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Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

“Up Close & Promotional” at Shumsky’s Client Show

Filed under: Fun, Personal, Travel

Hi Everyone!

I know, I know. One week I’m in New Orleans, the next in London, the next Dayton, OH. For sure, my travel schedule can get crazy but one of my favorite things as an editor in the industry is getting out to meet new people and spending time with old friends. (Aside: My colleague Joe Haley, ASI’s managing editor and star of The Joe Show, doesn’t think I travel enough. “It’s so blissfully quiet when you’re not here,” he says.) I got to do both at the “Up Close and Promotional” client event hosted by the distributor Shumsky, held last week in Dayton.

Believe it or not, after 15+ years covering the industry for ASI’s magazines, I had never been to a distributor event before. Supplier events? Tons of them. But this is the one of the few invitations one of our editors has received to cover an event like this, so I jumped at the chance. My take? It was phenomenal, on a multitude of levels. From the top-notch supplier participation, to the level of engagement from the clients, to the Shumsky team’s attention to detail, creativity and organizational skills, I loved it. And to take a page from the event’s theme, “Add Some Color to Your Brand,” color me wowed.

“I am so impressed with our team with the execution of this very unique event — the amount of work involved and the detail around it is immense,” says Mike Emoff, owner of Shumsky. “Over the past three years, this event format has been fine-tuned and will continue to be so. Proudly, our supplier partners overwhelmingly feel this is the premier client-facing event in the country today. Our format could not be effective without the trust that we’ve built with our preferred partner suppliers. They were truly superstars and an extra heartfelt thank you goes out to them for their hard work and dedication to our organization.”

Scroll below for lots of great photos from the event, and descriptions of the cast of characters and bon vivants.

Finally, a big thanks to the fine folks at Shumsky for making me feel so welcome, and to all the great people I met in Dayton. Some may think “Cleveland Rocks,” but my money’s on you guys.


— M

So on the ball is the Shumsky team that a gift basket, filled with gourmet candy and wine from Ohio-based manufacturers, was in my room waiting for me and other out-of-town guests. Love the colored ribbon that tied in with their event theme, and the fact that each key staffer personally signed the card in colored ink.  
Lorie Woods (left), Shumsky’s off-the-charts talented director of marketing, shown here at the Dublin Pub in the trendy Oregon District of Dayton with Jill Albers, Shumsky’s business development executive. Jilly Albers and Cory Schroepfer, president of Bridge Marketing Services (the St. Louis-based multiline rep firm that handles Mid-Nite Snax, Gordon Sinclair, Spector and Co., ProTowels, Visions/Awardcraft, Jetline and Pioneer Balloon), outside one bar in Dayton’s Oregon District,where they had fire pits for smoked barbecue snacks. Consequently, my hair and fur coat smelled like a pulled pork sandwich for the next eight hours.
One of the stops on our bar crawl featured a band with one of the best lead singers — the charming chanteuseshown here with Jilly and Cory — I’ve heard in quite some time. Unfortunately, because it was a Tuesday night, there were only three people in the bar to hear her. She was sensational and belted out a version of Guns N Roses “Paradise City” that would have shamed Axl Rose himself. Here’s Cory and Jilly doing shots of Cherry Bombs from plastic syringes at a place called the Tumbleweed Connection. A word about Cory: Sometimes, when Jilly, me and our pals (sadly MIA on this trip) Sharon Biernat and Natalie Townes tear up the town like the wrecking crew we are, we have a habit of kidnapping an unsuspecting victim to join our mayhem (I know… Try to suppress your shock). At the ASI Chicago Show last July, it was Boundless’s Brad White; this time around, Cory’s number was up. Let me state unequivocally: He was a trooper.
Let me ‘fess up: My name is Michele and I’m a dive bar-aholic. Love, love, LOVE them. In this particular one in Dayton, which had all the cosmopolitan panache of your great-grandpop’s VFW Hall, Cory took it upon himself to prevent the low-hanging fiberglass insulation from collapsing on our heads. And, more critically, in our drinks. Jilly and I, out on the town in Dayton. Jilly and I have been friends now for over eight years, having first met at a piano bar in Dallas during an industry show. We’ve been besties ever since. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t have a sister, but if I did, it’d be Jilly.
Our promotional souvenir from the Tumbleweed (or, as one friendly local shared with me, the “Stumbleweed”) Connection bar in the trendy Oregon District of downtown Dayton, OH. The next morning, I checked my BlackBerry and saw I had sent myself a message — no doubt to remind me of the festivities — that simply said, “Cherry Bombs at the Tumbleweed.” All together now: “Oy.” Jilly, ever the Dancing Queen.
Bright and early next morning, the first day of Shumsky’s “Up Close & Promotional” client event, Jilly took me to the Shumsky offices in Dayton. Here she is with the lovely and talented Anita Emoff, president of Shumsky and a member of the 2011 Counselor Hot List. Anita is a huge supporter of the Pay It Forward movement (www.shumsky.com/pay-it-forward/), and told me a story of a random act of kindness she felt compelled to do that made my eyes fill up. She is really something special. (Side note: Though it appears otherwise, Jilly and Anita did not plan to dress alike that day!) Shumsky held its third annual client event at the Dayton Dragons’ stadium, which is the home of the local Triple A team that often sends players to the Cincinnati Reds. It’s a fantastic facility and an awesome place to have an industry event because, as you all know, sports teams totally get the power of promotional products. Here, attendees were greeted by a table of prizes — donated by the generous suppliers who participated — offered to those clients who filled out surveys of the event.
Welcome gifts for attendees, all bearing the logos and playing off the “Add Some Color to Your Brand” theme of the event: brightly-hued pens, neon Post-Its and imprinted paint mixing sticks. (I’m tellin’ ya — when it comes to creative promos expertly tied to a theme, these Shumsky folks do not miss a trick!) You know how every well-run event has one person, running around behind the scenes who obsesses over every detail and totally sweats the small stuff to make sure everything turns out just right? Well, that’s Lorie Woods, Shumsky’s director of marketing. So adroitly does she juggle tasks and so many hats does she wear, she should be on the main stage at Ringling Brothers.
Meet Sue Smith (left) and Angie Gibbons, two clients of Jilly’s. Each supplier who participated in the event, all PeerNet preferred vendors as Shumsky is a founding member of that distributor group, set up their displays in VIP rooms overlooking the baseball field at the Dragons’ stadium. Jilly, Sue, Angie and I were grouped together all day (so fun!) and went from room to room so the suppliers could present directly to Angie and Sue, who then explained their company’s promo needs as Jill took notes on which samples they were interested in getting, marketing ideas and campaign planning. I’ve seen, of course, suppliers present to distributors before, but it was fascinating to watch them act as creative promotional consultants for end buyers. I was so proud of them, as they were all really awesome. A great shot of the Dayton Dragons’ stadium, complete with Shumsky signage on the Jumbotron touting its event.
Shumsky reps and their clients at the lunch Shumsky hosted prior to the start of the supplier presentations. Another reason I was such a fan of having the event at a baseball stadium? The food choices were fabulous: burgers, mac & cheese, pretzels with melted cheese, popcorn, chips and salsa, cookies… Wowza, was it decadent. Geoff Vejsicky from Sweda/Cutter & Buck, shown here presenting to some Shumsky clients.
The hosts with the most. Here’s Anita and Mike Emoff, who’s at the helm of Shumsky, this third-generation Dayton-based distributorship started in 1953 by his grandparents. So gracious and welcoming are they that they invited suppliers who participated in the event to their home for a thank you cocktail party and reception. So classy. And socreative — as Halloween is right around the corner, the Emoffs’ party had a spooky theme, complete with catered food like “Terrifying Tuna Sliders” and “Booberry Salad.” I love that they went all out for their suppliers, which was clearly appreciated by those in attendance. One of the catering staff, in full Halloween regalia, at Mike & Anita’s house party. Far from being as menacing as he looks in costume, this guy was hysterical!
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s SuperAdam! This is Mike & Anita’s adorable and precociously gregarious six-year-old son. Not only did Adam greet every guest at the door in costume, but he took time to strike Avenger-style poses and do some dance moves. Clearly, he inherited his parents’ extroverted personalities! Some of the stellar suppliers in attendance at Chez Emoff for the party. Clockwise from left: ETS Express’ Mike Williams, Cap America’s Rich Corvalan; Ash City’s Tom Spoltman; ETS’ Derek Hansen; and the adorable and delightful Brittany David from SnugZ.
(Clockwise): Magnet’s David Glasner; BIC/Norwood’s Harold Wood; Apollo’s Joseph Lee; Logomark’s Skip O’Kelly and my good friend Dan Jellinek, vice president of sales for Magnet. Geoff Vejsicky from Sweda/Cutter & Buck, shown here with Gemline’s Kim Brockschmidt.
Here’s Mike Emoff and Jilly, celebrating at the Emoff’s Halloween-themed supplier appreciation party in their home. Little known fact about Mike: An avid bike rider, he was an extra in the movie Breaking Away, which just happens to be one of my favorites. The lovely ladies of Shumsky — they look like they could be in the Rockettes! (From left): Jill Albers; Vendor Relations Manager Barb Hazen; Business Development Account Manager Kim Sawyer; Anita Emoff; and Lorie Woods. A word about Barb Hazen: As any savvy distributor knows, having someone with the skill set to deftly and effectively interact with many differently personalities is critical in a vendor relations liaison. Barb has that talent in spades as she’s key to continually developing and growing Shumsky’s supplier relationships.
After leaving Mike & Anita’s fabulous fete, Jilly and I met up with one of her favorite people, Eric Deutsch (right), one of Dayton’s wittiest characters. Here he is with his pal, Paul, as they entertained Jilly and I at a sports bar for the next few hours. Hil-arious.  

London Calling: New Friends (& a Cringe-Worthy Faux Pas) at the Sourcing City Show!

Filed under: Editorial, Fun, Travel

Hi Everyone!

I’m back in the country after a phenomenal and memorable trip to the U.K. for the Sourcing City Marketplace event. WOWZA, do those people know how to put on a show!

For those who don’t know, Sourcing City is a top service provider serving the U.K. promotional market and last week held its second annual Marketplace event at the FIVE (Farnborough International Venue & Events) in Farnborough, England, increasing the number of suppliers in attendance by 50%, and scheduling nearly 1,700 appointments with top distributors in the U.K. — a 132% jump from last year’s event.

The premise of Sourcing City’s Marketplace is that select U.K. distributors with sales in excess of 500,000 pounds are invited to the event and are required to set appointments, lasting 30 minutes, with suppliers. This year, the sales of the distributors in attendance made up 43% of the overall ad specialties sales in the U.K. market — 769 million pounds so far in 2012 (about $1.2 billion USD), up 2% from last year, according to a survey of 200 distributors by Sourcing City.

Phil Morgan, CEO of the supplier SPS (EU) Ltd., a U.K. manufacturer of diaries, mouse pads, drinkware, among other items, and the company with the exclusive rights to sell Rubik’s Cube items for the UK promotional market, attended Sourcing City’s Marketplace event last year and was so impressed, he doubled his exhibit area this year. “I think there’s a place for a traditional trade show, but clearly there is for this one as well,” said Morgan, who noted that 60 distributors had booked appointments with the company over the course of the two-day Marketplace event. “What I really like is the quality of customers we’re getting to see, and the amount of one-on-one time we’re spending with them – it’s much more conducive to conducting business and building relationships than at a trade show where there are so many people in your booth, you can’t possibly talk to them all in depth. Here, because distributors pre-schedule their appointments with us online, we’re able to pull their reports and look at the business they’ve done with us so far this year. We can address any problems that may have come up through the year and debut new products so we’re not waiting until January to do so, like most suppliers.”

Sourcing City’s LIVE! event will be held on January 16-17, 2013. For more information go to www.sourcingcity.co.uk.

Finally, some observations on the British: 1) I love how they add Earl Grey to everything — cocktails, shampoo, lotion and cookies. They are obsessed with their tea!; 2) The language barrier is amusing. For example, in the U.S. the word “jaded” means bored or cynical — in the UK it means “hungover,” as in “last night I was in the pub til 4:00 a.m. and now I’m bloody jaded!”; 3) Without question, Brits — and especially those I met at the Sourcing City event — are the nicest, most gracious and fun-loving group of people. And they are hearty drinkers!; 4) And finally, take a lesson from my colossal faux pas: While wearing my stilettos made from pony hair at the Sourcing City dinner, I kept telling admirers of them that they could feel free to “pet the pony.” Yeah. In the U.K., that means something totally different… Oy.

Now, without further delay, see below for tons of photos from the Sourcing City Marketplace event and after-hours fun!

More next week when I’ll be attending OH-based distributor Shumsky’s “Up Close and Promotional” event in Dayton.


— M

The charming and charismatic David Long (left), founder of Sourcing City, shown here with ASI’s president/CEO, Tim Andrews, who — by the way — is a hilariously entertaining travel companion. We shared a cab ride in Farnborough with a driver that was right out of a Monty Python skit. Carmine Rauso (left), executive director of major distributor accounts at ASI, shown here with Alistair Mylchreest, CEO of Sourcing City. Alistair is like the Mick Jagger of the British promo industry — everyone knows him and wants to be part of his party!
The lovely Liz Young, supplier services manager for Sourcing City, shown here with Carmine Rauso. The Global Triumvirate! (From left): PSI’s managing director, Michael Freter; Alistair Mylchreest; and Tim Andrews, the heads of the three companies that comprise PromoAlliance, the worldwide marketing, networking and education group: http://www.promoalliance.com/.
(From left): Michael Freter, Tim Andrews and Ritchie Wilson, owner of the U.K. supplier Dunelm. An overview shot of Sourcing City’s Marketplace show. Now in its second year, the event was an unqualified success.
After the first night of the show, the awesome folks at Sourcing City held a dinner for its supplier and distributor members and attendees. Tim Andrews, ASI’s president/CEO, was the guest speaker. ASI’s Carmine Rauso and Susanne Langley from Juniper Trading Ltd., at the Sourcing City dinner. Seriously, we had the Best. Table. Ever.
Why did we have the Best. Table. Ever., you may ask? Meet Gavin Page (left), managing director for Encore Catalogue Group. You know how there’s one person who’s the ringleader, who keeps the table lively and the drinks flowing? That was Gavin at our table who, much to my delight, went to the bar and got us a bottle of Veuve when our table ran out of its allotment of champagne. Love, love, LOVE him! Here he is with Toby Pache (center) from Sharon Lee and David Reid from Promobox. Tim Andrews and Britain’s brightest bon vivant, Gavin Page.
After Tim Andrews gave the keynote address to the guests in attendance at Sourcing City’s dinner, Richard Hope-Jones from High Profile, who was sitting next to me, commented what a great speaker Tim was and jokingly mused about how much his fee was. Here, Richard “pays” Tim for his speaking services. My girls! Here’s Liz Young — so much like me in so many ways I say we’re like the kooky Bronte sisters — and the effervescent Nikki Williams, Sourcing City’s customer support executive. I couldn’t have asked for two more fun ladies to hang out with in Farnborough!
Hands down, the funniest person we met at the Sourcing City Marketplace event was Chris Smith from Dunelm, shown here with his BFF, ASI’s Carmine Rauso. The progression of these photos is priceless, as Chris and Carmine became great pals over some after-dinner cocktails.  
Here she is, the U.S. industry’s favorite globetrotting celeb, the one and only Jo-an Lantz, executive vice president of Counselor Top 40 distributor, Geiger. When I first started in the industry 15+ years ago, Jo-an was kind enough to act as my first female mentor and we’ve been great friends ever since. We laugh now about how we see each other more overseas than in our own country. Awwww, here’s one of my all-time favorites — Steve Levschuk (left), owner of Toronto-based Talbot Marketing, shown here with Jo-an Lantz and Derek Rohde of the French distributor Jordenen S.A. Steve’s, Jo-an’s and Derek’s companies all belong to the World Advertising Gift Exchange (WAGE), a group of premier distributors — one from each country — that get voted into the group after an extensive vetting process. Jo-an is the current president of WAGE (how does this woman do it all???), and the group meets a few times each year around the globe to discuss market and economic trends in their respective countries. Check out their site here: www.wage-organisation.com/
On our last night in Farnborough, Sourcing City’s Alistair Mylchreest and Liz Young — who I just know were so exhausted after a whole week of their show and events — were the most amazing hosts and took Carmine and me to historic Guildford. For those of you who’ve never been, picture in your mind what a quintessential, quaint little British town looks like — that’s Guildford. (Click here to check it out: www.guildford.org.uk/). We had pre-dinner drinks at a classic British pub called The King’s Head, and a to-die-for dinner at the French restaurant Cote, followed by a visit to a local pub called Pews — all “brilliant,” as the Brits would say. Alistair, aside from being wicked smart and supremely gracious, has one of the most rapier wits ever. When Alistair came to visit the U.S. in July for the ASI Chicago Show and brought some Sourcing City clients with him, they loved the show, loved the people and loved the town. The one area where we fell short? The quality of our beer, or lack thereof. (LOL moment: The look of sheer horror on Alistair’s face as the bartender at Kitty O’Sheas put an orange slice in his pint of Blue Moon beer…Fact: Brits do not do fruit in their beer.) Here are some classic British ales that have Alistair’s seal of approval.
Here’s Alistair and ASI’s Carmine Rauso, drinking “Baby Guinesses” at the Pews Pub in Guildford. Upon leaving Farnborough, I headed back to London and had lunch with my new friend Kiran Somaiya, owner of the U.K. supplier Sunray Import Ltd. (Click here to see his amazing crystal 3D USB drives: www.sunrayusb.com/). Kiran was one of the suppliers that made the trek across the pond in July with Alistair to attend the ASI Chicago Show and we’ve kept in touch since then. With him is the vivacious Nicola Grant, sales & marketing star extraordinaire at the U.K. distributor company Premier Promotional Products. Have you ever met people you just click with immediately? That’s how I felt being with Kiran and Nicola.
And last but certainly not least… For my final night in the U.K., I was lucky enough to be in London at the same time as the most beloved of all my industry friends, Polyconcept’s Michael Bernstein, who was in town for a meeting. How giddy with delight was I to spend some fun time with my brother from another mother, with whom I’ve been friends for 15 years? Consider this: Friday nights in London are crazy — vibrant, electrifying and packed with people everywhere; but there are definitely no cabs to be found. If you know me, you know I loathe to walk, especially in my stilettos (I famously hired a rickshaw to take me a block and a half at the ASI San Diego Show last year). When Michael pointed out that the club we wanted to go to was “eight blocks up and four over” and asked me if I minded walking, I smiled and said, “No problem,” knowing that for him, I’d walk to the ends of the earth. No bitching, hissy fits or hiring of limos. Why? Because he’s like my own, personal medicinal panacea — he calms me down, chills me out and makes me infinitely happier than I was before.