PPAI Magazine May 2024

MEDIA.PPAI.ORG 05.24 IN THIS ISSUE Pitch Perfect: Sweeter Cards p. 34 The Convention Market p. 58 Circular Economy p. 62 Check out the industry’s freshest ideas, people, solultions, events and products p. 40 Coolest Promo Pro Who Should Be On Your Playlist Coolest Campaign That Doesn’t Bombard Us With Annoying Commercials Coolest Excuse To Try Poutine Coolest Way To Get $50,000 As A Small Business Coolest Pet-Friendly Promo For People Who Grew Up In the 2000s Coolest Bottle That Looks Like A Toy

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4 From PPAI Where We Belong 9 Creative Calendar Essentials 12 Use Case Remember Me 18 Good Taste Grillworthy Gifts 22 In Style Look & Feel Voices 28 Responsibility Carbon Dating 30 Innovation Measuring Innovation Success Must Read 58 Promotional Products Work From Booths To Boardrooms Community 72 Buzzworthy 74 Inside PPAI 78 Book Club 80 PPPC Communiqué 83 New Members 87 Datebook 92 Perfect Promo CONTENTS 05.24 VOLUME 48, ISSUE 04 Rounding Out The Supply Chain A circular economy means no product or material is wasted. Can the promotional products industry make it a reality? 62 Sweet Success Stacy Stahl’s year started strong, winning The Pitch at The PPAI Expo 2024 and attracting new financial backers to her business – but she didn’t come across success like this by accident. 34 The Coolest Stuff In Promo What’s poppin’ right now? Check out the industry’s freshest ideas, events, people, products and solutions. 40 40 62 34 PPAI • MAY 2024 • 3

From PPAI Dale Denham, MAS+ President & CEO 05.24 In leadership, there are very rarely universal fixes to the hard problems. As much as any other, this debate reinforced for me that we should give up looking for trendy and easy answers on productivity and instead make sure we are asking the right questions. Where We Belong WHEN I BECAME CEO OF PPAI IN 2021, a significant dilemma faced executives at our Association and across the world. Were we ready to return to the office, or were we staying remote? The question continued to dominate discussions for the next year or so. Somewhere along the way, every organization made its own decision, and many employees voted with their feet as well, in what was known as the Great Resignation. Almost three years later, the debate seems to have permanently settled on what I think is the right answer: Let’s just go with what works for us, be consistent and move on to getting things done. At PPAI, that means a hybrid schedule where employees are in office on the same two days each week. That doesn’t mean it’s the right answer in your organization, obviously, but it seems to be the right balance for PPAI. In leadership, there are very rarely universal fixes to the hard problems. As much as any other, this debate reinforced for me that we should give up looking for trendy and easy answers on productivity and instead make sure we are asking the right questions. For us, that meant exploring what would lead to the best results for our staff, our organization and our members. The answers were decidedly mixed for our teammates. Productivity and job joy vary significantly among individuals. Some find their stride in their own home, while others thrive in the dynamic environment of an office space. This variability highlights the limitation of a one-size-fits-all approach to work policies, which can be a source of frustration for those whose preferences and productivity are misaligned with company policy. Collaboration and innovation are often cited as key benefits of in-office work. The spontaneous interactions and the synergy of in-person meetings can lead to significant creative breakthroughs and foster a strong sense of community and organizational culture. I strongly believe in the value of in-person engagement on a regular basis with colleagues. Those moments when an impromptu conversation pivots into a transformative idea highlights the value that being physically together can bring to a team. The benefits of remote work are obvious, too, particularly the ability to tap into a broader talent pool, unhindered by geographic constraints. PPAI has experienced firsthand the value of incorporating staff who, although not based in the central office location, contribute significantly from where they are best situated for their personal lives. We now have people doing great work in every time zone, and we do our best to make the most of it on the occasions when they leave their personal lives behind and travel to visit us in the office. The real essence of productivity goes beyond the physical location of work, and there’s a common failure of managers equating busyness with productivity, regardless of the setting. Leaders should encourage their teams to scrutinize their efforts, identify activities that yield minimal value and focus on those that significantly contribute to the organization’s goals. Addressing “unproductive effort” may involve streamlining processes, implementing new projects or investing in training, personal development, technology or workspaces in ways that enhance overall productivity. Do those things, and you foster a culture that values people and outcomes over places – and leaves the team knowing they are right where they belong. 4 • MAY 2024 • PPAI


PPAI® PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Josh Ellis JoshE@ppai.org DEPUTY EDITOR James Khattak JamesK@ppai.org NEWS EDITORS Jonny Auping JonnyA@ppai.org John Corrigan JohnC@ppai.org ASSOCIATE EDITOR Rachel Zoch RachelZ@ppai.org COPYWRITER Sarah Luna SarahL@ppai.org MARKET ECONOMIST & SENIOR MANAGER, RESEARCH Alok Bhat AlokB@ppai.org RESEARCH MANAGER Robert Fitzpatrick RobertF@ppai.org GRAPHIC DESIGNER Rowel Cristobal RowelC@ppai.org ART DIRECTION SPARK Publications SPARKpublications.com 704-844-6080 ADVERTISING MANAGEMENT ACCOUNT MANAGERS Connie Brazil 972-258-3064 ConnieB@ppai.org Taylor Coward 972-258-3033 TaylorC@ppai.org Heather Mangold 972-258-3067 HeatherM@ppai.org Sandy Mendoza 972-258-3019 SandyM@ppai.org ADVERTISING CONTACT Danah Dean 972-258-3031 DanahD@ppai.org PRESIDENT & CEO Dale Denham, MAS+ 888-I-AM-PPAI DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Lindsey Davis, MAS VICE PRESIDENT, REVENUE AND EXPOSITIONS Ellen Tucker, MAS, CAE DIRECTOR OF FINANCE Renae Ward DIRECTOR OF CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY & SUSTAINABILITY Elizabeth Wimbush DIRECTOR OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION CW Karstens DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES Doris Sweely BOARD OFFICERS CHAIR OF THE BOARD Andrew Spellman, CAS Therabody IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIR Kevin Walsh, CAS Showdown Displays CHAIR-ELECT OF THE BOARD Denise Taschereau Fairware VICE CHAIR, FINANCE SERVICES Chris Anderson HPG BOARD MEMBERS TERMS EXPIRING 2025 Karie Cowden, MAS Connect the Dots Promotions REGIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE DELEGATE TERM EXPIRING 2025 Kara Keister, MAS Social Good Promotions TERMS EXPIRING 2026 Chris Anderson HPG AT LARGE DIRECTOR Lori Bauer iPROMOTEu TERMS EXPIRING 2027 Dan Pantano alphabroder Danny Rosin, CAS Brand Fuel TERMS EXPIRING 2028 Zack Ottenstein The Image Group Erin Reilly Pop! Promos 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 PPAI MAGAZINE: 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 PPAI MAGAZINE: Download a media kit with rates and specs for all PPAI print and digital publications at media.ppai.org, or call 972-258-3019 or email mediasales@ppai.org. WRITE FOR PPAI MAGAZINE: 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 PPAI’s Writer’s Guidelines available at media.ppai.org/submit-content. Promotional Products Association International 6 • MAY 2024 • PPAI

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If this calendar is helpful or if you have ideas for ways that we can better provide this information, email the editors at magazine@ppai.org JUNE 9 NATIONAL MEAL PREP DAY 13 NATIONAL WEED YOUR GARDEN DAY 11 NATIONAL GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE DAY JULY 1 AMERICAN ZOO DAY 6 INTERNATIONAL KISSING DAY 20 NATIONAL LOLLIPOP DAY AUGUST 4 NATIONAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DAY 10 NATIONAL S’MORES DAY 17 NATIONAL NONPROFIT DAY Exceptional Promotions NATIONAL INDEPENDENT RETAILER MONTH Product idea: Pucker up with a tube of certified USDA Organic Lip Balm made of 95% organic ingredients, including beeswax and sunflower oil. Full-color custom labeling included and available with or without the USDA organic seal. Choose from four flavors: vanilla, eucalyptus mint, mint burst and unflavored. Raining Rose / PPAI 232508, Silver rainingrosepromos.com SPECIAL OBSERVANCES CALL FOR FAMILY FUN MONTH Product idea: Enjoy the classic campfire treat anytime, anywhere with a customized City Bonfires S’mores Night Pack. Compact, lightweight and made in the USA, this fun and unique experiential gift includes a City Bonfire portable fire pit, two toasting sticks and ingredients (graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate) to make four s’mores. Midnite Snax / PPAI 113793, Standard-Plus midnitesnax.com Use these special occasions to ignite your imagination for relevant – and distinct – client promotions. Compiled by Rachel Zoch GREAT OUTDOORS MONTH Product idea: Outfit anyone for the kitchen with an Eco Twill Bib Apron, made in the USA of 65% recycled polyester and 35% organic cotton. Features include a divided center pocket, adjustable neck strap and 40-inch waist ties. Choose from six colors (avocado shown). Aprons, Etc. / PPAI 110868, Silver apronsetc.com PPAI • MAY 2024 • 9

PROMOTIONAL PRODUCTS TO BE UNIVERSALLY VALUED Essentials 05.24 wacomka / Shutterstock.com USE CASE p. 12 GOOD TASTE p. 18 LOOK AND FEEL The latest silhouettes and textures in apparel cater to comfort, layering and sustainability. page 22 IN STYLE PPAI • MAY 2024 • 11

Essentials | Use Case Remember Me Distributors share their favorite self-promo products, from the tried and true they’ve used and would recommend to things they’d like to try. Compiled by Rachel Zoch KEN LESLIE President Imagen Inc. PPAI 427416, Silver Glendora, California Leslie says the best product he’s used for self-promo lately has been a timeless ceramic coffee mug. “It’s a classic, well-loved style, and the thick walls and handle are more durable than most ceramic mugs, so they withstand shipping really well,” he adds. “Plus, they have a great backstory that many people don’t know – they were created for use on U.S. Navy ships during World War II – which we included on a printed card in each mug’s shipment.” Glossy inside and out, this 10-oz. ceramic Diner Mug features a slight hourglass shape and comes in natural, white or black (shown). Leslie says the mix of a quality product with a great design and a compelling story has made the mugs a successful self-promo, with enthusiastic responses from recipients like, “It’s my new favorite mug!” and “It’s always on my desk!” ETS Express / PPAI 135148, Platinum etsexpress.com Leslie wants to try custom socks. “Custom socks have been on my list for a while, and we just haven’t done them yet,” he says. “I love the idea of comfortable and fun socks, because they are popular and create a very personal connection between your brand and the person who puts on those socks.” Sock it to ’em in style with Custom Knitted Dress Socks, crafted of 80% cotton with a nylon/spandex blend for stretch on 200-point needle count machines. Full customization options and PMS color matching available to match team colors, brand identity or an event theme. Custom packaging available for an additional fee. SOCK101 / PPAI 625402, Silver / sock101.com AKaiser / Shutterstock.com 12 • MAY 2024 • PPAI

Use Case | Essentials Leslie says a good self-promo pick must be unique to each business and high-quality to make a good impression. “Ultimately, great self-promo is something that reflects the uniqueness of the distributor, so my best advice on self-promo is to always offer something that both reflects your personal style and is best in class. It doesn’t need to be expensive – it just needs to be the best version of that particular product.” That said, Leslie would suggest a high-quality microfiber cloth as a great self-promo option. “Literally everyone can use one, but so many out there are cheap and don’t last long,” he adds. “Choose one with an all-over, full-color imprint and you’ve got complete design freedom to make sure the messaging perfectly matches your own unique style.” Recipients can keep eyeglasses and tech screens squeaky clean with this 12-by-8-inch Microfiber Cloth, ideal for removing smudges and fingerprints BRANDY MASON VP of Sales Operations Bob Lilly Promotions PPAI 208474, Silver Garland, Texas Mason says her favorite product for self-promo is a super-practical small tool kit. “My team and clients loved them, as they could have a handy kit in the house without all the bulkiness,” she adds. This 26-Piece Deluxe Tool Kit includes six precision screwdrivers, an extension rod, a bit driver with a plastic handle, 10 screwdriver bits in a holder, needle-nose pliers, diagonal wire cutters, four wrench sockets and a pair of tweezers – all in a heavy-duty tri-fold case with a snap closure and 2-by-3.5inch imprint area on the lid. PCNA / PPAI 113079, Platinum / pcna.com without leaving any scratches. The full-bleed imprint area provides ample branding space for full-color dye sublimation. Protective pouch available for an additional fee. Tekweld / PPAI 266346, Standard-Plus / tekweld.com PPAI • MAY 2024 • 13

Mason would like to try the Energizer Tire Pump as recognition for high-value clients. “I actually bought a different one about a month ago and have had to use it already,” she says. “Every time the temperature changes, the tire light comes on, and it’s a lot handier than finding change for the air machine at the gas station.” The portable and rechargeable Energizer Tire Pump features an easy-to-read LED display and five inflation modes for automotive, motorcycle and bicycle tires, as well as a setting for sports balls. This handheld tool also functions as a power bank with a USB output port, and an attachable air hose and Type-C cable for recharging are included in the retail packaging. (AC wall adapter not included.) Twintech Industry / PPAI 261545, Silver twintechpromo.com Essentials | Use Case “Sensory items are big,” says Mason, so consider a fidget item for a less pricey option. Perfect for reducing stress and boredom, this new silicone Push Pop Bouncing Ball invites users to press in the bubbles, as well as squeeze or bounce it. Suitable for ages 3 and up, it’s CPSIA compliant and comes in black, blue, red or lime green. Hit Promotional Products / PPAI 113910, Platinum hitpromo.net Mason suggests an assortment of kitchen items for self-promo with staying power. “People never throw them away – cutting boards, spoons, pizza cutter, trivets, etc.,” she says. “People will keep them even if they have those items at home already. It keeps your brand in front of them for years. I have picked up similar items at trade shows and still use them.” Add a splash of color – and your logo – to recipients’ kitchens with the Baltique Mumbai Collection Four-Piece Utensil Set crafted from layers of brightly colored birch wood. Safe for use on nonstick coatings, each includes a hanging hole for easy storage and display. Hand wash only. Totally Bamboo / PPAI 408801, Standard-Base totallybamboopromo.com 14 • MAY 2024 • PPAI

COTTON TWILL 27 COLORS BG8213 | Men’s Long Sleeve, Button Down Collar Bone Horn Buttons, Patch Pocket Color Shown: Jade Sizes: XS-8XL Classic Fit BG6213 | Ladies’ Long Sleeve, Button Down Collar Bone Horn Buttons Color Shown: Sangria Sizes: S-4XL Classic Fit BG8213 | Men’s Fit Long Sleeve BG8213S | Men’s Short, Hemmed Sleeves’ Patch Pocket Color Shown: Kelly Sizes: XS-7XL Classic Fit BG6213S| Ladies’ Short, Hemmed Sleeves Color Shown: Violet Sizes: S-4XL 2 bluegeneration.com NEW! BG7007 Revolutionary Concept in Men’s Fashion “Bonded Collar” Dress Career Casual Bonded Collar Dress Polo™ A uniquely crafted collar designed to transform a polo into a more polished The perfect combination where dress meets casual. www.BlueGeneration.com | email:info@BlueGeneration.com | 888.336.4687 ASI 40653 | PPAI 174655 | SAGE 62742

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Zoch is associate editor at PPAI. This 8-Inch Two-Tone Cutting Board is perfect for quickly slicing lemons, limes and other garnishes. Made of Moso bamboo, a highly durable and renewable material, the board is lightweight but tough enough to withstand knife blades. Its beautiful two-tone design features light end caps (laser engraving included) with a caramelized center section. Hand wash only. Totally Bamboo / PPAI 408801, Standard-Base / totallybamboopromo.com This handy Bambino Pizza Cutter features a brandable ergonomic bamboo handle for maximum control, and a bamboo blade cover protects the stainless steel blade for safe storage. Hand wash recommended. Hit Promotional Products / PPAI 113910, Platinum hitpromo.net Get edge-to-edge, full-color branding with the Compliments Ceramic Trivet. Its cork backing provides a sturdy, nonslip surface to prevent any accidents, and its compact size (roughly 6 by 9 inches) and hole for hanging make it easy to store and access. HPG / PPAI 110772, Platinum / hpgbrands.com Use Case | Essentials PPAI • MAY 2024 • 17

Alexander Raths / Shutterstock.com Grillworthy Gifts From sausages to steaks, promo offers plenty of options for meaty treats, plus brandable tools to prepare and serve them. By Rachel Zoch SWEETS AND SNACKS abound in promo, but the industry also has you covered when your clients want something with a little more meat to it – literally. Meats are at the heart of many of our celebratory traditions – think hot dogs on July Fourth or turkey for Thanksgiving – and barbecue is big business, with the global grill market projected to reach almost $13 billion by 2032. In fact, a 2022 Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Omaha Steaks found that 8 in 10 Americans enjoy outdoor barbecues with friends and family more than going out to a restaurant. May is the perfect time to think about how to get your clients’ brands in on the fun, from National Barbecue Day on May 16 and Memorial Day to three of the most popular holidays for backyard barbecues: Father’s Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. “Food is always relevant,” says Nicki Staats, director of merchandising at iPROMOTEu, the No. 13 distributor in the inaugural PPAI 100. “I think a lot of food vendors get the misconception that they’re only relevant in fourth quarter.” There are plenty of ways to appeal to meat eaters when it comes to promo, she adds. Of course, there are companies like Omaha Steaks and Kansas City Steak Company that will send fresh cuts of beef, poultry and seafood on your clients’ behalf, and Maple Ridge Farms offers charcuterie boards, as well as smoked turkey breasts and spiral-sliced hams. Steak is the No. 1 grilled food in the U.S., but people also enjoy chicken, fish and veggies – even fruit (pineapple cracked the top 10). Useful items like branded cutting boards and grilling tools can enhance the end user’s experience in a lasting way, even for vegetarians and vegans. That’s the beauty of gifting a kit with a variety of items, says Staats. “It’s going to appeal to a wider audience, and it normally has something that they’re going to be able to keep within that kit, whether it be a basket or cutting board or a cheese knife or something of that nature” to keep the brand around longer, she says. Here are just a few of the options to appeal to carnivores and more. Essentials | Good Taste 18 • MAY 2024 • PPAI

The Grill Easy 3-Piece Stainless BBQ Utensil Set With rPET Case includes a stainless steel fork, spatula and tongs so recipients have the essential utensils for successful grilling. Long handles make it easy to tend to a hot grill comfortably, and the tools can be conveniently stored in the zippered case made of recycled polyester. HPG (Beacon) / PPAI 113702, Platinum hpgbrands.com/beacon A digital meat thermometer makes a great versatile gift, says Staats. This Infrared Cooking Thermometer provides a fast temperature reaction for both surface and internal readings. It’s waterproof and dustproof, and the foldable probe stores alongside the body for compact storage. Two cell batteries and gift box included. Starline USA / PPAI 112719, Gold / starline.com Give the gift of grilling indoors with a logoed Lodge 10-Inch Square Grill Pan. Made in the USA, it’s preseasoned with 100% natural vegetable oil and ready for use in the oven or on the stove, as well as on the grill or over a campfire. Starline USA / PPAI 112719, Gold starline.com Take the smoke show on the road with the Koozie Portable BBQ With Cooler Bag, a portable grill kit that comes in a brandable cooler, making it perfect for camping, tailgating and more. “There’s summer picnics and all those things, so there’s some great directions you can take this one,” says Staats. Utensils and charcoal not included. Koozie Group / PPAI 114187, Platinum / kooziegroup.com PPAI • MAY 2024 • 19 Good Taste | Essentials

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Zoch is associate editor at PPAI. For a classic meat-and-cheese experience, the Charcuterie Party Pleasers gift set includes an oversized, fire-branded bamboo board with three cheeses, sausage, salami, mixed nuts and more. Maple Ridge Farms / PPAI 114165, Gold mapleridge.com Add a meaty treat to any kit with one of nine savory flavors of Fusion Jerky, available in 1-oz. or 2.75-oz. bags, or opt for a curated Snack Attack Kit that includes Original Hickory jerky and other gourmet goodies. All jerky flavors are gluten-free with no added MSG, no preservatives and no nitrates. HPG (Batch and Bodega) / PPAI 110772, Platinum / hpgbrands.com/batch Add flavor to your client’s brands with this 6-Way Spice Rub Set, which comes in clever retail packaging and includes half a dozen tasty spice blends: Chili, Beef & Burger, Steak, Bayou Cajun, Chicken & Poultry, and Fish & Seafood. Midnite Snax / PPAI 113793, Standard-Plus / midnitesnax.com PPAI • MAY 2024 • 21 Good Taste | Essentials

Look & Feel THE LAG TIME between trends in retail fashion and promo apparel continues to shrink, and suppliers are offering more options that reflect current consumer tastes. At the moment, those tastes happen to be heavy on 1990s nostalgia, from denim and earth tones to boxy streetwear silhouettes and specialty textures like vinyl and corduroy. Quilting is an especially popular texture right now, says Whitney Robinson, strategic marketing manager for New Jersey-based supplier Vantage Apparel, the No. 17 supplier in the inaugural PPAI 100. “The quilted look is something that is being well received, and then it also has that versatility to it,” she says, “so it’s wonderful for transitioning season … where it’s kind of warm, but then it’s still getting a little cool.” Most of the quilted pieces you’ll see are stitched horizontally, but Robinson says diamond quilting “just brings it up a notch” when it comes to style. “I think that is a perfect kind of look when it comes to promotional products, because that’s what you want,” she adds. “You want people to look at it a little bit longer than they normally would, so that The latest silhouettes and textures in apparel cater to comfort, layering and sustainability. By Rachel Zoch wacomka / Shutterstock.com 22 • MAY 2024 • PPAI Essentials | In Style

diamond quilt is definitely something that draws the eye.” And quilting suggests coziness, which is in high demand year-round. “People want to wear things that make them feel comfortable,” says Nicki Staats, director of merchandising at iPROMOTEu, the No. 13 distributor in the inaugural PPAI 100. She highlights snuggly fleece and the softness of recycled polyester as popular textures in promo apparel. Both Robinson and Staats say sustainability and texture go hand in hand. Demand for more sustainable products continues to grow, and while the link between sustainability and texture might not seem obvious at first, high-quality recycled polyester and organic cotton fabrics provide the softness people want next to their skin. Vantage’s Earthwise Collection includes apparel made with Repreve, a high-quality fabric with a silky hand that’s made from recycled polyester. “Whenever we do trade shows, we make sure that we put an Earthwise piece in the forefront, because when they feel it, they don’t believe that this is made from plastic bottles,” says Robinson. People are also looking for style, and the boxy, oversized look of ’90s streetwear, with details like dropped shoulders, pairs well with the growing demand for unisex garments and layering options. “We’ve been getting requests internally for more of a boxy, unisex look or genderinclusive look, and we’ve definitely incorporated a lot more gender-inclusive [pieces],” says Robinson. “… I think having that universal shape where it looks good on men and women is something that is going to increase more in the next couple of years.” And while promo apparel designers generally stick to more classic shapes to make sure their apparel appeals to as many people as possible, the versatility afforded by oversized pieces meant for layering offers more room – literally – for creativity. Layering is an easy way to elevate a look, too, Robinson says, so she doesn’t see the oversized fit going away anytime soon. “I love it because I’m a big fan of layering,” she adds, “and I feel like it allows people to express themselves in their own unique way.” Staats says the Kastlfel RecycledSoft T-Shirt “has an amazing hand to it.” These super-soft tees are made of certified organic cotton and recycled polyester treated with an eco-enzyme finish for softness, smoothness and color retention. The printed neck label provides sustainability data, and the tees are available in 13 colors created with low-impact OEKO-TEX certified dyes. S&S Activewear / PPAI 256121, Platinum / ssactivewear.com Get that boxy but relaxed look with the Unisex Sponge Fleece Drop Shoulder Sweatshirt, a classic unisex pullover crewneck in comfy, super-soft fleece designed for warmth and breathability. Available in 35 colors and sizes XS-5X. BELLA + CANVAS / PPAI 304892, Silver / bellacanvas.com PPAI • MAY 2024 • 23 In Style | Essentials

The lightweight Everett Jacket features a diamond quilted body with a water-repellent finish, and it folds into a Zocket self-pouch. “Because it’s quilted, it looks great and it’s not too heavy,” says Robinson. “It’s actually one of my favorite outerwear pieces, because I can have on a T-shirt, and once I throw that on, it automatically elevates my look.” Available in black or navy, women’s sizes S-3X and men’s S-5X. Vantage Apparel / PPAI 113235, Platinum / vantageapparel.com Robinson’s favorite piece from the Earthwise line is the Vansport Trek Hoodie. “The drape of it is just so elegant. I love how it falls,” she says. “It’s a wonderful fabric, feels great on my skin and it comes in all the prime, earthy colors.” Made with 45% Repreve recycled polyester, each moisture-wicking hoodie recycles 11-12 plastic bottles and features a kangaroo pocket, tagless label and UPF 50+ protection. Available in eight colors, women’s sizes XS-3X and men’s S-5X. Vantage Apparel / PPAI 113235, Platinum / vantageapparel.com The Women’s Cuddle Boxy Crew delivers both a trending texture and modern silhouette with its super-soft Hacci fabric and a loose and flowy fit with a flattering high-low vented hem. Available in black heather or charcoal (shown) and sizes XS to 3X. Boxercraft / PPAI 159420, Silver / boxercraft.com A counterpoint to the gender-neutral trend is the resurgence of details like crop tops, side slits and puffy sleeves in women’s apparel. All three are on display in this Women’s Camden Spliced Crew Neck Sweatshirt. Made of 100% cotton corded terry, it features an oversized fit with dropped shoulders, a high-low exaggerated hemline and side-slit detailing on the hem and cuffs. Available in four colors and sizes XS-3X. Charles River Apparel / PPAI 111644, Gold charlesriverapparel.com Zoch is associate editor at PPAI. 24 • MAY 2024 • PPAI Essentials | In Style

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IDEAS TO ADVANCE THE MARKETPLACE Voices 05.24 Romolo Tavani / Shutterstock.com INNOVATION Measuring Innovation Success Progress is not always obvious or easily measured. page 30 pecky_photograph / Somchai Som / Shutterstock.com RESPONSIBILITY p. 28 PPAI • MAY 2024 • 27

VectorMine / Shutterstock.com Voices | Responsibility Your emissions relationship doesn't have to be 'complicated.' Dating Coach Wimbush explains what Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions are and how they account for your carbon footprint. By Elizabeth Wimbush IN TODAY’S CLIMATECONSCIOUS WORLD, businesses are under increasing pressure to account for their carbon emissions. But what exactly does carbon accounting entail, and why is it so crucial? Let me attempt to unravel the carbon accounting concept. With so many factors to consider, it can be complicated subject to wrap your mind around, so let's focus on our relationship with the numbers side of sustainability. Understanding Carbon Accounting Carbon accounting consists of three key pieces: Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions. To simplify, imagine each scope as someone you met in your dating years and how they represent a different aspect of a business’s carbon footprint. Scope 1 emissions are emissions from sources that a company owns or controls, like on-site fuel combustion or company-owned vehicles, and which can be directly attributed to your operations. If Scope 1 was a person, it would be “The Needy Ex” – always in your face, demanding attention. Scope 1 emissions are direct and unavoidable, just like the constant texts. Moving onto indirect emissions, Scope 2 covers those generated from purchased electricity, heating or cooling. It’s like the secondhand smoke of carbon emissions – not directly produced by you, but still impacting your *cough* carbon footprint. Scope 2 as a person would be “The Indirect Flirt.” You haven’t really had much direct contact – maybe they were friends with your roommate’s cousin’s ex-boyfriend? – but their actions still impact your life from a distance. Scope 3 is where things get interesting – and complicated. Scope 3 emissions encompass all indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain, including everything from business travel and employee commuting to supply chain activities. They are not precisely part of your operations, but they still contribute to your overall footprint. If Scope 3 were a person, they’d be “The Mysterious Stranger,” that person you remember meeting at a party who somehow ended up being part of the periphery of your life in unexpected ways. Carbon Dating 28 • MAY 2024 • PPAI

Responsibility | Voices Cracking The CO2e Code Now, let’s talk about CO2e, the universal currency of carbon emissions. CO2e stands for carbon dioxide equivalent, a metric used to compare the emissions of different greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential. CO2e gives you a single number to express the climate impact of the various greenhouse gases generated through your Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions in terms of how much carbon dioxide would create the same amount of warming. Essentially, it’s like converting all your exes into one standardized unit – because, let’s face it, trying to compare them otherwise would be a nightmare. Integrating Carbon Accounting Into Your Business So, how can businesses embrace carbon accounting without feeling overwhelmed? Start small. Begin by identifying your Scope 1 emissions, as these are the most straightforward to measure and control. It’s like cleaning out your closet – you tackle the obvious clutter first. In order to identify your Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions, you’ll need to get everybody, from employees to suppliers, on board. If your stakeholders are engaged, it’ll be much easier to establish clear targets and timelines to reduce emissions. Of course, collaboration is key to addressing Scope 3 emissions effectively. You can even make it a competition – who can cut down emissions the fastest? Acknowledge your company’s progress, recognizing and rewarding achievements along the way. You should also use tools and software for accurate data collection and analysis. It’s like upgrading from a flip phone to a smartphone (yes, I’m aware that I’m dating myself here, all in the name of member value). Just ask my colleague CW Karstens – digital transformation is key. Your Assignment By breaking down carbon accounting into digestible pieces, with the help of a bit of humor, we can all play our part in building a greener, more sustainable future. Ready to get started? Try Aclymate, one of a growing number of business service members focused on sustainability in our Solutions Center. Meanwhile, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the leading standard used in carbon accounting, has some free tools on its website, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides a quick calculator tool as well. Wimbush is PPAI’s director of sustainability and responsibility. PPAI • MAY 2024 • 29

pecky_photograph / Somchai Som / Shutterstock.com Measuring Innovation Success Progress is not always obvious or easily measured, so evaluating your efforts requires a multidimensional approach that goes beyond traditional financial metrics. By CW Karstens INNOVATION IS THE CORNERSTONE of progress in today’s rapidly evolving world. Whether in business, technology or society at large, it drives growth, efficiency and competitiveness. However, its success in any given project is not always straightforward. Forward-thinking initiatives are inherently aimed at delivering outcomes for the future. As a result, traditional metrics like financial returns don’t always capture their impact. There is no onesize-fits-all approach, but it’s worth delving into various ways to measure the success of these sort of projects and attempt to provide a framework for evaluation. Tangible measures of success aren’t easy to come by when innovation is the name of the game, but key performance indicators are as good a place to start as any. KPIs tend to vary depending on the nature of the project and the organization’s objectives. Increased revenue, market share, customer satisfaction or operational efficiency could all be relevant. Below are a few KPIs and how to consider them under these conditions. Adoption Rate An important metric to evaluate is the rate at which an innovation project is embraced, as the adoption rate can bring valuable insight. Tracking the number of users/ customers adopting the new product or service – and the speed at which they do so – can indicate how much value it’s actually providing users. ROI (And Hidden Costs) While the return on investment may not fully capture broader impacts, it remains an important metric. However, it’s essential to consider both short-term and 30 • MAY 2024 • PPAI Voices | Innovation

long-term returns, as some innovations may take time to generate significant financial gains. A common pitfall of considering ROI is ensuring that hidden support costs are included in any calculations. Customer Feedback Customer feedback is invaluable for understanding whether your company is meeting market needs and expectations. You can start with: • Surveys. • Focus groups. • Reviews. • Direct feedback channels. Change can prove to be hard to swallow, and you need to be able to gauge how new technology is resonating with your target audience. Time To Market It’s OK to let an innovative process take however long it takes to execute. But that doesn’t mean time becomes irrelevant. You still need to track the time taken from ideation to commercialization, and everything in between. This will help you more clearly identify a bottleneck in the process versus a step that simply needs to be taken slowly. A Successful Project Continues To Provide Metrics In today’s socially conscious world, the environmental and social impact of innovation projects is increasingly important. Metrics such as carbon footprint reduction, resource efficiency and social responsibility initiatives can help gauge a project’s sustainability and ethical implications. Projects that contribute positively to environmental conservation or address social challenges demonstrate holistic success beyond financial metrics. It all requires a multidimensional approach that goes beyond traditional financial metrics. Check back next month as I wrap up my innovation series with practices that can be applied to your business. Karstens is PPAI’s director of digital transformation. DiscountMarketingProducts.com Light-Up Your Message! With New LED Lighted Display Products from DMP! Simple No-Tools Set up 8oz Stretch Polyester Full Color Imprint DDP05200 - 27”x16”x37” Lighted Podium Table SEG05101- 3.3’x3.3’ Lighted Countertop other sizes available 21 Stock Sizes of SEG lighted displays PPAI/582106 SAGE/50398 PPAI • MAY 2024 • 31 Innovation | Voices


SWEET SUCCESS Sweeter Cards Unwraps A Promo Winner Stacy Stahl’s year started strong, winning The Pitch at The PPAI Expo 2024 and attracting new financial backers to her business – but she didn’t come across success like this by accident. By Sarah Luna In an industry where personal touches and heartfelt connections hold significance, Stacy Stahl’s venture Sweeter Cards illuminates the enduring charm of thoughtful giving and the power of resourceful determination. That charm and determination are behind what’s become a standout year for the St. Louis business owner. In January, Stahl and Sweeter Cards were the runaway champions of The Pitch at The PPAI Expo 2024, winning over a panel of veteran distributor judges. Stahl had barely unpacked from Las Vegas when Texas-based Rupt Ventures announced that Sweeter Cards was its first strategic investment. So, it’s no understatement to say 2024 started with a bang for Stahl and her company. And given her background, it’s not much of a surprise that she’s made her company stand out as an up-and-comer in the industry. Must Read | Sweet Success 34 • MAY 2024 • PPAI

Sweet Success | Must Read PPAI • MAY 2024 • 35

The Born Entrepreneur’s Sweet Idea Raised in an environment where entrepreneurship was the norm, Stahl’s path was destined to intersect with innovation and creativity. “Having an entrepreneurial mindset is something I learned in elementary school,” Stahl says, “but both my parents are entrepreneurs, so that’s what I grew up watching. I’ve never seen my parents work for anyone else. I’ve never seen anyone climb a corporate ladder. I’ve only seen people start and grow businesses on their own. So, part of that comes a bit naturally to me.” Stahl’s entrepreneurial journey began early when she launched her first company at 23 – a wedding website where couples shared their engagement stories. Despite its profitability, it didn’t quite hit the sweet spot for Stahl. “Everything we did was intangible,” Stahl says. “It was an online platform – all usergenerated content and social media. I wanted a physical product. I wanted the value to be: I made this, here’s what it is.” Eventually, The Knot, an online wedding planning platform, took notice and acquired the enterprise, paving the way for Stahl to transition to her next business venture. Then inspiration struck her at her local grocery store. Stahl says she’s always on the lookout for good gifts. She appreciates the simplicity of receiving a greeting card as a gift herself but acknowledges that many people want a little bit more. And finding a thoughtful gift can prove challenging, since many inexpensive gifts lack significance. “I’ve always been on the search for a good gift that’s not too big but meaningful, easy to buy, easy to love and not too expensive,” says Stahl. “I didn’t want to spend $85 on flowers, and I didn’t want to buy something that would get thrown away.” The solution to this problem came during a trip to Stahl’s local Whole Foods. “Literally every time [my family] goes to Whole Foods, we get chocolate bars. We’ve never left Whole Foods without a chocolate Stacy Stahl accepts her win at The Pitch at The PPAI Expo 2024. All four judges and the lion's share of audience members came together in giving Sweeter Cards the win. Must Read | Sweet Success 36 • MAY 2024 • PPAI

bar,” says Stahl. “[On one trip,] I also needed a card, and I wasn’t going anywhere else.” While holding the two items in her hand, the concept of combining them into a single product struck her. “When Sweeter Cards popped in my head, it just checked all the boxes of what I was looking for. There’s just something so simply beautiful and top-notch about it,” she says. A New Kind Of Card Company Sweeter Cards’ model is simple: a greeting card and gourmet chocolate bar all in one, making it a cost-effective way to send a message and a tasty treat. The company’s signature bar, a sea salt caramel dark chocolate confection, is handmade in St. Louis with all-natural ingredients. Each batch is hand-stirred in copper kettles and contains no artificial flavors or colors, preservatives or hydrogenated oils. Stahl emphasizes that Sweeter Cards isn’t just about the product; it’s also about the people and the process behind it. “Everything is sourced locally in St. Louis,” she says. “We work with a family-owned chocolatier here in St. Louis. My print team is an employee-owned printer that has been around for 100 years. I warehouse with a father-and-son team.” Stahl says she wants to work with businesses that support people, ideas, joy and great things. “When people that I work with love what they’re doing, what they’re making, it allows me to have a product that I am unbelievably proud of.” In an age where virtual gifts and online interactions dominate, she isn’t concerned about selling a paper product. “[Digital gifts] aren’t fun. Getting something in the mail and opening something, that’s really fun,” Stahl says. “It’s the same thing with opening a bar of chocolate. There’s something that always makes me feel like I’m a little kid.” With Sweeter Cards, Stahl says, she sought to tap into the timeless appeal of greeting cards. The product is intended to be a combination of sweet and sentimental, which has earned it high demand in retail stores like Barnes & Noble, Paper Source. “We’re also in hundreds of independent retailers around the country,” she says. Sweet Success | Must Read PPAI • MAY 2024 • 37

Her Journey Into Promo Adaptability is a crucial part of running a successful business. When the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented unexpected hurdles for Sweeter Cards, Stahl and the company adapted. “When COVID hit, the only thing selling was toilet paper or essentials,” Stahl says. “Very quickly, what I built in a year had stalled.” However, the setback proved to be an opportunity redefine Sweeter Cards’ place in the market. With remote work the norm, businesses sought to maintain connections with employees and clients. Sweeter Cards, previously printing 40,000 cards at a time, found itself fielding requests for custom orders. “We started getting a lot of inquiries asking if we could do custom,” Stahl says. “[A customer] asked if we could print 20 [cards]. I said ‘sure,’ but I had no clue how to do it.” Fulfilling the order led Stahl to discover the promotional products industry. Within six months, Sweeter Cards had pivoted to accommodate custom orders and promo. Fast-forward a few years, and Sweeter Cards took the promotional products stage at The Pitch during The PPAI Expo 2024. The live competition, combining aspects of The Voice and Shark Tank, packed the Mandalay Bay Convention Center ballroom as seven suppliers sought to win over the panel of veteran distributor judges. Stahl presented her flagship dark chocolate sea-salt bar while highlighting that her company is woman-owned and employs adults with disabilities. Stahl’s pitch convinced all four judges to turn their chairs in approval and took 55% of the audience vote. “Immediately having that win before the Expo made so many conversations easy and fun,” Stahl says. “I’m eternally grateful for The Pitch.” When she first entered the promo market, Stahl searched for advice from someone who had already achieved success in the industry. That’s when she reached out to Jason Lucash of Rupt on LinkedIn. “I kept seeing press on him, and I decided, ‘I’m going to reach out to this guy and ask if I can pick his brain.’ I learned so much in a short time because of how generous he was with his knowledge,” says Stahl. “He became a friend and a believer.” Must Read | Sweet Success 38 • MAY 2024 • PPAI

Lucash quickly recognized a kindred spirit. “I saw a lot of myself in Stacy,” he says. “When Mike and I entered the industry, we didn’t have a ‘promo sherpa’ telling us where to go and how should we do it. Stacy has the same entrepreneurial spirit that we had. She’s bullish on the industry and is doing something different. She just needs some guiding light.” The connection proved fortuitous, with Rupt Ventures – helmed by Lucash and Mike Szymczak – later making Sweeter Cards its first strategic investment in the promotional products industry. “I think a huge part of their mission is to find more young brands that are doing things outside of that promo box, bring those products to promo and help them do some cross-selling, share resources, share knowledge,” Stahl says. “They’ve been in the world for 20 years, and we’ve been in it for one or two. I think that that’s really advantageous for small brands, because making a name for yourself in the promo industry when you’re new is kind of hard.” Lucash adds, “Stacy Stahl’s vision and dedication to creating a unique gifting experience align perfectly with our investment philosophy. We’re excited to support Sweeter Cards in its journey.” Stahl’s personal goal with the partnership is to continue the company’s trajectory of growth and innovation. With the support of Rupt Ventures, Sweeter Cards plans to accelerate its expansion, broaden its sales team and amplify its marketing to reach a wider audience. Additionally, the investment will enable Sweeter Cards to further enhance its commitment to sustainability and social responsibility. What’s On The Horizon Buoyed by a rising profile and fresh investment, Stahl and Sweeter Cards aren’t sitting still. The company recently launched its “Bring Your Own” gift option. This new initiative allows distributors to include their own product in the card instead of a chocolate bar. If it fits inside the signature Sweeter Cards box, the company will make it happen. “I named the company Sweeter Cards and not something like ‘Chocolate Cards’ because I knew that something else could fit in the card,” Stahl says. “We can stuff Sweeter Cards with pens instead of chocolate. The same thing with socks that fit or notepads that fit. We’ve already done a couple orders with pins, golden tickets, extra marketing collateral, stickers and more. We even have an eye mask project we’re working on.” Throughout her rapid rise, Stahl has remained committed to upholding high standards and creating a meaningful influence. “I could never function without integrity,” Stahl says. “I truly couldn’t be prouder of the type of company that I started and run. It feels like all the stars aligned.” Luna is a copywriter with PPAI. The First Of What Will Be Many Rupt Ventures announced a second investment, this time in Desk Plants, also located in Austin, Texas, in March. Desk Plants provides the promotional industry with unique, sustainable, customizable plants that are hard to kill. Backed by Rupt, the company seeks to expand its impact in sustainable branding solutions. Lucash says Desk Plants embodies the essence of what Rupt Ventures stands for: innovation, sustainability and a commitment to excellence. He notes strong similarities between Stahl and Desk Plants’ founder and CEO, Lawrence Hanley. “As an investor, you bet on the jockey as much as you bet on the horse,” Lucash says. “Stacy is a good jockey with a great horse in the race. Same for Lawrence. And there aren’t other comparable horses to them. It’s interesting to have investments in sectors where there aren’t a lot of other players, finding the people doing it really well and helping those businesses grow.” Sweet Success | Must Read PPAI • MAY 2024 • 39