PPAI Magazine April 2024

be better leaders in our organizations and the industry at large, and Joseph is paramount to leading that charge,” Danson says. “Whitestone’s success is largely due to the fact that he strives to do things differently than most everyone else and create an organization that is best in class.” People like Sommer are reinventing the industry, giving it a new reputation and bringing in new buyers that look at promo in a totally different light, adds commonsku’s Graham. “That fresh perspective is why he’s a great example of up-and-coming entrepreneurs in this industry who are setting the bar higher.” The Las Vegas meeting highlighted another aspect of Sommer as a business leader – seeing the value in mentorship and being a mentor. Those he’s worked with credit him with empathizing with the struggles of young business owners and say he’s always willing to impart wisdom. Coming from the tech space, Dillon Vassallo wasn’t sure where to begin when he co-founded Boston-based distributor BizGifter in 2017, so he joined PromoKitchen, an all-volunteer organization that provides mentorship in the industry. He was paired with Sommer, who “cut the learning curve exponentially.” “I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today without his support and guidance,” Vassallo says. “He had a big impact on how we not just target customers but retain them, as well. He’d always talk about how we’re all working with the same suppliers and products, so you have to differentiate yourself to be successful. Ensuring clients are happy and successful is the key to differentiation in the industry.” What’s Next? Five years ago, Sommer vowed to take Whitestone from $1 million in revenue to $10 million by 2023. He exceeded that goal by $6 million, and now he’s hell-bent on achieving his “big, hairy, audacious goal” of $100 million in the next 10 years. To help reach that landmark, Whitestone created an enterprise sales team with seven individuals dedicated to winning and securing program and contract business, helping companies with e-commerce stores, pop-up shops, franchise uniform and apparel solutions, print-on-demand portals and annual service recognition programs. “This industry does an incredible job creating sales reps who are transactional sellers,” Sommer says. “Where the industry doesn’t do a good job is selling in a team environment that focuses on more complex sales that involve contracts, longer lead times and more senior buyers and decisionmakers. So, this will be a little internal incubator.” Ultimately, Sommer says, his job comes down to three things: employee health and satisfaction, highlevel relationships, and strategy and vision. “I’m just glad to create a company that I would be proud to come to work for every day,” Sommer says. “I rate my success on the health and satisfaction of the people in my business. When your people enjoy what they do, it rubs off on their work, and clients can feel that. As an employer, you have certain responsibilities to your people, and I take that role very seriously.” Must Read | Joseph Sommer Dillon Vassallo Corrigan is a news editor at PPAI. 60 • APRIL 2024 • PPAI