Sales & marketing rep credits time at R&I

Kate Jonker graduated in April 2021 from Niagara College’s Business – Sales & Marketing program. She was a research assistant with Research & Innovation’s Business & Commercialization Solutions team from October 2020 to April 2021. Kate is employed with Martek Supply Corp. in Burlington as a sales and marketing representative. 

Tell us about where you work:

Martek Supply Corp. in Burlington is southern Ontario’s premier wholesaler for landscape products and construction materials. We provide customer service and expert knowledge to landscape contractors, general contractors and landscape suppliers. Some of our products that we sell include landscape lighting, audio, artificial turf, geosynthetics, landscape fabrics, drainage supplies, aluminum edging, site servicing supplies, pond supplies and surface drainage solutions.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

My job as sales and marketing representative is quite broad, and I’m involved in a number of different aspects of the company. Martek is a small business, so my role varies from inside and outside sales work, which includes answering the phone, working with contractors to find the right products for their projects, quoting, emailing, performing business development activities, coordinating deliveries, meeting with contractors and visiting project sites.

I also look after the marketing responsibilities, which includes managing social media efforts, promoting business events, coordinating website development and creating marketing materials like brochures and product catalogs, etc. 

I love my job because I appreciate the fast-paced work environment and the variety of work tasks that come with it. I’m constantly switching gears from marketing to sales and everything in between. For example, with a recent sales job, I had a customer that I brought in from a cold call and I worked with them on a project that required looking at the job drawings, quoting the correct product, and coordinating the ordering of the special product and delivery. A recent marketing project involves designing and updating our 2022 product guide that we’ll give out to customers at the next Landscape Ontario show that takes place every year in January. 

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

R&I was a fundamental step in gaining real work experience that today assists me greatly in my job roles. Without that experience in market research and social media strategies I have my doubts I would work where I do today. Working at R&I allowed me to stay up-to-date with the most recent trends, social media strategies, marketing strategies and apply it all to help other businesses succeed in their industry. Today, I get to do all this in the landscape industry and help my company gain larger market shares, grow our social media platforms, perform product research and ultimately grow sales. 

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

I was involved in many projects at Research & Innovation, and every project gave me more knowledge and expertise about the different topics I worked on. The most memorable project was working with Tatiana from Heartsease Nutrition. I was the research lead on this project, advising and guiding Tatiana when it came to target markets, competitive analysis, effective product shipping, social media platforms and sales strategies.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I went to Niagara College because it was the only college that had a program focused on Sales & Marketing that was close to home. I was also the recipient of the Open House scholarship!

Most memorable experience at NC?

Because of the pandemic, my time at NC got cut short and I was only on campus for my first year of college. That first year was the most influential of my two years because I got to meet new classmates who became my friends, physically work on group projects, compete in marketing events and enjoy normal college life.

The most memorable experience was probably when my group and I pitched our Dragon’s Den new product (Pharma Drug Vending Machines). We spent long hours coming up with a product to pitch to the panel and we ended up doing very well in class.

I also really enjoyed hitting the gym and spending time at the Armoury with my college friends during that first year. 

“Working at R&I allowed me to stay up-to-date with the most recent trends, social media strategies, marketing strategies and apply it all to help other businesses succeed in their industry.… without that experience in market research I have my doubts I would work where I do today.”

Is there a particular mentor who influenced you?

Paula Reile was not only my project manager at R&I but also my mentor who helped me establish myself in my personal and professional development. In our weekly one-on-one meetings, she would provide helpful direction on projects but also listen and give guidance on an academic level. Paula was willing to listen to my concerns about finding a future career in a pandemic and help guide me in my job search. I have Paula to thank for a wonderful R&I experience; she truly did influence me in finding a career path that I love.

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

The best advice I can offer to any research student is to never be afraid to ask questions and bounce your thoughts off other research assistants or your project manager. Your best work can come from collaboration with others if you take the time to listen to other opinions. Meet with other teammates, ask questions, have brainstorm sessions and you will succeed in your projects.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

I think I have learned how important it is to build relationships with customers and coworkers. It is essential in sales to provide top-notch customer service and create trust with your customers/clients.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

Obtaining employment in an industry that I have a strong passion for and developing my knowledge in the workplace using the transferable skills I learned at R&I.

What are you passionate about at the moment?

I’m passionate about selling landscape products and providing the best possible customer service I can. I’m also passionate about my family life and boyfriend of three years, Joel.

Interests outside of work?

When I’m not busy at work, I enjoy sports, cooking and long walks. I play in soccer, baseball and volleyball leagues and I love watching the Maple Leafs hockey team. I am a big foodie and enjoy making recipes from scratch and sharing them with my family.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Always do your best 110% of the time.