Meet ICFA’s 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award winners

HIGH POINT— The International Casual Furnishings Assn. has named the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipients for 2024.

Happy Land and Joseph Ziolkowski will be honored at the ICFA Awards Gala on July 16 during Casual Market Atlanta. The Lifetime Achievement Award was created in 2002 to distinguish industry executives whose ideas have advanced the growth of the casual furniture industry and whose actions and accomplishments have served as role models or inspirations for others.

Happy Land, former sales manager for several casual furniture manufacturers and now a member of the retail staff of Custom Outdoor Furniture in Garden City, S.C., and Joseph Ziolkowski, executive director of the Summer and Casual Furniture Manufacturers Assn. in the mid-1980s, will each be honored as part of the evening program at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

According to ICFA officials, when 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award winner Happy Land considered switching her banking and tax collection career to sell Pawleys Island Hammocks, she was cautioned against leaving her secure future. However, she ignored the advice and set in motion a 40-plus-year career in the casual furnishings industry.

“I never looked back,” Land said. “Ahead, I found unlimited opportunities for personal and professional growth, world travel, building deep relationships and using my influence to affect significant advancements through IFCA board leadership.”

Land’s training for her new career included spending time with the artisans who created the handmade products for Pawleys Island Hammocks, many of whom represented several generations of talented craftspersons. She joined Pawley’s in 1982 and a few years later the company was named Manufacturer of the Year.

Observing the influence of the SCFMA board of directors on uniting and improving the industry, Land became the first woman to take a leadership role and worked with her Lifetime Award co-winner, Joseph “Joe Z.” Ziolkowski, SCFMA executive director.

“He is one of the many industry giants from whom I learned so much and admire tremendously to this day,” she said. “The board members’ support and encouragement were invaluable to my growth and learning experience and have compelled me to provide the same to those younger than me.”

After serving on the SCFMA/ICFA boards periodically throughout the next four decades, Land’s status evolved from representing a manufacturing company to becoming an independent sales representative. Currently, she participates in the retail segment.

“Before transitioning into the ICFA, the SCFMA members were all manufacturers and mostly male,” Land recalls. “I was often the only woman on the board in those days, and it concerned me that there weren’t more of us from the manufacturing sector shaping the future of an industry where most of the products are sold by women to women. When the retailers, suppliers and sales reps were all welcomed into the ICFA, new conversations and collaborations opened up. It was an extremely friendly atmosphere; everyone listened to each other’s concerns, and even though some of us were competitors, we found common ground and worked to make changes and improvements that have elevated our industry into the cohesive entity we are today.”

ICFA officials said that while driving programs and policies to benefit the industry through ICFA involvement have always been a source of satisfaction in Land’s professional life, selling is her true passion. Today, the former sales manager and now a part-time salesperson at Custom Outdoor Furniture in Murrells Inlet, S.C., offers the following advice.

“Be real, be honest, be sincere,” Land said. “A sale is much more than a number on a paper for which you claim credit. It’s important to establish a personal relationship with your customer. You must sell yourself without being aggressive if you are to earn their trust. It is equally important that you know what you’re talking about. Learn your product from the inside out. Customers respect your knowledge, and it gives them confidence in buying what you’re selling.

“Give everyone the respect they deserve and listen so that you can learn from them,” she continued. “Embrace what those before you have done and find your way to make our industry better. Become involved, attend conferences and network with everyone – especially those who might be competitors but share your challenges. Don’t rely solely on phones and computers. True personal connection comes from spending time together.”

After more than six decades of championing self-regulation of safety codes for the home furnishing industry, Joe Ziolkowski, known best by his nickname Joe Z., is being honored as a Lifetime Achievement Award winner after a diverse professional journey.

“At 87 years old, I certainly have built a long lifetime of memories,” Ziolkowski said. “From my start at Burlington Industries, through my leadership positions at the National Assn. of Furniture Manufacturers (NAFM), the Summer and Casual Furniture Manufacturers Assn. (SCFMA), the American Furniture Manufacturers Assn. (AFMA) and my ‘post-retirement’ as executive director of the Upholstered Furniture Action Council (UFAC), I’m grateful for all the opportunities to work with outstanding people to promote change that advanced our industry and saved lives. I enjoy that reward every day.”

Ziolkowski began his professional career with Burlington in 1961. He joined the National Assn. of Furniture Manufacturers in 1978, and ICFA officials note that his diplomatic skills helped guide a merger with the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Assn. to create the organization that is now the AFMA.

“The office moved from the Washington D.C. area to High Point in 1984, and we focused on collaboration and addressing the issues that affected all manufacturers so we could find solutions together,” Ziolkowski recalled.

When the merger was complete, Ziolkowskil was tasked with developing and implementing the programs prioritized by the members. As executive director of the SCFMA, this included managing the interests of the outdoor furniture manufacturers by setting up seminars, planning the early Apollo Awards banquets and traveling domestically and internationally to advocate and lobby for the members. During those early days, Ziolkowski also expanded the facets of the industry awards program by moving from one retail Apollo Award to separating the Single-Store and Multi-store honors and broadening the number of categories in the Design Excellence competition. Another issue at the time was the desire among some members to relocate the biannual market from the Merchandise Mart in Chicago to Atlanta.

“The board of directors met in Atlanta in the early ’90s to discuss the move, and unanimously decided to stay in Chicago,” Ziolkowski said. “Almost 30 years later, the ICFA held the inaugural Casual Market Atlanta in July 2023 at AmericasMart.”

Another merger occurred under his leadership when a smaller casual furniture trade group based in Naperville, Ill., joined the SCFMA, increasing the number of manufacturing companies participating in the industry trade show at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. The SCFMA Board of Directors also inducted its first female member during Ziolkowski’s tenure and introduced a broad range of industry supplier members to the AFMA organization.

Ziolkowski said his most demanding project was convincing manufacturers of indoor and outdoor home furnishings to adopt the safety standards developed by the UFAC, of which he was an active member.

“My objective was to help hold the industry responsible, to have them participate and protect consumers with flammability standards based on the technical research of the UFAC. If they didn’t, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) would set their sights on us, and we’d have safety standards regulated by the government.”

Participation in the fire safety program in the U.S. became widespread under Ziolkowski’s leadership, and he traveled to Europe, Canada and Mexico, teaching international counterparts how to set up and monitor their versions of the UFAC program. He supplied them with hang tags for manufacturers that adopted the standards. Three years ago, more than four decades later, the CPSC mandated similar standards.

Ziolkowski retired from the AFMA in 2000, continuing his career for another 15 years as the executive director of the UFAC. His suggestions for those seeking a successful career are, “Never say anything bad about anyone. Talking about people says more about you than them. Always be nice. Don’t get excited if you disagree; don’t let the discussion get heavy or start an argument.”

His second retirement is spent enjoying time with his wife of 65 years, their daughter and son-in-law plus two grandchildren, now in their twenties. He focuses on maintaining his health, riding his stationary bicycle several times a week, fishing and reading three or four books weekly, and also participates in three different medical studies to help with research that will benefit future generations.

ICFA officials said that Ziolkowski is humble and uncomfortable with being characterized as a pioneer in promoting consumer safety.

“It took the combined effort of many significant industry members who, by volunteering their time and influence to serve on committees and investing in change, made our products safer,” Ziolkowski said. “It was always a collaborative mission.”

Land and Ziolkowski will be presented with their Lifetime Achievement Award during the ICFA Awards Gala on July 16 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Tickets are available for ICFA members to order tables for 10 guests priced at $800 or individual seats priced at $85 each. Non-members can secure tables at $1,1000 or individual seats at $110.

ICFA will donate 20 percent of ticket sales to City of Hope, the Duarte, California-based research and teaching hospital dedicated to curing cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Trolleys from AmericasMart will shuttle guests to and from the downtown location. A post-party on the field following the event will offer attendees the opportunity to celebrate with the honorees.

Tickets can be ordered online.

See also:

  • Top outdoor design trend? Blurring the lines between indoors and out 
  • And the winner will be? ICFA names 2024 Apollo Award finalists

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