Sue Warfield has been in the both the Retail and Toy Business for over 30 years. What began as a part-time retail job turned into a passion for retail. While attending college, she worked part time for the then Dayton’s Department Store Chain. Though her “career” path had been International Trade, when she got her first great job in her field of study, she realized that as each day was coming to a close, she was looking forward to going to her part-time sales job at Dayton’s – which for some reason, she had never given up. Answering an ad to become an assistant manager at a hobby and craft store, she got the job...and that was it. Retail and sales were where she wanted to be.
Over the ensuing years, Sue worked for 2 major, independently owned, retail chains based in the Minneapols/St. Paul area and worked through the ranks to include store management, training, buying, and ultimately, director of retail operations. In 1990 she started her own retail consulting firm, Retail Specialties, and worked with clients around the US, developing training programs and working to improve their day to day operations. She entered the world of toy representation in 1995 and retail store ownership in 1999 when she and her husband opened a northwoods furnishings and décor store. She joined ASTRA in 2000 and has been an active member ever since, serving on the Board for 7 years, including chair. Her most recent work contributions have been with Hotaling Imports, a long term ASTRA Member, and serving as chair of the ASTRA Membership Committee.
Sue started her position as Director of Member Relations in August of 2014. She and her husband have 3 grown children and live in the northern Minnesota town of Ely, MN – gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Ahren Hoffman is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) and began her career in the toy industry in 2007. In her past role as Manager of Industry Relations & Partnerships at the National Lekotek Center, Hoffman evaluated toys and play products beneficial for all children, especially those with disabilities, at AblePlay.org, a project of Lekotek. Hoffman also provided support services to members of the toy industry to share the developmental potential and possibility of toys and play products for children of all abilities. These collaborations allowed Hoffman to contribute to the creation of multiple toy guides and have the opportunity to be published in a manual related to the benefits of sensory play.
Hoffman is active in the lecture circuit presenting to organizations and professionals in the field of child development as well as within the toy industry creating presentations and webinars for retailers, manufacturers and sales representatives. Hoffman also regularly contributes to a variety of print and online publications to advocate for the power of toys and play.
Hoffman received her Bachelors of Science in Therapeutic Recreation with a minor in Psychology at Central Michigan University.
Originally from outside of Chicago, Dee grew up hosting her own news broadcasts recorded on cassette tapes and publishing issues of marker-scribbled newspapers. Her passion for people, their stories, and the power of communication to connect with others took her to Boston, where she graduated from the Boston University College of Communication.
Shortly after graduation, Dee pursued a job offer in Boston to develop, lead and implement collaborative learning opportunities among university students while building a donor base to support her work. From facilitating weekly small group discussions to organizing and leading large-scale cross-cultural service trips to building out donor campaigns, the role gave Dee the opportunity to get to know to know the stories of hundreds of students representing diverse ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds - and an outlet for sharing these stories.
In 2013, Dee moved to Chicago and joined the ASTRA team. As the Associate Manager, Marketing and Communications, she is responsible for overseeing the marketing and communication strategy for the organization, including the annual Marketplace & Academy trade show and conference. She also manages the national Neighborhood Toy Store Day initiative.
Outside of work, Dee enjoys spending time with her husband Eric, exploring the many diverse neighborhoods of Chicago, and discovering local coffee shops.
Nicole joined the ASTRA team in July 2018 as the Office Administrator and brings a decade of experience in office administration. She previously worked as an administrative assistant for a number of Chicago-area school districts including the Waukegan, Zion and Grayslake school districts. Nicole also brings 12 years of community outreach experience, including founding Pure Love International, a non-profit centering around community and mentorship outreach.
When Nicole is not at the office keeping the day-to-day operations running at ASTRA HQ or working on her degree in Business and Organizational Leadership, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, writing and playing music and event planning.