It’s an understatement to say that the last two years have been challenging for Andra Oshman, president of Florida-based Professional Exhibitors’ Service Inc.
Her mother, company co-founder Marilyn Oshman, succumbed to her two-year battle with lung cancer last June. Two years ago, her baby daughter, Serena, died. Who would blame her if she took time away from the tradeshow world in which her mother was so prominent? But Oshman didn’t. Instead, she decided the best way to honor her mother and daughter’s memories was to dedicate herself to the profession her mother loved and that she grew up in.
“If there’s one thing I learned from my daughter’s passing and my mother’s illness, it’s to make the most of every day,” Oshman said. “I am so blessed for all the opportunities I’ve been given. I think if you can take away something positive from every situation, you will be the best you can be.”
Oshman cites the law of attraction as a guiding force, believing that what you put out into the world is what you get back. She has increased the company’s participation in her community by creating two nonprofit organizations. A foundation in her mother’s name helps provide incidentals to cancer patients while Operation Smiley Face, founded with a friend who was diagnosed with cancer, distributes hand-stitched smiley face buttons through the Web site operationsmileyface.com.
It’s debatable whether Oshman’s attempts to spread hope to others has indeed been returned to her in some way. But after experiencing a drop in business due to the recession, the company, which specializes in installation and dismantle (I&D) services in Atlanta, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Charlotte, Orlando, Tampa, New Orleans, Nashville and Southern California, is enjoying a banner year.
“I’m looking at the best year coming up that I’ve seen in a long time,” said Oshman, 40. “It’s nice to see exhibitors coming back.”
Oshman, who is a single mother to daughter Victoria, 6, said she learned everything she knows about the business from her mother.
Professional Exhibitors’ Service was founded in 1972 by her parents. They later divorced and Marilyn Oshman bought out her ex-husband’s share.
“When my parents started the company, it was always in the house,” said Oshman, the oldest of three. “My mother would have called it her fourth child. Twenty-four hour service truly meant 24 hour service.”
That’s the way Oshman runs the business today. She credits her six city managers with much of the company’s success, as they are the faces on the front line, directly dealing with customers and providing the services they need. Many employees are second generation, having followed their own parents into the business.
Oshman, who jokes that she was doing payroll as an 8-year-old, initially started out her adulthood as a teacher, receiving a master’s degree in teaching. But 20 years ago, her mother needed back surgery and Oshman was laid off from her school. Naturally, she returned to the family business.
And she looks forward to the future, her goal is to grow the business as her mother grew it.
“Reputation is always so big in this business,” she said. “We’re in our 38th year and our growth has really been word of mouth up to this point. We’re not the cheapest out there but we’re about building relationships, not the quick buck.”