December 6, 2013
Distributor Stephanie Jackson is usually up and out of the house by 5 a.m. six days a week to work out. But on quiet Sunday mornings, this serious athlete has made it a habit to relax, coffee in hand, and take classes in ASI’s Online Learning Center.
After taking a few courses and “actually learning important information about the industry and our products, I got even more committed,” says Stephanie (at right), who went on to earn her Bachelor of Advertising Specialty Information. What’s more, she has the distinction of being the first distributor to complete her certification requirements and pass her final exam on ASI’s brand-new Online Learning Center platform.
It’s because of dedicated industry pros like Stephanie that I’m so proud of the major upgrade we’ve made to ASI’s education hub. The revamped site, powered by the latest in learning technology, is designed to help distributors, suppliers, decorators and screen printers quickly and easily access more free classes, additional resource tools and new social media sharing.
“The best part of achieving my BASI is the confidence it provides,” says Stephanie. “I’ve been in this industry a little over a year and what I’ve learned via actual experience, coupled with my ASI Education training, has provided me a firm foundation. I’ve always been a fan of continuing education, and would wholeheartedly recommend it to both industry newbies and veterans.”
Super-motivated Jackson describes the ad specialty industry as a hard business due to online competitors and price wars. But her fun job title – The Inquisitive Marketing Advisor at Signature Services & Promotional Products – reflects her commitment to really listening to her clients and delivering top-notch marketing campaigns for them. “I’ve won a lot of business that would have gone to an online competitor,” she says. “The deciding factor for my new clients was the service I delivered and my quick response to their needs.”
To better serve dedicated pros like Stephanie, the ASI Education Team and I focused on creating an entirely new, user-focused learning experience for our members via this upgraded Online Learning Center platform, which features:
ASI’s Online Learning Center houses more than 350 on-demand courses in a variety of industry-specific curriculums, such as sales, marketing, wearables and decorating, which are free to members and automatically tracked electronically. Courses range from introductory to executive level, making them ideal for both newcomers and industry veterans.
Finally, I’m happy to say that, to date, 1,151 professionals (including Stephanie) have been certified through the ASI Education Certification Program, with nearly 30,000 enrolled in ASI’s free Online Learning Center.
Stephanie, who can’t wait to receive her BASI pin from ASI President and CEO Timothy M. Andrews at the ASI Show in Orlando, plans to continue taking courses to keep her competitive edge. “I love that I get tested on the material I learn and that there are always new courses being added,” she says.
Please login to our new Online Learning Center soon at www.asicentral.com/onlinelearning and experience it for yourself. I welcome your feedback, so drop me a line anytime at email@example.com. Happy learning!
– Nicole Rollender is ASI’s executive director of professional development
July 18, 2013
ASI® ended its 2013 ASI Show® season with a great show in a wonderful town, attracting more than 4,200 distributors from firms in 47 states and 12 countries. Over three days at McCormick Place, our Chicago show – the largest ad specialty show of the summer – really delivered.
To me, the Chicago show is more than a trade show – it’s an opportunity. Whether you came for the 78 education sessions, the black-tie Counselor® Awards or the non-stop networking, the best the industry offers is right at your fingertips.
Plus, you get to work hard and play hard in one of my favorite cities. To a Midwestern boy like me, Chicago is the center of the universe, filled with terrific museums, stunning architecture, the best deep-dish pizza on earth and some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. No wonder a record 17 distributor companies, including Allegra Network (asi/372000), EmbroidMe (asi/384000), iPROMOTEu (asi/232119), WorkflowOne (asi/333647) and HALO Branded Solutions (asi/356000) chose the Windy City to hold major sales meetings.
I’m not alone in my praise. Here’s what attendees had to say about the show:
The show was also deemed worthy enough to attract the attention of the prestigious Chicago Tribune newspaper, which ran a story in its business section, along with nine online photos and interviews with a slew of companies, including Vernon Hills, PromoPet, St. Regis Crystal, Helping Hand, American Greenwood, Dunbar Foods and Lion Circle.
Exhibitors (including 83 new to Chicago this year) were just as pleased. Scott Anderson from Leed’s (asi/66887) told us his booth was busy from the get-go, thanks to a great mix of quality distributors. And despite the heat wave, there’s no better time than July or place than the three-day Chicago show to kick off the second half of the year and to prepare for the all-important fourth-quarter selling season.
And if you weren’t inspired by the networking and the deal-making, you had to be motivated by Thursday’s keynote by Christopher Gardner, the inspiration for the Will Smith movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” (pictured here with ASI’s chairman, Norman Cohn, in a borrowed ASI Show hat).
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t do something,” Gardner told our audience about the time he lived on the streets with his 18-month-old son before his smarts and his moxie helped him break into the financial industry and become a self-made millionaire. “You want something – go get it. Period.”
Here are some other gems he shared with us:
Gardner’s is an unbelievable story, but if he doesn’t make you believe you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it, I don’t know who can. But you need to get a plan, stick to the plan and, above all, be passionate.
If you missed this year’s show, don’t worry. We’re coming back next year – and registration is now open for the 2014 ASI Shows (Orlando, Jan. 5-7; Dallas, Feb. 4-6; Long Beach, March 25-27; New York, April 3-4; and Chicago next July) at www.asishow.com. Special 2014 presentations include keynotes by former President George W. Bush and the stars of the hit ABC reality show, “Shark Tank.”
For complete coverage of ASI Show Chicago, visit www.asicentral.com for a wealth of information, including blogs and videos from ASI’s on-site editorial team.
July 18, 2013
If the 2013 Counselor® Awards had a theme, it was family, from the recognition given to family businesses of the year to the three generations of Cohns on stage handing out the awards during a glittering ceremony at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The women were stunning, the men distinguished and the food delicious. Beyond the finery, what struck me most was the camaraderie. Everywhere I looked I saw people talking to each other, laughing and really connecting, whether it was during cocktails, the behind-the-scenes tour of the Impressionists galleries or over dinner. In the end, networking really is what this industry and the art of business is all about.
In addition to recognizing outstanding individuals and companies in seven categories, we announced the Top 40 Distributors and Top 40 Suppliers rankings – the largest companies in our $19.4 billion industry based upon 2012 revenue. Click here for complete coverage of all our winners, and be sure to check www.asicentral.com and our Facebook pages for show info and photos.
I was really touched by the first award handed out, in honor of Cohn family matriarch, Bess Cohn, and her long-standing commitment to philanthropy. In his acceptance speech, Danny Rosin, co-owner of Brand Fuel (asi/145025), spoke about the importance of giving back and, as the messages displayed on screen during our live tweet stream acknowledged, Danny “exemplifies volunteerism.”
Before handing out the Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Awards, ASI® Chairman Norman Cohn (pictured with me and his family) gave a truly heartfelt tribute to his dear friend, former ASI president Marvin Spike, who passed away in December. And hearing Bill Vernon, who accepted on behalf of the 100+-year-old Vernon Company (asi/351700), tell stories about his old pal Marvin and his early days with Norman back in Iowa was like a living history lesson of the entire industry.
Maribeth Sandford, CEO of Bag Makers (asi/37940), shared her lifetime achievement award with four generations of her family, including her adorable 6-month-old great-granddaughter, Josie. “This is what it’s all about – family,” she said during her acceptance speech. “And what a wonderful opportunity I’ve had with the ASI family.”
Chris Lee, our International Person of the Year, might have said it best when he summed up the industry as “amazing people, amazing stories.”
The final award of the night, for Counselor’s 2013 Person of the Year, meant a lot to me, personally, since it went to one of the very first people I met when I joined ASI over 10 years ago: David Nicholson, president of Top 40 supplier Polyconcept North America, a $443 million company. I really meant it when I described David, pictured left, in my introduction as one of the warmest, most welcoming people I’ve ever known.
Good friends and family, amazing food, inspiring stories and a lotta laughs. Now, that’s my definition of a special night for a very special industry.
Additional winners of the 2013 Counselor Awards are:
July 16, 2013
I’m in Chicago for the last major ASI Show® of the season, meeting with members, listening to the constant rumble of the famous “El” train and marveling at the stately architecture. No wonder a record 16 distributor sales meetings are taking place during the show at McCormick Place – it’s a great show in an amazing city.
Along with two exhibit days and a full day of ASI education, we’ll also celebrate the 2013 Counselor® Award winners at a special ceremony on Wednesday at the Art Institute of Chicago, following cocktails among the Impressionists. Which companies hit the Top 40 lists? Who is 2013’s Person of the Year? Check out www.asicentral.com (and this blog) for complete coverage on Thursday.
If you’re here with us, make sure to check out a few features special to this show, the industry’s premier summer event:
If you’re here in Chicago, let me know what you’re looking forward to the most by posting a comment or e-mailing me here – and keep those tweets coming! And be sure to visit www.asicentral.com for show blogs and videos.
July 3, 2013
It’s all things tech at ASI®, with upcoming technology workshops led by our CTO in Chicago and over 10 new features in the latest ESP Web® upgrade (our 6th, if you’re counting).
The ESP upgrade was designed with ease of operation in mind, allowing distributors to quickly create and manage their preferred supplier lists and for new suppliers to introduce themselves and their products to the industry.
My favorite new feature might be the “Joe Show” hot products videos you can now access from ESP’s home page, along with clickable product links. Joe, one of ASI’s most experienced editors, dishes out clever campaign ideas and tips with each new show. And thanks to Joe’s turbo-charged personality, you get a big dose of entertainment along with useful tidbits you can mimic on sales calls.
Other smart new features include one-click virtual sample editing (just click the wand to open the editor) and top sellers in the page footer, along with larger images of the most popular products. If you’re like me, you want intuitive features, a clean design and, above all, simplicity. If you’ve checked out ESP’s latest and greatest, please let me know what you think by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter and LinkedIn.
And if you’re joining us at ASI Chicago, taking place Tues., July 16 (education day), Wed., July 17 and Thurs., July 18 (exhibit days) at McCormick Place, stop by the ASI booths for a demo. (Show registration is still open at www.asishow.com or by clicking here).
That Wednesday, we’re also offering one-hour workshops led by our chief technology officer, Armughan Rafat, who will make sure you’re up to date on ASI’s latest technological advances and help you map out your business strategy to include all the updates coming down the pike.
We’ve scheduled two sessions to choose from: 10-11 a.m. (includes refreshments) and 12-1 p.m. (includes lunch on ASI). Armughan will leave time at the end to answer any questions – and to hear your ideas and suggestions for future improvements. The workshops count toward your BASI/MASI, too.
Click here to register for either session.
May 10, 2013
Filed under: ASI Shows
ASI® ended its recent New York show with an announcement we hope pleases tri-state members as well as the out-of-towners looking for new product ideas and contacts while sampling all the city has to offer. Next year, we’re pushing the dates from midweek to Thursday and Friday, April 3 and 4.
Our aim is to make it easier for people to end a long work week with a fun weekend in the city – or to get home knowing they’re heading right into two work-free days.
Despite the rain, this year’s event at the Javits Center was everything we hoped, attracting over 2,000 distributors from 10 countries and 275 suppliers showcasing the latest ad specialty products. Since we’re all about making each show as productive and enjoyable as possible, we made a few changes, including moving the show to the brighter, more accessible North Pavilion and cutting back from three to two days, while offering ASI Education throughout the entire show, so members could easily earn more credits toward ASI Certification.
I spoke to one new member who said she attended nearly every class and got a lot out of the informed instructors and valuable content. Early feedback shows the Ad Specialty Crash Course: Sell Successfully Now workshop and the Distributor Success Lunch: Use Social Media for Sales Success (both part of the Distributor Success Track sponsored by Fields Mfg., asi/54100) proved especially popular.
Your comments are critical. If you like something, please let us know. Equally important, if you think an area needs improvement or could be done differently, your ideas are welcome. Staffers working the booths and meeting with members gathered a ton of positive reactions to ASI New York, including:
I saw a lot of people at Counselor® magazine’s annual Hot Party, which was in a jaw-dropping setting – the nightclub 230 Fifth on 27th Street, in sight of the always-glorious Empire State Building (whose image was captured in a six-foot ice sculpture that doubled as a drink luge, pictured below). In addition to a cool lounge, we could head up to a second rooftop bar, where anyone feeling the chill could snuggle in luxurious red robes supplied by the club.
For a complete listing of the 49 Hot List winners we celebrated, click here. And to see photos from the party on ASI’s Facebook page, click here (and if you haven’t already “liked” our Facebook page, please do). The Hot Party was sponsored by AlightPromos (asi/34194), AIA Corporation (asi/109480), Delta Apparel (asi/49172), Castelli North America (asi/44305) and Chulani (asi/45100).
If you were at the show, I hope you heard the keynote by Buddy Valastro Jr., aka “The Cake Boss” from TLC’s hit reality show, which is watched by an astonishing billion people worldwide. If you missed it, check out my blog from Thursday, www.asicentral.com or this week’s Promogram® for some of the business tips he shared – or just to read about his fascinating trajectory from small business owner to brandmaster. In addition to the speech, Buddy brought a specially-made cake to share during an afternoon presentation in the Exhibit Hall.
The cake went fast, but luckily for the ASI staffers who stayed put in our Trevose office helping other members, we brought back another “Cake Boss” creation for them to sample, too. I think the general consensus was “yum.”
While I’m looking forward to kicking back in the garden this weekend, I’m also gearing up for our next show in Chicago (Tues., July 16 through Thurs., July 18) at McCormick Place, which features a keynote by Christopher Gardner, the inspiration behind the award-winning movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” starring Will Smith.
And on August 12, ASI hosts a brand-new show in Dallas called Promotions Southwest. The Advantages Roadshow, the industry’s No. 1 traveling roadshow, is in Canada May 14-16 before taking a break until starting again in early August. To learn more about exhibiting or sponsorship opportunities, contact Karen DiTomasso, vice president of sales, at firstname.lastname@example.org or register today at www.asishow.com.
May 9, 2013
Filed under: ASI Shows
I lived in Hoboken, N.J., back in the early ’80s and must have passed Carlo’s Bakery a thousand times when headed across the river to my Dow Jones internship in Manhattan. I was finally on my way to achieving the dreams I had as a kid, back home in Indiana – but I still had a long way to go.
Back then, a 6-year-old Buddy Valastro Jr. was hanging around that same bakery, absorbing his very first lessons in running a successful family business. We might even have crossed paths on Washington Street, where the original bakery is still based. Earlier today – the final day of the ASI New York Show – Buddy shared some of those lessons during a fascinating keynote.
Under Buddy’s guidance, the small family business has blossomed into a household name. “The Cake Boss,” the TLC reality show that helped send Buddy into the stratosphere, is now broadcast in 180 countries – and seen by more than a billion people – all while remaining true to his family heritage.
Coming up, more bakeries, more products and an even bigger brand.
“It’s a dream come true,” he told a standing room only crowd of entrepreneurs who are just like him. “I own a family business. I can relate. I’m like you guys. I’m on TV, but at the end of the day I’ve got to make my payroll every week.”
Buddy started working at the bakery at 11 and, at 17, when his father died of cancer, he was thrust into sudden responsibility for 40 employees, with his entire family looking to him to keep the business afloat.
College set aside, his business school became an old-fashioned Italian bakery.
“I decided to go outside the box and make cakes that didn’t look like anything else,” said the self-described “sugar artist.”
He got his first big break when an editor at “Modern Bride” magazine saw his cakes in the window. For the next three years, Buddy’s cakes appeared in every issue of the magazine. Within 10 years, they’d appeared in over 200 other publications.
But like many small business owners, he had his share of disappointments, like being passed over by the Food Network, which turned out to be a lucky break, since TLC soon gave him a shot. “I told my agent, ‘I’m Buddy Valastro, I don’t fail.’ I’m a quick learner and I don’t have all my eggs in one basket.”
Building relationships and building his brand was the key, he said. “There’s a lot of celebrity chefs, but no celebrity bakers. I want to stay America’s baker. My show is seen in the Middle East, in Africa, Australia. What’s the connection? At its essence, my show is about family and the whole world can agree about family.”
He dished up a lot of advice (along with delicious cake served later at the booth of keynote sponsor Showdown Displays):
“I’m my brand,” he said. “I do things the old-fashioned way. When kids come up to me and hug me, they look at me like I’m Superman – so I’m Superman for them.”
In closing, Buddy told us he was honored to be with us, and then ended with a dose of reality we can all relate to: “I’m a businessman. If I’m not making money, why be in business? We’re not a charity.”
In the photos, here’s Buddy on stage with ASI vice-chairman Matthew Cohn and here I am with “Howard Stern,” (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) at the ASI Hot Party Wednesday night.