Polar Bear Marketing
David Peterson, President
PPAI# 283179 UPIC: milespbm
At The PPAI Expo, PPAI announced that its membership had hit a record high at the end of 2011, passing the 10,000-member mark. The Association’s 10,000th member was identified as distributor Polar Bear Marketing (UPIC: milespbm) in Riverside, California.
1. How did your company get its start?
I was working at John Deere, selling heavy equipment, but I knew it wasn’t for me. A friend suggested the promotional products industry to me. I ended up going to work at IdeaMan [a distributor company founded by PPAI Hall of Fame member Bob Waldorf]. I was there for about three years, before moving over to a friend’s company that worked in both the promotional products and print broker business. I learned a lot about the print industry and taught them about promotional products. Eventually, I started my own company. That was about 20 years ago.
When I started my business, I had zero clients, but a lot of contacts in Southern California. So, I began with them. And it has turned out to be a pretty successful run. We’re profitable and have a number of loyal clients. It always comes down to hard work. If you’re not going to put the time into it, you’re not going to be as successful.
2. What’s your favorite thing about being in the promotional products industry?
This is a fun business. I appreciate the creative side and how every day is different. And I enjoy working with clients; starting with the concept—the who, what, when, where questions—and directing them down a path that will be successful for both of us.
Our company works in both the promotional products and print businesses, with about 80/20 percent split in promotional products’ favor. The industry on the print side has changed quite a bit and become more of a commodity. Promotional products lets us exercise our creative side.
About 24 years ago, I met with a headhunter firm. They asked me what sort of person I felt I was. I told them that I was more of an “idea man.” I think that helps explain why promotional products have been such a good fit for me. I’m glad I got into the business, and I know I’ll be in for as long as I’m vertical.
3. When did you know that you wanted to work in this industry?
While I was working as the operations manager at our family business (we sold animal feed to ranchers), I put in place a program for our dealers. We gave them an incentive in which they would earn points based on the tonnage they sold. They could redeem the points for hats, jackets, shirts and other things with our logo on it. It was a huge success. There’s nothing better for your sales than when the person at the store is wearing your t-shirt. That’s when I first saw what promotional products could do.
4. Why did you join PPAI?
I believe you have to give back, and joining and participating in the industry trade organization is a way to give back to a business that has been so kind to me.
There’s also a resource standpoint. Joining PPAI also gives entry into SAGE. That’s a transition we’re making now, and I think it will work really well for us.