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HPPA Industry News

  • 24 Feb 2024 10:19 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Roger Burnett, founder of Social Good Promotions (PPAI 758284, D3) has sold his interest in the Ohio-based distributor to Kara Keister, MAS. Previously, Keister held the role of Promise Keeper for Social Good Promotions, where she has worked since 2019.

    “I am honored to take the helm at Social Good Promotions and continue the impactful work that we, along with our team, have started,” Keister says. “Our young but mighty team plans to build on the foundation of excellence, sustainability and social responsibility to bring even greater value to our clients and the community.”

    A Passing Of The Torch

    Burnett founded the company to make the world a better place by prioritizing clients “in search of greater meaning for the dollars they spend.”

    Keister shared with PPAI Media that she and Burnett coordinated the transition of leadership to continue what Social Good Promotions has always stood for.

    “Roger and I were super clear on the direction and purpose of Social Good Promotions as a distributor from the onset,” Keister says. “We always knew what we wanted it to be when it grew up, so we designed it as such. The team we have in place understands the goal and lives the mission every day. So, while you may see a few new tricks up our sleeves, the story of soGOOD will live on as intended.”

    Prior to joining Social Good Promotions in 2019, Keister spent nearly 10 years working at City Apparel. Burnett says that the company will be in good hands with her at the helm.

    “I am thrilled to pass the torch to Kara, who shares the same passion for promoting social good through business,” Burnett says. “Her expertise and dedication make her the ideal leader to guide Social Good Promotions into its next phase of growth.”

    According to Keister, the foundation that Burnett laid at the company means his presence will continue to be felt after his departure.

    “Roger’s legacy will live on in the DNA of Social Good Promotions,” Keister says. “He’s been a force for the industry and the reason that we even exist. Whatever he has up his sleeve next will be nothing short of epic, because that’s how Roger rolls.”

  • 20 Feb 2024 2:08 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    United Way of Marathon County has recognized Maple Ridge Farms with a Shining Star award for its 2023 United Way campaign. Shining Stars are awarded to companies whose employees ran campaigns that have shown participation growth, leadership growth, overall dollars raised, corporate gifts, and volunteerism as true advocates for United Way.

    Maple Ridge Farms’ 2023 campaign included many different activities in which employees could participate, including a visiting gelato cart, a white elephant sale, and the crowd-pleasing raffle for department-created gift baskets, coveted parking places, and other prizes. The campaign raised a total of $8,911 to benefit United Way of Marathon County, an increase of 5% over 2022’s campaign.

    In receiving this award, Maple Ridge Farms campaign manager, Shana Gardner, remarked: “We are proud to partner with United Way of Marathon County. Our dedicated committee is always diligently looking for ways to add opportunities for team members to participate and contribute, and it’s an honor to be recognized for those efforts. We plan to add more events throughout 2024 and are excited to continue to develop and grow our support.”

  • 20 Feb 2024 1:56 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Boundless (PPAI 267078, D11) – ranked the No. 14 distributor in the inaugural PPAI 100 – has announced the acquisition of Mason, Ohio-based distributor Touchstone.

    In recent years, Touchstone has consistently reported sales north of $50 million. Already one of the fastest-growing companies in the industry, Boundless won High Marks for Growth in the 2023 PPAI 100, its revenue expanding by 70% since 2019. The acquisition could bring Boundless’s top line to north of $200 million.

    According to Boundless, Touchstone has established an agency-style creative services offering, invested in a warehouse fulfillment operation and implemented cloud-based NetSuite ERP software across its organization, all of which attracted the Austin-based firm.

    “The acquisition of Touchstone deepens Boundless’ competency and expertise in three core areas: creative services, warehousing and fulfillment and enterprise technology systems,” says Charley Dean, chairman of Boundless. “Boundless’ clients and sales partners will benefit from Touchstone’s expertise in these areas as Boundless strives to be the industry’s leading distributor partner.”

    Touchstone’s Signature Methodology

    The BrandEQ System is Touchstone’s unique approach to collaborative brand building and merchandise curation. The system incorporates creative services, webstores and fulfillment operations to provide a seamless brand merchandise solution for enterprises.

    “I’m energized by this growth opportunity,” says Touchstone President Andrew Backen. “We’re especially excited to continue growing the BrandEQ system in partnership with Boundless Network.”

    Boundless – named one of the Greatest Companies To Work For in 2023 and 2022 – has grown substantially over the past two years, announcing the acquisition of a Minnesota-based distributor and several high-profile executive hires in early 2023, and a new CEO in July 2022.

    Touchstone’s Origin

    In 1996, Derek Block founded Touchstone, originally named The Aztec Group, and has grown the firm into one of the largest distributors in the promotional products industry with 21 offices across the United States.

    “We’ve gotten to know Boundless over several years and are thrilled with this fit,” Block says. “Touchstone and Boundless are both team-oriented cultures where high-performing individuals with specialized skills can thrive. I’m excited about what this combined team will accomplish together.”

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission by PPAI

  • 14 Feb 2024 9:31 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Eric Shonebarger is stepping down as president of Hit Promotional Products (PPAI 113910, S14), effective immediately.

    Shonebarger announced on Tuesday that he will transition to a board seat for the St. Petersburg, Florida-based supplier. He is expected to pursue an opportunity in ecommerce outside of the industry.

    CEO CJ Schmidt will take on the added title of president, at least in the interim. The change could set off a series of other C-level moves to realign its leadership structure in response.

    Leaving On A High Note

    In a statement, the company said, "Eric has been an integral part of our company's growth and success over the last 20 years. His strategic vision, strong leadership and unwavering dedication have helped us achieve many milestones. We will always be grateful for his guidance and the impact he has made on our company culture."

    Hit Promotional Products saw continued growth during Shonebarger’s tenure as president.

    • Its 2022 revenue exceeded $600 million.
    • From 2019-2022, Hit Promotional Products grew in revenue by 23%.
    • The 2022 PPAI 100 rankings awarded the supplier High Marks in Revenue, Growth, Online Presence, Innovation and Professional Development.

    “As I reflect on the last 20 years, I am incredibly grateful for the trust and opportunity that the Schmidt family has given me,” Shonebarger said. “To the Hit Promotional Products Team, you are the most talented and hardworking people I know. I am honored to call you not just coworkers but friends.”

    Shonebarger has a long history with the company spanning two decades, and he worked his way up to the role of president while serving the supplier in different capacities along the way.

    • He joined Hit Promotional Products in 2004 as a network administrator and reached senior leadership in 2012 with a promotion to chief information officer.
    • In January 2021, coming off of the initial year of COVID-19, he was named chief operating officer.

    What’s Next For Hit?

    Schmidt is no stranger to the president title in the company his father, Bill Schmidt, founded. He held the role for nearly four years before taking on CEO duties in 2018.

    In April of 2022, Schmidt told PPAI Media that he expected to see double-digit growth from Hit Promotional Products in 2023.

    The company has made a priority of adding senior level talent with industry experience in recent years.

    Written by: Jonny Auping

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 6 Feb 2024 11:52 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    AIA Corporation (PPAI 101364, D12) has hired Josh Pospisil, MAS, as vice president of business development. 

    • Pospisil joins the Wisconsin-based distributor after most recently working with Houston-based supplier HIRSCH as a national account manager.

    “I’m truly honored to step into this role and embrace the opportunity it presents,” Pospisil says. “AIA’s dedication to its distributor community and core values align perfectly with my own values, and I look forward to contributing to its growth.”

    ‘An Avid Enthusiast Of All Things Promotional’

    A 10-year veteran of the promo industry, Pospisil has seen what growth looks like from different angles of the promotional products world. 

    • He began his promo career as marketing associate for Houston-based supplier KTI Promo and quickly elevated to the role of marketing manager.
    • In 2021, he joined HIRSCH and remained with the supplier for nearly three years.
    • He also served as a “Sous Chef” for PromoKitchen from January 2020 until late 2022.

    Those who have not interacted with Pospisil in his roles with those organizations may still know him for his social media presence.

    • Pospisil was named to the PPAI’s 2023 #Online18 for his enthusiasm and promotion via Facebook and LinkedIn.
    • He is known for regularly updating his followers with a pink wardrobe on what he deems PINK Day Wednesdays, which AIA says, “reflect his unwavering dedication to his craft and his unique approach to industry engagement.”

    In his new role as vice president of business development, Pospisil is expected to “play a pivotal role in shaping and executing business development strategies.”

    • Under his direction, the company hopes to grow AIA’s distributor community with new, innovative strategies.

    “We are thrilled to welcome Josh as our new vice president of business development at AIA Corporation," says Rich Berg, AIA’s senior VP of business development and owner success. “He is a force to be reckoned with within the promotional products industry and with a strong background in sales, accounts management and marketing, Josh brings valuable expertise to our team.”

    Written by: Jonny Auping

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 6 Feb 2024 10:24 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Danny Rosin, CAS, president and co-owner of North Carolina-based distributor Brand Fuel (PPAI 277900, D8), has been appointed to the PPAI Board of Directors to fill the remaining term of Joshua White.

    • In January, White announced he would take a reduced role at BAMKO to focus on entrepreneurial pursuits and resign from the PPAI Board.
    • PPAI bylaws stipulate that a mid-term replacement must come with previous Board service. Rosin previously served a full term on the Board from 2017-2021.

    “I was both surprised and knocked over smiling,” Rosin says of the opportunity to rejoin the PPAI Board. “I am honored to be asked back to help PPAI with its exciting strategic plan and volunteer at the highest level to support our members.”

    • By stepping in for White, who joined the Board in 2023, Rosin will serve the entirety of White’s remaining term through The PPAI Expo 2027.

    PPAI Board Chair Andrew Spellman, CAS, vice president of corporate markets at Therabody, expressed his enthusiasm to be able to work alongside Rosin in such an important capacity.

    “I am so excited to appoint Danny to the vacated board seat,” Spellman says. “Danny had served previously on the board and completed his term as I was coming on. I was disappointed that we were not going to be able to serve together. Now we get that chance.”

    A Familiar Face To The Board

    In Rosin, the PPAI Board has appointed a known industry advocate, who has been a public facing voice for Brand Fuel, PromoKitchen and PPAI. In 2023, he was named the H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award winner for his philanthropic efforts.

    “Danny is well known for being kind and giving while being a leader at a successful distributor,” says Dale Denham, MAS+, president and CEO of PPAI. “He also pushes the people around him to think differently. I had the pleasure of serving with Danny during his first term on the PPAI Board and am thrilled to have him back in a formal leadership role with PPAI.”

    • Co-founding Brand Fuel in 1998, Rosin was a primary force in growing it into one of the more recognizable distributors in promo. In 2023, Brand Fuel earned PPAI 100 High Marks in Growth and Responsibility.
    • Rosin also co-founded PromoKitchen out of his desire to promote and mentor rising voices in the industry.
    • In 2023, Rosin was named to PPAI Media’s #Online18 for his personal social media presence. Brand Fuel was named the list's No. 1 organization.
    • He also served as one of four distributor judges on The Pitch in 2023 and 2024.

    Having already served a full term on the PPAI Board, Rosin believes his experience will help him jump right in and contribute, but understands that the promo landscape has continued to evolve.

    “It is not lost on me that PPAI is a very different organization, led by an incredibly talented staff and committed board,” Rosin says.

    Between his experience and industry reputation, Rosin made for an easy choice to step in and take on the responsibility of sitting on the PPAI Board.

    “His familiarity with the Association, his alignment with our strategic plan, his unmatched philanthropic efforts and his strong industry business acumen make him the ideal candidate,” Spellman says.

    Unfinished Business?

    Asked about the time commitment required for yet another term on the PPAI Board of Directors, Rosin expressed his desire to see the promo industry through the path it is currently on.

    “I am bullish on the value of promotional products and PPAI’s role with the industry’s growth, safety and reputation,” Rosin says. “But we have a lot of work to do. I want to be a part of leading that work to help members with education, advocacy, new resources, collaboration, how to be a force for good and even injecting some fun along the way.”

    His initial tenure on the PPAI Board went from 2017-2021, meaning he oversaw an exciting period of growth followed by a sudden moment of complete uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “I served on the board during some of PPAI’s best and worst times,” Rosin says. “The pandemic put many initiatives like corporate social responsibility, that I think we should care deeply about, on hold. Being able to ‘giddy up and go’ again on that pillar, in particular, is like a mulligan.”

    Written by: Jonny Auping

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 6 Feb 2024 10:07 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    SnugZ USA (PPAI 112982, S12) made a splash on The PPAI Expo 2024 trade floor with the mechanical bull the supplier placed in the middle of its exhibit booth for any attendee passersby to ride, if they so dared.

    More quietly, however, SnugZ made an even bigger impact in Las Vegas when they took the opportunity of The PPAI Expo to present a check to the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) for $107,329.82.

    “We are so proud to be a part of the Wounded Warrior Project family and provide continuing support to an organization that means so much to us,” says Brittany David, MAS, chief revenue officer at SnugZ. “We also love that it continues to give an opportunity for our industry to give back to those who desperately need it and want to thank our distributor partners who make all of this possible.”

    A Continued Partnership

    The Wounded Warrior Project’s mission is to honor and empower veterans “who incurred physical or mental injury, illnesses or wound co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001.”

    • Like SnugZ, the charitable organization is based out of Utah, and in 2015, the supplier asked Dan Nevins, a “wounded warrior,” to speak at an event.
    • That began a partnership between WWP and SnugZ that has continued ever since.

    Now, SnugZ has a publicly stated its commitment to donate 1% of SnugZ Basecamp sales (with a minimum of $100,000) per calendar year to “support [WWP’s] mission to honor and empower wounded warriors.”

    • For 2023, that resulted in more than $107,000 presented to WWP by the SnugZ team in front of the mechanical bull they had brought to The PPAI Expo.

    “The support we receive from SnugZ helps fuel Wounded Warrior Project’s life-changing programs and services for veterans and their families,” says Brea Kratzert Todd, WWP’s vice president of business development. “We’re grateful for their consistent generosity. Together, we ensure no warrior, caregiver or family member ever feels alone.”

    Written by: Jonny Auping

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 4 Feb 2024 7:45 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Orbus Visual Communications® has been named a 2024 Best Place To Work by ASI Counselor Magazine. Orbus is North America’s largest producer and manufacturer of visual communications solutions for tradeshows and events, retail environments and workplace interiors.

    ASI Counselor Magazine identifies itself as “The Voice of the Promo Product Industry.” The Best Places to Work list is a mix of top-rated suppliers and distributors in the promotional products industry throughout the U.S. and Canada. The winners are chosen through in-depth employee surveys that rate the company in categories such as management communication, workplace culture, and work/life balance.

    Orbus was named to this list because of its commitment to employee happiness and recognition. Orbus is proud to have built a workplace culture where diversity is fostered, employees feel they are heard, and a work-life balance is of upmost importance. Our employees are our greatest asset and keep our business successful year after year.

    “We are honored to be recognized as a 2024 Best Place to Work by ASI Counselor Magazine,” said Todd Papendick, Director of Human Resources at Orbus Visual Communications. “At Orbus, we take pride in creating an environment where creativity and innovation thrives, and where employees feel happy to call it home.”

  • 3 Feb 2024 10:53 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    From the very spark of the idea, PPAI 100 has been about leading change.

    Its goals are to recognize the promotional products firms pushing the industry toward a better future, clarify what those trailing them must do to compete, and in the long run to alter narratives about our medium as a whole.

    It should come as no surprise that PPAI 100 itself will evolve in 2024.

           SEE MORE:

    The Association’s most ambitious research project has been designed to serve as a leading edge for promotional products, meant to evolve with the times and the marketplace. The evolution from Year 1 to Year 2 was always likely to be the most substantial of all.

    This year, the changes may have the potential to yield a fairly significant shakeup in the rankings.

           RELATED: PPAI 100: 2023

    As soon as our findings for the inaugural list were released in June 2023, our focus shifted to listening to the feedback of our members on how to make PPAI 100 more fair and impactful. It will be impossible to please everyone in a community with perspectives as diverse as ours, but the large shifts in 2024 are our response to this feedback.

    Here’s what we’re doing differently with the 2024 PPAI 100 – and why.

    The list’s size will double.

    Rather than identifying 50 leading distributors and 50 leading suppliers for a total of 100, we will now expand to 100 and 100. We found that, too often, the 50+50 model led to confusion of people looking for the rest of a list that promised them 100.

    All 100 suppliers and 100 distributors will be unveiled first to attendees of PPAI’s North American Leadership Conference, as in 2023. The industry's premier event for executive networking, leadership development and strategic foresight, this year's NALC is slated for May 5-7 in Salt Lake City.

    International firms will be eligible if they are PPAI members.

    The in PPAI is meant to stand for something, after all. This is a global industry, and PPAI’s vision is that promotional products are universally valued and essential to every brand.

    That means we should recognize the companies in our member community who are positively impacting clients overseas, as well. Likewise, all companies’ revenue will account for international sales, not just those made in North America.

    Recognition is limited to those firms who are PPAI members as of the eligibility date, March 10, 2024.

    The survey period for all companies, large and small, will be open at the same time (Feb. 26-March 10).

    In 2023, we believed it was important to introduce PPAI 100 by unveiling the companies that made the inaugural list and later rolling out the ways the program was built to drive value to even the smallest firms. Once they took the same surveys as larger revenue competitors in July, we bestowed High Marks on deserving firms who missed the cut for PPAI 100, including many of promo’s smaller businesses, for their ResponsibilityInnovation and Growth.

           SEE MORE:

    We used the information companies of all sizes shared to create market-wide benchmarking research on these important topics. We’ll do the same in 2024, but the surveys will be open to every member company during the same two-week window.

    The scoring criteria for several categories will change in important ways.

    These are the changes that could trigger the most substantial movement among competitors, up or down the list.

    • The Growth category, which is divided for scoring into two parts (total dollars and percentage growth), will be based on the 2023 revenue of the overall parent company as it exists now compared to the 2020 revenue of all of the companies that are now part of the parent company. The goal is to reward companies for new revenue brought into the industry. Business acquired through mergers and acquisitions is already accounted for in the 2023 Revenue category.

    • A bonus and penalty structure will be applied to firms’ 2023 Revenue score based on the level of validation provided. Companies reporting their revenue through the PPAI 100 business fundamentals survey or giving estimate guidance will receive no scoring bonus or penalty. Companies reporting revenue and submitting verifying documentation will receive a score bonus. (Verifying documentation may include tax documents, communication with auditors, etc.) Companies not offering guidance of any kind will suffer a score penalty.

    • Also for the 2023 Revenue category, no company will have its revenue estimated – or be scored – above the recommended earnings range for its PPAI membership tier.

    • Two-thirds of the Employee Happiness category will now be based on average employee tenure, and just one-third on workplace recognition – PPAI Greatest Companies to Work For or equivalent – earned within the last three years.

    • For the Industry Faith category, distributor scoring will be based first on PPAI Credit Profile, powered by Forius. In 2023, a different model was used as the primary.

    The scoring rubric will evolve slightly, too.

    The same eight scoring categories return in this year's PPAI 100, but just like in 2023, they aren't all worth the same amount of points. Revenue remains the most important category in any company's total score, but the overall weighting mix changes a little in 2024.

    We'll reveal what's different once all of the results are released.

    Want to be the first to see the 2024 PPAI 100 results?

    Visit this page to learn more about NALC and let us notify you when housing and registration open.

    Written By: Josh Ellis

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 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

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