Faces in Business: Stacy Rapp, marketing and communications manager, Steve’s Ace Home & Garden

Stacy Raap loves to serve in any capacity possible, especially when it comes to small local businesses in and around Dubuque.

She has been in sales and marketing for nearly 30 years in various capacities at different companies. Over the past two years, she has been working as the marketing manager at Steve’s Ace Hardware Inc. At the beginning of 2023, she transitioned into being the marketing and communications manager across all three stores owned by Sara and Jason Carpenter.

In 2022, she also started the Dubuque Bridal Expo, which is hosted at the Grand River Center twice per year in January and September.

Steve’s Ace also has been a long-time chamber member so this year she joined a B2B group and was asked to be a Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce ambassador.

Raap and her husband, Brian, will celebrate their 15-year anniversary in October. They have three children — Jordan, 26; Karson, 12; and Landon, 12 — plus two golden doodles — Oliver and Max. They also have a grandson, Clayton, who turned 2 in March.

Tell us about your field and what attracted you to it.

I have been in sales and marketing in some capacity for more than 30 years. I was 15 or 16 when I got my first job working as a waitress at Happy Joe’s and I loved all nine years that I was there. Fast forward to today. I am the marketing and communications manager with Steve’s Ace Hardware Inc. I enjoy the variety in my days, the people I get to help and the impact I hope I am making on my family, the company I work for and the community I live in.

How has your field changed in the time you’ve worked in it? How have you adapted? Technology has significantly impacted sales and marketing and nearly every other field out there. Cellphones, text messages, etc.

I don’t know many fields that haven’t changed over time and most of it can be attributed to advancements and accessibility with education, information and technology.

I remember a quote that a previous colleague once said: “You either get better or worse. You never stay the same.” I have used that statement over the years to continually challenge myself (and others) to assess where I am and where I am headed on a regular basis. It’s extremely important for me to be self-aware, identify opportunities for improvement and then work toward the goal of getting better each day.

Is there a person or people who have had a tremendous impact on you? Personally, my parents have always taught me the importance of having a strong work ethic, following through on commitments, and being grateful for what I have. Growing up, my parents both worked two and three jobs to make sure we had a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, food on the table and a good education. I remember camping every summer, breakfast with my grandparents after church on Sundays and week-long fishing trips with our extended family. They truly taught me the importance of family, making memories, and to never take things for granted. I am so blessed with incredible parents.

Professionally, there are a handful of colleagues, mentors and managers who left an impression on me and impacted my career path over the years. My first sales manager taught me how to be a successful outside sales rep. He was tough but he was fair, and I learned a lot from him during my tenure there. He had high expectations, was constructive and intentional with his feedback, and overall, he was a great leader (although at the time I am sure I didn’t fully appreciate the value he brought). He taught me about emotional intelligence and challenged me to become the best version of myself. For that, I will be forever grateful to him.

Do you have any advice for young people and/or new graduates? I love helping young people, in general, and I always try to help guide them by being a resource when they need help and/or advice. Whether it’s a high school student, college graduate or someone who has been in their field for years, everyone deserves to be happy. Figure out what makes you happy and pour your energy and resources into doing that. It doesn’t mean there won’t be a learning curve or that it won’t be challenging. However, if you are happy, you will put your best foot forward, work hard, be proud of your accomplishments and others will enjoy working with you.

Is there a story or an anecdote that illustrates your philosophy either in life or in your chosen field? Take one day at a time and make the most of it because tomorrow is never promised.

What have you found to be the most valuable resource for learning? Are you an on-the-job learner or do you prefer another way? For me, the most valuable resource for learning is surrounding myself with people who are smarter than me and challenging myself to learn something new every day.

Math vs. creativity. People person vs. introvert. Slow and steady vs. quick and nimble. Where do you fall on those divides? Do you believe there even is a divide? Well, there must be a divide because I am terrible at math. Ha ha. I would consider myself a creative person, extrovert who intends to be slow and steady but ultimately, I know I am much quicker and nimbler than slow and steady in most areas of my life.

When you think of the future, what kind of changes would you like to see in your field? In the broader world? Overall, I would love to see us all get back to working hard, having a strong sense of urgency to get something done, putting on a smile, helping others without always expecting something in return.

As a customer, I have noticed a decline in good customer service at places that used to have incredible customer service. In retail, especially, it often feels like there are so many things burdening my colleagues and our guests. It makes me sad to see people unhappy with their jobs, their family and their lives, overall. I pray we get back to some semblance of peace and harmony.

How has your professional life helped you grow as a person? Growing up I was taught to be accountable, be responsible, work hard and give without condition. Over the years, professionally, I have learned to temper my emotions, read the room, give others the benefit of the doubt and that you pray for what you want but work for what you need. I love learning something new/different every day and that only happens because of the career that I have chosen and the organization I am a part of.

How do you strike a work/life balance? My perception of work/life balance is probably incredibly different than that of the average person. For me, I strive to work hard and get things done even if it means late nights, early mornings and weekends. I feel blessed as my family not only supports all my crazy ideas and commitments, but more times than not, they help me. From BBQ events to special promotions and lots of holiday festivities throughout the year.

It is imperative to me and my husband that we lead by example, show our children how to work hard, take pride in what we do, have a good attitude and serve others.

That said, we also have a lot of fun together creating memories camping, boating, playing games, going to the movies and cooking out with the family. In fact, this summer, the kids and I decided to plant a garden. My dad and son-in-law built the raised bed, and we filled it with soil, fertilizer and a wide variety of fruits, veggies and herbs. It’s been fun and we are all excited to see the fruits of our labor.