March 2020 Snapshots: Proforma Hosts Annual Kick‐Off Meeting In Las Vegas

Proforma held its Elevate 2020 Annual Kick-Off Meeting in conjunction with The PPAI Expo in January. The meeting hosted approximately 1,000 total attendees, including the Cleveland, Ohio-headquartered distributor’s owner affiliates, preferred suppliers and VIP prospects.

Elevate 2020 began with An Evening With Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, a packed-house, invitation-only event. Brian Carothers, Proforma’s chief technology officer, interviewed Wozniak in an intimate chat on how the right technology can propel businesses to new heights. “The Woz” shared stories about Apple, his love for practical jokes and his affinity for promotional products. Following the presentation portion of the program, he was presented with an honorary Master Advertising Specialist (MAS) designation by PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE.

The second day of Proforma’s Elevate 2020 began with a session presented by Brian Moran, New York Times bestselling author of The 12 Week Year. The program taught the fundamental principles and techniques behind his strategy to get more done in 12 weeks than others do in 12 months. Attendees learned how to implement and execute these key strategies to elevate their sales growth and business success.


commonsku (PPAI 552077) hosted its seventh annual skucon conference on January 12 at the Frank Gehry-designed Keep Memory Alive Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, preceding The PPAI Expo. The business and sales software provider drew 325 attendees to the full-day event, which featured a wide range of speakers.

skucon featured keynote speakers Brian Papé, founder of MiiR, and Memo Kahan of PromoShop, as well as a lineup that included Vicki Ostrom of SanMar; Darryl Griffin, MAS, of Accolades; Lucas Guariglia of Rowboat Creative; Stacy Anderson Carter and Justin Carter of Brand-On; Jenna Quaranta of DSG International; Brandon Mackay, MAS, of SnugZ USA; Kevin Felgate of Name Brand Promotions; Brenda Speirs of Buzztag; Kate Ivory of Gidi Promotions; Brian Gill of Thumbprint; Karie Cowden, MAS, of Connect the Dots, and Brandon Pecharich of PromoCorner. They covered a variety of topics from “trendspotting” and “building your brand ethos” to “how traditional companies revolutionize” and more.


Seth Weiner, president of Gaithersburg, Maryland, distributor Sonic Promos, was featured on a panel of small-business owners from across the U.S. as part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce State of American Business. In the panel, U.S. Chamber President Suzanne Clark sat down with Steve Case, Revolution CEO and America Online co-founder, Weiner and three other small-business owners to examine the state of business in their industries and communities. 

Speaking on the panel, Weiner (second from right) highlighted some of the adaptations that the company has implemented in order to adjust to the ever-changing global climate, such as the impact of Chinese import tariffs on his business. Responding to a question by Clark, he spoke on the steps they took to buy inventory in advance of the tariffs going into effect, challenges in providing quotes and working with program buyers, and steps taken to mitigate the situation. He also discussed the secondary effect of trade policy on small businesses, noting that other industries’ struggles can affect his business as well.


On the opening morning of The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, leaders from City of Industry-based supplier Sweda presented a $100,000 check to Dan Nevins, founder of the Warrior Spirit Retreat and its 2019 Basecamp Brand Ambassador. To date, Sweda has donated more than $400,000 in monies and products to support the Warrior Spirit Retreat. Sweda also announced Basecamp’s new partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project, with this year’s commitment to donate $100,000 and two percent of wholesale sales at retail.

The presentation of the check was made by CEO Jim Hagan, CAS; Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Kellie Claudio and Vice President of Finance Ginalin Tan. Since 2017, a portion of the proceeds from Basecamp sales helped fund the Warrior Spirit Retreat, a place where warriors learn to heal from the physical and mental wounds of military service.


Reciprocity Road, an industry buying group with a philanthropic focus, demonstrated its ongoing commitment to the Promotional Professionals Education Foundation (PPEF) by presenting it with a $7,500 check during Reciprocity Road’s reception at The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas. The group has been an avid supporter of PPEF for the past four years.

In addition to the PPEF donation, at the reception Reciprocity Road partners also donated $5,000 to The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Earlier in the week, it presented an $8,000 donation to RR member Rod Brown, CAS, recipient of the PPAI 2020 H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award, to support his philanthropic efforts in Africa and Mexico. The check was presented to Brown during his award acceptance at the PPAI Chair’s Leadership Dinner at the Expo.


The PSI Show, Europe’s largest promotional products trade show, was held in Düsseldorf, Germany, on January 7-9. The show featured 720 exhibitors and drew 16,367 visitors this year. Attendance was down slightly from last year—17,602 visitors in 2019—which show management attributed to worsening market conditions for some industries that have been major buyers of promotional products, such as the automotive sector.

“PSI is the global ‘melting pot’ for a whole industry. It moves people, markets and billion-euro sales on a global scale. This is what makes it unique worldwide,” says PSI Managing Director Michael Freter.

Sustainability was a sizable trend at this year’s PSI Show and has moved to the top of many exhibitors’ and attendees’ priorities. It was particularly visible on the show floor in the selection of materials, manufacturing processes and in the upcycling and recycling of products. PSI Director Petra Lassahn says, “There is a significantly greater willingness on the part of advertisers in the industry to dig deeper into their pockets for sustainable promotional products.” 


James Khattak is news editor of PPB.

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