Q&A: NBVA President Judi Heston Says Bulk's Future Is Bright

Posted On: 10/14/2014

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TAGS: bulk vending, vending industry, coin-op news, coin machine industry, Judi Heston, NBVA president, National Bulk Vendors Association, Steve Schechner, U.S. coinage, U.S. Mint, coin production, Theisen Vending Co., Judi Heston Question & Answer interview

Judi Heston, Bulk Vending
WHAT'S HAPPENING? Judi Heston is pictured here at the 2014 NBVA trade show, held in March at the Las Vegas (NV) Convention Center. Next year's NBVA convention and trade show will be held from Mar. 24 to 26, at the same Las Vegas venue. Seminars will be held on Tuesday (Mar. 24) and the show will be open on Wednesday and Thursday (Mar. 25-26). NBVA will collocate its show with Amusement Expo for the fifth time in 2015.

Judi Heston began her two-year term as president of the National Bulk Vendors Association in March, succeeding Steve Schechner of Capital Vending (Florence, AL). Heston is the second woman to hold the top post of the 64-year-old trade association. She brings to NBVA more than two decades of experience in vending and coin-op. Among the NBVA's biggest challenges today is coinage. Congress has tasked the U.S. Mint to find ways to make U.S. coin production cheaper, which involves studying the possible use of alternative metallic content. Any changes made to the U.S. quarter could impact the coin acceptance of millions of vending machines. Vending Times recently caught up with Heston, who works for Theisen Vending Co. (Golden Valley, MN) to discuss the state of the bulk vending sector and the direction in which she'd like to steer the association.

Tell us a little about your background in bulk vending and at Theisen Vending Co.?

I have been at Theisen Vending Co. for 21 years. Originally, Theisen had hired me to work with dart and pool leagues. Later, when the opportunity arose to manage the bulk vending division, I eagerly accepted. The ever-trending products in bulk continue generate new business and keep things exciting.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing NBVA today and what do you hope to accomplish during your time as president?

The three greatest challenges for our association are technology, the U.S. Mint (and coinage issues) and membership. Technology is urging us to move forward with credit card readers. We currently support a coalition group, Don't Change Our Change, which is attempting to stop Congress from changing the dimension, weight and size of the quarter. Membership is near and dear to my heart. I feel it is my duty to attract new people, while addressing the needs of current members. Every one needs to know the value of their NBVA membership.

How have you seen the industry and the association change over the years?

While I have seen some product distributors close their doors over the years, I've also seen a new generation of vending business owners take their places with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Our association has now partnered with the Amusement and Music Operators Association and the American Amusement Machine Association for NBVA's annual trade show, which has been collocated with Amusement Expo for four years now. It has infused the bulk vending show with new faces and provided a broader perspective to the vending and coin-op businesses. And now that we are following Amusement Expo's two-day format, which includes a separate day of seminars, the NBVA convention and trade show is better than it's been in a while. NBVA's seminar program takes place the day before the show floor opens, allowing operators and exhibitors to participate in almost all of the events. Schedule reminders are also sent by text message during the show.

Great Tradition
Judi Heston takes her place among the leaders of the National Bulk Vendors Association as the second woman to lead the group. The first was Jane Mason, longtime executive secretary of the National Vendors Association, which changed its name to National Bulk Vendors Association in 1972. Mason, who was director of sales for the special products division at Leaf Confectionery (now Oak Leaf Confections), became NBVA president in 1980. At that time, she was said to be the first woman to head a national trade association (see VT, May 1980). Mason's protégée, Rose Schiller, followed in her footsteps as a tireless worker on the association's behalf while rising to the post of sales manager at Concord Confections (now part of Tootsie Roll Industries). Mason and Schiller are credited with launching the careers of many successful bulk operators. Their long service to the bulk industry is commemorated by NBVA's highest honor, the Jane Mason/Rose Schiller Award.

Do you see more major changes in store for the association? For instance, as a new generation enters the industry, will the NBVA have an increased online presence?

My crystal ball into the future is not clear, but that's why the association exists. If any changes occur with our currency, the association will be communicating them and making recommendations on the best possible procedures available. NBVA is online -- find us and "like" us on Facebook, and visit our website at nbva.info. Our website is currently being updated. In the future it will include a members only section. We're also working on updating our quarterly newsletter. And, we've renewed our commitment to keeping our membership informed about legal notifications regarding changes in taxes and other laws, as well as any lobbying activity on behalf of the bulk vending industry.

The industry is now composed of more small operators by some estimates. How do they benefit from becoming a member of the association?

When an operator joins, he or she will have an opportunity to participate in yearly meetings regarding relevant issues and network with other operators from across the country. As a member, an operator also receives information about tax regulations and other laws. They can also help shape our lobbying efforts. Now, we're working developing an online seminar program for members. As an association, we're always looking for ways to help our operator members.