PPAI Magazine January 2024

Must Read | Icon Awards Head Of The Class PPAI Hall of Fame inductee Dave DeGreeff sacrificed a lot for promotional products. In the end, the people made it worth it. By Jonny Auping If schoolteachers in the mid-1970s were properly compensated, promo might never have seen the likes of Dave DeGreeff, MAS. The industry would be worse off for it. In such a world, the community wouldn’t have been the beneficiary of years of DeGreeff’s business leadership, volunteerism and advocacy. Indeed, 2024’s PPAI Hall of Fame inductee has touched every side of the promo industry. But his earlier ambitions were tied to his first passion. DeGreeff and his wife were both teachers in the town of Washington, Missouri, delighted by the process of helping young children establish their footing in this world. But the prospect of having their own children was hamstrung by their modest salaries. Luckily, the small town of Washington had a disproportionately large promo presence at the time. A few of his friends worked for Hazel, a supplier of vinyl and leather products, which happened to have a sales position for him. That was the beginning of DeGreeff’s Hall of Fame career in promotional products. He never lost the passion for teaching. Still, even if promo was something of an alternative route, what he accomplished is worthy of being honored at The PPAI Expo 2024. The ‘Priest Of The Promotional Products Industry’ It didn’t start off smoothly. Bill Wood, then the sales manager of Hazel, took DeGreeff to Michigan for a sales trip. DeGreeff’s job was to cover Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, so this trip was to be something of a test run. After about a day and a half, Wood called back to Hazel headquarters to declare that he didn’t believe his young colleague was going to make it in this industry. Perhaps he needed a little more time to adjust to the new career, or perhaps he just needed to go out and develop his relationships out from under the watchful eye of Wood, but soon DeGreeff was thriving, not to mention learning about the business. “I worked for [Hazel] for four years, and it was the best training that anyone could possibly get,” he says. The supplier required that DeGreeff spend some time in the factory to work in production and silk screening and embossing to learn all the different things that went into making their products. It set a standard for product knowledge that would greatly help him over the course of his career. The only problem was that the salary he received as a regional sales manager was still relatively small, all things considered. In 1982, at age 30 and with one child, DeGreeff developed a plan. It would be a risk. He scouted out Texas as the place where he could make strides as a multi-line rep. He told Hazel that he was leaving the company and departed for a trade 54 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI