The Puget Sound Business Journal this week features the annual University of Washington Minority Business Awards recipients, and the local branch of PromoShop took the top honor, the William D. Bradford Minority Business of the Year Award. PromoShop is a promotional advertising firm (think branded pens, T-shirts).
Their story is pretty cool. For about two decades, The Compleat Company was doing just fine with fantastic clients whose names we all know. But they wanted to grow--and they wanted to somehow accomplish that during a bad economy.
Crazy! But they did it. They pursued nationally known Promoshop and President & CEO Guillermo Kahan. Turns out they had a shared culture, philosophy--but now as a "PromoShop," the Seattle team would have a greater national reach. With the merger, and the introduction of their hugely popular EcoPromos line (which is exactly what it sounds like), the Seattle shop saw $25 million in operating revenue in 2009.
Remember 2009, when we coined the defeated phrase, "flat is the new black"? That's exactly when these Seattle promotional guys gave their success its biggest boost.
Last month I visited the Promoshop site in Georgetown and met with co-VP Glenn Leimbacher. I got to see the fruits of their labors--not just pens and Ts but brands fashioned in fantastic shapes, even from unique molds, with spot-on logos plus any range of colors. On Glenn's desk were these amazing (and reasonably priced) custom-frosted cookies with photo-sharp logos. Fun! This is not your father's "specialty advertising" business, I thought.
What struck me most, however, was the operations they're running at PromoShop. I was invited to the "Grand Tour" and they have an amazing world going on in there, behind the scenes! Not just great warehousing space like you would expect, but several different stations where they have their own embroidery, silkscreening and other equipment set up and running, onsite. Impressive. Of course they can source products and materials worldwide as needed, but I saw this as beneficial for quality control and turnaround.
Even more impressive is that their employees appeared to enjoy their jobs and each other. They all smiled at Glenn--not the "you're my boss so I guess I better smile" look, but genuine smiles and light banter throughout the tour.
This is definitely the kind of business I want to support, whether through client orders or simply writing this blog post (for which, I shouldn't need to add, I am not being compensated).
If you ever need to step it up with fun stuff that makes a statement--whether for a trade show, teambuilding event, annual meeting, or even a family reunion--consider visiting their site and you will see it all for yourself.