PPB 2019 Rising Stars


Young people are our world’s hope for the future. They are the promise that what we are building now won’t be lost but will continue to be shaped, developed and enhanced by those who follow us.

PPB’s Rising Stars program, now in its 10th year, is a strategic step in identifying, recognizing and empowering our industry’s next generation, and encouraging them to continue to invest their time and talent to advance the promotional products industry.

This year’s 14 PPB Rising Stars possess the drive, determination and innovative spirit that helped to launch and build this industry and they will see it far into the future.

Each of this year’s honorees was recognized at a presentation on August 11 during the opening event at PPAI’s North American Leadership Conference in Irving, Texas.

Meet this year’s PPB Rising Stars.

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Chief Operating Officer
PromoShop, Inc.
Los Angeles, California

Education
Degree in English from Loyola Marymount University

First Industry Job
When her employer, Diagnostic Products Corporation, was sold to Siemens in 2006, she took a recommendation from a family friend and applied at PromoShop as a sales support assistant.

Why She’s A Rising Star
Kate’s nominator says, “It takes a special person to be in HR and operations, one who can communicate effectively at all levels, from the owner to the janitor. Kate has that ability, treating everyone with respect, providing candid feedback and navigating difficult work relationships when necessary.” She has also been a board member for the Specialty Advertising Association of California and serves on its foundation. She frequently speaks on education session panels at The PPAI Expo and the SAAC Expo.

What Inspires Her
“I am always inspired by people who are grounded in positive action. Action is the language of our intentions—we can say whatever we’d like about who we are and what we believe but our actions, our commitment to be a part of the solution—these are defining character features. I am so moved by people identifying a need and plunging headfirst into change.”

Her Most Difficult Challenge
“I was diagnosed with an aggressive case of rheumatoid disease in 2014. The disease quickly spread to other areas of the body and made life very difficult very quickly. Prior to the onset of the symptoms, I was an avid runner and never took more than a Tylenol. Because I’m so Type A, I had to learn very quickly to let go of situations out of my control (though I haven’t mastered that skill yet!). At work, I had to learn to work differently. On days when my hands are not functioning, I have a voice translator and when I catch an ancillary infection I work from home. Because I love my job it makes being at work easy.”

What She’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“PromoShop is growing into new territories and expanding our reach to meet client needs, so for me the next 24 months will be focused on our ability to establish enhanced connectivity across our organization to increase cohesion and flexibility in work environments. It is imperative that our systems are accessible, agile and our employees feel connected to one another in the digital space.”

What’s Needed To Recruit Young Pros To The Industry
“We need to be out in the field working with our candidates, asking questions and listening to them. In terms of young professionals, this means meeting them where they are, finding their currency and speaking to the attributes of our organizations that foster and encourage development for candidates looking to begin a career.”

Best Advice For Industry Newbies
“Be humble and collect experiences. Especially in a world where social media reigns, the idea of tasks being ‘beneath’ us is permeating our workforce. This ends up limiting people in expanding their experience. If you’re assigned a project or there is an opening for an initiative you don’t particularly love, embrace that opportunity to create something better. Add that experience to your repertoire and put your personal stamp on that change. Down the line, when the chance for a promotion comes up, you’ll be twice as likely to get the job as the person beside you who didn’t take charge because that wasn’t in his or her job description.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“I’m a reader and a big believer in service projects to recharge. Whenever I am helping someone else it instantly grounds me. You can’t be jaded or full of yourself in the face of vulnerability. With service, boundaries evaporate and you become a part of the community or project you are serving. When I am limited on time or can’t sleep, I read books, articles, everything. I love the perspective shift and empathy that comes from reading.”

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Head of Communications and Public Relations
American Solutions for Business
Glenwood, Minnesota

Education
Degree in professional communications and emerging media from the University of Wisconsin-Stout

First Industry Job
She joined ASB after college graduation in 2015 as a strategic operations support specialist.

Why She’s A Rising Star
She has demonstrated exceptional performance and is now responsible for telling the company’s story through social media, photos, articles and creative communication for this large distributor with more than 1,100 employees. She’s also contributing regularly to the industry as a member of the PPAI SPARK Work Group, a sous chef for PromoKitchen and a writer for PromoCorner. 

What Inspires Her
“I’ve been incredibly lucky to have so many positive role models in my life—the first being my parents. They have worked very hard to not only set the standard for a strong work ethic but have provided me with countless opportunities that positively impact every aspect of my life. Professionally, I’ve gotten to work with [ASB principals] Larry and Justin Zavadil, who have so much vision and passion for the company. Amy Spychalla was my first boss at American, and I often catch myself asking, ‘What would Amy do?’ when faced with tough decisions. Dana Zezzo, who is my boss now, has also made a huge impact on my professional development.”

Most Difficult Challenge
“This is probably something a lot of young people struggle with, but I’ve always put a lot of stake in what other people think about me … especially when I like and respect them. It’s been the source of a lot of anxiety and I’m realizing just how debilitating it can be. While I haven’t necessarily overcome this, it’s something I’m working on actively addressing when it starts affecting my thoughts, feelings and decisions.”

What She’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“Personally, I’d like to improve my time management and productivity, become a better public speaker and earn some industry certifications. From my job standpoint, I want to find new ways to add value for our sales associates. If I can help make a positive impact on their business, I consider it a big win.”

What’s Needed To Recruit Young Pros To The Industry
“When you’re looking for a new employee, don’t eliminate recent college graduates from the running. What many young people lack in experience, they can make up for in knowledge of technology, trends and new ideas. They bring a fresh perspective that can breathe new life into an organization. I also think that as an industry, we should advocate better to high schools and colleges to do what we do best … increase awareness.”

Best Advice For Industry Newbies
“Don’t be afraid to get more involved in the industry and within your own company. There are always committees, work groups and extracurricular activities that allow you to explore different talents and opportunities you might not have within the limitations of your official job duties. I love the quote from Baz Lurhmann’s Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen), ‘You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you …’ This both motivates and terrifies me. I constantly catch myself apologizing for my inexperience and wishing for the day I’ll feel like I’ve finally ‘made it.’ I think we’re all guilty of discounting what we’re worth right here, right now.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“I love being around people, but I definitely need alone time—listening to music and podcasts, walking the dog and writing usually does the trick. Also, being a native Minnesotan, spending time on the lake, bonfires and time with family and friends make the cold, long winters worth it.”

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Eastern Regional and Canadian Sales Director
Vantage Apparel
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Education
Degree in political science from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

First Industry Job
He started working professionally in the promotional products industry when he was 17 years old, but his exposure to the industry started much younger. When he was growing up, his father worked in the industry and Deissroth attended his first trade show at age 12. Years later, he opened Deissroth’s Dynamic Designs and sold promotional products to businesses on the Jersey Shore.

Why He’s A Rising Star
His nominators say he leads by example, is the consummate professional and was promoted to his current position in his first six months with the company. He’s an annual participant in PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.) on Capitol Hill and headed up a L.E.A.D. Local event in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, last fall. He’s also an active volunteer for the Philadelphia Area Promotional Products Association (PAPPA) serving as a board member, secretary and now vice president.

What Inspires Him
“I am inspired by my father and the American dream. My father exhibits professionalism to the highest degree. His ability to adapt and change, and his courage to start his own business later in life solidifies the belief that hard work, determination and grit are the recipes to success in business and life. The American dream inspires me; the ability to write your own story and determine your own destiny is intriguing. We have the incredible ability to pursue our own dreams, goals and happiness. Anything is possible with self-determination and hard work.”

Most Difficult Challenge
“My biggest challenges have developed into my biggest opportunities and successes. Every day I am challenged—some days more than others—and some circumstances are more challenging than others. I approach each challenge with an optimistic view, grit and persistence.”

What He’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“I see myself as a leader for our industry on multiple fronts. I am involved with PAPPA and L.E.A.D. My goal is to continue to advocate and improve our industry. I will continue to work to make Vantage Apparel the No. 1 decorator and apparel supplier in Canada and the East Coast.”

What’s Needed To Recruit Young Pros To The Industry
“We need to open our doors to new ideas and fresh perspectives. Don’t be afraid of change and embrace the next generation. Be bold—don’t hesitate to hire someone because they don’t have the experience. Be a guiding light and a positive influence.”

Best Advice For Industry Newbies
“Be respectful of others and yourself, be on time, believe in what you do and care about every conversation and every email. Don’t ever undersell yourself. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and when you make a mistake learn, own it and don’t make the same mistake again. Take pride in yourself and what you do. Listen, learn and be able and willing to adapt to change.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“I love spending time with my wife, my family and friends. I enjoy hiking, fishing, spending time in my backyard, Philadelphia Eagles games, the Mummers parade, traveling and going to New Orleans. Family is everything to me, so the more I can do with my family, the more I can relax and recharge. Everyone needs to unplug at some time. Leisure is a crucial aspect to living a happy life. I highly encourage taking the time for yourself and your passions.”

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Client Relations Manager
Orbus Exhibit & Display
Woodridge, Illinois

Education
Earned a higher national diploma in architectural design at Stourbridge ATC in the UK

First Industry Job
He grew up in the UK and worked in the car industry there, but it was family (his father is Giles Douglas, CEO/president of Orbus) and a career opportunity that drew him to move to the U.S. in 2013. He helped Orbus enter the promotional products industry the next year.

Why He’s A Rising Star
His nominators say he’s the go-to rep for many of the more than 60 trade shows the company exhibits at during the year and he has trained the company’s reps in how to be trade-show experts themselves. Orbus is a fairly new player in the promotional products industry and is quickly making a name for itself through Joe’s outreach and networking.

What Inspires Him
“I get inspired by hearing success stories of those who started with nothing and built a successful business through their passions and hustles. I am inspired by the businesses and entrepreneurs we get to serve and strive to make them better.”

Most Difficult Challenge
“Moving across the world at the age of 20 from the UK to the U.S. and having to build all new friendships/relationships and forge my own career in the promotional industry has been a wonderful, welcomed challenge.”

What He’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“With the exponential growth of Orbus in the promotional industry, I would like to grow my team of event specialists and sales representatives to provide the best service in not only the promo industry but the display and sign industries, too.”

What’s Needed To Recruit Young Pros To The Industry
“The promotional industry needs to stay up to date and relevant with the growing rate of technology and social media community, along with the use of online forums and Facebook groups. These types of platforms that keep people connected and provide a feeling of community are only the beginning.”

Advice For Industry Newbies
“Stay hungry, stay motivated and stay connected. Leave a lasting impression on every single person you meet. And most of all, absorb all the information you can from those around you.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“Getting out on the golf course helps me recharge for the next big promo adventure. I also love going to see live music and maybe the occasional gin and tonic.” 

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Senior Graphic Designer
Ariel Premium Supply, Inc.
St. Louis, Missouri

Education
Degree in graphic design from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida

First Industry Job
She began at Ariel Premium Supply as a production artist intern after graduating from college in 2013, but she was exposed to the promotional products industry as a child. Her mother worked for several distributor and supplier companies.

Why She’s A Rising Star
Her nominator says she has a rare combination of artistic and creative skills, coupled with a strong head for business and marketing strategy—far ahead of her years of experience. She has introduced new team-based productivity tools and scheduling mechanisms and created a cross-training platform that lets the team share workloads. At only 29, she’s already mentoring the team’s new designers.

What Inspires Her
“My inspirations tend to be more from the design spectrum. Ben Johnston is an amazing hand-letter genius who can push the boundaries when it comes to layout and breaking barriers. Sagmeister & Walsh is an amazing design firm with vivid ad captivating visuals, commercials, packaging and more. Orlando Arocena is probably one of the best illustrators when it comes to color and composition.”

Most Difficult Challenge
“The most difficult challenge I had to overcome and am still working on each day is letting go of control. I like things to be in order and to follow a process, but both work and my life are very dynamic. No one can control what goes on 24/7. I have learned that I need to let some things go, so that I can really enjoy the things that I love and take care of myself both mentally and physically. Both my parents have had a few close calls the past couple years. This has just really cemented in that I need to do the best I can in life and enjoy the time I have with my loved ones. Less control and more living in the moment.”          

What She’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“Hopefully traveling a lot more. I am also looking to expand my education on coding, motion graphics, video production and possibly get my master’s in graphic design. And, of course, still be working on my podcast and freelance business.”

What’s Needed To Recruit Young Pros To The Industry
“I am a person who values results and knowledge over years, experience or labels. Respect is also a two-way street. I think to attract and keep younger professionals, listening and respecting what they bring to the table is important. Yes, it takes time to understand this industry, as it’s very different from retail, but I do believe working together can accomplish much more.”

Best Advice For Industry Newbies
“Don’t give up. Sometimes you have to work your way up to get where you want to and that is OK. Not everyone can have the same life or achieve things the same way. That doesn’t mean you should give up when you fall down, or when things are not going the way you planned. Just get back up and keep pushing forward. If I have learned anything, it’s that the most successful people, at least the ones I aspire to be, are people who push and do as much as they possibly can to get where they want to be. You can’t complain or be frustrated with your position in life, if you haven’t done anything to change it. So, get up and do something about it.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“I am a constant busy body and work on a podcast and freelance jobs on the side. If I have downtime, I usually spend it painting, reading, hanging with family and friends, traveling or playing video games.”

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Sock Boss
Sock 101
Kansas City, Missouri

Education
Degree in communication from the University of Missouri-Kansas City

First Industry Job
Three years ago, she was working at a marketing agency and Sock 101 was her client. She wasn’t happy at the agency and Sock 101 offered her a position. It’s proven to be a great move. 

Why She’s A Rising Star
She takes ownership of her clients’ projects in ways that greatly elevate the company’s service reputation. Her nominator says she’s a future CEO because of her leadership influence and the examples she sets for the entire team. She’s also an active volunteer for several organizations in the Kansas City area.

What Inspires Her
“My mother is the one who inspires and motivates me. I have watched her work 12-plus hours and then come home to be a fabulous mother to my sister and me. She worked so hard for us and never complained and didn’t blame anything on anyone else. She hustled hard and is continuing to hustle. I hope to be half the woman she is one day. Truthfully, all strong, independent, hard-working women inspire me daily. I love to see women kicking butt and taking names.”

Most Difficult Challenge
“The most difficult thing I have had to learn to overcome personally and professionally is to not be so hard on myself. I am a bit of a perfectionist and learning to let something go because it is out of my hands or isn’t something I can change has been hard but beneficial in helping me grow into the person I am today.”

What She’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“I would like to become more involved within the industry in the next two years.”

What’s Needed To Recruit Young Pros To The Industry
“I think by showing young professionals the amount of room there is to grow within this industry would definitely get them on the hook. Then once they see how successful they can be become, they won’t want to leave. This industry is fun, fast paced and constantly growing.”

Best Advice For Industry Newbies
“The best advice would be don’t give up. It’s a tough industry and you’ve got to work to stay top of mind but once you find your stride it is worth every second of it. Also, always remember to just be kind to others—it truly makes all the difference.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“Spending time with friends and family is the best way for me to feel relaxed and recharged. If that time with friends and family was on a nice beach somewhere, I wouldn’t complain.”

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Director of Marketing
Barker Specialty Co.
Cheshire, Connecticut

Education
Degree in business management from Central Connecticut State University

First Industry Job
After college, she worked in hospital administration and noticed the marketing department’s promotional apparel and catalogs, so she did some research and discovered the promo industry. She joined another local distributor in 2012 as an account coordinator, then worked at an ad agency before joining Barker in 2016.

Why She’s A Rising Star
Fields joined the company three years ago as an account executive; this year her sales will exceed $1 million. She took on the additional marketing role last year and transformed the company’s marketing both internally and externally. She also redesigned the website, implemented a referral program and initiated an internal employee recognition campaign. She represents the company as a principal in the Premier Group and is involved in the local Chamber of Commerce and in the group Abilities Without Boundaries.

What Inspires Her
“My parents are a great inspiration to me. They have instilled the mentality to ‘work hard, play hard’ and that you ‘get what you give in life, good or bad.’ They’ve been role models to me for my entire life as hard workers and genuine human beings, and I strive to make them proud in everything I do.”

Most Difficult Challenge
I have always had a fear of public speaking. I am still working at overcoming this fear with practice and with the support of colleagues, especially Ewa Wlaz, who always has great advice.”

What She’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“It’s all about growth and development and enjoying life, too. We are currently working on a new marketing initiative for vertical markets to expand business. Over the next 24 months, I want to earn my MAS and get more involved in industry and local organizations. On a personal level, I want to spend more time exploring the U.S.”   

What’s Needed To Recruit Young Pros To The Industry
“While we all love our industry, we still have an identity problem—very few people know what the promotional products industry is, and we need to change that. Most people, just like me, tend to fall into the industry. Many of the steps taken by PPAI, particularly with regards to a closer relationship with the American Marketing Association, are in the right direction. I think we need greater exposure in the college business curriculum as we have become such an important advertising medium. I would like to also one day become an ambassador to present our wonderful story to today’s young professionals. In addition, the shift from totally commission-based compensation to salary is another important step to attracting new talent.”

Best Advice For Industry Newbies
“To always cherish learning, and if you generally get excited about learning new things, this business will always keep you engaged. Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask questions  of your peers, colleagues, suppliers and even your clients. Learn outside of the industry too; get to know your clients’ vertical markets and you will be much more valuable to them.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“The gym, cruising on a Harley, riding around in my 1966 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, dinner with friends and family, and of course, spending time with my boyfriend Mike and our dogs, Tacoma and Jack, all give me great pleasure.”    

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District Sales Manager
The Magnet Group
Deerfield, Illinois

Education
Degree in interpersonal communication from Illinois State University

First Industry Job
While in college, she worked for an apparel company called University Tees. She was campus manager for her university— and known as the t-shirt girl. After college, she worked in inside sales at distributor Blue Sky Marketing Group in Northbrook, Illinois, before joining The Magnet Group.

Why She’s A Rising Star
Her nominators say she’s mature beyond her years and has taken on increasing responsibility in her two years at Magnet. She routinely goes above and beyond for her clients, including sharing case studies and samples to educate them. She is a volunteer leader for the regional association, PPAChicago, and is involved in many events including the Charity Golf Outing, Lunch and Learns, Social Media Committee and Spring Event. She’s running for the board in 2020.

What Inspires Her
“My mom and dad continue to inspire me. They emigrated from Russia to the United States in the late 1970s and, with no English, no education and barely a dollar to their names, they created the best possible life for me and my siblings. It makes me want to work hard and better myself and my work ethic.”

Most Difficult Challenge
As a kid I wasn’t very fond of school or applying myself. My mom told me that when I went to kindergarten, while everyone else was learning how to write and learning the ABCs, all I wanted to do was play. As I got older, it was difficult to keep up with other kids and I didn’t learn as quickly as everyone else. However, by high school, I finally started to ‘get it.’ Although I was never the smartest in the class or the quickest learner, I tried my absolute hardest and look, I’m a college grad with an awesome job.”

What She’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“Professionally, I would love to achieve and surpass all of my sales goals and grow within the company. Personally, I would love to travel to Thailand, Australia and Europe (but that might have to take a little longer than 24 months!).

What’s Needed To Recruit Young Pros To The Industry
“This industry is very underrated and underappreciated. It blows my mind that my friends in different industries all have swag and online stores to buy promo products, but they never think about where these items come from, or who the people supplying them are. I think both suppliers and distributors need to make an effort to go to college campuses or networking events and get the conversation started about how important promotional products are, and how it’s a world that no one really stops to think about.”

Best Advice For Industry Newbies
“At first, [this industry] can be very intimidating and possibly even frustrating. However, once you get your foot in the door and start meeting all of the other industry people, it is truly like one big family. My best advice would be to be yourself and make sure that you are a people person. It is important to really network yourself and talk to people. I love meeting new people and getting to know my customers and even other suppliers, and I think that helps me thrive in this industry.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“I go to any and every country music concert or festival I can. I love to listen to music and go to concerts. I also love to roam Chicago and try different rooftop bars and food. I also absolutely love to travel, so if I’m not enjoying Chicago, you could find me in a different city probably eating, drinking and listening to country music.”

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Chief Development Officer
Facilisgroup
St. Louis, Missouri

Education
Degree in psychology and business from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky

First Industry Job

After college, Lamb joined St. Louis distributor GatewayCDI in 2006 as a marketing coordinator.

Why He’s A Rising Star
He launched the Facilis 360 program to help clients ramp up their sales and is the driving force in the onboarding and development of the now 125-plus Facilis partners. He is active in Big Brothers Big Sisters and Sustainable Development International.

What Inspires Him
“Jesus inspires me because he lived an others-centric life and taught us how to live, forgive, love and pray. He never judged and taught through stories and actions. I have been extremely blessed to surround myself with so many inspirational people throughout my life and career. My parents are my role models and inspire me because they have always lived a life of unwavering values and faith, and a remarkable sense of self. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve recently gotten to a place where I’m comfortable in my own skin and that is a beautiful and important place to be in life. My wife also inspires me and has made me a better man in every way. Beyond that, there are so many Facilis partners who inspire me and give me purpose every day.”

Most Difficult Challenge
“To me, the ability to overcome challenges is a result of the inner work you do to be able to handle the inevitable hardships that happen in life. A couple of examples that were formative learning experiences in developing grit were running a marathon and biking the MS150, a two-day 150-mile bike ride. It was purely mental grit that got me through both events. These were ultimately very spiritual experiences for me. I am ‘man fully alive’ in episodes like this where I am tested. It’s a beautiful thing when you can push yourself into unchartered territory.”

What He’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“In 24 months, I believe Facilisgroup will be a completely transformed company and an incredible force. While I am fairly intense about specific goal setting/tracking, I have always performed a reflective exercise every year, in which I grade myself on the key areas of life. I would like to achieve tremendous personal and professional growth that will properly equip me to provide optimal leadership for Facilisgroup partners, suppliers and staff.”

What’s Needed To Recruit Young Pros To The Industry
“I believe young professionals seek three things: to belong, to develop and to have purpose. Our industry is an extremely tight-knit bunch so the belonging part should be easy but still requires a mindful effort. There are so many great ways to develop young talent between all the amazing tools and events PPAI provides. If you’re proactive, there are endless learning opportunities available in this industry. Finally, having purpose is up to each organization in our industry. I think we’re getting better and seeing some more of this, yet have a long way to go.”

Best Advice For Industry Newbies
“It’s not about you. This is the most powerful advice I ever received. It changed my life and worldview. Once you figure that out, you are unstoppable because when you know your ‘why’ you can accomplish any ‘how.’ In other words, why should you show up every day and give everything you have? An answer (coming from a source that is bigger than you) that stirs your soul will provide an endless source of energy. Beyond that, here are a few things that come to mind: read, surround yourself with good people and play the long game. Successful people and careers are not built by winning in one big instance. They are built very gradually over time by developing habits and routines that lead to growth.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“Meditation, prayer, cooking, exercise and playing with my wife and kids are the essential ingredients to balance for me.”

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President
Artistic Toys & Promotions, LLC
Allentown, Pennsylvania

First Industry Job
Marshall joined the company in 2006 as receptionist and quickly earned her way into a sales/service role. She worked hard, learned quickly, then transitioned into a full-time account manager and over the next 11 years held just about every position with the company. In 2017, when the owner wanted to sell, she purchased the company.

Why She’s A Rising Star
Her nominator says that once Marshall acquired the business, she made an aggressive goal for herself to reduce overhead and help improve overall company profit. That decision was instrumental to the success of the company in its first year of business. She took on the role of two to three full-time equivalents and was extremely hands-on in every single aspect of the daily business operation so she could step into any role in the company at any time. She formed friendships and bonds with her staff and created a positive team environment to help make her first year a success. Her goal in 2018 was to reach $1.5 million in sales and she exceeded it by $400K. The company provides a summer work program for high school seniors to prepare them for careers in business and regularly donates gifts to local schools and hospitals. And she’s raising five children.

What Inspires Her
“Tell me I ‘cannot’ do, be or have something, and that is the surest way to inspire me into action. What inspires me is simply when the ‘impossible becomes possible’—to tackle a problem and never give up, no matter how challenging. It is as if my need to ‘prove’ myself has fueled my relentless pursuit to create success. To show all those people who said to me ‘you can’t’—that in fact I can. And I am equally inspired by other people’s stories of creating the possible from the impossible. If I hear a story of someone who has overcome the odds, worked hard, focused, fulfilled on his or her word and has been relentless in changing the world to make it a better place—I feel unbelievably inspired and uplifted.”

Most Difficult Challenge
“It’s been most difficult balancing work and family life. It’s really hard to turn off work; there’s always something to do or a new goal to achieve. I’m constantly in work mode. My family has made a lot of sacrifices which enabled me to be really successful in the first two years. I am learning to balance being a mom to five and the president of a company, along with still making time for myself and being a good friend, sister, daughter, etc.” 

What She’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“Continuing to grow Artistic Toys and moving into a new more modern and higher-functioning warehouse and office space. Creating new positions and adding some new faces to our team.”

What’s Needed To Recruit Young Pros To The Industry
“I think as an industry we need more exposure that would allow the many career possibilities to be explored. There are so many career opportunities inside our industry on the supplier and distributor side aside from sales and marketing—graphic artists, brand managers, supply chain and logistics positions, to name a few.”

Best Advice For Industry Newbies
“Remain committed to learning, expanding your knowledge. Keep challenging yourself. Always keep your vision clear. Build a great team around you. I have been extremely blessed with a great team that supports my vision for the company. Focus on setting and achieving small, incremental goals.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“Spending time with family and friends. I have five children who are very active. We love sports and seeing them compete is always a good time. Spending time with my friends and family always reminds me of the need to unwind and have fun.”

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National Accounts Manager
Pacesetter Awards Co.
Chicago, Illinois

Education
Degree in sales and marketing from Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois

First Industry Job
After college, he joined Pacesetter Awards as an account executive. He was drawn to the industry through family ties. He says there has been a Reed in the promotional products industry since 1959. His grandfather, William Reed, was vice president of sales at Schaffer Pen, and his father is currently midwest territory sales manager at Ariel Premium Supply.

Why He’s A Rising Star
His nominators say he’s young but firmly entrenched in the promotional products industry—like his father and grandfather before him. It’s not a job; it’s a career. In a short time, he has developed strong relations with distributors and established a name for himself and a stellar reputation. He has been instrumental in some of the company’s recent successes with clients and brings an infectious energy to Pacesetter.

What Inspires Him
“My source of inspiration is my family and friends. First and foremost, my daughter inspires me to be the best person I can be every day. My father inspires me to continue to advance my career in this industry and always work hard and have a road-warrior mentality. I have had the same group of close friends since elementary school and even from a young age, we all pushed each other to be the best we can be.”

Most Difficult Challenge
“The most difficult challenge I have had in my life is overcoming being cut from the freshman baseball team in high school. After playing at a high level my entire youth baseball career, including travel baseball, it was a tough pill to swallow being cut as a freshman. This only motivated me to work harder during the season. While all my friends and peers were playing, I was in the gym putting in work to better myself for my sophomore season. This worked—I ended up making the sophomore team and even earning a starting spot on the team. To this day, this situation has taught me to see challenges as opportunities to further myself.”

What He’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“In the next two years, I see myself working alongside the other members of our sales team and taking Pacesetter Awards to an increase in sales of $10 million plus. I believe with the team we have set, and the leadership we have with former Rising Star Kamil Dys, we are more than capable of achieving this feat.”

What’s Needed To Recruit Young Pros To The Industry
“I believe the promotional products industry can bring more youth into the industry by raising awareness of it within college organizations like the American Marketing Association. As a member of AMA in college, we had a number of events where different industry professionals would participate and outline their industry and what it entails. These events never included the promotional products industry. I have participated in a couple events in recent years at my alma mater, outlining our industry and what it has to offer.”

Best Advice For Industry Newbies
“The best advice I can give to someone just starting out is to be hungry. Opportunity is out there with every meeting and every trade show. It’s up to each young rep to jump on these opportunities and to stand out amongst the crowd to not only further the company you are representing, but yourself as well.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“My ultimate relaxation is a vacation my family and I take every  year to Fort Myers Beach, Florida. This is a great getaway—always around the 4th of July week—to unwind and reset myself for the second half of the year. It is always a terrific feeling to be surrounded by loved ones on vacation.”

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Vice President of Sales
Boost Branding, Powered By HALO Branded Solutions
Birmingham, Alabama

Education
Degree in business management, small business and entrepreneurship, with a minor in computer science from The University of Alabama

First Industry Job
He was introduced to the promotional products industry while attending college in 2001. He worked in customer service for a small commercial printer, Riverhill, that also sold office supplies and promotional products. Prior to graduation, he left Riverhill to start his own distributorship and grew that until he joined EBSCO Creative Concepts in 2012.

Why He’s A Rising Star
He was described by his nominator as a young talent and confident leader who commands an impressive amount of respect at this point in his career. He previously owned his own distributor company before selling to EBSCO which was sold to Boost Branding. He was promoted three times in three years at EBSCO. Schaefer jumped into serving his regional association, Sunbelt Promotional Products Association (SPPA), as treasurer, RAC delegate, trade-show chair and VP. He becomes president in 2020. 

What Inspires Him
“There are many over the years that have inspired me or influence me on a regular basis, including my father. He works hard on his business but has always made family a priority.”

Most Difficult Challenge
“Adapting to change. As the former GM of distributor EBSCO Creative Concepts, that was sold to Boost Branding in 2017 and then acquired by HALO Branded Solutions in January 2019, each transition has come with challenges, but I have learned a ton along the way. John F. Kennedy said, ‘Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.’”

What He’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“I want to continue evolving in my role as a sales leader at Boost. I’d like to continue recruiting sales talent as well as help our current team grow their business to reach their professional goals. Also, next year I will be the president of the SPPA, so I’d like to add as much value as possible to our regional association members.”

What’s Needed To Recruit And Retain Young Pros To The Industry
“Technology. I am still a huge believer in face-to-face, personal-relationship selling. I don’t think ecommerce can replace this. If you have good technology to help facilitate the sales process, the talent will come. There is a learning curve in our industry. If you can grind it out the first year or two and grow your client base, there is some serious money to be made in sales.”

Advice For Industry Newbies
“Don’t try to push product, you’ll get overwhelmed and your head will explode. Learn enough to be dangerous and get really good at asking questions that engage your prospects/clients. Figure out how you can make them look good to their boss and you’ll win every time.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“My wife and I have been married for 12 years and have three boys, ages eight, six and three. I love spending time with my family, watching my kids play sports, grilling out on my Big Green Egg and bass fishing at the lake.”

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President & CEO
Soul & Swag, Inc.
Omaha, Nebraska

Education
Degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska-Kearney with a minor in Spanish

First Industry Job
She grew up in and around the industry, as her parents owned a promotional products business. After college, she began working part-time for them in phone sales.

Why She’s A Rising Star
She and her mother started their company in 2017. Her nominator says Svec is a brilliant entrepreneur who is building a thriving business. She has been a presenter at skucon’s Entrepreneur Jam and for local business audiences. Her company was awarded the West O Chamber’s 2018 New Business of the Year, the 2019 Small Business of the Year and Svec was named its 2019 Business Person of the Year.

What Inspires Her
“Our clients inspire me to stay creative and fresh with the ideas we present. The community of Omaha and beyond inspires me to give back and support local organizations that are literally changing lives on a daily basis. Our team of incredibly strong, badass women inspires me to think outside the box and never stop dreaming big. My fiancé inspires me to never give up on what I want and to work hard, but play harder.”

 Most Difficult Challenge
“There have been two times in my life when I really thought I had things figured out before being smacked upside the head with huge changes for our family. I had a vision for what my life was going to look like at age 14 and then again at 27. God had different ideas and made some drastic changes with what I was doing at the time. Without going into all the details, I will share that those were some of the toughest, most challenging times of my life; however, without those two defining moments, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be answering these questions today.”

What She’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“It may sound cliché, but I simply want to make sure we’re always doing business the right way. Our team has a goal to hit $1 million in sales during year two and we all know that’s a lofty goal. Over time, if we’re doing things the right way, I have no doubt we’ll get there and several years after that, we’ll make it to $3 or $5 million or beyond. Regardless of the numbers, I want to always take care of our team, give back to the community and live a healthy, balanced life with my family.”

What’s Needed To Recruit And Retain Young Pros To The Industry
“I think if we can appreciate and understand the differences amongst each generation, we can execute as a team. I believe education is also a key component to attracting more young professionals. So many people are unaware of the magnitude of our industry. The only way to change that is to help educate people on what’s available through things like internships, community outreach, social media and more.”

Best Advice For Industry Newbies
“Never stop learning from others. I’ve been around this business for almost 25 years and working in it for over six, yet I feel like I learn something new almost every single day. I love listening to podcasts, reading industry articles and reaching out to other distributors or suppliers for their insight.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“It depends on the day. Some days it’s a warm bath, relaxing music, red wine and a night at home without any work. Other days I love ice cold Busch Light by the lake with friends.”

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Director of Merchandising and Vendor Relations
Bel USA, LLC
Medley, Florida

Education
Degree in sociology from York University in Toronto, Canada

First Industry Job
His first industry job was joining Bel USA in 2016. Previously, he worked for Office Depot for 10 years as a studio coordinator for the private brand packaging team and as a retail merchant/buyer for multiple categories.

 Why He’s A Rising Star
He joined the industry just two-and-a-half years ago and has accomplished more than most people do in 10 years, says his nominator. He came in with no industry experience or contacts but has since taken on all brand merchandising and vendor relations. He is responsible for the company’s sourcing and compliance programs, and manages the merchandising/onboarding team in Manilla, Philippines. He’s also a volunteer leader with the Gold Coast Promotional Products Association.

What Inspires Him
“My wife, first and foremost. She is such an incredible woman. She never takes a day off—it’s amazing. She works, goes to the gym and does an amazing job raising our daughters and, on top of that, she knows how to deal with me, which I know can be challenging sometimes. My younger brother was the biggest influence I had growing up. I never wanted to show him that I was down or that I wasn’t good enough at something. He is a great person and that always helped me. He pushed me more than anyone else to be a better man and to enjoy life. My parents, step-parents and in-laws are also huge inspirations for me. They all provided my family and me with a wonderful life which I am so thankful for. My family could never be what it is without the opportunities our parents provided us. I want to be able to give my kids all those opportunities and more. I’m not sure how that is possible to give more, but we are going to keep trying.”

Most Difficult Challenge
“The toughest thing I have ever had to overcome in my life is learning how to read. Even to this day, it still frustrates me. I am slightly dyslexic, so it was challenging. I remember going through testing in the sixth grade and being told that my reading level was equivalent to grade one or two. It hurt to hear (a lot). I was extremely embarrassed and for a little while I felt like I should just stop reading all together. But I was lucky; I had people in my life who really cared and helped me—lots of family support, a couple friends and a tutor/life coach.”

What He’d Like To Accomplish In The Next 24 Months
“Professionally, my goal in the next two years is to expand our merchandising team with additional category management. We are a very fast-paced team with a large breadth of assortment. I feel there are additional opportunities to have specialized talent in specific categories.”

What’s Needed To Recruit And Retain Young Pros To The Industry
“I really believe this is an industry you must see to believe. Personally, I did not know how big this industry is. I especially did not know how much fun it is. It’s an industry full of creativity in the personalization of items and innovation in products seen when walking the shows. So there really is something for everyone. I think showing that breadth of opportunities at the college fairs is the most important.”

Best Advice For Industry Newbies
“My advice is two-fold: Find something that you love to do and find something that motivates you to do more. Loving what you do will get you very far in life and in business. But every day is not going to be sunshine and rainbows, even if you love what you are doing. Finding a motivation will drive you through the rough patches and push you further. It’s the balance that makes us stronger.”

Tips To Relax And Recharge
“My favorite way to relax is spending time outside with my family: walking, playing games and especially going to the beach whenever possible. We are lucky enough to live in South Florida, so the weather is usually accommodating but hot.”  

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Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB.

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