Close Up: Living On The Edge

Pictured above: Cindy Gibbs riding her horse, Milan, at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, where she competed in the adult jumpers division. On this day, Gibbs had just returned home from the 2019 PPAI Expo in Las Vegas and immediately after headed over to the show.

Cindy Gibbs adds new perspective to the term, “rush order.” The founder and owner of Longmont, Colorado-based distributor, Big Fish Branding, Inc., is so dedicated to going above and beyond for her clients that she once did just that, literally—by hand-delivering an order via snowboard.

Having received notice that an order was arriving late and to the wrong mountain—the client was a ski resort—Gibbs, who had just finished another meeting at the same location, snowboarded over to meet the courier in time to retrieve the goods for a ceremony that day, and snowboarded back to deliver them. “I don’t like to tell my clients ‘no,’ and that has put me in some interesting situations in terms of keeping my word and exceeding client expectations,” Gibbs says.

On another occasion, she personally washed an order of t-shirts to fulfill a last-minute request. “This was a long-term client and I didn’t even think twice about going the extra mile,” she says. But her willingness to help clients doesn’t stop there. Gibbs is also known to lend a hand when possible, volunteering to help with her clients’ events, whether it’s handing out t-shirts or stuffing name badges. And in several instances, she has served as a keynote speaker, sharing her passion for creative marketing and her business, which she founded in 2005. “That kind of stuff goes a long way in my book,” she says, of offering her time.

Gibbs’s achievements were recently recognized by iPROMOTEu—a promotional products distributor network where she is a 14-year affiliate—with its 2018 Distributor Visionary Award at the “A Woman’s View” event, held in January in conjunction with the PPAI Expo 2019. “It meant so much, especially because I love this group tremendously,” she says, of iPROMOTEu. “They are very dear to me.” She is also a past recipient of PPAI’s Pyramid Gold Award, the Tommy Joyce Memorial Award—given annually by iPROMOTEu—and consistently ranked among iPROMOTEu’s Elite 100 Affiliates, recognition given to the network’s top-performing distributors.

And during those rare moments when she’s unplugged, Gibbs juggles life as a busy mom of two girls, Zoe and Kylie, who are both involved in various extracurricular activities. She even coaches her younger daughter, Kylie’s, volleyball team. But she makes it a point to rearrange her day, oftentimes working late into the evenings, so she can ride her horse, Milan, several times a week, and participate in two competitive volleyball teams herself. “I am very ambitious about work, but I am also very serious about my free time,” she says.

How did you get started in the promotional products industry?

Prior to getting into the industry, I was the national sales and marketing manager for a marine industry-based company. One of my tasks was ordering promotional products and apparel. The industry completely intrigued me and I was looking for a change. A close family friend owned a successful distributorship and gave me my start. Not wanting to part ways with my clients in the marine industry, I reached out to everyone with my clever change in hopes of continuing to work with them. Many of these clients are still with me today. Two years after working for my friend, I decided to start my own distributorship and Big Fish Branding was born. The early years were tough and I wanted to give up on several occasions. My husband Mark was such a huge support and I am grateful for that. He believed in me, so I never gave up.

Can you share a special campaign you have worked on, and who it was intended to serve?

This past year, I worked on a collaborative piece with a group of seven iPROMOTEu affiliates. It was an amazing experience. We created an “Experience VIP” self-promotion marketing piece for clients and prospects. It showcased our commitment to giving clients VIP treatment. Our intent was to band together to streamline costs and cover minimums, but it ended up being so much more than that. Through weekly calls, we brainstormed all sorts of creative content and art ideas. The result was a fully customized marketing piece that demonstrated all our creative abilities as a whole, as well as keeping our individuality as separate businesses. In all reality, we are a bunch of competitors that have banded together to maximize our efforts. I don’t think you see that too often. We are a special group.

What’s a typical day like for you?

My days are crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My husband travels more than 200 days a year, so things are a bit chaotic. Mornings involve getting our girls off to school. Then it’s crunch time with work—brainstorming ideas with clients and vendors, placing orders, preparing quotes and scheduling conference calls. At lunchtime, I try to sneak away and ride my horse. After lunch, it’s another hour of work before I have to pick up the kids. From 4 pm on it’s nonstop, with my youngest, Kylie, in gymnastics, and my oldest, Zoe, who plays club and high school volleyball. I’m a glorified Uber driver for a few hours each afternoon, shuttling kids all over, and then it’s dinner mode and time for homework. Once the kids are in bed, I usually work on my computer for an hour or two to catch up for the next day. It’s the only way I can pull off riding my horse three to four days a week.

What’s your secret to getting the most out of every day?

I think it’s so important to find time for yourself and your family. It’s easy to get caught up with work and give yourself the excuse that you’ll find time tomorrow, or next week, or next year. I feel lucky to still do all the things I love and at the same time have a successful business. You could say it takes balance, but I think the opposite is true. When you have balance, it allows you to be mediocre at all the many things on your plate. When you push yourself to extremes and let things get out of balance, that’s where the really awesome stuff happens. This year when The PPAI Expo ended, I literally got off my flight and onto my horse to compete in the National Western Stock Show in Denver. It really made no sense at all, but I did it anyway and had an amazing time. Did I ride great? Not really. Was I exhausted? Completely. But I would have missed out on an incredible experience if the rational side of me had stepped in. Balance is unrealistic and it took me a long time to come to terms with that. Once I did, there was no stopping me. I took on the world and never looked back.  

Danielle Renda is associate editor of 

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