SanMar Profiles: One Person With Many Hats

August 10, 2021

Ten years is a long time.

It’s enough time to work at many different jobs, or to dive deep into one and get really good at it. It’s enough time to fill a passport with all the places you’ve been, trying new foods and experiencing the cultures of the world. It’s enough time to meet your best friend and start a family with them.

In the case of Marissa Holman, Account Executive at SanMar, ten years can mean all of the above.

“Listen. Listen. Listen.”

Marissa has seen a lot of change, but the superpower that serves her best has always been her ability to listen.

She grew up as a farm kid in a small town in North Dakota, helping out where she could and learning about the many moving parts that keep a local farm running. In high school she worked as a nurse assistant, and while she was in college she got her first taste of the retail world and customer service at a gourmet kitchen store. She learned phone skills and how to grow a thick skin while working at a credit card call center, and then it was on to the City of Angels.

“I was a small town kid in a very big city,” Marissa recalls, but she had family and friends there to support her while she explored work at a life insurance company, at Mercedes-Benz, and at HBO, to name just a few jobs she held while in Los Angeles.

After ten years in Los Angeles and with a sister living in Seattle, she went looking for something more calm and with a more regular schedule. Eventually she found SanMar, and then all the skills she had learned over the years came into play – especially her superpower: listening.

“What’s Going On Now, and What’s Next?”

Marissa’s training at SanMar started with customer service and developed into how to help build up a customer’s business.

“You tend to wear a lot of hats,” Marissa says. “Some days you take orders, others you work on projects, collaborate with customers, or you’re just there to just listen to them.” By listening, she comes to understand what they need and how she can best help them. “You start out getting your feet wet, fielding a lot of calls. After a while, you get to know them, seeing what they’re ordering and understanding their relationships.”

These days she likes to start a conversation by asking what a customer has going on now, and what’s coming up on the horizon. In early 2021 Marissa was contacted by a customer with a project that sounded familiar to her, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on why. Then it clicked.

“I’ll never forget when they reached out to me,” she remembers, “when the customer started telling me about what they’re doing, and I’m thinking ‘I know this story. I’ve seen it on CNN.’ My heart was just racing. Tears were coming down my face when I realized what it was.”

CNN journalist Andrew Kaczynski and Wall Street Journal reporter Rachel Ensign were intent on saving their daughter from a life-threatening brain cancer, and their Team Beans fundraising campaign grew from that effort. Marissa worked closely with SanMar sales manager Dave Behanna to address inventory issues and collaborate on ideas to help supply the campaign with what they needed. “I was just so honored and humbled to be a part of it,” says Marissa.

“Be Nice. The End.”

Be Nice. The End.Marissa carries this saying with her on a favorite shopping bag. It’s her favorite SanMar Family Value, and it speaks to her philosophy as a whole, in or out of work.

“Being nice is easy,” she says. She still remembers her first day of training at SanMar, when Marty Lott, his two sons and several from the sales leadership team visited the roomful of shiny new SanMar trainees. One of them said what she had already been thinking: “Everyone always wonders what’s in the Kool-Aid here. What makes them so nice?”

Now, ten years on, she understands the answer to those questions. “It’s just in the culture, the environment at SanMar,” says Marissa. Being nice has always been how she lives her life, and it’s a big part of why people like her stay at SanMar for so long.

“I really love the relationships I’ve formed with co-workers and customers,” says Marissa. She’s worked with some customers for so long that she knows everything about their family. Over time she becomes a trusted advisor and a friend. “It’s work,” she adds, ”but it’s family too.”

Marissa and her daughterThese words are especially true for Marissa. “This guy walked in and sat next to me on the first day of training,” she recalls. “He introduced himself and we completely clicked.” Marissa and Adam went through the whole training process together, after which they both went back to their homes for six months or so, putting their training to work. Then one day, he asked her out. Not long afterwards, they were married.

“We were friends first,” says Marissa. “And we’re best friends now.” Marissa and Adam have been together for nine years and they have a daughter who makes them laugh every day.

“SanMar is the reason that we’re together,” she says. “It really speaks to what family means here.”

In ten years, Marissa Holman has developed a new career, met and married her best friend and started a family, and formed meaningful relationships with both her colleagues and customers. She travels and hikes and plays pickleball and her midday walks never fail to put her in a great headspace.

Whatever the next ten years bring for Marissa and her family, there’s no doubt that it’s going to be an adventure.

Marissa and Adam