Distributors Name The Supplier All-Stars
Every year, PPAI distributor members get to let their voices be heard on the best suppliers in the industry based on quality of communication, customer service, products, decorating and packaging.
The past year presented perhaps the toughest environment in which to compete given the supply chain challenges that delayed raw materials and finished goods from reaching supplier factories, coupled with severe labor shortages that stretched workforces thin and tested their ability to meet delivery commitments. Even still, these 24 companies persevered to not only get the job done and impress their clients, but their consistent excellence won them top honors as this year’s PPAI Supplier Stars.
These winning companies received the most votes in PPAI’s annual competition where distributors cast their votes for one supplier in each of 12 categories. The annual competition is open to all PPAI supplier members in good standing who update their sales volume every two years as required and maintain a SAGE supplier rating of A or higher.
The Supplier Star is one of four PPAI Pyramid awards, the industry’s pinnacle of achievement since 1958. Voting for the 2023 competition opens June 16 and closes July 8, 2022. Find details here.
Fill It Forward
The team at Fill it Forward believes that choosing to reuse is a simple act of generosity showing love for the planet and the people on it. The company inspires the world to reuse by creating interactive technologies, global giving initiatives and reusable tags, cups, bottles and bags smartly designed to eliminate single-use waste.
Logojojo Custom Label Craft Coffee
Logojojo partners with award-winning Folly Coffee Roasters to offer high-end specialty coffee beans with full-color custom labels. The coffee is small batch, roasted to order and offered in 4- and 12-ounce stand-up resealable pouches. The venture is a mother-son collaboration between Ellie Bathe, who owns Logojojo, and her son, Rob, who owns Folly Coffee Roasters.
Soft Stuff Creations
Surrey, British Columbia
Soft Stuff Creations is a custom plush toy supplier specializing in unique, fun and creative toys for retail, marketing and promotional purposes for customers worldwide. Distributors can choose from a menagerie of in-stock plush cuddlers or custom design exactly the item needed. In addition to loveable plush toys, the company offers embroidery-ready golf head covers—including one design that features a cute animal head.
Terra Haute, Indiana
BoxUp was founded by Curt Stephens and Ward Hubbard, two box plant veterans, who saw a gap in the level of service available to small- to mid-sized businesses due to prohibitively high set-up costs for custom-imprinted corrugated boxes. They used web-to-print technology to create a wide selection of boxes and sturdy packaging that help brands tell their stories.
Rocketbook notebooks and planners provide a classic pen and paper experience but are built for the digital age. The products feature a synthetic paper that allows the user to write smoothly with a Pilot FriXion pen, connect to a choice of cloud services, scan the page and then wipe it clean to reuse endlessly.
Hauppauge, New York
For over 47 years Liqui-Mark has been manufacturing quality writing instruments and school and office supplies for the retail and promotional products industries. Many products are made in the USA, including pens, highlighters, dry erase, permanent and washable markers, crayons, pencils, coloring books, stylus pens and accessories. The company also offers custom packaging capabilities.
EMT has been delivering unforgettable brand and recognition experiences with its line of custom- made lapel pins, patches and emblematic jewelry for more than 40 years. The company says it’s committed to a singular vision: to delight, unite and inspire the world, one emblem at a time.
A+ Wine Designs
National City, California
A+ Wine Designs creates unique wine gifts and wooden box gift sets featuring custom deep-etched and custom-labeled wine, liquor and olive oil products. It is a previous winner of PPAI Gold and Silver Pyramid Awards and won a 2019 Counselor Distributor Choice Award. For more than 30 years it has been the top-rated wine company in the industry, based ratings from SAGE and ESP.
Bentcil got its start in the promotional business over 35 years ago with a unique, custom-bent pencil and today offers custom-bent pens, lighted products, calendars, magnets and edibles along with custom, full-color packaging, direct mail and fulfillment services.
California Tattoos & Promotional Products
California Tattoos & Promotional Products specializes in custom temporary tattoos and printed promotional products, including stickers, drink coasters, scratch-off cards, watercolor paint sheets and booklets.
Since 1933, Shelbyville Pencil Company (Shepenco) has provided the industry with the highest quality, affordable writing instruments. The facility, located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, is home to the four-generation, family-owned and operated company and its award-winning customer service team.
Jornik is a multi‐award-winning, five‐star, A+ rated, second‐generation, family-owned and operated supplier. In 2020 it was named Counselor’s Family Business of the Year. Jornik strives to provide a fun, unique and fresh line of hardgoods, including made-in-the-USA items and packaging, that are designed, engineered, manufactured, tested and inspected to exceed all expectations.
Raining Rose Promos
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Raining Rose Promos is a full-service manufacturer and supplier of personal care products, including high-quality lip balms, hand sanitizers, sunscreens and lotions, based in America’s heartland. The company has achieved status as a Certified B Corporation, which means it meets the highest standards of accountability, transparency and social and environmental performance, and it operates by the values of service, people and planet, integrity, expertise and a focus on the future.
Salt Lake City
Since 1983, HandStands has offered a wide variety of promotional products from phone, tablet and computer accessories to air fresheners, stress relief products and award-winning automotive accessories, and it has expanded into electronics with Bluetooth speakers, power banks, wireless chargers and much more. Handstands’ mission is to manufacture and aggressively market innovative and quality-based products.
Maple Ridge Farms*
When someone receives a gift from Maple Ridge Farms, they’re getting more than mouth-watering gourmet food and beautiful packaging, they’re getting a sensory experience they will remember long after they’ve enjoyed the contents. The proof is in the pudding—or, in this case, the chocolate, nuts, cheese and all of the other delicious options. Since 1979, Maple Ridge Farms has prided itself on providing high-quality food, exceptional gifts and award-winning service.
Vernon Hills, Illinois
Illini is a 60-year-old family-owned, Midwest-based supplier that maintains a tradition of product quality and outstanding customer service in the promotional products industry. It offers a large selection of hard goods in 16 product categories, including wellness and eco-friendly products, with more than 80 products made-in-the-USA.
Garden Grove, California
Evans Manufacturing specializes in “Products for Better Living” for the promotional products industry in categories including health care, household, drinkware, bags, writing instruments, pet, school, office, tech, travel, auto, outdoor and more. Nearly half of the product line is manufactured in Evans’ California facility, so it’s never out of stock on those items and the majority of its entire product line is available in three to seven days.
Goldstar is a manufacturer and supplier of customized writing instruments, drinkware and bags, servicing over 5,000 promo distributors across the U.S. and Canada. The company differentiates itself with its commitment to simplicity, an award‐winning promise for easy transactions and all‐inclusive pricing with no setup charges or hidden fees.
Gold Bond, Inc.*
Gold Bond was founded in 1947 as a small pencil company and now has operations on two continents offering hard goods, apparel and accessories. The supplier prides itself on being large enough to handle demanding orders while small enough to be flexible in accommodating customer requests. Gold Bond says its greatest asset is its ability to adapt to the ever-changing needs of its partners, and its tagline, “More Than You Expect,” accurately represents the company’s culture. Each team member strives to exceed customer expectations at every customer touchpoint.
Family owned and operated, Cap America has been providing quality headwear to the world for more than 35 years. It strives to make the purchase of headwear a confident and easy experience, and is dedicated to providing the best retail‐inspired headwear products in the industry. It offers a wide variety of styles to meet every headwear need and ensures that each order receives top-quality attention to detail and service. From offering free tapes and samples, to shipping just three days after sample approval, Cap America is willing to go the extra mile to earn and keep its customers’ business.
HPG has stood for value, growth and integrity since Frank and Rita Fleming began selling pens door to door in 1954. In the 68 years since, HPG has grown to serve an ever-increasing market while maintaining the multi-million-dollar operation of today. With 250 million pens sold annually and 300 talented employees on board, HPG is proud to continue delivering the highest quality product to the promotional products industry.
Founded in 1958, Gemline is an award-winning, design-centric supplier providing high-quality branded products to the promotional products industry. The company’s product line includes bags, luggage, business accessories, drinkware, electronics, stationery, writing instruments, gourmet foods and lifestyle gifts. In addition to its strong portfolio of house brands and Gemline-branded products, the company offers other in-demand retail brands such as American Tourister, Igloo, RuMe, Samsonite, Moleskine, MiiR, Corkcicle, Modern Sprout, Paper Mate, Sharpie, Slowtide and Zebra.
Family-owned since 1971, SanMar Corporation is a national supplier of 21 retail, private label and mill brands. It provides apparel and accessories to screen printers, embroiderers, promotional products distributors, athletic dealers, industrial launderers and more, whether they are outfitting a Fortune 500 corporation or the local bowling team. SanMar’s vision is to create a canvas for good using blank apparel as its canvas to improve the lives of people around the world, to positively impact its employees and to enable its customers who are often touchstones in their communities.
New Kensington, Pennsylvania
For more than 20 years, PCNA has been a premier supplier of high-quality promotional products, with goods ranging from pens and drinkware to bags and mobile tech. With an in-house product development team and dozens of leading retail brands, PCNA continually introduces products with the look, feel and performance customers want while maintaining award-winning service and cutting-edge decoration capabilities that ensure a seamless experience from start to finish.
*The asterisk denotes suppliers that won Supplier Star or Awards of Merit in the same category last year.
Serving the growing needs of B2B customers in today’s challenging business environment requires creating a personalized, human experience, says Abe Awasthi, senior manager, digital customer, writing in Adweek. He says there are four elements that are not only important but are vital to companies looking to truly make headway in today’s marketplace. And he says that the sales approach must address customers’ business and emotional needs. Here’s a quick look at Awasthi’s four recommendations and this author’s suggestions for making these approaches a reality in the promotional products buying process.
- Create a frictionless, personalized buying experience. In short, don’t make customers jump through hoops to find what they want on your website or in your catalog, whether that’s a specific product, pricing, delivery details or artwork specs. Simplify and streamline the process to remove the frustration and get the sale.
- Ensure a successful outcome. Help the customer feel confident in what they are buying by offering product reviews and testimonials. Identify the root causes of any problems, react quickly to any obstacles and clear the way for the results your client is looking for.
- Craft a partnership based on trust. Working with a trusted partner is nothing new, but customers want more these days than a company that just stands behind what they sell. Customers want to feel they are the most important customer. Find out what the hot buttons are for your customer and work to deliver on those. Be honest, forthright and transparent from start to finish—especially if there’s a problem. Be more than available when the customer calls, be proactive.
- Stay engaged beyond the sale. Delivery of the order isn’t the time to slow down your communications with the customer. Reach out to see if everything is as ordered, ask what they’ve heard from the buyer and continue to check in frequently, even just to say hello, to keep you and your company top of mind.
Tina Berres Filipski is the former editor and director of publications at PPAI.