PPB September 2022

Emerging Leaders Meet PPAI’s 2022 Rising Stars – young people helping to shape the future of their companies and the promotional products industry. P. 14 Excellence In Craft Pyramid Awards: Supplier Decorating P. 36 Employee Appreciation Promo Celebrates Teamwork P. 46 PPW Expo: Sept. 29 Invite Your Clients! P. 52 Compensation 101 Fair Pay To You P. 80

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14 RISING STARS Get to know PPAI’s 2022 Rising Stars – 12 young people helping to shape the future of their companies and the promotional products industry. 4 Perspectives Shining Light 8 Feedback 11 INNOVATE 12 Question Payday Delay 32 Eye On Apparel Outdoor Wear Market Trends 45 GROW 46 Promotional Products Work Employee Appreciation 52 Marketing A Dream Come True: PPW Expo 54 Editor's Picks Food Gifts 60 Live Concert Series PPEF Is Movin’ and Groovin’ 64 Profile Promo’s Champion 69 THINK 71 Fast Forward Space Age Products Already In Our Pockets 76 Five Minutes With David Callet On Greenwashing 78 Viewpoint Sparking Brilliance 80 Management Compensation 101 83 CONNECT 84 Close Up Briana Larson, Koozie Group 87 Inside PPAI 92 PPPC Communiqué 95 New Members 101 Datebook 106 Creative Calendar 36 EXCELLENCE IN CRAFT These 15 suppliers are upping the industry standard, earning PPAI Pyramid Awards in Supplier Decorating for their artistry and attention to detail, spanning 12 decoration categories. contents Promotional Products Business The Official Business Monthly of Promotional Products Association International SEPTEMBER 2022 | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 3

Shining Light We can all have a role in securing our industry’s bright future. Have you ever asked another promotional products professional how they got into the industry? If not, you are missing out on some great stories! No two are the same, other than that they have generally stumbled upon it by luck or by accident. Unless you grew up in a family-owned promo business, most of us did not aspire to work in this industry as children. As we celebrate this month’s Rising Stars, it’s a great time to reflect on the influence each of us has on both recruiting new people to the industry and enriching the lives of the young people who have given promotional products a chance. At the recent PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference, the topic of mentors and sponsors was a recurring theme among the speakers. They emphasized that neither role requires one to be a business owner or manager—just someone who has knowledge to share (a mentor) or is willing to speak well on behalf of someone else to an influential person (a sponsor). During the course of my 34 years in this industry, I’ve enjoyed the benefit of many mentors and sponsors both within and outside of my organization. They’ve been peers, competitors, managers, suppliers, and other volunteers. There is a clear line between the support I received and the success I have had, so I seek to pay it forward whenever I can. Here are some simple sponsoring and mentoring actions you can do that take five minutes or less: • Send an email to your contact’s supervisor, congratulating your contact on their attention to detail, prompt communications, or other act that caused the order or project to go smoothly. • Recommend someone to provide a quote for an article, speak on a panel or participate in a project. • Nominate a peer for an award. • Tag and congratulate someone on LinkedIn if you see their name in a flattering post or article, or if you know they contributed to the project being highlighted. • If you worked on a fun project or gained some new and interesting industry knowledge, share it with your social network. The fun project may inspire someone to seek employment within the industry, and the new knowledge you gained may give someone else a leg up. When we shine the light on our promo stars, we brighten the whole sky and become a beacon for talent looking for a home. Take a few minutes out of your day to shine a little light on someone doing a great job or share something new you’ve learned. You’ll make someone’s day and may get a little stardust on your sleeve. When we shine the light on our promo stars, we brighten the whole sky and become a beacon for talent looking for a home. Take a few minutes out of your day to shine a little light on someone doing a great job or share something new you’ve learned. Dawn Olds, MAS+ Chair Of The Board perspectives 4 | SEPTEMBER 2022 |

PRESIDENT & CEO Dale Denham, MAS+ 888-I-AM-PPAI EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT Robert I. McLean, Jr., CPA, CAE, CEM SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT Alan Peterson DIRECTOR OF FINANCE Brigitte Rousseau, CPA, MBA VICE PRESIDENT, REVENUE AND EXPOSITIONS Ellen Tucker, CAE DIRECTOR OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY Paul Elfstrom DIRECTOR OF MEMBER ENGAGEMENT Anne Stone, CAE DIRECTOR OF MARKETING Keith Vincent PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Josh Ellis 972-258-3028 JoshE@ppai.org NEWS EDITORS James Khattak 972-258-3052 JamesK@ppai.org Jonny Auping 972-258-3044 JonnyA@ppai.org ASSOCIATE EDITORS Kristina Valdez 972-258-3094 KristinaV@ppai.org Rachel Zoch 972-258-3063 RachelZ@ppai.org -ART DIRECTION SPARK Publications SPARKpublications.com 704-844-6080 ADVERTISING MANAGEMENT SALES MANAGER AND NATIONAL ACCOUNTS Melissa Massey 972-258-3029 MelissaM@ppai.org ACCOUNT MANAGERS Connie Brazil 972-258-3064 ConnieB@ppai.org Taylor Coward 972-258-3033 TaylorC@ppai.org ADVERTISING CONTACT Mimi Duong 972-258-3025 MimiD@ppai.org BOARD OFFICERS CHAIR OF THE BOARD Dawn Olds, MAS HALO IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIR Todd Pottebaum, MAS+ Quality Resource Group, Inc. CHAIR-ELECT OF THE BOARD Kevin Walsh, CAS Showdown Displays VICE CHAIR, FINANCE SERVICES Andrew Spellman, CAS Therabody BOARD MEMBERS TERMS EXPIRING 2023 R. Renée Jones, MAS+ A Creative Touch David Nicholson Polyconcept NA TERMS EXPIRING 2024 Dawn Olds, MAS HALO Kevin Walsh, CAS Showdown Displays TERMS EXPIRING 2025 Noah Lapine Lapine Associates, Inc. Andrew Spellman Therabody TERMS EXPIRING 2026 Chris Anderson HPG Denise Taschereau Fairware AT-LARGE DIRECTOR TERM EXPIRING 2024 Melissa Ralston, Koozie Group PPAI HEADQUARTERS 3125 Skyway Circle North, Irving, Texas 75038-3526 Phone: 888-IAM-PPAI (426-7724) www.ppai.org, pubs.ppai.org READER RESOURCES SUBSCRIBE TO PPB: Subscribe online at pubs.ppai.org or send your name, title, company name and mailing address, along with phone and fax, to PPB Subscriptions, 3125 Skyway Circle North, Irving, Texas 75038. Or phone in your subscription to 972-258-3019. Include payment with your order. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted, along with checks. Additional member subscriptions are $58 for PPAI member companies (U.S.), $70 (Canada and Mexico) and $75 (international). Nonmember subscriptions are $72 (U.S.), $82 (Canada and Mexico) and $92 (international). Please allow four to six weeks for start of subscription. ADVERTISE IN PPB: Download a media kit with rates and specs for all PPAI print and digital publications at pubs.ppai.org, or call 972-258-3019 or e-mail mediasales@ppai.org. WRITE FOR PPB: The magazine regularly accepts articles from both professional writers and industry experts—like yourself. Find out everything you need to know about submitting an article or an idea by reading PPB’s Writer’s Guidelines available at pubs.ppai.org/submit-content. 6 | SEPTEMBER 2022 |

feedback Send feedback on articles in PPB or opinions on industry issues to JamesK@ppai.org. A Fond Farewell To EVP Bob McLean In July, PPAI Executive Vice President Bob McLean announced that he was stepping away from his role at the Association to pursue the next chapter in his career as a consultant. While he will continue to work with PPAI, his departure caps off a distinguished tenure with the Association. There simply aren’t words to describe the impact Bob has had on our industry and trade association. It isn’t enough to say his strong fiscal management and business decisions served as a foundation for so many other initiatives PPAI could bring to members. His character and positive contribution to the volunteer side of the equation were and will continue to be a vital part of developing new leaders not only in our industry but in their personal lives. Bob has enriched my life experiences and been a true guide to not only bettering all of our journeys with the Association but being better, more caring and supportive humans! STEVEN MEYER, MAS National Sales Manager Gemini Industries Roxana, Illinois PPAI 112011, S6 Bob has been amazing. I have loved when we were able to work together and always enjoyed our warm friendship. I’ll never forget the work we did together on PPEF [Promotional Products Education Foundation] and how instrumental you were to some of our most successful initiatives! KIPPIE HELZEL, MAS Director, Strategic Partnerships Spector & Co. Montreal, Quebec PPAI 168328, S10 Bob has been a wonderful representative of PPAI. He will be greatly missed! Best of luck on your new journey! PAUL LAGE, MAS President (Retired) IMAGEN Brands Mason, Ohio PPAI 114197, S10 Returning To The Basics In June, Promotional Consultant Today shared five tips to being a better listener from Brian Ahearn, a speaker, coach and consultant. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit pubs.ppai.org/subscribe. Basic reminders are my favorite. They refresh what we heard or read long ago but tend to push to the back of our minds. RENE RICHARDS Account Executive Cedric Spring & Associates Saint Charles, Illinois PPAI 108800, D6 Keeping Track Of The KPIs An August issue of PPB Newslink shared details from Jon Zientek, CFO of California distributor MadeToOrder, on the performance indicators he uses to track the financial strength of his company. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit pubs.ppai.org/subscribe. I was guilty for years of focusing on sales and marketing, not realizing just how much it was costing me by not keeping a close watch on the numbers. Fortunately, technology makes monitoring easy. JAE M. RANG, MAS Strategist, Speaker, Author, Mom JAE Associates, Ltd. Oakville, Ontario PPAI 561178, D4 8 | SEPTEMBER 2022 | INNOVATE

INNOVATE Excellence In Craft These 15 suppliers are upping the industry standard, earning PPAI Pyramid Awards in Supplier Decorating for their artistry and attention to detail, spanning 12 decoration categories. page 36 page 14 12QUESTION PAYDAY DELAY 32EYE ON APPAREL OUTDOOR WEAR MARKET TRENDS Rising Stars Get to know PPAI’s 2022 Rising Stars—12 young people helping to shape the future of their companies and the promotional products industry. YRABOTA / Shutterstock.com | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 11

compiled by Kristina Valdez Payday Delay A new client is requesting net 90-day terms. How do you suggest they pay in a reasonable amount of time? QA Distributor Asks: I have a new client who is requesting net 90-day terms. It’s not a huge order (200 t-shirts), but that seems unusually long. My standard terms are prepaying on the first order for new clients. Any suggestions on how to get them to pay in a reasonable amount of time? I want the order, but I don’t want to float that money. No! If they want those kinds of terms, they are having cash flow problems. If you don’t give other clients 90 days, they shouldn’t get it. I remember the times when a 200-piece t-shirt order looked large; now, not so much. Reading it again also set off the alarm bells that at 90 days, if they still haven’t paid, they may ask for an extension to pay while you are chasing them for the money. Credit card up front, and it better go through. And make sure they don’t call the credit card company and cancel it a week later with whatever excuse they have. REBECCA FORD Owner Independent Distributor Cincinnati Do not give them 90-day terms! Big red flag here! You will get screwed by this client. If they can’t afford to pay for the order right away, then they shouldn’t be ordering anything. ALAN BAKER, MAS Owner Creative Marketing Concepts Latham, New York PPAI 209464, D1 This is a no fromme. I invoice with the proof every time and get no push back. I might be OK with a 30-day net for an established client, but 90 days is excessive, especially for a new client. KIM BULINSKY Owner Two Kids Promotional Products Palm Harbor, Florida PPAI 810361, D1 I require prepay from all clients— frommy microbusinesses, to my nonprofits, to my international corporations. I found long ago that the big guys who want net 30 terms usually pay net 60 or 90, and the little guys often just can’t come up with the money in 30 days either. Not to mention that, just because you’re huge and recognizable doesn’t mean you’re financially solvent; can you say MCI or Enron? RAMA BEERFAS, MAS Owner Lev Promotions Santee, California PPAI 218331, D4 I would just say “no.” One hundred percent payment upfront always. No terms unless it’s a government/state agency or school district. If it’s one of those, then only 30-45day net terms. You’re a small business; you’re not Bank of America. SANDRA SAPOL President and Owner Fully Promoted Encinitas Carlsbad, California PPAI 702575, D2 QA Distributor Asks: I got an email from a senior marketing manager of a big firm with nationwide branches, requesting for a credit application as they will be purchasing some high-end tech products for their event in August. They will be spending about $80-100k. I checked, and he and the company he works with look legit. As a precaution, what other things do I need to do to make sure this is not another scam? I already told him as a new client we will require a pre-payment for the first order. I do not see any situation that a legit company would line up a job at this cost Visual Generation / Shutterstock.com 12 | SEPTEMBER 2022 | INNOVATE

without wanting to meet and get you approved as a vendor. It’s a scam. CHRISTINE PETRE Owner Jersey Girl Promo Cherry Hill, New Jersey PPAI 796300, D1 Get a purchase order from the company with all the terms and payment information. There should be a different email to send invoices as most major companies have a separate person handling accounts payable. ANDREW SHOUSHANIAN VP of Operations Versacom Incorporated Dearborn, Michigan PPAI 304532, D3 It’s a hoax! No company has ever askedme for my credit application— first red signal. Now this “Jeff” has a local number in his signature which he didn’t have last time. There was only an 888 number. I’ve called both and the same guy answers. Sorry, that “huge” company is BS. Funny, I’ve asked him to call me several times. He even emailedme last night at 7:00 p.m., telling me we could chat today—BS! They won’t give you quantities, just $80,000 budget. So many red flags! JEANNE WALLS President JWalls Ink! Richmond, Virginia PPAI 519818, D2 Do You Have An Answer? A Distributor Asks: I’ve recently started getting orders from a rather large business. But they didn’t just hand me their entire business, although it seems on the table, considering the previous company they were working with hasn’t been working out. I’m unsure on how to ask them for another product… am I approaching this incorrectly? How can I formally ask for more orders? A Distributor Asks: Have you been working harder than ever quoting on countless pieces of business only to have prospects not even having the decency to reply to your quote, follow up calls or emails? Are the days of having relationships over? Email your response(s) to Question@ppai.org for the chance to be featured in a future issue of PPB. Valdez is an associate editor at PPAI. PPAI: 111248 | ASI: 35375 | SAGE: 50327 | UPIC: ACCENTS | DC:101273 www.americanaccents.com 888.287.7883 PERFECT FOR... Interior print optional ѭ 8FRUQJ PNYX ѭ 5WTIZHY UFHPFLNSL ѭ 8ZGXHWNUYNTS GT]JX ѭ <JQHTRJ PNYX ѭ FSI RTWJ We have over 60 sizes to choose from! Full color digital imprint No die cut fees Quick turnarounds ѭEasy to assemble ѭSelf locking Need Mailing Boxes? ѭMade & printed in the USA 5 Piece minimums | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 13 INNOVATE

FEATURE | Rising Stars 14 | SEPTEMBER 2022 |

When a group of the 2022 PPAI Rising Stars visited the Association’s headquarters this summer to celebrate their honor, they were also given a challenge: Prepare to lead the promotional products industry. Indeed, this select group of high-achievers, chosen among hundreds of worthy nominees from across the marketplace by a PPAI judging panel, represent the emerging future of promotional products. They may go on to lead companies, regional associations, or even help guide PPAI itself as board members. They are the boldest and the brightest, joining a group of just over 160 professionals who have claimed the honor since the program began in 2010. This annual recognition of young people spotlights some of the industry’s most promising up-and-coming figures based on their accomplishments, demonstrated leadership and involvement in the marketplace and their communities. In these interviews, they reveal the strengths that make them special, the challenges they deal with and their vision for where the industry is soon headed. Emerging Get to know PPAI’s 2022 Rising Stars – 12 young people helping to shape the future of their companies and the promotional products industry. compiled by PPAI Media Staff Leaders Rising Stars | FEATURE | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 15

FEATURE | Rising Stars Nicole Baker, 30 Account Executive American Solutions for Business Murfreesboro, Tennessee Getting Started Like many, she fell into the industry unexpectedly. Having planned to move back home after college, she decided at the last minute to apply for a job in Nashville on LinkedIn. She received an offer the day before graduation to work in a support role at a distributorship. Earning The Honor With no experience in the industry or connections to it, she learned quickly and built an impressive client lineup, according to nominators Taylor Borst, Wayne Martin and Amy Spychalla. Baker has also embraced eCommerce with her customers, heightening sales for the company. Your Most Difficult Challenge? “Right now, my biggest challenge is adapting to mom life and still balancing work. I have a twomonth-old, and being a mom is my biggest priority, but I want to show my daughter that women can have a career and be a mom.” Prefer Working From Home Or In-Office? “I love working from home. I do sometimes miss having the social aspect of the office environment, but I definitely prefer being at home.” How Does American Solutions For Business Support You? “Giving me the flexibility to run my business the way it works for me. I’m able to add the support I need and not use the tools I don’t need. It’s really wonderful to be able to build my business the way my clients and I need it to run.” How Do You Define Corporate Social Responsibility In The Industry? “We have a big responsibility to avoid brandfill as much as we can. From finding products people will use and not immediately throw away, to selling products that are sustainably sourced and ethically produced, there are so many ways for us to make sure we’re being socially responsible.” What Inspires You? “My why is my family. I want to do good work because I want to provide the best life possible for my family. This job and this industry allow me so much flexibility to be present for my daughter today while I’m building my business to provide for her future.” 16 | SEPTEMBER 2022 |

Rising Stars | FEATURE Hilary Barnes, 29 Field Sales Manager PCNA Greater Toronto Area Getting Started In the summer between her third and fourth year at university, she met with a family friend who was talking about her job as an account manager at a distributorship. The friend needed someone to assist with day-to-day tasks, so Barnes helped out that summer. After graduating, she joined the industry full-time. Earning The Honor Barnes has been recognized by PCNA for the best performance by a person who is new to the outside sales organization. “She is a champion amongst her peers in our technical platforms and is eager to share her knowledge to ultimately help her teammates,” says nominator Emily Douglas. Proudest Moment? “My proudest career moment would probably be this right now, being a part of the PPAI Rising Stars. But previous to this, my first year at PCNA, as a field sales manager, I was awarded Rookie of the Year, which goes to highest growth in sales for a new employee that year. And it was actually in 2020, which was a very challenging year for all. So I was very proud of that accomplishment.” How Do You Achieve Work/Life Balance? “I try to keep a normal schedule in terms of keeping that 9-to-5, or 8-to-4, whatever it may be. It’s hard with working from home. When I’m catching up on emails after a long day, I try to step away, close my laptop and revisit in the morning. I try no tot be one of those people who opens up my laptop after dinner.” How Does PCNA Support You? “We have a learning and development program at PCNA run by a couple of our leaders. It’s not just about learning about what products or brand we’re launching. It’s a lot about internal professional development. There’s a mentor program, and it’s all volunteer based. So, if you really want to grow your skillset as an account manager or a salesperson, whatever it may be, we’ve got lots of programs in place to basically learn, home in on a skill or develop a new skill.” What Innovations Are Needed In The Industry? “A digital innovation that I think is coming that a lot of us are trying to improve or develop is the order entry in order processing. Basically, the ability to place purchase orders right through our website.” How Do You Define Corporate Social Responsibility In The Industry? “Corporate, social and environmental responsibility have a huge personal level of importance to me because the statistics are out there. The earth is warming. I have a lot of life to live, and I want the earth to be here for my generation and generations that follow me. I’m fortunate that my company is on the forefront of CSR and hoping to push the industry together on it as a whole.” | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 17

FEATURE | Rising Stars Johnny Beig, 40 Senior Vice President Dioz Group Beverly Hills, California Getting Started Dioz Group was started in 2006 in Australia and was affiliated with the Australian Promotional Products Association. When traveling the United States for the first time, he was in Las Vegas during The PPAI Expo and learned more about the industry, eventually becoming a member of PPAI. Earning The Honor “Johnny is constantly looking for new opportunities to grow the business and expand product offerings into new markets,” his nominator Jeff Cheema says. After establishing his business in his home country of Australia, Beig was able to grow his business in the U.S., eventually opening a second office in California. He also quickly pivoted product offerings during the pandemic focusing on PPE and other medical supplies. Proudest Moment? “The proudest moment had been closing my first sale. It was with Proforma. I worked with Proforma on a very large deal back in 2012. It took me 12 months. Back then we didn’t really have much presence in the U.S., and I traveled three times to [California] to meet with a rep.” How Do You Achieve Work/Life Balance? “I have made a rule that Saturday and Sunday, no computers, no emails nothing at all; just spend time with my family. During the week I often have to be on the computer late at night, talking to China, India, all these factories where we source our goods.” How Do You Support Fellow Young People At Dioz Group? “The young people are very creative. The ideas they have are different from what used to be the traditional way. We try to encourage them. We send them out to the trade shows for them to learn about the industry. We mentor them with what we’ve learned and what we’ve experienced in our journey.” What Innovations Are Needed In The Industry? “We would love to have a seamless ordering system. The way the world is moving, everything is on a touch of a button. Being able to provide [distributors] with a portal where they’re able to design, put their logos on a product and be able to just seamlessly click the ordering system for the quantities they want and the price points are already given to them.” How Do You Define Corporate Social Responsibility In The Industry? “It’s very vital. We actually have a pledge that by 2025 Dioz Group will only be dealing with sustainable products, whether that be sustainable promo products or sustainable apparel. I think it’s our duty to make sure we all do our small part to make sure we’re heading to a good future.” 18 | SEPTEMBER 2022 |

Rising Stars | FEATURE Mel Bettua, 35 Director of Sales HPG Greater Boston Area Getting Started She was let go of her job in hospitality during the 2009 recession. Having always worked in hospitality, she knew she wanted to be in more than just an administrative role and was drawn to sales. She found HPG through Indeed.com, having always had an affinity and a collection of pens. Earning The Honor “Melissa is an influencer and recognizable face in the industry due to the hundreds of HPG virtual trade shows she hosted for distributors over the last two years,” her nominator Trina Bicknell says. She also established the HPG Edge Team, which addresses the needs of distributors with large HPG-wide projects, assembling a team of sales reps, designers and administrators who all work together to make projects across of HPG brands happen efficiently. Proudest Moment? “Stepping into my leadership role just a few months before the pandemic. Nobody knew what was coming. Having gotten through that with a team that is stronger than we ever were before, I would say, is an accomplishment in itself.” Prefer Working From Home Or In-Office? “I like the mix. I like the flexibility of being home and in my yoga pants during the day. But I also like being able to go into the office and feel a little bit more routine on the days when I commute in, and I get to walk through the building and see my team face to face.” How Does HPG Support You? “They have always been there with a listening ear and supported me through my trials and even my errors. I like to try things in new ways just about as much as I like to rearrange my furniture at home. I’m a big embracer of change and not always doing things the same way. HPG has always supported me and whatever ideas I might have.” How Do You Define Corporate Social Responsibility In The Industry? “I think that social responsibility always starts within our own factories and also with our partners overseas. ‘Charity starts at home’ is the mantra that I believe in. If we are going to promote it, we need to make sure that we are actually walking the walk.” What Inspires You? “What truly inspires me to do my best work is the feelings of excitement and accomplishment that I get from my team and my peers when we’ve reached our goals. I think those are really the moments that I live for.” | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 19


Rising Stars | FEATURE Derek Boyer, 39 Success Coach Proforma Stow, Ohio Getting Started Boyer had an acquaintance at Proforma, which led to being interviewed for a recruiting position at the company, an opportunity to start his career in promotional products. Earning The Honor Boyer has risen the ranks at Proforma from recruiter, to mergers and acquisitions manager, to business development manager to his current position as success coach. In the process, he has touched numerous aspects of the company, says nominator Mike Ross. Your Most Difficult Challenge? “Staying up to speed on the ever-changing landscape of technology in the industry. There is always something new to learn to help our owners sell smarter and more efficiently.” How Do You Achieve Work/Life Balance? “I really dedicate myself during the hours that I am working with very few distractions so that I can spend the time that I have left with my wife and our fivemonth-old daughter.” How Does Proforma Support You? “For a few years, my father was battling cancer. [Proforma founder] Greg Muzzillo would call me regularly to ask how he was doing. He wouldn’t want to discuss deals that I was working on. He just wanted to check in on my dad and how I was coping with the situation. I think that is very telling of the organization.” What Innovations Are Needed In The Industry? “Proforma being on the leading edge of the eCommerce boom has been very exciting. As we move forward, I think the importance of machine learning and the ability to extract more specific data points in the sales process will change the way promotional products are marketed and sold.” What Inspires You? “Talking to leadership members who express sincere gratitude for everything we do to help them be successful inspires me to go the extra mile for the next project.” | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 21

Kelly Brown, 29 Director of Marketing & Operations Green Giftz Grand Rapids, Michigan Getting Started Brown left a previous job in eCommerce looking for a more creative atmosphere. She joined Green Giftz in 2016, initially taking on the role of assistant project manager, and eventually used her previous work experience to help grow the company’s eCommerce offerings. Earning The Honor Nominator Caleb Dillon says Brown is a creative thinker who isn’t afraid to ask the difficult questions. Upon joining the company, she was a vital part of creating and growing Green Giftz’ social media accounts, email campaigns and eStores. In her third year with Green Giftz, she suggested the company implement a new internal operating system, advice that was not only heeded but also led to Browns’ role of “integrator” to the system. What Inspires You? “I would say that critical feedback inspires me to do my best work because it highlights my weaknesses, which I can learn to embrace by finding others who may be strong in those areas to help me.” Your Most Difficult Challenge? “Juggling all my roles. Green Giftz is a small business, and my role means I manage a book of business, all our marketing, communication and public relations efforts, lead our sales team, execute the business plan, align our process and procedures (always looking for new ways to improve) and implement and manage all of our eCommerce business. Sitting down on Monday, I often feel like my head is spinning. Writing down a to-do list with a cup of coffee helps me feel like I have my arms wrapped around my workload.” Proudest Moment? “The fact that Green Giftz was able to come out of the pandemic with one of our best years and now trending to have an even better, record-breaking year is very cool. On top of that, I’m proudest of the team I get to work with every day because we truly accomplish some crazy projects, and we do it all together.” How Do You Achieve Work/Life Balance? “I try to transition from work to ‘life’ with working out at the gym or teaching a fitness class. In the winter months, I coach a high school sports team. When I’m coaching, I can’t focus on anything other than the athletes in front of me and keeping them safe. Both of these access a different part of my brain and allow me to let go of the workday.” Prefer Working From Home Or In-Office? “Both. I split my time between the office and home. I don’t like 100% either way. I enjoy the companionship of being the office, but I do notice my productivity is better at home.” FEATURE | Rising Stars 22 | SEPTEMBER 2022 |

Melissa Gayl, 34 Senior Manager of National Accounts BAMKO Los Angeles Getting Started “I was working in the fashion industry as a product developer for handbag design, and my first manager ended up moving into this industry. She and I stayed close, and she ended up referring me to BAMKO over six years ago.” Earning The Honor Melissa’s nominator Josh White says, “Melissa has done it all at BAMKO, rapidly rising through the ranks and bringing with her a really dynamic combination of skills that makes her one of our most valuable employees. What separates Melissa from the pack are two really key attributes: dynamic versatility and unique leadership skills.” Proudest Moment? “My proudest career moment happened earlier this year when I was promoted to Senior Manager of National Accounts. I have always worked with some of our longest and most important clients, but I had never been charged with managing those relationships independently. With my promotion came a lot more autonomy and responsibility when it comes to our clients, and I have been given the opportunity to build and develop my own team of account management professionals. Being recognized as a leader and having the freedom to mentor and run my own team has been an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience.” Your Most Difficult Challenge? “I think the biggest challenge has been how much the industry has changed since Covid, and having to adapt to servicing our clients with new products like PPE at the height of a global pandemic, on top of learning to work effectively from home, did not come without its challenges. Luckily, we’ve successfully been able to adapt and get ahead of the economic and supply chain issues. But it has definitely been a challenge over the past couple years.” How Does BAMKO Support You? “We have grown so much over the past few years, yet I never feel like just a number. As we’ve grown, so have the opportunities for me to grow. I think it comes down to the culture we’ve built at BAMKO. We very much operate like a team and support one another through thick and thin. We all work hard and care about our company being successful, because we feel like we’re a part of something special.” How Do You Define Corporate Social Responsibility In The Industry? “I think it’s extremely important for promo companies to be socially responsible and understand what products are made of, where they come from and all materials being used. It’s become a more prevalent topic with most of our clients.” What Inspires You? “I am inspired by setting clear goals and doing my best to achieve them. This has been instilled in me by my father who has always been stressed the importance of hard work and consistency.” Rising Stars | FEATURE | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 23

FREE SCREEN CHARGE on Qualatex® & AdRite™ 9" & 11" Balloon Order $48.00 (c) Value 1 time only Must note Promotion Code# 14484 on Purchase Order Expires 12/31/2022 www.pioneerline.com BM-2207013 USA ©2022 PBC ASI 78200 SAGE 56460

Rising Stars | FEATURE Lane Hokanson, 28 Global Key Accounts Marketing Manager Goldstar Grand Rapids, Michigan Getting Started In her first job after high school, Hokanson worked in the marketing department for a florist, alongside a friend. When that friend left for a local distributor, Hokanson followed soon after. She landed in sales before switching to marketing, then later joined Goldstar on the supplier side of the promotional products industry. Earning The Honor Nominator Parker Melvin says, “Lane is the epitome of a rising star in our industry! She is simply the most gifted and intuitive marketing person with whom I have ever worked. She brings a unique blend of skill and experience in both sales and marketing to a position that is the first of its kind at our company.” Your Most Difficult Challenge? “I would say, honestly, feeling like you’re not doing enough. I think it’s easy with so much content and information in the world. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse. So, it’s easy to feel like you could be doing more because you’re seeing lots of people doing bigger, bolder and different things. But it’s important to recognize who you are, what your role is like in your company and who your audience is, and just remembering that you’re doing a good job.” Prefer Working From Home Or In-Office? “I’m an introvert, and I have a dog. So, my preference is, for sure, working from home. I love it. I feel like I’m just as productive at home versus the office. I just don’t have to look busy if I’m not. I really appreciate that kind of flexibility and fluidity that comes with having just a little bit more freedom and having a team where I understand my role, and I can do it. And if I’m efficient, that’s totally fine.” What Inspires You? “I’m uptight, and so I always want to make sure that I am doing everything on my to do list, crossing my T’s and dotting my I’s. I don’t want to let anybody down. But really, that means I love my team. So, I don’t want anyone to ever feel like I’m not supporting them or not giving them what they need. That’s what really inspires me to do my best.” | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 25

Indigo Shea, 24 Sand Scripts / AdBibLine Brielle, New Jersey Getting Started “My parents own distributor Sand Scripts and supplier AdBibLine. I’ve been helping since a very young age with production, logistics, artwork ideas, management and social media aspects.” Earning The Honor Shea was nominated by her mother and father, who call her the “new face of our promotional products company.” She has been acting in a managerial position within the company since Covid. She sewed masks, printed disposable masks and came up with other ways to stay busy and help customers get through these very difficult times. She had just finished college and was ready to start work in the entertainment industry as a theatrical designer, and instead is working on making her career to continue the family business. Proudest Moment? “Learning and tackling the new machinery we get, like the pad printer and laser cutter. I’m dissecting their qualities to create new products and opportunities for the company.” Your Most Difficult Challenge? “Managing two careers in theatre production and design while helping to manage and create new products at Sand Scripts/AdBibLine. I have two separate jobs in that way, working full time doing both, so it’s a juggling process, but I totally love both equally. I also have my own side project business of making theatre-inspired jewelry and art, selling at R59 Creates, a successful Etsy shop.” Prefer Working From Home Or In-Office? “I prefer to work from home, so I can work on my own time and days that I designate for this job, in particular. This allows me to use those other days for gig working as a theatrical stagehand and designer. I’m extremely grateful for the flexibility the company gives me in letting me create my own schedule — as I know the tasks I have to get done and the timeframe in which I have to do them.” What Innovations Are Needed In The Industry? “I think any technological or digital innovation that helps in pushing this personalization trend that is so important to the promotional product industry is needed. Whether that be a laser cutter to engrave a logo, or name or whatever is the new and upcoming machine, it’s important to stay relevant in understanding the scope and possibilities at hand in the future. Everyone wants small quantities personalized these days and continuing to develop lines with very small quantity options for personalization is very important.” What Inspires You? “I’m inspired when we get amazing feedback from the clients about how our products helped enhance their events or lives. It shows how even the strangest and smallest things can make others smile and round out a special day or cause.” FEATURE | Rising Stars 26 | SEPTEMBER 2022 |

Brad Kaeser, 32 Business Development Kaeser & Blair Newport, Kentucky Getting Started “Kaeser & Blair was a family-owned and operated business since 1894. So, it’s always been a part of part of my life. I explored a couple different things, and then eventually settled on getting a degree in marketing and really fell in love with the marketing aspect of it, which I thought would be the most beneficial in promotional products industry.” Earning The Honor Nominator Liza Sachs says Brad Kaeser was “born into a wonderful legacy and made the decision to work from the ground up to learn all aspects of the business to ensure future growth,” and calls him mature beyond measure. Proudest Moment? “Getting this Rising Star award. I think it’s not only not something that I’m just proud of, but I also know Kaeser & Blair, as a whole, is proud of it. And I think it’s going to really help Kaeser & Blair moving forward.” Your Most Difficult Challenge? “Right now, I think the biggest challenge is how to how to work with internet and the internet sales. You know, we live in a world where it’s the Amazon effect—everybody wants things right now. They want to be able to go online and do their shopping. So, I think trying to combat that is probably one of the biggest hurdles, and then also trying to get the Millennial generation kind of interested in doing commission-based sales.” Prefer Working From Home Or In-Office? “I’d say 90% of the time I prefer to work remote. I feel more comfortable, and we’ve got a nice little home office setup. As weird as it sounds, since it’s a separate space in our home, there are less distractions there. It just works out well that I can be less distracted at home and really dial into the focus.” How Do You Define Corporate Social Responsibility In The Industry? “Showcase how you’re trying to focus on hiring more diverse employees and when it comes to things like sustainability, again, be transparent. I think as more and more people and companies share what they’re doing that, especially using social media, it’ll inspire others. They can take those ideas and in turn use them for themselves.” Rising Stars | FEATURE | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 27

FEATURE | Rising Stars Mitch Kaeser, 30 Event Planning Kaeser & Blair, Inc. Newport, Kentucky Getting Started “I say that I’ve been around a lifetime, but — with a paycheck — seven years. I kind of developed my own role within the company. I dropped and added little parts from other job descriptions to create this role of mine.” Earning The Honor Having worked with Kaeser & Blair as a supplier for 15 years, nominator Liza Sachs has known both Brad and Mitch Kaeser since they were boys. She recently joined the company as the director of sales, and now gets to work with both directly and see firsthand how much the family company means to them. She says Mitch takes “such pride in the family company and plans to help grow for another 100 years!” Proudest Moment? “Last year, I took on the responsibilities of planning our annual sales conference. My proudest moment was I had a flawless execution of the project. After it, I think in the moment it ended, I was like, ‘I did that.’ It was an amazing thing. Now, I’m planning next year, and I think it’s going to go even better.” Your Most Difficult Challenge? “Right now, I would say the challenges are connections and trying to get those back up to par to what our connections were in the past. I think we’ve taken a step back, or a backseat role for a little bit, but we’re ready to set sail and get those connections back up.” How Do You Achieve Work/Life Balance? “I know people like to push the 5 p.m. boundary, but I have almost a hard stop at 5 p.m. I think it’s important to really live your life and as much as a job is a part of that, it’s important to balance and realize that you need to give yourself time and smell the roses.” How Does Kaeser & Blair Support You? “I’ve been given a lot of freedom — freedom to express myself and freedom to bring opinions to the table. I think they made a good solid effort to not push away my opinions or young people’s opinions. They’re very open to change and open to allowing us to help the company.” What Inspires You? “I’m all about a smile. I think if I can get someone to smile, that’s what makes me want to do my best work. Just making someone happy inspires me to do my best. There’s a famous quote by Dolly Parton that says, ‘If you see someone without a smile, give them yours.’ That’s kind of my go-to motto. I think I’ll do anything for the smile.” 28 | SEPTEMBER 2022 |

Rising Stars | FEATURE Javier Melendez, 30 National Account Executive Walker-Clay, Inc. Greater Boston Area Getting Started “Trade school is actually where I started my career in promo. I learned about printing presses, screen printing and embroidery throughout trade school. So, I always like to say I’ve been doing it since high school. From there, I just went through and kept working in promo.” How He Earned The Honor “While Javier is young, he does have a vast knowledge of our industry from working in a variety of sectors,” says Heather O’Neill, his nominator. “I’ve enjoyed seeing Javier apply that to his sales role on our team. He has a passion for innovation and technology, as well as social media. He is well known for his TikTok videos that both entertain and educate not only customers but also industry colleagues. He can combine both his professionalism with his quick wit to draw in an audience.” Your Most Difficult Challenge? “The biggest challenge is developing new relationships, especially over the last two years. The reason why I say that is because this industry is very relationship driven. But when you’re trying to be a promo professional and advise clients, you run up against people who say, ‘I can buy this online.’ But building those new relationships and trying to explain to somebody, what you can be to them can sometimes be the hardest thing, especially now.” What Innovations Are Needed In The Industry? “I think, right now, one of the biggest technological challenges in the industry is supplier websites not having the information sales reps need. A lot of suppliers are doing the websites up beautifully, but I also need the critical information. I’m entering orders at 10 p.m., because during selling hours I want to sell. So, having clear communication on supplier websites about inventory, how long is production time and not just your stated production time? I need to know if it’s five days or 10 days? That’s the type of information I’d have to call a customer service rep, but I can’t call at 10 p.m. I think one big focus should be on having integrations so that way my system talks to your system, and we don’t have to process as much paper.” What Inspires You? “Growing up, it was always push to do your best and cross train wherever you can. I’ve taken those lessons and really just cross trained wherever I could and took education wherever I could. That served me to where I’m at in my career now. Now my focus has changed to my little girl. I want to take her to Disney World. I want to be able to do all the things and give her the best childhood I can.” | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 29

Ou t doo r Wea r Ma r ke t Tr ends by Rachel Zoch Gear For The Great Outdoors Fall is fast approaching, which thankfully means cooler temperatures and the opportunity to serve clients with trending clothing that will keep them comfortable and dry. Despite the record heat across North America and Europe this summer, fall is sure to bring its share of rainy, chilly days. That means it’s a great time to start thinking about outerwear, from jackets and ponchos to umbrellas, hats andmore. When it comes to outerwear for work, says Drew Davis, president of Colorado-based distributor Specialty Incentives, functionality and utility should take priority, and buyers should look at apparel purchases as an investment in their team. “Froma buyer’s perspective, they’re wanting their teams to not only look good, but to feel good about the apparel that they’re wearing,” he says. “From the professional perspective, there needs to be some utility and function to it. It’s beyond just, ‘Here’s a jacket’—it has to be a jacket that you’re going towant towear.” Coats and jackets comprise just over half the global winter wear market, valued at $290 billion in 2020 and expected to grow to almost $360 billion by 2025. But sweaters and cardigans are the fastest-growing category, proving that comfort is still king, thanks to the pandemic andWFH style. Think lightweight pieces that are portable and handy to carry. Neutral or earth tones also remain popular, as well as textures like quilting or buttery soft fleece that are soothing or interesting to touch. “Beyond the continued influx of neutral shades, variation of greys and earth tones, color trends in apparel and textiles will blend into the use of textures,” says Elson Yeung, president and designer with supplier KNOSS Apparel. “We should expect to continue seeing this as a trend, but also a demand fromconsumers.” INNOVATE 32 | SEPTEMBER 2022 |

Outerwear Staples: Jackets, Hoodies And More Jackets are the foundation of any outerwear wardrobe. Oversized silhouettes, especially big jackets in black, are hot right now. Hard shells should provide a looser, more boxy fit to allow for layering, so they can be a great opportunity for a branded product that is both useful and on trend. Soft shells (hoodies, fleece) should fit closer to the body to keep you cozy. This goes hand-in-hand with the trend of tailored micro blazers, which feature a very fitted, lean silhouette that may be more appropriate in a professional setting. Kristine Eng, a sales consultant for KNOSS Apparel, says it’s time to think beyond the basic soft shell and maximize utility for “a jacket that actually works for the wearer.” She points to KNOSS’ Legend All-Season Canvas Utility Jacket, which ticks a lot of feature boxes—it’s lightweight, water-resistant and has lots of pockets — and is versatile enough for a variety of uses. “We know utility is what is hot right now,” she says. Hoods and hoodies remain popular, as well, both as a fashion statement and to add warmth. Some jackets come with hoods that zip off or roll into the collar for storage. Pockets are highly prized, too, especially when designed with items like keys, IDs or cellphones in mind. Whatever garment type you’re looking for, says Davis, you have a much wider range of choices now than ever. “Two years ago, there might have been one style in one color,” he says, “and now there are certainly more options and material weights, patterns, etc.” Accessories: Get Covered Head To Toe When it comes to a rainy day, there are tons of accessories to keep youwarm and dry. “The umbrella is the obvious choice for keeping clothing not designed to be rainproof dry during your commute,” says Charity Gibson, national accounts representative with Peerless Umbrella. Over 33 million umbrellas are sold in the United States each year, and the average American owns two. This is a great You can’t go wrong with fleece, and this Men’s Inspire Bonded Sweater Fleece Jacket (shown in light heather) features a modern silhouette with piping details, as well as a vegan leather zipper pull for added style. With its casual but clean design, this jacket combines the sweater look with the comfort and ease of fleece, making it ideal for remote workers or casual work environments. KNOSS Apparel / PPAI 798753, S1 / www.knoss.com Texture is on trend for winter 2022, and bombers are back in a big way. This Weatherproof Women’s HeatLast Quilted Packable Bomber (shown in blush) has you covered on both fronts, plus it’s water resistant and packable for comfort and convenience. The jacket folds and stows into a separate pouch for easy transport. S&S Activewear / PPAI 256121, S12 / www.ssactivewear.com | SEPTEMBER 2022 | 33 INNOVATE Outdoor Wear Market Trends