The Extraordinary Women of Nassau Candy

By Heather Mayer

styling and photography by Jason Coronel

March is Women’s history month; a time where we collectively recognize the contributions of pioneering women throughout history. This month we are acknowledging some of the extraordinary women of Nassau Candy who make sure our sweets and snacks get from idea, to our factory line, to our distribution centers, to your shelves every day.

Meet some of the incredible women working across our organization.

Buying/ Purchasing

Pictured from left: Allison Lefkowitz and Caterina Macchia

Every item you see listed on NassauCandy.com, or in our catalogs was painstakingly selected by our specialty food and confectionery purchasing departments, headed up by Caterina Macchia and Allison Lefkowitz respectively. This is no small task, since we carry over 20,000 products.

Caterina Macchia

Gourmet Food Purchasing Department Manager
With Nassau Candy: 12.5 years
Favorite Nassau-made item: #205 – Nassau Candy 3-Ring Milk Chocolate Pretzel
Motto to Live By: Everything happens for a reason. . . 

Caterina Macchia leads the purchasing team for the specialty food side of Nassau Candy; we’re not just candy!  She’s constantly on the lookout for new, innovative brands for our assortment that customers can’t wait to have on their shelves. Prior to joining Nassau Candy, Caterina worked several years freelance in Television Production, but wanted consistency, which led to a purchasing position for a small distributor of electronic components. Food, according to Caterina, is way more interesting of a field than electronic components, so when she saw a purchasing position at Nassau Candy she couldn’t pass it up.

But Caterina utilizes her TV production experience constantly. When deciding on new brands for our selection, she puts on her TV production hat. “Just like how a TV show tells a story through dynamic visuals, in the food space, you tell a story through fun packaging, so packaging does play a role in my selection,” she says. And just like everyone loves re-runs, along with building up new brands, Caterina also spends time nurturing existing longtime brands through product line extensions and special promotions. Caterina is also in charge of organizing our very own trade show – Nassau Candy’s Specialty Food & Confectionery Expo, which showcases hundreds of brands.

Caterina owes a lot of her career success to her female role model and inspiration — her college volleyball coach.  “My college coach was herself a former college athlete who not only coached Women’s Volleyball at the collegiate level, but also ran her own printing company,” she says.  “She served as a great female role model to me, proving that women can have leadership roles in multiple careers, and in her case, two at the same time.”

Allison Lefkowitz

Category Manager – Confectionery
With Nassau Candy: 12 years
Favorite Nassau-made item: #30902 Milk Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Pretzels (she is biased – she helped come up with the concept)
Motto to Live by: Everything happens for a reason

When it comes to purchasing for Nassau Candy’s confectionery selection, the go-to woman in charge is Allison Lefkowitz.  Day-to-day at Nassau Candy, you can find Allison reviewing new everyday and seasonal confectionery items and brand new confectionery categories. An important part of her role is keeping up with the latest trends to be first to market with the next big breakout hit. Needless to say, sampling lots of candy is a daily occurrence (a perk Allison loves).  In today’s climate, a major part of her time is dedicated to securing inventory and mitigating price increases where she can due to rising costs of freight, raw materials, and ingredients.

Allison isn’t new to the confectionery business.  In fact, her path to Nassau Candy started out working for a Nassau Candy customer.  “In college I worked part-time at a candy store on Long Island that purchased from Nassau Candy,” she explains. “When the store closed, I was unsure on the next step in my career path. I took a position with Nassau Candy in their customer service department until I decided what was next for me. I fell in love with the industry and can’t imagine myself doing something else.”

When asked to identify a female mentor who’s helped her career, path, Allison couldn’t identify only one as there have been multiple women she considers her mentors. “There have been numerous women that have inspired me on my career path, but what has intrigued me most is their longevity in the industry,” she explains. “It was evident that the women in the industry formed their own “family” and want to see each other succeed.”  

Her advice to women eager to get into the confectionery industry, “The confectionery industry is a sense of community. My advice would be to talk to veterans and network with anyone and everyone. Continue to be curious and ask questions and most importantly have fun – it’s CANDY!”  

Product Development/Package Design/Marketing

Pictured from left: Laura Ubriaco and Dana Rodio

Along with the distributed lines procured by Caterina and Allison, Nassau Candy manufactures its own confectionery products. Developing these items and helping to market them fall on Dana and Laura within the Marketing Department.

Dana Rodio

Director of Brand Strategy
With Nassau Candy: 6 Months
Favorite Nassau-made Item: #30902 Milk Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Pretzels
Motto to Live by: Choose your attitude

Confections made in our factories for the retail market under the brands Nassau Candy, Clever Candy, and Nancy Adams all need to get to market where they can be merchandised and sold to happy candy fans from coast to coast. Enter Dana Rodio.  As our Director of Brand Strategy, Dana is in charge of building everyday and seasonal assortments for our in-house brands. She collaborates with all areas of the business, from product development, to production, to quality control, to marketing, to take products from concept to customers’ shelves. Though not new to the confectionery industry, this is Dana’s first role on the manufacturing side of the business.  She worked for nearly 20 years in confectionery retail and, according to Dana has enjoyed every minute of it.

“What I love about the confectionery industry is the emotional connection people have with candy,” Dana says. “It makes them feel something, turning them into a kid in a candy store.”

At Nassau Candy, she’s in her dream role — developing the items that she would have wanted to carry as a retailer. Dana attributes much of her success from the strong foundation she received studying early education with an emphasis on children with special needs.  “A good teacher is empathetic, patient, and makes learning fun,” she continues. “If you can embody those traits, you can find success in almost any field.”

Dana proudly notes an important influence on her career was mentor Dylan Lauren – a leader in the confectionery industry and owner of the Dylan’s Candy Bar chain.  “I started my career at Dylan’s Candy Bar where I spent nearly 20 years working directly for Dylan Lauren,” she says. “Her work ethic, dedication to detail, kindness, and creativity was something I always admired.”

Laura Ubriaco

Creative Director
With Nassau Candy: 15 Years
Favorite Nassau-made Item: #250 Nassau Candy Dark Chocolate Coconut Haystacks
Mottos to Live By:  “Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda and “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. “– Edgar Degas

Even confectionery items as tasty as those made and distributed by Nassau Candy, can use a little help from fun packaging, a strong digital presence, and dynamic marketing imagery.  This is where Laura Ubriaco shines.  As the Creative Director at Nassau Candy, Laura works with a multitude of creative functions daily. She is instrumental in the aesthetics (aka the visual look) of the Nassau Candy website, digital marketing pieces (like emails), catalogs, an array of package design, in-house brand development, and production art. Day to day you can find Laura brainstorming and collaborating with her super-talented team of photographers/videographers, stylists, package designers, layout artists, and copywriters to bring the visions of Nassau Candy’s upper management, marketing, and sales teams to life, all while maintaining strong brand guidelines.

This isn’t her first gig into the confectionery business. One of Laura’s first jobs was at a local candy store in her hometown. She always loved that positive vibe and energy. “Almost everyone who walks into a candy store is in a good mood, so it was a really nice environment to be in,” she explains. “When the opportunity arose to work for Nassau Candy, I think I still held on to that upbeat vibe associated with confectionery treats and it was a no brainer!”

Her studies at the School for Graphic Design at Pratt Institute prepared her for the variety of projects she encounters on a daily basis at Nassau Candy.  At Pratt she studied everything from fine art, to package design, to photography, to plate making for printing. All those skills and experience definitely come into play here at Nassau Candy with such a variety of creative operations taking place in house.

Throughout her career, Laura’s longtime friend and Nassau Candy coworker Photographer/Stylist Laurie Mosco has been an invaluable mentor “Early in my career, I would get hung up on what I thought someone else wanted out of my artwork, and Laurie showed me (by example) to trust my instincts and just do what felt natural to me,” Laura explains.  “Now we have been working together here at Nassau Candy for about 12 years and I think we both continue to inspire each other!”

As she’s mentoring other women coming up in the industry, Laura tells them to “Pay attention to the trends, but never forget the classics. Classics have longevity for a reason.”  

Operations/Quality Assurance

Maria Adames-Morrison

Vice President Research & Development, and Technical Services
With Nassau Candy: 17 years
Favorite Nassau-made Item: #41170 Nancy Adams Dark Chocolate Mint Cremes
Motto to Live by: “Live Life Honorably and Humbly.”

Maria Adames-Morrison

While our manufactured items look and taste great, our number one priority is ensuring that all our products, as well as our marketing materials, meet the standards for food safety, too.  Maria Adames–Morrison is our expert.  As Vice President Research & Development, and Technical Services, Maria oversees our compliance departments Quality, Regulatory and Sanitation, to ensure our facilities are producing Safe Quality Foods.  Maria also proofreads marketing materials and packaging to make sure we are compliant with laws and industry standards.

Although this is Maria’s first role in the confectionery industry, it’s not her first role working with sweets.  Maria also worked in quality and sanitation in the Bakery Industry.  But it wasn’t just the sweets that drew Maria to Nassau Candy.  “During my interview at Nassau Candy, our CEO laid out his visions for the growth of the company, which was very much in line with my career path. I knew this was a place I wanted to work.”  17 years later she’s maintained that career path, advancing to the role of Vice President Research & Development, and Technical Services at Nassau Candy.

Maria found her female mentor close to home. “My biggest female role model was my grandmother – she did it all!” she says.  “I try to take that hard-working attitude to everything I do.”

For anyone considering a career in the confectionery industry, Maria says “There are so many exciting roles for women [and men] in our industry. I say, believe in yourself. Be confident, and be a great listener!”

Customer Service

Dawn Malalan

Dawn Malalan

Director of Customer Experience – Confectionery Division
With Nassau Candy: 4 years
Favorite Nassau-made Item: #31811 Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Pretzels
Motto: “The only problem I can’t fix is the one I don’t know about” and “Don’t let good enough be good enough”

Once our distributed and manufactured items are in our distribution centers and ready to be sold, Dawn’s team goes into action. Dawn’s heads up the team that interfaces with our customers, getting them set up to shop and ensuring that customers are happy with their deliveries.  As Director of Customer Experience – Confectionery Division, Dawn spends her time reviewing new customer requests, addressing all elevated customer complaints, and coaching and training new and existing employees. She’s also known to jump into a live chat, through the Candie Cane chatbot on the Nassau Candy website, responding to customers’ feedback and questions.  Throughout it all, Dawn is always on the lookout to identify areas of  improvement so we can continue to provide our customers the best possible experience possible.  In fact, her motto to live by goes hand in hand with her work here at Nassau Candy, “The only problem I can’t fix is the one I don’t know about.”

Dawn is relatively new to the confectionery industry, stepping into her current role 4 years ago. Prior to coming to Nassau Candy Dawn worked in the dental supply industry for 18 years where she put her degree in business management to good use, quickly rising through the ranks. She says she wasn’t drawn to the confectionery business as much as she was drawn to Nassau Candy specifically. “When hearing about the position and the potential growth of the organization, I knew Nassau Candy was a place I wanted to work,” she says.  “I have seen such tremendous growth over the past 4 years and I know that there is still so much more to come.”

The female role model who stands out the most for Dawn — her first Manager, Dori. “She (Dori) started out her career very young and excelled her career within the organization,” Dawn explains. “She took me under her wing and taught me a lot my first few years of my career.”

Her advice for those new to the confectionery industry, “Be yourself and be a partner with the businesses that we work with. Listen to what the customer is asking for. Sometimes the best solutions come from customer feedback.”

Sales

Pictured from left: Sharon Oder and Jill Mathison

While our candy’s journey might end with being shipped to retailers across the country, Nassau Candy’s relationship with its customers does not.  Our sales team, including super-stars Jill Mathison and Sharon Oder, is in constant contact with our customers, keeping them up-to-date on the latest food and confectionery trends, and offering creative solutions on ways to grow their business.

Jill Mathison

Senior Sales Executive
With Nassau Candy: 28+ years
Favorite Nassau-made item: #272 Nassau Candy Jumbo English Toffee Squares and #156F Nassau Candy Fine Buttercrunch
Motto to Live By: Don’t take no for an answer. There are always ways to turn a no into a yes.

Jill might be newer to the sales side of the business but isn’t new to Nassau Candy.  She started her career at Nassau Candy in Customer Service, taking sales orders.  Twenty-eight years ago, the business did not have a website and orders were taken over the phone, written out by hand, and physically walked to the next department.  Technology evolved and so did Jill, moving 7 years ago from customer service into a sales role. 

In her current role as Senior Sales Executive, Jill is looking for new business opportunities, identifying new business opportunities with her current clients, and looking for new potential customers.

Sales is in Jill’s blood.  Her father owned a stand at a flea market where she would help out. “I would work with him at the flea market, trying to draw customers in and get them to make a purchase,” she says “It’s there where I really started to hone my sales skills.” Before coming to Nassau Candy, she held sales roles at the Yellow Pages and for an adult literacy publishing company.

It was at the publishing company that Jill met her female mentor and manager Libby.  “She brought me under her wing and helped me sharpen my sales skills,” she says. “Now I have the privilege to pay Libby’s help forward, and mentor and train both men and women here at Nassau Candy.”

When mentoring the next generation of executives, she likes to impart advice given to her by Nassau Candy President Barry Rosenbaum— “Surround yourself with good people, listen, learn, and absorb everything.”

Sharon Oder

Senior Account Manager
With Nassau Candy: 20+ years
Favorite Nassau-made item: #156 Nassau Candy Buttercrunch and #167 Nassau Candy Dark Chocolate Nonpareils
Motto to Live by:  Think of life like a camera, focus on what’s important, capture the goods times, develop from the negatives, and if it doesn’t work out take another shot.

A mentee of Jill who’s become a fixture and major asset for the sales team is Senior Account Manager Sharon Oder, who has been with the company for 20+ years.  Sharon has a base of existing customers she is continuously nurturing relationships with, while on the lookout to bring in new sales targets. 

When approaching sales Sharon thinks of herself as a shark, keeping an eye out for new potential accounts and circling, looking for the right time to come in for the sale.  “There’s nothing that can stop me when I’m hunting a potential sale,” she says.

Sharon came to Nassau Candy after a long tenure working at pharmacies, working her way up to Manager at Park Drugs & Surgical (where she worked for 17+ years), then at Long Beach Chemist. Part of her responsibilities at both pharmacies was dealing with vendors and purchasing candy and tobacco for their stores.  “I feel this experience gives me a unique perspective into how our vendors do business as well the mindset of our customers, what their challenges are and how they make purchasing decisions.”

But it was Senior Account Executive Jill Mathison, and her former managers Bonnie Savel and Tara Mazzella who really helped Sharon flourish. “We were some of the few first women working here and Jill took me under her wing and really showed me the ropes and had an answer for my questions (and there were many),” she explains. “This mentorship has turned into a lifelong friendship.”

Sharon’s advice to anyone new to the confectionery industry “Stick to your principles both with the customer and as a representative of the company you work for.  You want to balance ‘the customer comes first’ with the needs and goals of your company. Try to see both sides and find solutions that help both achieve their goals.”

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