Dayton Area Chamber salutes volunteer of the year and Raj Soin Award winners

Chamber gathered for its 115th annual membership meeting.

When your company’s revenue plummets 97% overnight, “agility” and “adaptability” become more than watchwords, Thomas Rajan, vice president of global sales for American Airlines, said in the keynote address at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual membership meeting Thursday.

They become the ways to survive, Rajan told an audience at Sinclair Community College, gathered for the chamber’s 115th annual membership meeting.

“Being agile is not just lip service,” said Rajan, whose company counts Dayton-based PSA Airlines as a wholly owned subsidiary. “It is a necessity.”

Rajan spoke of American’s and the airline industry’s path out of the pandemic, noting that airlines had to navigate a quickly changing array of desired destinations as lockdowns were lifted, directing flights and infrastructure to where customers wanted to go.

Flyers “didn’t want to go to Chicago,” he said. “When the world starting opening opening up, the world wanted to go to Cancun.”

The chamber honored partners and members Thursday who demonstrated adaptability in their own careers.

Retiring chamber board member Jana Collier, former publisher of Cox First Media, was recognized as the chamber’s “Phillip Parker volunteer of the year,” an award named after a former longtime chamber president and chief executive.

Collier retired as publisher of Cox First Media Dec. 31, 2022. Suzanne Klopfenstein assumed that role Jan. 1. Collier worked for Cox for 34 years and served as publisher since 2020.

Friends and fellow chamber leaders lauded Collier for assisting women in their own careers. Chris Kershner, the chamber’s president and CEO, noted that she helped found Empower, the chamber program designed for mid- to upper-level management women business leaders.

“It is wonderful to see so many strong women leaders here in this room,” Collier said.

Cox First Media is owned by Cox Enterprises and includes the Dayton Daily News, the Springfield News-Sun, the Journal-News, and Cox First Media advertising services.

Also announced Thursday: The winner of this year’s Raj Soin Award for Innovation award is Oakwood’s Lunnie LLC.

Lunnie is an intimates brand and online community for postpartum mothers. One key product launched online last year is the “All-Day Leakproof Nursing Bra.”

“It satisfies a major void in the market,” the company said in a chamber award nomination form. “Mothers spend over 1,800 hours breastfeeding a year, yet 84% are dissatisfied with their existing nursing bra, indicating a clear opportunity for Lunnie. The nursing bra market alone is $657 million in the U.S.”

“I was really bothered by my nursing bras,” founder and Chief Executive Sarah Kallile told the Dayton Daily News last year. “Here’s this essential garment for nursing moms and it wasn’t comfortable or leak proof.”

Kallile checked with friends and connections whom she knew were breastfeeding and asked for recommendations for brands of nursing bras.

“Everyone kept telling me that the bras they were wearing were just OK,” Kallile said last year. “In fact, when I sent out surveys, 84% of the moms said they were completely dissatisfied with their nursing bras.”

This is not the company’s first award. Kallile was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Female Founder Collective, founded by fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, which helped her turn her prototype into a product. Also last year, she won the University of Dayton Flyer Pitch competition, receiving $50,000.

“This represents a turning point for moms in general,” Kallile said of the Flyer award. “The pandemic put a spotlight on problems affecting women and moms for decades.”

Lunnie receives $25,000 as part of the Soin award.

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