Portraits in Leadership
Jack Gonzalez has been show director for the Health & Beauty America (HBA) trade show since it first launched in 1993. Under his leadership and direction, HBA has become a successful international event.
HBA is held every September in New York City. It has expanded to include two colocated sectors, one focusing on nutraceuticals and the wellness industry, and the other on active ingredients and technologies. In addition, several educational conferences are held throughout the year, including the Innovative Packaging Symposium.
Gonzalez started his career working in the areas of engineering, marketing, and electronics. He was self-employed, with a consulting business for 30 years that included work in the consumer electronics industry. The fact that consumer electronics manufacturing started to move overseas during the 1970s began to hurt his company. “By 1990, we were in the height of the information technology era,” says Gonzalez. “I had a friend who organized computer trade shows, and he asked me to help him develop information technology events.”
H.A. Bruno was the small, family-owned company where Gonzalez went to work. “As soon as I started, I was asked if I would be interested in taking on a new project—launching a new event in the cosmetics and personal care market. That’s how HBA first began,” he explains. Since then, HBA has been sold several times and is now owned by CMP Information Group, a division of United Business Media. Gonzalez says it was exciting embarking on a new career at the age of 59.
From the beginning, Gonzalez consistently faced the challenge of making sure HBA met its financial goals. “A trade show is a company, with the same problems as any new business. There is a point when you must make a decision to push further or to just call it quits,” he says. That threshold was crossed after the first six months, when 180 companies were signed on to exhibit. “I had only hoped for 100,” he says. From that point on, he was sure the show would be a success.
Since its start, HBA has exposed attendees to so much of what is being done in other parts of the world in terms of product development and packaging. “The show is important especially for those who don’t have the opportunity to travel extensively. Meeting suppliers from all over the world is also more important now than ever before, because the industry has truly become global during the past 10 years,” he says.
When asked about other changes he has seen during the past 10 years, Gonzalez describes factors that have influenced changes in the packaging world. “Many new channels of distribution have been created. Beauty products are now sold on the Internet and television and are not limited to the shelf space in department or drug stores. These changes have helped to support the growth of small entrepreneurial companies, which often rely on the services of specific types of suppliers. This has caused contract packagers and private-label manufacturers to experience tremendous growth during the past few years,” he explains.
HBA will have a new show director when Gonzalez retires in 2007. “I’m looking forward to a long sabbatical,” says Gonzalez. He will stay on to help during the transition and to possibly work on new business development and strategic planning for HBA in the future. He says there are times in your life when your priorities change. “We can become so consumed with our day-to-day tasks that we often have no time to think about anything else,” he says. Now, his top priority will be spending time with his granddaughter, Juliette.