Traveling With The SAGE Seminar Series Builds New Connections With Members


Last month, PPAI’s Director of Member Engagement and Regional Relations Carol Gauger traveled with the SAGE Seminar Series to three Midwest cities. Gauger spoke at stops in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Chicago, Illinois, and visited with a number of local member companies.

The SAGE Seminar Series teaches distributors how to use SAGE products in a half-day education program offered each week in targeted cities across the U.S. and Canada through October. During the program, a PPAI staff member presents a 30-minute overview on PPAI member services and benefits to the distributor audience.

While in Minnesota, Gauger visited the offices of supplier Showdown Display (UPIC: SHOWDOWN) in Ramsey. At Showdown Display, she met with members of its staff including National Sales Manager Dan Ball and toured its facility, where she got a close-up look at its large-format printing work.

(Left) A selection of Showdown Display's large-format printing work. (Right) PPAI's Carol Gauger (left) with Showdown Display National Sales Manager Dan Ball.

“We appreciate PPAI and, specifically, Carol, taking the time to come in and meet with us,” says Ball. “Having someone from PPAI stop out to Ramsey, Minnesota, and visit us was an honor. We were able to introduce our internal staff to Carol and talk about PPAI and our involvement in the Association. And she provided invaluable information on member benefits we were not utilizing and were part of our membership dues.”

With the next city on the SAGE Seminar Series in Wisconsin, Gauger took the opportunity to travel to Mosinee-based Maple Ridge Farms (UPIC: MAPLE). Her time there was to learn how the company, a past PPAI Supplier Star and Suppliers Achievement Award winner, was ramping up to meet fourth quarter seasonal demands, and how retail trend research influenced their packaging and decoration.

Carol Gauger with Maple Ridge Farms President Tom Riordan at his company's Mosinee, Wisconsin offices.

Tom Riordan, company president and past PPAI Board member, says: “It was great to visit with Carol and learn about the many new and exciting things that are happening at PPAI. She is a great asset to the Association.”

The final stop on this leg of the SAGE Seminar Series was in Chicago, Illinois. The City of Big Shoulders is also home to supplier R.S. Owens & Co., Inc. (UPIC: RSOWENS), another former PPAI Supplier Star and Suppliers Achievement Award winning company, and key sponsor of the PPAI Awards program. Hosted by Mark Avenson, the company’s vice president of marketing, Gauger was given an eye-opening look at the amount of detail and hand-work that goes into the development and production of their products.

(Left) An R.S. Owens employee working on of the company's products. (Right) R.S. Owens Vice President of Marketing Mark Avenson holding an award manufactured by the company.

Avenson had attended a Town Hall meeting hosted by PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, earlier in the week and heard some statistics he hadn’t heard before.  “I attended Paul Bellantone’s Town Hall and I left feeling pretty optimistic about the direction of our industry. Carol stopped to visit our factory a couple of days later. We talked about bringing new enthusiasm into the Supplier Forums or possibly changing the structure to make it more relevant to the members, and also about the way ‘Made in America’ products are seeing a renaissance in the marketplace. U.S. suppliers are finding more success with American-made products, and there’s a possibility of building on that framework as a forum for both suppliers and distributors. Along with Made in America, there are many suppliers who run union shops. Union-made products could find useful support in partnering with PPAI,” he says.

“Carol shared her perspective about making PPAI messages more relevant to supplier departments like accounting, operations and human resources,” says Avenson. “We tend to put sales and marketing in the front of the industry happenings and other workplace networks might not feel as included or be aware of what PPAI can bring to them. I intend to make an effort to pass along messages to other areas of our business.”

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