    Kurtis is currently the Director, International Trade Compliance at Dairy Farmers of America where he has served for three  years. He graduated from Kansas State University with an Industrial Engineering degree.  A large footwear company headquartered in Topeka, KS was hiring young Industrial Engineers to work in their distribution center to improve processes and efficiencies.  That led him to a packaging engineer position within the sourcing department at the corporate office.  Later he was given opportunities managing different areas in logistics and international transportation.  Then a customs compliance manager position opened, and they asked if he would be interested.  One of the requirements was to take the US customs broker exam which he knew of the difficulty and challenge of passing this exam.  Fortunately, he was disciplined enough to plan his study time and stick to it.  Kurtis passed and earned his US Customs Broker License.  He served as the Global Customs Compliance Manager for approximately 6 years.  During that time, the footwear company was facing some business challenges.  There was new ownership, leadership, and a lot of restructuring going on.  That’s when he applied for an open position as Manager, International Trade Compliance at Dairy Farmers of America.  "I am thankful they hired me, then promoted me, and so here I am."    

    One of the goals he is currently working on is to develop a top tier trade compliance program here at Dairy Farmers of America.  DFA is in good shape, but Kurtis still has some work to do to raise the bar.  After that, Kurtis is open to any opportunities within his company to fill a need. "Since the pandemic, I would like to start getting out more. There are a lot of places I haven’t visited and a lot of people I haven’t met yet. I would like to start developing new relationships in person again."  

    Fun Facts & Advice 
    Name three people (dead or alive) that you would invite to dinner: 

    • Elon Musk is very intriguing to me  
    • Abraham Lincoln might have some valuable guidance on how to heal a divided country
    • My grandmother who passed away in a house fire before he was born. I have heard that she was a wonderful woman.

    What was the last book that you read? 

    It seems to have been a while since I have read a book so I am not exactly sure which one was the last, but it may have been one written by Mark Levin.

    Who inspires you? 

    Several people have inspired me over the years like parents, grandparents, good teachers, good bosses and leaders at work and some religious leaders. I probably can’t name just one.

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

    There are a lot of countries with a lot of different regulations, and they seem to change often.  There is no end to learning if you are willing.  There is too much information for one person to know everything.  Develop key relationships with experienced people in the areas that you are interested.  Build your list of reliable resources.  Members of this International Trade Council are great resources.  People who work at customs brokerage and freight forwarding companies are good resources as well.

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

    I sing tenor in my church choir.

  • Tuesday, March 01, 2022 2:29 PM | Mary Odom

    On February 25th, Kristi Gribble presented the Hallmark Cards experience with the recent international shipping crisis. Kristi Gribble is the Global Supply Chain Operations Director at Hallmark Cards where she has worked for the past 28 years.

    “The last two years feels like twenty years!”

    Ms. Gribble was dealing with tariffs in 2019 and cheering on the Chiefs at the Super Bowl in Miami in February of 2020. Upon returning from the crowded stadium, she read the headline in the Wall Street Journal “Super Bowl Chiefs Make It Worth the Wait”. The article below the fold reported that China had shut down their country due to the Coronavirus outbreak. After Chinese New Year, many suppliers did not re-open. Hallmark Distribution Centers shut down for about 4 weeks, but were back up and running by May 2020. Sales were still strong because people were sending cards to their loved ones whom they couldn’t see in person.

    By the Fall of 2020, transit times had hit 50 days which had previously been 35 days. In May of 2021, COVID cases shut down the port of Shenzhen. Christmas products were not going to arrive to retailers by early fall when retailers start holiday decorating. Hallmark began cross-department planning meetings and dubbed the operation “Saving Christmas”.  Container availability was significantly reduced through the port.  The Saving Christmas SWAT team met daily to prioritize products and containers. Through all their hard work, 98% of product arrived in the DC distribution warehouse in time for Christmas.

    Key Takeaways:

    1. 2022 standard container rates are doubling and tripling. Hallmark is trying to lock in current rates now before inflationary rates hit again.
    2. Currently looking at options in Mexico for the long-term and automation options for hand-intensive work as a mid-term strategy.
    3. Work on building “Agility Muscles” to improve flexibility in approaching supply chain issues.
    4. Protect your company from cyber-attacks. One of Hallmark’s expediters was hit with a cyberattack last Sunday, and is now using manual processes until their systems are back up which could be weeks.
    5. Accept that your supply chain team will no longer be the hero of the company. The new normal means that your team is no longer able to save the day by themselves. Create cross-departmental communication patterns that seeks input from all stakeholders.

    Finally, Ms. Gribble ended her presentation with some advice for dealing with the mental strain of the pandemic. Stop saying “It can’t get any worse.” We have learned that it can get worse.

    Thanks to Beau Jackson of Husch Blackwell Law Firm for arranging the Milburn Country Club for our event!

  • Tuesday, March 01, 2022 1:56 PM | Mary Odom


    March 1, 2022
    For more information:
    Mary Odom, Executive Director

    Fang Shen Selected for the ITCGKC Women in International Business Award

    (Kansas City, MO) – The International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City is pleased to announce that Fang Shen, Partner at Husch Blackwell Law Firm has been selected as the 2022 recipient of the Women in International Business Award.  Ms. Shen leads the Asia Client Services team and concentrates on domestic and international mergers and acquisitions, loans and financing transactions, corporate law matters, and global manufacturing and distribution. She is fluent in Chinese and English and received her legal education in the United States and China which enables her to counsel U.S. businesses expanding to China and Chinese companies for their legal needs in the United States. Ms. Shen currently serves on the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of KC Board of Directors and the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation Board of Directors .

    The ITC honors a distinguished woman in the Kansas City international business community each year. Criteria for award recipient include: 

    • Professional achievement (in international trade/development), and has a long-standing career in international trade.
    • Is involved with other organizations in business and the community, and shares their expertise
    • Proudly represents KC nationally and internationally
    • Is a member of or supports the ITCGKC and its mission
    • Has promoted the Kansas City metro as a center for international trade
    • Has often held leadership roles to mentor or advise future IB professionals
    • Has demonstrated a drive to educate and develop others in international trade
    • Has an inspirational story of her own path

    About the International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City (ITCGKC)

    The International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City was founded during World War II by a group of area business leaders with the purpose of promoting Kansas City’s regional products and trade prospects. Since our founding in 1944 our mission has changed slightly to reflect the times but has retained our core values – to foster development, expansion and education of international trade. ITCGKC is found online at, and can be followed on Twitter at @ITCKC. 

    # # #

    Download the full press release PDF here.

© 2021 International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City

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.

PO Box 12340
Kansas City, MO 64116


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