Carmel Valley woman wins reality TV contest, job

She turned down the $100,000 grand prize vice president of marketing gig. But she’ll take the $10,000 cash prize for her contest win, thank you very much.

That’s because Kristen Baldwin received a similar, bona-fide offer from one of the brands she marketed during the seven-week production of the reality TV pilot of “The VP Contest-San Diego.”

“The VP Contest” was created by Ken Gora of Carmel Valley’s Next Productions, a promotion-production company of recruiting, business to business outsourcing, television/entertainment and marketing industry professionals. Contestants compete to sell four or five different corporate sponsor’s products for seven weeks in an elimination setting to win the grand prize of a $100,000 and a salaried vice president (VP) of sales position. Next Productions is filming all phases of its reality sales competitions nationwide in hopes that the pilot TV program will be optioned by network or cable programming.

From among 25 contestants throughout San Diego County, Baldwin, 44, and a single mom with a fashion design accessory business, won the inaugural contest. Baldwin secured the largest military account in the history of CUBA Beverage Co., receiving approval for distribution of its CUBA Herbal Energy Juice to military convenience stores. She also was successful in opening new accounts to sell CUBA in local health clubs, including Carmel Valley’s Pacific Athletic Club and The Sporting Clubs of La Jolla.

Additionally, Baldwin opened accounts with health-based grocery store chains, hotels, retail stores, corporate accounts and nutrition stores. Now she’s working to secure an agreement with the largest beverage distributor in Mexico.

Because Baldwin fared so well marketing the company for the contest, the San Diego-based operation offered her its VP of sales and marketing position. Thus, she had to turn down the grand-prize job at Next Productions.

“Getting this VP of sales position, not only with Next Productions as the winner, but being able accept that position with CUBA Beverage Co. is absolutely amazing,” said Baldwin about the experience. “It definitely has changed my life in a very big, exciting direction.”

“My take on Kristen’s win is that, first of all, she did a great job,” Gora said. “The criteria to win the contest is a combination of total sales revenue with all sponsor products as well as the consistency of having sold something with every sponsor. She strategically managed her time and utilized social networks. Her personality, hard work and enthusiasm drove in some great orders.

“From both a business and a human interest perspective, I found this contest fascinating. The contest had contestants who had been vice presidents of sales, directors of marketing and seasoned sales professionals with years of experience,” Gora added. “This ambitious woman whose work experience was 18 years as a dental hygienist out-performed them all. It showed that desire, hard work, a great personality and people skills can fulfill someone’s dreams.”

Baldwin said she does not believe a sales background is necessary for success in the field.
“If you are great talking with people and you can develop relationships and present your product, that’s what made me successful,” Baldwin said. “I’m not the ‘sales-y’ type because that’s not my background. I think people felt comfortable just knowing I’m genuine, sincere and enthusiastic about my product, so I really feel I can connect with people.”

Gora said the fact that Baldwin chose to join CUBA Beverage as its vice president of sales is a win for everyone.

“We would have loved to have her as our VP, but she chose CUBA because she has a head start with them and she is very passionate about their product,” Gora admitted. “It also showed how a sponsoring company can discover new talent and hire someone based on real performance, and that is a win for everyone.”

However, this is not a parting of the ways between the contest’s creator and the winning contestant. Baldwin and Gora will capitalize on their mutual success going forward into the next production.

“Ken wants me to mentor and inspire future contestants in other cities,” said Baldwin, who was also asked to utilize her newfound business “celebrity” as a guest judge in upcoming contests.

“I feel as though anybody can use mentoring,” she said.

When asked what advice she would offer to potential contestants considering auditioning for the show, Baldwin said, “I would recommend it to anybody because so many doors to opportunities open. Go for it, the sky’s the limit.”

The next contest begins Aug. 9 with auditions at the Grand Del Mar Hotel on July 22, 27-28. In addition to the $100,000 VP of sales position, the cash prize is being doubled to $20,000. Other prizes include: second prize: $7,000 cash prize; third prize: $3,000 cash prize; fourth-sixth prizes: Amount and prize depending on city. Job interviews for sales/marketing positions with companies.

For audition and sponsorship information, call (858) 755-9914 and email To learn more, visit

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