On April 9, Bill Schmidt Sr., father and business partner to PromoKitchen chef CJ Schmidt, passed away.
Bill was the founder of Hit Promotional Products, one of the keystone suppliers of the industry. Bill and the Schmidt family steered Hit from a small regional player into a dominant national player, known for its operational and technological prowess.
CJ got his start in the family business as a teenager, emptying garbage bins and packing boxes. He learned the tricks of the trade from his father and they worked alongside each other every step of the way. Bill's influence on Hit, his employees, and CJ was just as strong as it was on the entire industry.
The PromoKitchen chefs salute Bill for playing a key role in the growth of the industry over the last few decades. Our thoughts are with CJ and the entire Schmidt family during this difficult time.
To honor Bill, we have included a few notes and stories from some of the chefs:
I had the good fortune to spend some time with Mr. Schmidt a few months ago while on a factory tour of Hit with Brand Fuel colleagues. So here I am, co-owner of little ol’ Brand Fuel, and he carved out a good hour to discuss how Hit could be an even better partner to us. I was astounded at how much he knew about our company and the growth in business with Hit over the past 5 years. He was as accessible and humble and interested as any CEO of an industry-leading company I have ever met. I think that’s what impressed me the most – his genuine interest in creating a meaningful partnership.
I am so sorry for your loss. I know Bill Schmidt was not just your father. He was a personal and business mentor to you. Please know that he carried that same strong mentoring presence in the promotional products industry - guiding, shaping, growing, pushing, delivering…
You are filling his big shoes at Hit and I know he is proud of you. You are also doing so many good things that adds “soul” to your life in business, including but certainly not limited to, supporting so many employee’s families and even nonprofit organizations like PromoKitchen. It’s good to remember that what we do for ourselves dies with us, but what we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.
I did not know Bill but I wish I had. I have seen an amazing amount of love over the last week for a man that I never took the time to meet. The company he built is amazing and has grown tremendously. It appears to me that Bill continued to lead and plan for the future all the way through the end. I do not know the family, but I have met CJ and watched him do amazing things while being a great guy to know. As a father, I can only imagine how proud Bill must have been of his family. He leaves a great legacy with his company and his kids who will no doubt continue to make him proud.
I had the opportunity to visit Hit's office in Largo, Florida a couple of years ago. It was a fascinating look into their growth as a company over the past two decades.
Their main reception is in a nondescript building that houses their executive offices, CS and Art departments. This is Hit 1.0 and represents where they started. However, as soon as you start driving around to their other warehouses and production facilities, you realize that you are in a different era, defined by modernity, scale and efficiency. This is Hit 2.0.
The plant tour was representative of Bill's impact on Hit. You are literally seeing the history of the business unfold before your eyes, from its humble beginnings to the enormous growth it has enjoyed over the past decade. It also struck me that this represented the handoff from Bill to the next generation. During this time, CJ has played a growing role in the business as he moved from VP Sales to President of the company.
It was a fascinating trip as it was living proof of Bill's influence over the company and its growth story.
In his final years, I know how proud Bill must have been to hand off this success story to CJ and watch him take the business to even greater heights.
Although I did not have the honor of meeting Bill Sr, I've known CJ since I started in the industry. Who CJ is as an entrepreneur, an innovator, a philanthropist, an advocate, and a leader is a reflection of his father. We are a better industry because of them and the dedication of the entire Schmidt family.
Much to my regret, I never had the pleasure of meeting Bill Sr. I have, however, known CJ for well over 12 years and worked with him closely on several occasions during that time. Whenever the topic of his father came up, CJ would beam with pride about the business and culture his dad built at Hit. Knowing CJ’s role in growing Hit into what it is today, I have no doubt that Bill Sr. had the same amount of pride in his son. CJ’s work ethic, empathy, “can do it” attitude, and desire to create a culture at Hit that is the envy of the industry came from his father. We can all be thankful that the apple truly did not fall far from the tree.
If you have any stories or anecdotes you wish to share, please leave them in the comments below.