A franchisee of Proforma – promo’s 5th leading supplier in this year’s PPAI 100 – has been selected to handle all merchandising needs for the 2024 Republican National Convention (RNC) in Milwaukee.
Local distributor Proforma ScoutPromotions – a woman-owned, small business – will be providing RNC-logoed apparel, mugs and other promotional products for the political gathering next July.
“It’s still unreal to me,” says Candace Lillund, principal of Proforma ScoutPromotions in Milwaukee. “I can’t believe how many people have reached out, like friends from college and associations. My family is on cloud nine. But I also feel that if it’s going to happen to someone, why not me? I’m hoping it opens the door to more business not only for us, but also others in my position who are small business owners in Milwaukee.”
The Cream Rises To The Top
A native of “The Cream City,” Lillund earned a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree in marketing and finance from the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
She went on to spend 20 years at Xerox, beginning as an account representative in the office products division and climbing up the company ladder to regional manager.
- In 2003, she joined the now-defunct jeweler Silpada Designs as senior sales representative.
- In between tenures, she and her husband welcomed their baby girl into the world.
“I love being a mom, but I knew there had to be more,” Lillund says. “After working for different companies, I wanted my own business. I figured I can do just as good, if not a better job than these folks.”
After spending half of her career working with print, Lillund decided to dive into the promo space, launching ScoutPromotions in 2009 and joining Proforma two years later. She initially targeted the construction market, meeting the constant need for safety items, and has since expanded to manufacturing and “quasi-government,” such as economic development corporations.
Last year, she won the bid to help rebrand the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. “In order to win the bid, I had to get my WBE (Women’s Business Enterprise) certification, which has opened up a tremendous number of doors,” Lillund says.
Even before her bidding hot streak, business was booming for the three-person operation, which Lillund attributes, oddly enough, to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the rise of e-commerce during the lockdowns, ScoutPromotions pivoted to providing customers with their own online company stores. Additionally, the firm began kitting, creating personalized, printed packaging and adding customized items.
“We still have some really nice bulk orders, but a big portion of our business now comes from stores compared to just three years ago,” Lillund says. “The pandemic created that demand for us.”
Despite receiving the biggest opportunity of her career, Lillund says she hasn’t had time to celebrate because the work has already begun.
On August 23, she’ll be displaying several products at the Convention Partner Fair, in conjunction with the RNC’s Summer Meeting and the first Republican Party presidential primary debate of the season. The fair allows up to 300 vendors to present their services and products to prospective customers, such as state delegates and the 168 executive committee members.
With such a quick turnaround time, the pressure’s on for the 14-year industry veteran.
“My stomach has been in knots. I’ve got spreadsheets on top of spreadsheets,” Lillund says. “Proforma has its most valuable preferred vendors, and I’ve leaned on them. Thanks to them not hurting me financially, I’m filling my booth with high-end quality products with the RNC logo. This fair could easily have cost me $5,000 to put together.”
Michelle Dalton, vice president of strategic partner development at Proforma, says, “We take immense pride in Candace’s accomplishments and are thrilled about the opportunities this will bring to elevate her business. We’ve worked diligently to expand and strengthen our supplier relationships for the Proforma Network, and with these unique partnerships, we’re confident she will be able to deliver solutions that will wow the customers.”
Even though the RNC is a little less than a year away, you won’t catch Lillund resting on her laurels. She’ll be making the most of her big break, which she encourages fellow distributors to do as well.
“Take advantage of every opportunity provided to you,” she says. “Don’t say you’ll do it tomorrow, act on it now.”
Written by: John Corrigan
Published with Permission from PPAI