APRO Associate member Slumba LLC, a pillow and mattress manufacturer and supplier, recently announced after 10 years of industry expertise and experience they are now available in the United States. The company whose core value is to “look after your sleep, so you can follow your dreams,” first launched its ‘mattress in a box’ in Australia and is a proud partner of the rent-to-own industry and its valued customers.

Slumba affirms that a good night’s sleep is paramount to optimizing personal performance and comfort and support should never be exchanged for affordability. Some of the features its products include are gel infused microbeads to regulate temperature and bamboo-charcoal memory foam layers that repels moisture and combats odor.  Slumba pillows also feature a hypo-allergenic ice-fiber cover giving the product an added level of cooling relief.

For more information on Slumba, contact Howard Topping at 630/334-2101 or howard.topping@gmail.com.

The Tennessee Rental Dealers Association [TRDA] will hold its Annual Meeting on June 26 and 27 at the Courtyard Marriott Downtown in Nashville, TN. The event will include a networking lunch, dinner, vendor presentations, and an industry legal update presented by APRO General Counsel Ed Winn III. All state association presidents and TRDA members, as well as their staff, are welcome to attend.

The lunch and group dinner in downtown Nashville will provide an opportunity for attendees to network and get the latest on product reviews and services from vendors in attendance.

For more information and/or to RSVP for the 2019 TRDA Annual Meeting, contact TRDA President Chris Bolin at 931/906-2066, bolinrto@cdelightband.net. Click here to reserve your room online or by calling 800/321-2211 and mention promo code “Tennessee Rental Dealers Association” for the special TRDA negotiated rate of $229 a night.

PARD board of directors  Farzad Irani, Phillip Bumbry, Sandi Frye, Tony Mitchell and Dan Fisher

The Pennsylvania Association of Rental Dealers [PARD] met for its Annual Meeting last week in Harrisburg, PA. The event included educational training, vendor sessions, presentations by 2018 RTO World speakers Jim Corter, Corter Consulting, and Mike McDowell, Social Joey; a Pennsylvania Legislative Overview by John O’Connell, PARD Lobbyist; and an election for 2019-2020 board of directors where Phillip Bumbry was named PARD president.

APRO board member Sandi Frye had served as the Pennsylvania State Association president for more than a decade. “I have loved being PARD president,” says Frye. “It has allowed me to develop myself and the dealers in Pennsylvania. I have been able to get the state association going in the right direction and believe Phillip has a good vision. I am excited to see it reach the next level.” Frye will continue to serve as a PARD board member.

Students from the local Nativity School expressed their appreciation for PARD’s continued support for their education.

This year’s meeting was also attended by students from the local Nativity School, a nonprofit Catholic school for inner-city students, that PARD donates to each year. Members from the school expressed their appreciation for the donation of 4 iPads and the continued support for their education. PARD also donated $1000 to the Maria Fisher Scholarship Fund.

PARD’s newly elected board of directors are Phillip Bumbry, president; Dan Fisher, vice president; Tony Mitchell, secretary; and board members Sandi Frye and Farzad Irani.

For more information about PARD, contact state association president Phillip Bumbry at 443/838-6057, phillip@mawolfpack.com.

APRO would like to give a special shout out to Kate Addy, Creative Director of Rent-2-Own, for the design of the RTO World 2019 Small Batch Managers’ Track logo. Thanks for sharing your talents with us, Kate!

This year’s schedule introduces a new condensed program specially crafted for store managers. The jam-packed 24-hour Small Batch Managers’ Experience contains a dozen educational sessions to choose from, a facilitated store managers’ meetup, an invitation to the RTO World Hot Show and Welcome Reception, followed by the Emerging Leaders Networking Social, and an exclusive store managers’ sneak peek of this year’s tradeshow prior to its official opening—all for just $99 per manager!

Small Batch Managers’ Track

Tuesday, August 6

1:00 pm – 1:30 pm Store Managers’ Registration Check-in
1:45 pm – 4:45 pm RTO Education Sessions
  • 1:45 pm – 2:35 pm: Store Managers’ Meetup
  • 2:45 pm – 3:35 pm: Breakout 1
  • 3:45 pm – 4:35 pm: Breakout 2
4:45 pm – 6:45 pm Hot Show Welcome Reception & Sale
9:00 pm Emerging Leaders Networking Social

Wednesday, August 7

8:00 am – 9:45 am Store Managers’ Expo Pre-show Sneak Peek and Breakfast
10:00 am – 1:00 pm RTO Education Breakout Sessions

To qualify for the Small Batch Managers’ Experience $99 registration, attendees must:

  • Be an active APRO and/or TRIB Group member company,
  • Have at least one full registration from their company,
  • Be a Store Manager (responsible for managing one store only). Regional and District Managers need to register under the additional attendee category.

*This schedule is tentative and subject to change.

Stay tuned for more details and the opening of RTO World 2019 registration coming soon!

George Ramel won Best Performance Over Sales Quota and Most Dollar Volume in Sales in New Upholstery Division from Progressive Furniture at the High Point Furniture Market in North Carolina

APRO associate member and spring 2019 APROfile subject George Ramel recently won Best Performance Over Sales Quota and Most Dollar Volume in Sales in New Upholstery Division from Progressive Furniture at the High Point Furniture Market in North Carolina. The company held its Annual Award Dinner presented by Dan Kendrick, president of Progressive Furniture, and Mike France, vice president of sales and marketing of Progressive Furniture.

“George was the top seller in our newest category in Upholstery Furniture, and because of his great success he achieved the highest total sales percentage in 2018 on his annual given quota,” says France. “We are very happy with the Ramel’s success at Progressive.”

George and Angie Ramel have been working side-by-side to serve rent-to-own dealers at Progressive Furniture for the past ten years. George was introduced to the industry in his early career with Bassett Furniture where he initially crossed paths with France. “My first interaction with George was in 1971 when we first worked for Bassett Furniture. We’ve been associated together with several different companies over the years,” says France. “They are both terrific people to know and work with at Progressive Furniture.”

“I am so humbled to receive these two awards,” shares Ramel. “We could not have achieved these accomplishments without the support of the industry.”

Congratulations, George! Click here to read more about George and Angie Ramel in our spring 2019 APROfile “A Marriage That Works.”

2019 KRDA Board of Directors Micheal Strong, Mike Strong, Brett Reed, Angela Strong-McCool, Jess Fisher, Gloria Homeier, Rick Rineberg, Shaun Rush, Jim Brown, and Adam Green. Not pictured: Eddie McCain.

The Kansas Rental Dealers Association annual meeting was held April 23 and 24 in Wichita. The event featured RTO industry updates and insights from rent-to-own esteemed peers, including APRO’s 2018 Ernie Talley Lifetime Achievement recipient Jim Brown; Dan Fisher, owner of Majik Rent To Own; and Rachel Casey, regional manager of Rent-2-Own. KRDA members also enjoyed a rental dealer and vendor mixer with prize giveaways, a bowling outing, vendor presentations, educational workshops and board of directors elections.

“We had a wonderful turnout this year!” shares Angela Strong-McCool, KRDA President. “I was so pleased to have great support from not only state association dealer members and staff but from our vendors as well.”

KRDA Keynote Dan Fisher presents “The Advantage of Creating a Healthy Corporate Culture”

Attendees that were unable to attend this year’s APRO Legislative Conference held in early April were able to get an update from Brown who has represented the state of Kansas on behalf of the industry at 20 conferences over the years. Additional presentations included “Managing the Invisible Inventory” by Casey who serves stores and web sales for Ohio-based Rent-2-Own, and “The Advantage of Creating a Healthy Corporate Culture” by Fisher who owns 13 independent RTO stores in Pennsylvania and serves as president of TRIB Group.

KRDA members also participated in an engaging workshop, “What brings you in today?” that focused on a thriving workplace. The open forum uncovered values and traits that drive productivity and included a discussion on goals to create a winning team.

KRDA’s newly elected, or re-elected, board of directors are Angela Strong-McCool, president; Brett Reed, vice president; Mike Strong, treasurer; and board members Adam Green,Gloria Homeier, Eddie McCain, Rick Rineberg, Shaun Rush, and Michael Strong.

“Thank you to all of our amazing vendors for their continued support!” says Strong-McCool. “KRDA members would also like to give a special thank you to Ashley Furniture, Benefit Marketing Solutions, Coaster Co. of America, C&L Supply, HighTouch, Nationwide Southwest, O’Rourke, Progressive Furniture, PTS Direct Benefit, and TRIB Group for sponsoring the event.”

State Capitol of Illinois in Springfield

The Illinois Rental/Purchase Dealers Association will hold its annual legislative meeting next Wednesday, May 8, at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. The group will meet for breakfast and an informational session with Mike Houlihan, Illinois Lobbyist, before breaking out for a day of meetings with Illinois state lawmakers.

The event will kick off at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning at Mike Houlihan’s office located at 600 S. 2nd Street, Suite 400, Springfield, IL. IRDA President Kelly Martin, Casey Pristou, Larry Carrico and Mike Houlihan will cover the importance of the event, a review of IRDA history in Springfield and a legislative update. Please contact Martin at 314/400-6340 or kellymartin@shoprentone.com if regional or store managers will be attendance to accommodate for food and beverage.

Joshua and Ophilia Ciesicki with their daughter Arya at the 2019 APRO Legislative Conference dinner.

APRO held a “What’s Your RTO Story?” contest in February awarding winners an opportunity to share their most inspiring RTO stories at the 2019 APRO Legislative Conference held on April 9-11 in Washington, D.C. One of this year’s runners-up was Joshua Ciesicki, owner/partner of two Great Rooms stores, and this is his RTO Story:

Joshua Ciesicki got his start with Rent-To-Own in 2005. “I was a high school drop out with some self-esteem and confidence issues,” recalls Ciesicki, who was married with four children at the time.

I never really thought I would amount to much more than a construction worker or some type of manual laborer.” Today, Ciesiciki is an owner/partner with two Great Rooms stores in Polk County and hopes to open a third store by the end of this year. 

Ciesicki, who has never shied away from hard work, says the RTO industry provided him with the opportunity to find fulfillment through his effort. He gets to know his customers as people rather than just numbers, learning their stories and circumstances to help them pay their bills. Over time, Ciesiciki leveraged these relationships into career opportunities and eventually worked his way into ownership of his own RTO business. 

Staying involved with the community remains an important part of the job for Ciesicki, whose customers have followed him from store-to-store during his career. In 2014, he held his first annual Back to School party for customers who received free backpacks filled with school supplies. His stores continue this yearly Back to School event, handing out 100 backpacks at each store location. 

The Spring 2019 issue of RTOHQ: The Magazine covers industry events and news that took place early this year. Take a look back on events and photos spent with rent-to-own colleagues at The Premier Companies’ National Convention in Miami, RentDirect Nationwide’s Bi-annual 2019 Meeting and Hot Show Auction in Las Vegas, TRIB Group’s Meeting of the Minds in Nashville, and much more.

Some additional colleagues you’ll see in this issue are George and Angie Ramel of Progressive Furniture and Lyn Leach of Ace Rent-To-Own. Read more on how George and Angie found a new level of happy in working side-by-side in our APROfile A Marriage That Works; and how Lyn Leach is investing in a digital future in our Spotlight Survival of the Freshest.

Also in this issue, enjoy reading about the events and many attractions at RTO World 2019 August 6-8 in Louisville, KY. The inaugural RTO World last year was a resounding success as rent-to-own professionals from around the globe gathered in St. Louis for the first-ever APRO and TRIB Group collaboration on a national rent-to-own convention and trade show. The brainchild of the two organizations brought more than 700 members from both organizations for the industry’s biggest event of the year and left many wanting more. This year, while you’re in Louisville, mixing RTO World business with pleasure will be easy with so much this destination has to offer. Check out our feature Hold on to Your Horses, We’re Off to Louisville! to plan your trip to Louisville for RTO World!

Always one of APRO’s most read and appreciated contributors to RTOHQ: The Magazine is the association’s general counsel, Ed Winn III. In this issue, he delves into “Disparate Impact” the judicial doctrine and why rental dealers should be aware of its impact and how it affects their business.

Click here to read the entire Spring 2019 issue of RTOHQ: The Magazine

Congressman Steve Stivers (R–Ohio, District 15), Mike Tissot, Jill McClure, Gary Ferriman.

Rent-to-own dealers and vendors from across the country met at our nation’s capital during the 2019 APRO Legislative Conference April 9-11 in Washington, D.C. This year’s conference hit its highest attendance in APRO history when there is not RTO legislation pending. The goal this year was to tell the rent-to-own story to lawmakers, so they could better understand the positive contributions of the industry to its employees, customers, and communities. The group of RTO advocates attended more than 150 meetings on Capitol Hill, representing 22 states and Puerto Rico, and included 13 state association presidents. “This year, a third of our conference attendance were first-time attendees,” according to APRO Executive Director Jill McClure. “One of the most rewarding experiences during the week was having conference newcomers connecting with our veteran advocates and seeing them huddle in the hallways together before heading into lawmakers’ offices side-by-side. That collaboration is what the future of our RTO advocacy requires to be effective.”

The purpose of the APRO Legislative Conference is to protect our industry and familiarize lawmakers with the rent-to-own industry. This will help ensure that Members of Congress have at least a passing acquaintance with how RTO really works for the continued safety and existence of the transaction. “We’re working to lay the groundwork,” says Robbie Kamerschen, APRO government relations committee chairperson and Aaron’s Inc. general counsel at the First-time Attendee Orientation. “We’re here to make friends, build relationships, connect to our local districts, and have fun.”

Robert Feliciano, Charles Smitherman, Dan Singh, Chip Guy and Aaron Windsor at the Climb the Hill Pre-party Tuesday night.

The highly attended Welcome Reception sponsored by Benefit Marketing Solutions was one of two new events that kicked off this year’s conference. Ample time for more networking and training was provided, including the annual Breakfast Briefing sponsored by TRIB Group before meeting face-to-face with lawmakers on the Hill, and the newly added First-time Attendee Orientation.

Special guests included James Butera and Robert Royer, nationally recognized lobbyists and attorneys who specialize in financial legislative and regulatory matters. They informed attendees about building relationships with legislative staffers who keep lawmakers up-to-date on the wide variety of issues they must deal with. “It can’t be underestimated the importance of meeting and following up with staff,” says Royer. “Write a note and follow up a month later so the next time you’re in Washington, the staff will remember you and the positive impact the RTO industry has on the economy and community.” Attendees can click here to find the mailing address for their Representatives or here for their Senators.

Paul Metivier, Josh Ciesicki, Adam Sutton, Vivian Kaye and David Kaye meet with Laura C. Forero, Scheduler & Legislative Correspondent for Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D–Florida, District 26).

After a full day of successful meetings on the Hill on Wednesday, attendees were shuttled to the front steps of the Capitol building for a group photo, shuttles courtesy of Progressive Furniture. After assembling for the photo, attendees were then transported to the majestic Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center for dinner sponsored by RentDirect Nationwide.

The 2019 APRO Legislative Conference dinner, held in the rotunda of the Ronald Reagan Center, commenced with a few words from APRO Executive Director Jill McClure including a special thank you to this year’s sponsors: RentDirect Nationwide, TRIB Group, Benefit Marketing Solutions, Progressive Furniture, Garris Horn PLLC, Gemini Sound and PTS Financial Services whose financial support made the conference possible.

McClure recognized the dedication of the attendees for advocating on behalf of the industry and the importance of committing time and resources to the industry’s legislative efforts. She then introduced Bruce Manning, Director of RentDirect Nationwide, sponsor of the evening’s elegant dinner, who spoke to the group for a few minutes about why he comes to Washington and why RentDirect chose to support this event. “I’ve had a really great couple of days,” says Manning. “In our meetings, we talked a lot about integrity and customer service, and I think we built a lot of good bridges which is what this event is all about.”

Heather Kitchen, a store manager with Rent-2-Own and winner of APRO’s “What’s Your RTO Story?” contest, was also recognized at the dinner. Kitchen won a free trip to D.C. to attend the conference and personally share her inspiring RTO story with lawmakers on the Hill.

Alex Lockley and Josh Segovia, Majik Rent To Own, with Bruce Manning, RentDirect Nationwide, at the Legislative Conference dinner Wednesday evening.

McClure then introduced footage of this year’s conference highlights produced by Nationwide PrimeMedia. The advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C. on behalf of APRO and the industry, and on behalf of the thousands of people who depend on this industry for their livelihood, were documented by the Nationwide PrimeMedia film crew. Keep an eye out for the release of the final version of the video, coming soon.

APRO President Louis Garcia thanked the APRO board of directors and vendor advisory committee for their service. Garcia also recognized past board members in attendance before introducing Jim Brown, the 2018 APRO Ernie Talley Lifetime Achievement winner and sole surviving rental dealer who can claim original membership in APRO.

Brown addressed the group, giving accolades to APRO General Counsel Ed Winn and his longtime commitment to keeping dealers informed on ethical and legal issues affecting RTO. Brown also reflected on and shared advice from his many years of experience attending meetings on Capitol Hill.

The dinner concluded with surprise special guest Congressman Steve Stivers (R–Ohio, District 15). Stivers, a longtime supporter and friend of the industry, dropped in to commend the notable ongoing rent-to-own efforts at both the state and national level. “I appreciate the risks you take as entrepreneurs to drive the economy,” shares Stivers. “Employing local communities and paying your taxes is what contributes to this country.”

The 2019 Legislative Conference attendees including special guest Congressman Steve Stivers at dinner Wednesday night.

The 2019 APRO Legislative Conference was a success thanks to this year’s attendees and sponsors.  “Historically, this annual event has worked well for building positive relationships with lawmakers, and it’s an investment we must continue to make,” says McClure. “We’d like to express our gratitude to all APRO members who traveled to Washington to advocate on behalf of not only their own businesses, but for all the employees and colleagues who depend on this industry for their livelihood.”

Please remember to submit all of your photos and meeting notes to legcon@rtohq.org. Stay tuned for more coverage in the coming weeks and the summer issue of RTOHQ: The Magazine.

Click here to view more photos of the 2019 APRO Legislative Conference.