Woman of Distinction 2022: Debbie Abergel, Nadel
By Sara Lavenduski
Debbie Abergel knows a thing or two about rebranding. Of course, there are obvious examples, such as spearheading the major rebrand of her company, Top 40 distributor Nadel, that was made official this spring.
But there was also the time, not long after she started at Nadel when the company was looking to recruit a new director of vendor relations. Abergel, seeing it as an opportunity to change the course of her career trajectory, applied for the position. She was turned down. “I would’ve quit, but I rode it out,” says Abergel, currently the company’s chief strategy officer. “I’ve learned since that rejection just means the other party sees something you’re not. Instead of being upset, work on what they’re telling you.”
She took her own advice and sought to command attention at the highest echelons of the company when Nadel launched one of the industry’s first online stores in 2000. Abergel seized the opportunity by managing every facet of the store – “she showed leadership and vision” recalls President Craig Nadel, who, along with Abergel, is a perennial member of Counselor’s 2021 Power 50 list of the most influential people in the industry. Two years later, when the director of vendor relations position opened up again, Abergel got the job.
Tenacity, vision, and focus define Abergel, who’s come to play an indispensable role at one of the industry’s most storied distributors. When she had just started a part-time job in the company’s finance department, at what was then known as Jack Nadel International, it was just a “for now” job before the next phase of her career. But it wasn’t long before Abergel realized that this industry – and JNI in particular – was different. Compared to her other straightlaced corporate jobs, the “characters” (Abergel calls them) at Nadel moved fast, literally running, brimming with ideas. It was infectious. “I wasn’t used to the energy,” she says. “People were working late, making things happen. They were alive and engaged.”
But there was also a part of Abergel that understood the excitement. At her first job out of college, she received a simple branded ruler, but it became important to her. “It was acrylic and not even full size, but I loved it,” she says. “It showed that someone thought about me. We’re agents of good. Everything we do creates a positive connection.”
Getting the vendor relations position marked the beginning of more than 20 years of leading strategic vision for Nadel. “It’s been about relationships, executing rebrands, and elevating a company,” she says. “It’s like being a builder or an artist. It’s important to execute on things you find joyful, and be true to yourself.”
Over the years, Abergel has become known as a trusted mentor for her team and industry peers, especially for other women in business; she says it’s important to step up and “vocalize” thoughts and opinions. “We have to have conversations with our male counterparts, or change doesn’t happen,” she says.
She’s also familiar with the unique challenges of being a working mother (her 25-year-old daughter got married earlier this month), balancing myriad job demands, and charting a career path with giving a family the care they need. It’s not for everyone. “Career was important to me, but everyone should make their own decisions and be present in them,” she says. “For women in the workplace, walk in and just do it, and the next generation won’t know that gender disparities ever existed.”
Kenny Ved, director of global sales for Goldstar, calls her “the queen of Nadel.” “She lives and breathes promo,” he says. “She figures out the best way to reach new heights with partnerships. And she always puts her team first, which I have tremendous respect for.”
Erin Reilly, CEO of Pop! Promo says another one of Abergel’s nicknames is “Promo Beyoncé, because everything she touches immediately becomes a hit,” adding that it’s thanks in large part to Abergel that Nadel has the world-class culture it does today. “She always delivers 120%,” Reilly adds. “Everything is fresh, new, creative, and fun.”
Those who know Abergel best, like Craig Nadel, agree that she’s rebranding the company to creative new heights. “She’s changed my life,” he says. “She’s been a wonderful asset and a fantastic ‘work wife’ and business partner. She gets involved and pushes us forward. Her importance to our growth can’t be overstated.”
Sharon Eyal, CEO of ETS Express and Counselor’s 2018 Person of the Year, has known Abergel since she started with Nadel. Her concern for her team, company, and the industry, as well as her creativity, have been noteworthy since day one. “She’s such a fantastic role model for the women she works with,” he says. “She’s smart, strategic, shrewd, fair, and, when it comes to negotiating, my hardest yet. Simply put, she’s one of the most talented people in the business and I couldn’t be happier for her.”