Class of 2023
To Brad Carlin, the more you give, the more you receive. This motto has inspired him in his personal life and has guided his 35-year career in the confectionery industry.
Brad was born on June 26, 1966, to Hugh and Linda. He grew up in Elmhurst, IL, with his sister Jennifer, and attended York High School, graduating in 1984.
Brad recalls many happy moments from his childhood that involved confectionery. One of his grandfathers owned Carlin Drug Store in Chillicothe, MO, and sold candy to the local community. His other grandfather was a buyer at A&P and his dad also worked at A&P and founded the brokerage Brad owns today.
Brad recalls that his parents supported him in all his curiosities and made him feel unconditionally loved. He adds that he was inspired by his dad’s ability to conduct business with a high level of integrity and passion.
In 1988, Brad graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a bachelor of science degree in political science. Around this time, he also met his wife Shelly in Chicago when she knocked on his apartment door looking for his roommate — he says the rest is history. They married in 1992 and have two children, Samantha and Jack.
Brad joined the industry upon graduation, selling candy to convenience stores for his father’s brokerage, and never looked back. He has spent his entire career at the company, eventually working up the ranks to become CEO and majority owner in 2002 of what is now C.A. Carlin.
He says his business partner, Jeff Mahler and his dad have had the greatest impact on his career.
To Brad, his three best qualities are his integrity, passion and ability to take risks. He owes much of his success, he says, to the support of his wife and of the people he surrounds himself with, including his teammates, clients and customers. He is considered a leader in identifying both the key trends in the industry and the needs of his customers and retailers.
Brad is recognized as a collaborative partner by both his vendors and customers, offering solutions and always ready to work together to address issues. He is skilled at balancing the needs of to both sides to achieve mutual goals.
Despite facing rapid changes within the industry, Brad says he handles challenges with ongoing investment and adapts to new opportunities. He adds that one of his biggest career accomplishments has been building a team of wonderful people and expanding the C.A. brand across the country, all while embracing change.
Along with the day-to-day work he does with C.A. Carlin, Brad is a long-time CandyPAC contributor and regularly attends Sweets & Snacks Expo, the NCA State of the Industry Conference, NACS and ISM, representing his vendors’ interests at every turn. He supports the industry through sponsorships of various organizations and is especially passionate about promoting NCA Women’s Leadership Group events.
In 2016, Brad received the NCA Golden Candy Dish award in recognition of his efforts in promoting and advancing the industry.
The main advice Brad would give someone just starting out in the business today would be to listen first, dive in, soak it up, learn and run fast.