AV People: Penny Sitler of Draper

Penny_Sitler-1114Penny Sitler is a staple of the AV industry… but working in AV wasn’t something she originally thought she’d do!

“I really did fall into the industry,” Penny explained. “ I went to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. My passion was for languages and business and I was a romance languages and international business major. Back when I could take an intro to computer programming class and they’d roll a Radio Shack TRS80 into the room to teach us… it just didn’t seem all that interesting at the time.

“While I was in college, I’d come home for the summers and I’d work for a local company… I was a summer intern at Draper Shade & Screen (as it was called then). I worked for the marketing manager, John Pidgeon. I remember asking him if he would look over a cover letter and resume for me and instead of doing that, he offered me a job. So, I have worked for him ever since.”

That was almost 33 years ago, and John is Draper’s president today.

Penny started off working with print promotions and brochures — developing a lot of the marketing materials. She also did some sales support at the time because, quite frankly, a full time advertising department just wasn’t needed at that time.

Penny has loved that over time, things at Draper, Inc. (and in the industry) have just grown. The technology has changed and evolved and Draper produces all its marketing in house… whereas they used to go to an outside designer for typesetting and page layout…and the internet, video production and social media just didn’t exist. Today, Draper is doing all of those things (and SO MUCH MORE) in house. The marketing team is a team of eight very creative people now. So things have come a long way.

Between Draper’s growth in size, number of employees, product volume and strengthening of its lines, it’s all added so much interest to the creative work that Penny and her team get to do. Penny believes that’s a big part of what contributes to her longevity (and so many others’) at the company.

“It is not uncommon for people to stay here at Draper a long time,” said Penny. “I work with people where we have raised our children side by side. Most of the sales management team have been here at least 15 years. If you go back to the factory, I knew a man who retired after more than 50 years with Draper. We have others who have been here 40+ years.

“The company is really personal — family owned since 1902 — started by John’s great grandfather and the owners have a real commitment not only to the industry, but also to the community and the employees… they balance making decisions. They don’t look only at the bottom line. They make it very clear to all of us that they are taking into consideration what’s good for the company, employees, and community. It’s a good place to be. Plus, we’re in a small town community and many of us have local roots.”

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Draper is headquartered in Spiceland, Indiana — a very small town of a population of just under 1,000… the employee base of Draper is about 500. So the Draper factory and facility is definitely the largest thing in Spiceland.

As a person who has stayed rooted in a small, rural community, Penny loves that she’s able to get out and connect with the rest of the industry — people from all over the country and all over the world.

“We have lots of relationships with dealers who are selling our products,” said Penny. “I love meeting my peers. The growth of social media has helped so much because it’s so easy to stay in touch with people between trade shows and other events that bring us physically together.”

Outside of her work at Draper, Penny has been active for over 20 years with the Indiana Business and Professional Women. That’s one of the ways that she loves to give back.

Penny also has a husband who is a pastor and she loves supporting him in his ministry.

Another fun fact is Penny is also a musician (a pianist) and participates in a lot of church music… in fact, she winds up going to a lot of different churches to play.

“I have been playing the piano since I was five,” said Penny. “I worked at it pretty hard all the way through high school and then it came time to decide what my greatest passion was and it just wasn’t piano… but I do still enjoy it very much.”

On top of that, Penny and her husband have two wonderful kids, both in college now. Her son is a composer and songwriter and is in a band. Her daughter is going to school in St. Paul, Minnesota and Penny is very thankful for Skype in order to keep in touch.

Overall, Penny is driven to love and support her family and her Draper and industry colleagues.

“Coming into the industry today, there’s a lot to learn, but there are so many opportunities to learn,” said Penny. “I encourage anyone starting out to get out there and find the classes, read the blogs, and learn and connect from the people of this great industry.”