A&E Asks Women in the Industry: 5 Minutes with Liz Haas

How long have you been in the awards and engraving/personalization industry?

I have been in the industry for 17 years. I can’t believe it has been that long!

What is your background, and how did you get to the position you’re in now?

I originally started in the medical field and then made a drastic change to work for my church. Then, I had my daughter and felt I should spend time at home and put work on hold for a little while.

The owners of Rayzist and several other employees attended my church, and these new friendships brought me to the company as its receptionist for a few years. I fell in love with the family atmosphere.

After my son arrived, I decided to take an 18-month leave to raise my kids at home. During those 18 months, I started a catering business, which kept me busy on top of raising two kids. I wanted to return to Rayzist, but only a sales position was open at that time.

The requirements for that role included travel, sales, and tech support. I was a little apprehensive about tech support at the time, but I learned. I learned by using the equipment and making masks.

There was a point when I had every supply item on my desk marked with sticky notes. This allowed me to answer basic questions and eventually answer tech support questions. Once I learned the parts and function, I started sandcarving different materials. It wasn’t too long before I could handle sales, customer service, and technical support.

What drew you to this industry?

At first, it was the employees of Rayzist. I worked for other companies and there was something different here. Then, it was that feeling of helping a customer begin a new business. It’s rewarding when you get a call from a new customer and they are starting to receive orders. Seeing people succeed and growing their business is motivating and it feels like I’m making a difference in their lives.

What is your favorite aspect of your work?

All of it! I often say I don’t have a job, I have a passion.

But if I had to choose, teaching is something that is dear to me. There is a lot of work that goes into our workshops, and I am still amazed and honored to have students come from the entire world. At our last workshop, we had students from Iceland, the workshop prior from United Kingdom, and Trinidad—not to mention all of the students that come from out of state.

Next to teaching are the trade shows and expos. They allow that one-on-one with customers, which is something that I look forward to.

What has been the biggest challenge as a woman in this industry?

A big challenge is managing work and home. As a woman with a family and responsibilities at both work and home, it can be difficult to have the perfect balance between the two.

I have a friend who is a successful physician and she would always tell me, ‘women have it hard, women have to work harder,’ because they are pulled in different directions that are all important. I’ve learned that you have to know your priorities and you have to communicate.

As a mom, I have to manage doctor appointments, practices, and games, all while having a focus on my job. At the end of the day, we have to manage our schedules and most of us have to multi-task, which is a strength of most women.

How can other women succeed in this business?

Hard work pays off, but not everyone is willing to pay the price. You have to:

  • Be prepared and be consistent.
  • Become an expert in your field. 

Describe the most memorable moment in your career.

My most memorable moment was my first trade show. It was the NBM Long Beach show. My manager, Billy Willis, told me I was there to watch and learn. I was nervous when I stepped on the show floor, but after the three days, I ended up selling 10 systems—which was great for anyone, not just a new person.

Describe a time in your career that posed a great challenge. How did you overcome it?

In 2011, I was diagnosed with cancer and at first I thought it was a simple surgery with no treatment necessary, and I would return to work with minimal time off. However, after further testing, it was an aggressive cancer that needed extensive post-surgery treatment. My doctor recommended putting work on hold for one year to endure continuous treatments. I made a decision that chemo or radiation would not dictate my life.

The challenge for me was enduring treatments while maintaining my current responsibilities at work. I would plan my chemo treatments between trade shows and coming into the office, and sometimes work from home. Some days were challenging while other days were like normal. The owners were not in favor of me traveling at first, but I went forward and tried to work as normal.

I don’t recommend this for everyone, but for me it was the best decision. I was able to put a focus on something I love.

Who is the greatest influence on your professional career?

I would have to say the owners of Rayzist. Owning a business today is not always easy. They have demonstrated that success is for those that don’t give up, and challenged me to push through. I am very thankful for both of them in my life.

Shifting gears, what area of the industry do you see has the greatest room for growth? Why?

Craft items: I am seeing more customers focusing on one unique creation, like a “craft,” verses a mass production of an item. They are spending time designing a one-of-a-kind item that looks amazing sandcarved.

What makes personalization applications unique? 

We live in a busy society and often forget to show appreciation. Personalization is an avenue to express appreciation and show value to someone. Personalization is shown to honor a milestone or esteem an accomplishment.

When an award is created to honor someone, they want engraving placed on a beautiful crystal that will never fade. Lasering and sandcarving allow etching or engraving on quality materials such as crystal, stone, wood and metal making the personalization last a lifetime.   

Why is sandcarving a great technology to work with?

Sandcarving with photoresist film enables mass production with quality results. It is easy to sandcarve on products that are different sizes or shapes, plus it provides an option for painting. 

What changes has sandcarving undergone recently?

The most recent change in sandcarving is the improvement of a monument photoresist film. You do not need adhesive, no residue is left behind, and monument blasters can still blast at high pressure with a coarse abrasive while maintaining detail.

How do you envision the future of this industry?

The sandcarving industry will continue to grow as businesses see the high profits that the simple process of etching has. We are seeing customers expand their product line into other markets, such as an awards shop servicing the monument industry. The versatility of sandcarving allows an easy crossover into other markets.
Another concept we are seeing on the rise is artistry in glass. Customers turning their creativity into profits by adding personal art into their engraving line, focusing on a high-end unique piece rather than mass production of one item. Several glass blowers are setting their glass apart from their personal artwork. These are amazing designs that are etched into blown glass and sold for high profits. This concept is slowly increasing in the sandcarving industry.