Hall of Fame: Jeannette Howe: The Exemplar of Passion
If there’s one word that best describes Jeannette Howe, executive director of Specialty Electronics Nationwide, it’s “passionate.” Since the day she first stepped into a Tweeter store, she has found the audio/video industry electrifying.
Howe is the consummate anti-shopper; she literally fell into retail. When she couldn’t find a job in publishing after graduating in English Literature from Boston University, she went to work at the Boston hi-fi specialty chain until something in her field opened up. But, to her surprise, she got hooked on retail and on the AV business. She has never looked back.
Instead of bemoaning being shut out of publishing’s old boys’ network, she has made her own mark in the male-dominated consumer electronics industry. (Jeannette still loves writing, though, and agonizes over each word when updating the Specialty Electronics Nationwide website or writing promotional copy for her group’s events.)
In her five years with Tweeter, Howe moved from sales associate to store manager to audio buyer. She discovered that selling products that gave her customers goose bumps also made her own heart beat faster. The excitement of the ever-changing business and the people in it were addictive.
While growing to love the industry, Jeannette also developed deep respect for the entrepreneurial spirit it embodies. She has great admiration for the independent retailers and innovative vendors who have the courage “to hang out a shingle and create new products and experiences.”
After Tweeter, Jeannette moved west where she worked for Audio Concepts before becoming the audio buyer at Magnolia Hi-Fi in Seattle. With the dawn of large screen TVs and home theater systems, custom installation and specialty retailing exploded. PARA—the Professional AudioVideo Retailers Association—paralleled that growth with the mission to use the power of association to connect similar dealers, give members the tools to grow and expand, and meet new suppliers.
With PARA’s executive director Deborah Smith, Jeannette grew the association to more than 350 dealer members, implemented the group’s strategic initiatives and spearheaded the annual PARA Conference. The group merged with the Consumer Electronics Association in 2004, but not before Howe grew to know and understand how small, local integrators hired the best people and committed themselves to exceeding their customers’ expectations.
Howe understood the need for independents to band together to get the attention of their suppliers. In 2006, she created the Specialty Electronics Nationwide division for the Nationwide Marketing Group. “It was pretty scary starting a specialty electronics buying group for an entity whose No. 1 line was RCA,” she said. “ We had little in the way of audio and no custom installation or home automation solutions.”
Under Howe’s leadership as executive director, Specialty Electronics has grown to over 470 dealer members. The group now has more than 100 programs that support the specialty community. To familiarize herself with new technologies and to be able to “practice what I preach,” Howe recently became certified in both Control 4 and Key Digital Compass Control platforms.
In considering her accomplishments, Howe said, “My greatest accomplishment was being a career mom to my son Roarke. I was able to balance demanding jobs with his needs and was still able to volunteer with Dana Point Youth Baseball.”
A self-proclaimed foodie, Howe’s collection of cookbooks now tops 200. She’s an avid baseball fan and lives by the motto “never give up, never surrender.”
“The consumer electronics industry is full of dynamic, creative entrepreneurs who have bet their farms on making a difference in this space,” she said. “I’m honored and humbled to be included in this august, select group.” DS