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HPPA Industry News

  • 30 Jan 2024 12:45 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Social media fueled the Stanley Quencher’s rise in popularity, and now it’s questioning the ubiquitous tumbler’s safety.

    Over the past week or so, many customers have taken to TikTok and X (formerly Twitter) to share stories about using at-home tests to determine whether there’s lead in any of their Stanley products.

    Although they’re receiving mixed results, the drinkware company has responded to viral concerns.

    Stanley’s Response

    Although lead is used as part of the tumbler’s vacuum insulation, it’s covered by a stainless steel layer that protects consumers from lead exposure, according to Pacific Market International, which manufactures Stanley drinkware.

    “Our manufacturing process currently employs the use of an industry standard pellet to seal the vacuum insulation at the base of our products; the sealing material includes some lead,” a Stanley spokesperson told CNN. “Once sealed, this area is covered with a durable stainless steel layer, making it inaccessible to consumers.”

    If the stainless steel barrier comes off – which a Stanley spokesperson told TODAY.com is “rare” – then consumers would come into contact with the lead. Meanwhile, the spokesperson added that Stanley’s engineering and supply chain teams are making progress on innovative, alternative materials for use in the sealing process.

    “Rest assured that no lead is present on the surface of any Stanley product that comes into contact with the consumer nor the contents of the product,” the Stanley spokesperson said.

    Promo Suppliers Weigh In

    Multiple suppliers in the promotional products industry who carry Stanley drinkware are well aware of the recent controversy.

    “Stanley has passed safety and compliance tests – all compliance documents are accessible on PCNA’s asset portal and our product pages,” says Liz Haesler, global chief merchandising officer at PCNA – ranked the No. 7 supplier in the inaugural PPAI 100.

    “Transparency is key to trust, and we ensure that our customers have unimpeded access to all relevant product safety information. We’ll continue to listen to feedback from the industry and investigate all safety concerns across our assortment of products.”

    “This was a case of social media gone a little wild, as it can do from time to time,” says Brian Porter, chief revenue officer at Starline – ranked the No. 13 supplier in the PPAI 100. “At the end of the day, the safety risk is between non-existent and extremely low.”

    Starline says it began manufacturing with a lead-free sealing process for vacuum drinkware in 2017, becoming the first promo supplier to implement the technology.

    “When you start talking about lead in anything, it resonates a certain way, as it should,” Porter says. “So, you have to go to the next level and understand where the lead is and why it’s used. This manufacturing process has never been a concern as far as the safety of the consumer.”

    How Did The Stanley Quencher Become So Popular?

    The Stanley Quencher was arguably the hottest promotional product of 2023.

    After all, drinkware (mugs, tumblers and bottles) is always in SAGE’s monthly list of top 10 product categories, and this past December, the 30-oz. and 40-oz. Stanley Quenchers took the No. 1 and No. 4 spots, respectively. Several suppliers offer a variety of brandable Stanley drinkware.

    NBC’s Today show reported that a 2017 post by “a popular mommy blogger” – followed by a swift and savvy response by Stanley to release the product in new colors and appeal to new markets – sparked the current craze.

    Word spread like wildfire online, spawning countless TikTok videos and billions of views. Forbes reports that #stanleycup has more than 6.7 billion views on TikTok alone. And the company’s revenue has increased tenfold in the past four years.

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with permission from PPAI

  • 29 Jan 2024 11:24 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Joshua White, head of strategy and general counsel at BAMKO (PPAI 242148, D11) – promo’s fourth leading distributor in the PPAI 100 – is taking a step back from the promotional products industry to pursue some long-standing entrepreneurial ambitions.

    His last day working full time in his current capacity will be Friday, February 2.

    “It’s time,” White says. “I’ve spent a full decade at BAMKO and accomplished everything I could’ve ever wanted here. I’ve loved every minute of it, am incredibly proud of what we’ve built and have been so fortunate to learn so much along the way.”

    Although he’ll no longer serve the Los Angeles-based company on a full-time basis, White says he’ll remain involved with BAMKO at the highest strategic levels “for as long as humanly possible.”

    He’ll continue to work with BAMKO on its most high-impact strategic initiatives while using the newfound free time for his own business pursuits.

    “By continuing to work with BAMKO, I hope it gives me the opportunity to stay involved in the industry more broadly,” White says. “I’ve obviously made a ton of friends and connections over the years, so I’ll still be answering every call I get and helping those people out however I can.”

    PPAI Board Vacancy

    A member of the PPAI Board of Directors since January 2023, White will also be vacating his seat on the board.

    Andrew Spellman, CAS, current PPAI board chair and vice president of corporate markets at Therabody, will be leading the process and relying on the full support of the board to determine the replacement.

    “Josh has been a great board member for PPAI,” Spellman says. “We can only thank him for his contributions and wish him well in his new endeavors. I’m happy he’ll still be working with BAMKO, as I believe talents like his are welcomed and needed in our amazing industry.”

    What’s Next?

    White, an attorney, plans to launch not one, but two law firms. With the first, Apex Action Advisors, he’ll be working with a select roster of private clients providing strategic guidance in high stakes opportunities and disputes.

    He will simultaneously be launching a second law firm, the details of which he is keeping under wraps for the time being.

    “I love the fact that law firms can only be owned by lawyers. I’m betting that I can put into practice everything I’ve learned in the world of business to build better companies than the competition,” White says.

    White’s Impact

    White was working as an attorney in private practice and counted BAMKO among his clients when then-president Phil Koosed recruited him to join the company in 2013.

    • Since then, BAMKO has grown from around $20 million in annual sales to nearly $400 million.
    • During his tenure, White has helped lead BAMKO’s M&A efforts and brought on the majority of the company’s sales force.
    White has spearheaded the distributor’s strategic growth and brand strategy initiatives, development of key partnership opportunities, corporate communications strategy and a number of other focuses.

    Additionally, he has overseen BAMKO’s legal department, handling the many compliance and regulatory issues that arise from working in the promo industry.

    • He was named one of PPB’s 2018 Rising Stars and the Los Angeles Business Journal's Rising Star General Counsel of the Year in 2016.

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 19 Jan 2024 10:41 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Known for scooping up fellow suppliers, HPG (PPAI 110772, S11) kicked off The PPAI Expo 2023 by announcing its latest (and arguably most high-profile) acquisition: Evans Manufacturing.

    In recent months, however, the No. 8 supplier in the inaugural PPAI 100 has shifted its acquisition strategy to focusing on talent, recruiting some of the most recognizable names in the promotional products industry.

    • In December, the Braintree, Massachusetts-based firm hired Jenna Quaranta as director of sales training and development.
    HPG isn’t just cherry-picking renowned industry veterans; it’s also grooming top talent and giving them opportunities to grow.
    • After joining in June as director of sales for Evans, Alex Symms, MAS, saw his role expand just four months later to cover HPG’s additional West Coast brands: Handstands (PPAI 111285, S7) and Origaudio (PPAI 421483, S7).
    • Nick Lateur has also flourished at HPG and was promoted in December into the newly created role of brand director.
    Internally, it’s been said that Trina Bicknell, chief revenue officer at HPG and the driving force behind this aggressive talent acquisition strategy, is assembling the “Avengers of promo.”
    • Ironically, Plummer had tried to sell Clearmount to HPG, but was told that the company was “too small.”
    She has also served in a variety of volunteer roles, including current vice chair of PromoKitchen, co-chair of the Women's Empowerment Event for Promotional Products Professionals of Canada (PPPC) and past chair of the Women's Leadership Conference for PPAI. “I joined HPG because Trina and [HPG CEO Chris Anderson] immediately recognized the value of my sales academy,” Quaranta says. “They’ve embraced it and are committed to empowering the sales team. It’s the ideal organization to foster this innovative approach.”  
    • As of December, the program had a waitlist of more than 40 people, says Quaranta, adding that HPG is going to “blow the top off of it.”
    “It’s my passion to one day be the next Zig Ziglar, taking sales reps and helping them become the best version of themselves,” Quaranta says. “It’s exciting, but I can’t do this alone. I need collaboration. Kate, Nick, Ben [Pawsey, HPG’s vice president of marketing], Mel [Bettua, HPG’s director of sales], all these people are my dear friends. I now get to sit in the trenches with them and strategize and dominate.”
    • PPAI 100 suppliers said less than a quarter (24%) of the products they sold in 2022 were marketed as sustainable, according to The State of Responsibility 2023.
    Anderson credits two key drivers for the company increasing its sustainable products offering this year: distributor feedback and an obligation to corporate social responsibility.
    • Roughly 89% of Gen Z consumers believe sustainability to be important and about 82% consider environmental impact to some degree when using promo products, according to PPAI’s upcoming Consumer Study.
    “HPG has many sustainable products under the individual brands, but we haven’t done a good job of showcasing them to our customers,” Rong says. “We’re in the process of re-categorizing our sustainable products into search-friendly categories on the HPG website so that customers can find them more easily based on key features.”
    • Recycled Content: Products made from the re-processing of materials to create new products, thus reducing the demands on creating new virgin materials.
    • Eco-Certified: Products made of certified eco-friendly materials or processes.
    • Natural Materials: Products made from natural fibers and sources.
    • Giveback Programs: Products where a percentage of revenue will be donated to support worthy causes.
    • Made Close to Home: Products made in North America rather than shipped thousands of miles on a container ship.
    “The promo industry has an image problem,” Rong says, “as most of the products given away most likely end up in a landfill. As an industry, we have to shift our thinking from selling anything to offering higher quality products of daily use that recipients would want to keep and re-use. The upside is clear for brands giving away promotional products as their investment will have a longer-lasting impression.”

    “I believe we have some of the best of the best,” Bicknell says. “If you’re going into battle, these are the people you want with you. And since 2020, the macro economy and its headwinds have been one very long battle. We’re hopeful for a further resurgence in 2024, but there is definitely economic uncertainty. So, these are the people we want on our team: knowledgeable, industry experts who have great relationships and will do anything to help our customers succeed. They have energy and passion for what they do, which is the HPG culture and mentality.”

    Bicknell says that the human resources department loves/hates her because she never goes to them and says, “I need a person for this role.” She does all of her own recruiting, keeping tabs on promo’s movers and shakers through social media, listening to customers and industry events.  

    “I’ve always felt that, especially since 2020, we’ve had an awesome and incredible team,” Bicknell says. “But that doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize great talent out there. When the time is right, I’d love to have that person on the team.”

    Canadian Expertise

    In Plummer’s case, timing was everything.

    A 16-year veteran of the promotional products industry, she’s the daughter of the late David and Rosalind Plummer, co-founders of Canadian-based supplier Clearmount Plastics Limited.

    When HPG’s strategic plan called for Debco to have a director of sales, Bicknell says that Plummer was at the top of her list. “Kate is an industry expert who has great relationships in both Canada and the U.S.,” Bicknell says. “She’s a great leader and is really involved in the industry. She already has the trust and love from distributors, and she’s perfect for that role.”

    Plummer says she took Bicknell’s call to be polite, but ended up impressed with the opportunity.

    “I could see her big plan for the company and how well positioned everything was,” says Plummer, who compares Bicknell to Nick Fury rallying the Avengers together. “I felt that she would be so open to collaboration. She’s bringing in the star players and working off of people’s recommendations. If Trina believes in you and partners with you, you’re going places.”

    Having the platform to grow Beacon and Debco also appealed to Plummer, whose father was friends with former Debco owner Stan Gallen.

    “I’ve heard these companies described as the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the industry,” Plummer says. “They’re reliable and have what you need. Well, reliable doesn’t mean boring. Consistent doesn’t mean out of date. It means we’re good partners to have and that you can trust us. There’s potential for growth and market share. I’m hoping to achieve what’s already been achieved, but on a grander scale. We’re looking to spread the message even wider that Beacon and Debco are dependable, reliable and trusted.”

    Shaping The Future Of Promo

    Following Quaranta for the past couple of years, Bicknell has been wowed with her Field Training Academy, a six-week program that teaches tools and techniques to sales professionals.

    “To have that ‘powered by HPG’ is something I’ve wanted for a while,” Bicknell says. “We really think about how we can make life easier for our distributors, helping them sell more products and be more successful. Jenna has that mindset, too. She really cares about what she’s doing, and people love her.”

    A nearly 15-year industry veteran, Quaranta has held senior leadership roles at KNOSS ApparelDSG International and alphabroder.

    Starting in January, Quaranta will begin instructing the HPG sales force on her program, getting their skill sets up to speed with her field training. Eventually, she says, the company will open up her program to other companies, helping their sales reps sell more promo products.

    “If you look at our leadership roster,” Quaranta adds, “it’s fair to say HPG has a very influential presence with high-profile characters who are super deadly in the field. Ultimately, I aspire to cultivate the strongest salesforce in the industry.”

    Investing In Sustainability

    HPG has also made some personnel changes outside the sales division, such as promoting Jing Rong to vice president of supply chain and sustainability.

    For the past seven years, Rong had served as supply chain and compliance leader at the company. But this new, expanded role signifies HPG’s commitment to prioritizing sustainability, an increasingly important issue in the industry.  

    “Promoting Jing to this new role gives her not just permission, but a mandate to improve HPG’s sustainability performance,” says Chris Anderson, CEO of HPG. “She has been part of PPAI’s Product Responsibility Action Group (PRAG) for the past two years, so she possesses a strong understanding of where the industry is today and needs to go. I have every confidence in her that results will follow in the months and years ahead.” 

    Rong hopes to formalize HPG’s sustainability strategy, pillars and targets, which align with not only the company’s mission and core values, but also the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    “I would like to drive sustainability improvements across HPG through people, processes and technology,” Rong says, “making sustainability not another box to check off, but a commitment to improve the long-term interest of our associates, customers, shareholders, suppliers, communities and planet in everything we do.”

    New Sustainable Products

    As part of HPG strengthening its commitment to sustainability, the supplier is launching 250 new products in the first part of 2024. 

    Fifty-three of those new items feature recycled or renewable materials, which represents more than four times as many sustainable products as HPG released in 2023, according to Aaron Irvin, vice president of product development at HPG.

    “It’s a dramatic improvement for us and shows that we’re building momentum behind more sustainable products,” says Irvin, adding that 22 of the new items are made or assembled in North America.

    “It’s clear from listening to distributors that the demand for sustainable products is on the rise, and HPG is doing what it takes to meet that demand,” Anderson says. “It’s also the right thing to do. As a society, we’re more aware of the potential impact our decisions and activities have on the environment. While we can’t flip a switch overnight, we can’t sit idly by either. For HPG, leveraging our product development talent to find innovative product solutions is one important step as part of our larger, long-term sustainability strategy.”

    Expanding HPG’s North American manufacturing capabilities is part of that strategy. Currently, those capabilities include brands like BCG producing wood products in Montreal, Evans Manufacturing injection molding recycled plastic products in California and Mixie blending its own beeswax lip balms in Minnesota.

    “You’ll see additional growth in our offerings of items both made of lower-impact materials and reduced transportation-related carbon footprint,” Anderson says. “That strategy, combined with a strong and experienced global sourcing team executing our sustainability game plan, will keep HPG ahead of the pack.”

    Meeting Customers’ Demands

    Rong says that the new generation of consumers takes sustainability more seriously, expects their favorite brands to reduce their environmental impact and, in turn, will reward them for it.

    “We need to make a collective commitment as an industry to protect the environment and precious natural resources for future generations,” Rong adds, “while remaining financially sustainable as well, of course.”

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 17 Jan 2024 8:09 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The biggest open secret in the promotional products industry is a secret no more: Jason Lucash and Mike Szymczak are officially back in business.

    This time they know what they couldn’t have known through the co-founding, scaling and exiting of their previous supplier, Origaudio, which they sold to HPG in 2018.

    They have reputations they didn’t have the first time around. Connections. Capital. Vision for a bigger impact.

    The products still have to be sold, and the orders have to be fulfilled. But Lucash and Szymczak believe their new venture is destined to succeed in a major way. They see the project as part of a movement that will redefine and disrupt the industry.

    That’s why they’re calling it Rupt (PPAI 826757, S1).

    Promo’s Newest Supplier

    As of this article’s publishing on Monday morning, setup is underway on The PPAI Expo trade show floor. After the floor opens on Tuesday, booth #1019 is likely to be of particular interest for curious distributors. The first line of Rupt products will be on exhibit.

    The launch includes 30 industry staples spanning technology, drinkware and backpacks. The entire line is made from recycled materials, marking a first for an industry company. Recycled plastic, recycled stainless steel, recycled polyester and more come together in futuristic designs.

    The packaging is also engineered for sustainability, as each product box is created to transform into something useful unto itself. The Jouncer isn’t merely an 80-watt speaker, but a “gateway to audio euphoria,” as Rupt’s catalog puts it, and its packaging can transform into a desk clock. The company calls the Spiglo not just a 750 ml stainless steel drinkware piece, but “the pinnacle of sophistication in hydration,” and its packaging converts into a bird feeder.

    Everything is carbon neutral, with promises of supply chain transparency; in another industry first, Rupt vows to disclose the full build of materials and the total recycled percentage by weight for every product.

    Rupt also says it will achieve an impressive 48-hour turnaround for U.S. orders, less than a week in Central Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and the minimum order is one.

    There’s quite a bit more.

    There’s Rupt Ventures, a side play that will pour VC money into a stable of other suppliers. Two deals have been cut already and are expected to be announced in early 2024.

    There’s the plan to buy an actual forest, an asset on the books and a place to plant trees, maybe in Virginia or Tennessee, to achieve true carbon offsetting rather than rely on the purchase of carbon credits. Rupt aims to become a Certified B Corporation when it is first eligible in 2025.

    There’s a full five-year financial roadmap, developed with help from a big four accounting firm, to support expanded staffing, more new products and investments.

    It keeps going, and it’s all been laid out just so. To think, Lucash and Szymczak were supposed to be retired.

    Free To Compete

    Nobody really believed the guys would take up oil painting.

    Lucash’s time as HPG’s chief development officer ended in February 2022. Szymczak remained in his development and sales management role there until last August. Their five-year non-compete agreements with HPG expired in September 2023, which is when Rupt was officially founded.

    “I wanted to just spend time and figure out what was next,” Lucash says. “And, ironically, Rupt is next.”

    HPG CEO Chris Anderson was among the first to hear about it from Lucash, who resigned from his position on HPG’s board of directors.

    “I was stressed going into the conversation because I have a ton of respect for Chris and care a lot about HPG. I care about my investment in HPG, still in privately held stock, and most importantly I care about my first baby, you know. I care deeply about what Mike and I built at Origaudio.”

    Anderson, a PPAI board member, declined to comment for this article.

    “HPG is a dominant force within the industry and I hope they continue to grow and succeed.… I don’t want to directly compete against anyone at HPG,” Lucash says. “I am going to, by nature, because I’m doing something that no one has ever done in the promo space. So, by nature, I’m going to compete with everybody, and everyone is going to feel threatened because I’m doing something completely different.”

    Lucash had everything pretty well mapped out by the time Szymczak came on board. It’s Lucash’s brainchild, but they’ll build it together, and appear impervious to the jealousies and division that can ruin business partnerships. They are best friends. Szymczak was the best man in Lucash’s wedding. They have worked together in different spots for the last 18 years ever since Szymczak served as an intern under Lucash in a position at Major League Soccer.

    Lucash is the CEO, Szymczak is the chief revenue officer. But the two describe Szymczak’s role with an acronym: MSHADED, for Make [Stuff] Happen All Day Every Day.

    “Out of the gates we know who’s going to be responsible for what, who has strengths in each business category as well,” Szymczak says. At Origaudio it took them a while to learn how to divide and conquer.

    “After like two years, it was definitely separation of responsibility. Let’s stop working on the same thing, and get efficiencies in place, and just trust. Obviously trust is through the roof when you have a business partner in a business the size of which we’re attempting to grow again and that we already did have. So, we just have to trust each other that we’re all rowing the boat in the same direction,” Szymczak says.

    Starting From Scratch

    Trust is vital not just between Lucash and Szymczak, but in the earliest hires. They’ve recruited Quinn Bui, a 2023 PPAI Rising Star, to close his multi-line rep company and come on as the national sales manager. Monday is his first official day on the job.

     “What drew me to Rupt was Mike and Jason,” Bui says. “I have followed them through my career and observed their inspiring journey and success. After a hiatus, seeing them come back with a mission to disrupt and redefine the industry standards excites me.”

    Wayne Matthews, the operations manager of the duo’s former Origaudio facility In California, has been hired as general manager of Rupt’s production site in Austin, Texas (the company is also launching with decoration facilities in Portugal and Hong Kong). Others from the industry joining the company include Shacori Valentine, most recently of Makers Garments, to handle East Coast accounts, Allison Theisen, previously of Zing, for the West Coast. Kia Robson, also of Zing previously, will be Rupt’s account experience manager.

    Hiring is expected to ramp up significantly in the coming weeks and months.

    For most of Rupt’s infancy to this point, the only staffer was Buenos Aires-based Ignacio Tomas Vera Salama, Rupt’s design director, who oversaw the creation of products, starting with sketches, then virtual prototypes and finally physical prototypes. But like everything else at Rupt, these early activities were made with a long-term vision front and center.

    “As I looked ahead, planning for scalability and potential expansion was also a key aspect of my role, keeping in mind the long-term growth and impact of our brand in the industry,” Vera Salama says. He cites creativity, practicality and strategic planning as crucial to developing products that give Rupt a chance to establish a unique presence in the market.

    The small team’s effort just to get to this week, to have the chance for a splashy debut at the industry’s most important trade show, have clearly been Herculean. Whether it’s staffing, design, marketing, hunting for real estate to establish the facilities, or 1,000 other things, Szymczak and Lucash have both been MSHADEDing.

    “People don’t understand the magnitude of it,” Lucash says. “Especially – we’re not just a startup – we’re trying to launch at like a mid-tier kind of business level, as well, from a revenue standpoint.”

    Before the products could even be conceived of, there was the period of trying to define what the brand should be. Lucash created a consumer deck to identify the target buyer, where that person shops, their lifestyle, even where they go on vacations. That informed the marketing development, the color scheme, the logo, the website and on and on. Lucash says, “It’s kind of like a polished industrial hipster that has great taste and cares about product quality, is how you’d probably summarize the actual brand voice.”

    Although Szymczak says the startup hustle has him “in my happy place,” it’s been a grind. “I’ll work hard and so will Jason,” he says. “There’s just not enough hours in the day.”

    The aggressive timeline was defined by the desire to launch at The PPAI Expo. “It’s way less time than I would have liked from September to now,” Lucash says. “But we said, you know, let’s at least get this done on the biggest stage, the Super Bowl of promo at The PPAI Expo, and it get in front of everyone that we know on a grand scale. Some stuff will be held together with Scotch tape and glue behind the scenes, but we at least want to have stuff ready so we can take orders and start having product ready to sell and market.”

    Motivating Factors

    It should go without saying that Lucash and Szymczak have a lot on the line here – not just the effort and time away from their families, but “millions and millions of dollars” of their own money, hard earned through the journey and sale of Origaudio, which they launched on a budget in the tens of thousands back in 2009.

    They aren’t alone. Some of the work in recent months has been to court seed investment from friends and family, venture funds and private investors both inside the industry and outside of it. Rupt keeps its investor information private, but it does seem that a lot of people are betting on the new company to achieve a breakthrough.

    Competitive allegiances and unwritten rules of the supply chain will be difficult for some traditionalists in the industry to put aside. Not everyone is going to like it. But it’s arguable that the promise of Rupt and companies like it could be a force for positive change across the promotional products industry. It could mean good things for the planet.

    In terms of sustainability and transparency, the guys are thinking about it on the scale of a revolution.

    “Rupt emerged from the recognition that change is imperative,” Lucash says in a statement announcing the company’s launch in Las Vegas. “Rupt is not just a response to existing gaps; it’s a deliberate stride toward a more dynamic, forward-thinking promotional industry.”

    Buyers, of course, will need to pay for having this level of eco consciousness so wound into everything the company does. As evidenced by their immediate commitment to Europe and the Asia-Pacific markets, Lucash and Szymczak believe the world is ready for promotional products that aren’t the cheapest options.

    “Rupt isn’t just a choice; it’s an investment in a future where innovation goes hand in hand with sustainability,” Szymczak says in the statement. “Partnering with Rupt isn’t a transaction; it’s a profound alignment with impactful values and a genuine commitment to the planet’s well-being. Each product we’ve built is a testament to the belief that we can disrupt the norm and redefine the standard.

    “With Rupt, you’re not just buying into a brand; you’re becoming part of a movement and most importantly aligning yourself for the next generation of the promotional products industry.”

    The grandiose claims would be easy to chalk up as hype, but Lucash and Szymczak have already disrupted the industry once. A decade ago they made Origaudio the fastest growing supplier in the industry by pushing the bounds of production capabilities. They offered no minimums, five-day turnarounds and more.

    “When we did it, we were first,” Lucash says. “No one else was doing it. People thought we were crazy. We were printing one at a time in really funky retail packaging. People turned their heads, but as more and more suppliers kind of latched onto that model, it caused the industry to kind of push the limits of speed and decoration even further.”

    The investments Lucash and Szymczak will make through Rupt Ventures – the VC play – reveal part of the wider vision. They’ll help up-and-coming suppliers that have likeminded vision. Lucash refers to the fund as a potential “guiding light” in the industry.

    “A lot of these companies have tremendous untapped potential,” Szymczak says.

    And the ability to share knowledge and resources with the leaders behind those businesses creates some advantages, and potential product bundling opportunities. There are layers.

    Rolling The Dice

    Speaking to PPAI Media in November, Szymczak alluded to a six- or seven-year run with Rupt. Lucash acknowledges the potential of acquisitions as well. It’s early, considering they have yet to record their first official sale.

    If everything goes according to their plan, this will grow into a PPAI 100 caliber business quickly and earn a spot in the top 50 suppliers by revenue in five or six years. And will they rinse and repeat with another lucrative exit? Wait out their non-competes and come back to do it all again with another new concept?

    Again, too early for all that.

    There are risks here, obviously. “The economic uncertainty is the big one,” Lucash says. “I’m coming into rough global economic waters and selling higher price-point goods, which to my knowledge in down economies, higher priced goods don’t typically sell well, so that’s a big risk. People, economic uncertainty, World War III, a soft market, losing a lot of money… as an an entrepreneur you have to roll those dice, man. That’s why I love playing craps.”

    Rupt may succeed, or it may not. No one can say. But it seems destined to make its impact felt.

    It might push competitors to meet its impressive production promises. It might encourage more to lean further into sustainability and transparency. Whatever happens is bound to be loud and intense.

    It’s going to be a big show.

    Written by: Josh Ellis

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 17 Jan 2024 7:23 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Polyconcept North America (PCNA), the leading supplier of promotional products, is proud to announce the launch of Givee Select. This all-in-one platform revolutionizes the gifting process, offering a seamless experience both for those giving and receiving.

    Givee Select streamlines personalized gifting with its centralized online store platform, designed to simplify the gifting process for any occasion, such as conferences and corporate events. The platform empowers distributors to handpick from a curated collection of high-quality gifts and offers the option for unique personalization. This innovative approach ensures a rich variety of choices while minimizing waste.

    With the ability to create a gifting storefront quickly and easily, coupled with the convenience of fast drop shipping for a single flat fee, Givee Select simplifies gifting from start to finish. The easy-to-use platform ensures transparent pricing without hidden fees, eliminates the need to store inventory, and is bolstered by the dependability and expertise of PCNA.

    Key Features of the Givee Select Platform:

    • User-Friendly Interface: An easy-to-use platform enabling distributors to build custom stores in under five minutes.
    • Fulfillment With No Hidden Fees: Pay only for your store, product, and shipping for complete order fulfillment. No middlemen, aggregators, third parties, or hidden fees.
    • Personalization Powered by Print-On-Demand: Provide a memorable and unique experience where guests can add their name to elevate gifting experience.
    • Centralized Solution: Access a curated catalog with a wide range of products, control guest access, manage billing, and track shipments all in one place.
    • Flat Rate Shipping: One price for fast, direct-to-recipient drop shipping for all gift orders.
    • More Choice/Less Waste: Enabling guest choice without commitment to inventory delivers products guests will want and not leave behind. 
    • No Inventory Commitment: No up-front inventory helps eliminate excess caused by overproduction.

    "We're empowering our distributors to offer personalized, meaningful gifts with ease," states Neil Ringel, CEO of PCNA. "Our goal is to equip distributors with a sophisticated tool that facilitates appreciation, builds relationships, and leaves a lasting impression, all while upholding our commitment to sustainability."

    How Givee Select Works:

    • Create An Event Store: Quickly and easily create a storefront. Configure the look and feel with your customer’s brand colors, logos and more.
    • Pick & Design Your Products: Select gifts from PCNA’s curated Givee catalog of high-quality products including products offering personalization.
    • Launch Your Store: Once a store is live, invite guests to choose and personalize their gifts.

    The platform provides complete fulfillment, empowering distributors to configure a store in minutes without wasting time on lengthy intake forms, complicated coding, or confusing digital technology. Once a store is launched, distributors can rest assured that they only pay for what is ordered by guests, eliminating overbuying and guesswork with the power of Givee Select.

    Our dedication to innovation shines with Givee Select,” said Holly Brown, Chief Revenue Officer of PCNA. “Listening to and understanding the needs and challenges ofdistributors is the inspiration for this solution. It is a time-saver innovation focused on the power of choice, and a total reinvention of the personalized gifting experience. By blending a diverse array of high-quality products with personalization, we're enabling our clients to focus on gifting without the worry of order logistics or any other fulfillment hurdle. Givee Select reinforces what really matters - creating gifts that are cherished and inspire pride.”

    Explore the future of gifting at pcna.com/givee.

  • 12 Jan 2024 10:57 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    SAGE announces several exciting updates to its flagship service, SAGE Total Access, as well as SAGE Websites and SAGE Company Stores. These brand-new features will allow distributors to access more information about their customers at-a-glance, view in-depth sales reports, automatically track website inventory, easily build custom site pages, plus implement turnkey product collections and starter stores.

    “Our development strategy continues to prioritize streamlining the cross-functionality of our services and building new, innovative solutions for our customers to help them stay ahead of trends and maximize their efficiency,” said Eric Natinsky, SAGE CEO. “This release is particularly exciting because we’ve introduced several new features that are going to really revolutionize the way our customers do business.”

    In the latest release, a notable achievement is the introduction of a CRM Client Overview dashboard in SAGE Online and SAGE Web. This feature utilizes aggregate data from various SAGE Total Access modules, offering distributors high-level insights into each client's order volume rank, sales potential, and recent activity. It also provides a snapshot of interactions, like the number of quotes, presentations, or email campaigns within a specified date range.

    Distributors can now create client logins for websites and online stores via the CRM module. The integration of CRM with SAGE Websites enables distributors to effortlessly establish and oversee client access in a centralized location. Additionally, to enhance workflow efficiency

    through SAGE Total Access, carts from Websites and Company Stores are seamlessly integrated into Order Management.

    In addition to the previously announced release of the new SAGE Company Store Standard in Q3 2023, SAGE has introduced even more developments in its Company Store suite. The newest updates incorporate advanced features like the ability to duplicate a store and a new in-depth reporting module to see sales over time, sales by product, showroom or promo code, and sales by client.

    Another major update for Company Stores and Websites is the inclusion of inventory management. This new functionality allows distributors to monitor various product variations (size, color, etc.) with distinct inventory levels. Users can efficiently manage bulk inventory through spreadsheets, establish custom thresholds for each item, receive notifications for low stock levels, and enable automatic updates to deduct items during order fulfillment. Inventory management is accessible with SAGE Website Professional or SAGE Company Store Premium and higher tiers.

    While a large portion of this latest release focuses on streamlining processes, SAGE has also announced three completely new additions to its Websites and Company Stores that distributors can utilize to drive more traffic to their sites and secure more business.

    The introduction of Starter Stores as part of SAGE Company Stores allows users to present fully customizable theme-based stores at no additional charge. This serves as an effective way to illustrate the adaptability of company stores to clients or serves as a quick launchpad for setting up clients' stores.

    SAGE Website Professional Plus now incorporates the all-new Curated Product Webpages, featuring theme-based webpages with curated content and products, enhancing SEO and driving website traffic.

    And finally, SAGE introduced its revolutionary Page Builder module in SAGE Websites as a way to design pages visually using drag and drop functionality. The Page Builder allows distributors to quickly and easily custom-build a page from scratch with a tailored column layout and widgets such as text blocks and product groups that incorporate featured product selections.

    All updates are available now. To learn more about SAGE Total Access, SAGE Websites, or SAGE Company Stores, visit www.sageworld.com or contact your Account Advisor today.

  • 10 Jan 2024 11:43 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Orbus Visual Communications® invests in market-leading, state-of-the-art print equipment to ensure display graphics are the best in the industry. Orbus is North America’s largest producer and manufacturer of visual communications solutions for tradeshows and events, retail environments and workplace interiors.

    Newly acquired dye-sublimation and UV print equipment marks a significant improvement in capacity and helps Orbus ensure consistent color and output across facilities.

    New equipment increased Orbus’ dye-sub printing capacity by 10%, a remarkable jump from 15,400 sq. ft. per hour to 23,000 sq. ft. per hour. This enhancement is the result of the adoption of four Durst P5 TEX iSub printers, bringing the total count of dye-sub printers from seven to nine.

    Orbus increased its UV print capacity by 60% with the addition of a Digitech TruFire UV LT/X2 printer and an EFI VuTek Q5R Ultradrop printer with inline cutting capability. This pushes the hourly output from 9,500 sq. ft. to 15,000 sq. ft. and further distinguishes Orbus from its competitors.

    Continued investments in state-of-the-art print and finishing equipment emphasize Orbus’ commitment to providing the highest print quality that exceeds industry standards. Orbus’ print capabilities can be reviewed here: https://www.orbus.com/services/graphic-services/print-capabilities

    “The advancements in our printing capabilities reaffirm our dedication to excellence and position Orbus as the place to go superior displays graphics,” said Jaime Herand, Vice President of Graphic Operations at Orbus. “We are grateful for the opportunity to invest in the latest technologies that enable us to offer the best solutions to our clients.”

  • 9 Jan 2024 12:18 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    SAGE – the official technology partner of PPAI – has announced a new development in the capabilities of Promo Data eXchange (PDX), the formula behind PPAI’s mission to eliminate unnecessary phone calls and emails.

    Already integrated into the systems of suppliers using PDX, real-time updates on inventory levels and order status are now able to be integrated into the backend systems for:

    • Distributors
    • PPAI business service members

    This allows distributors and member service providers to perform a single integration to access data from every participating PDX vendor.

    PPAI President and CEO Dale Denham, MAS+, notes that this accessibility of crucial data is a step forward in eliminating industry friction.

    “This enhancement is particularly valuable for order status, as many firms rely on order status in their back-end system, and we have many software companies in the industry providing those back-end systems to distributors,” Denham says. “PDX continues to be a free benefit for PPAI members in conjunction with our official technology partner SAGE.”

    PDX’s Path To Industry Efficiency

    PPAI continues to focus on improving the industry’s efficiency as part of its commitment to driving digital transformation, and PDX is a core component of the effort.

    • The program can eliminate thousands of unnecessary phone calls and emails every day as 45,000 SAGE users have access to inventory levels and order status. 
    • PDX is free to PPAI members, and the PPAI Technology Committee is playing a significant role in improving the PDX standard.   

    “In the journey towards industry efficiency, the collaboration between PPAI and SAGE in advancing PDX represents a significant stride,” says CW Karstens, PPAI’s director of digital transformation. “By providing real-time updates on inventory levels and order status, PDX, in conjunction with SAGE Connect, streamlines operations for distributors and business service providers.”

    This new development, which incorporates business service providers into the integration process, is possible through SAGE Connect, which many suppliers have seen the benefit of integrating with in order to broaden the distributors they can work with as well as save time for all parties.


    “SAGE Connect has seen a lot of growth over the past six months from suppliers integrating their backend systems,” says Dana Porter, MAS, vice president of information services at SAGE. “Adding the ability for distributors to integrate this information into their backend systems with a single integration is huge for the industry and our ongoing path towards digital transformation by increasing distributors efficiency even more.”

    For more information on how to get connected visit https://www.sageworld.com/connect.php or contact your SAGE Account Advisor or PPAI Digital Transformation Manager Nick DiNicola (Nickd@ppai.org).

    Written by Jonny Auping

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 8 Jan 2024 12:25 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Storm Creek (ASI #89879/ PPAI #438091), a leading supplier of sustainable lifestyle apparel, welcomes Stephanie Maday as Director of Sales and Customer Experience. With over 20 years of invaluable experience in the promotional products industry, Stephanie brings a wealth of knowledge and supplier experience to her role at Storm Creek.

    Stephanie started her career in Promotional Products with 3M Promotional Markets in 2000. During her 20 years there, she worked her way up to National Sales Manager. Prior to joining Storm Creek, Stephanie served as the Executive Vice President of [Wholesale] Sales at industry supplier, Crystal D. She played a pivotal role in driving sales growth and fostering lasting client relationships. Her extensive experience in the promotional products sector has equipped her with a deep understanding of marketing trends, customer needs, and effective sales strategies.

    Maday’s onboarding comes at a strategic time for Storm Creek as the company continues to expand its presence in the promotional products market as a leading sustainable apparel supplier. Storm Creek is confident that Maday’s leadership and industry insight will contribute significantly to the company’s continued growth and success.

    “We are thrilled to welcome Stephanie to the Storm Creek family as our new Director of Sales,” said Teresa Fudenberg, CEO. “Stephanie’s passion for growth, industry knowledge, and desire for customer excellence makes her the perfect fit for this role. We are excited to work together to take Storm Creek to the next level!”

    In her new role, Stephanie will lead the sales team, driving business development and fostering partnerships with clients. Her focus will be on expanding Storm Creek’s market presence, identifying new business opportunities, and ensuring the delivery of exceptional products and services to clients at every step in the customer journey.

    “I am honored to join the Storm Creek team! The company's core values align strongly with my own. I am excited to marry my passions for relationship building, sales development, and customer service with their incredible product and brand story.”

  • 6 Jan 2024 8:55 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    SAGE continues to revolutionize exhibitor lead retrieval with the launch of SAGE ShowLink 8.0, a cutting-edge application built exclusively for the promotional products industry. Using an iOS or Android device, suppliers can scan badges or business cards at industry tradeshows to collect leads and schedule follow-ups.

    The latest release, version 8.0, introduces new functionality for associating photos with individual leads. Suppliers can conveniently capture photos of products within SAGE ShowLink that pique a lead's interest and seamlessly link them to the respective lead, facilitating a more efficient process for booth management and post-event follow-up tasks.

    "SAGE ShowLink 8.0 is a testament to our commitment to providing state-of-the-art solutions for the promotional products industry. These enhancements, added just in time for The PPAI Expo in Vegas, mean our supplier customers can go into any show confidently knowing they are equipped with the lead retrieval they need to stay on top of their leads.” said Blake Bozeman, MAS, VP of Sales at SAGE.

    Further enhancing the app’s functionality, SAGE ShowLink 8.0 incorporates the latest business card scanning technology. In cases where show badges are not scannable, exhibitors can scan a business card to automatically fill in the lead fields. Furthermore, business cards can be scanned offline and will update the lead information once a connection is re-established, allowing for seamless lead capture even in the absence of an internet connection.

    Finally, an updated and revitalized interface, along with a redesigned lead list, prioritizes userfriendly navigation. This encompasses additional sorting options and the ability to easily identify hot prospects effortlessly. Following a user-centric design philosophy, suppliers can now promptly retrieve their show statistics and reports directly from the primary lead page.

    SAGE ShowLink 8.0 is available in the Apple app store and Google Play store. Look for the refreshed app icon to experience the future of efficient lead retrieval.

    For more information about SAGE ShowLink, please visit https://www.sageworld.com/showlink.php or contact your Account Advisor today.

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