The following article was written by PromoKitchen chef, Marshall Atkinson
It was a little cold and breezy in New Jersey last week when I met Sara McHugh for the first time in person. We’ve emailed a bunch, and talked on the phone. But nothing beats a face to face conversation.
The ISS Atlantic City trade show was happening all around us. I took advantage of the privacy of the speakers lounge that the organizers make available for their cadre of teachers that run the seminars for them.
I had just finished teaching my class on sustainability for garment decorators, and had about an hour and a half before I had to leave to head back to Philadelphia to catch my flight.
Sara came bounding in, full of energy and smiles. It was really great meeting her. She’s the owner of SLS Gifts, a private promotional distributor. Sara also is my mentee in the PromoKitchen mentorship program.
PromoKitchen offers the ability to pair up veterans in the promotional products industry, with people that need some extra support.
For Sara, the program allows us to interact and I can help her with the apparel end of selling promo. The secret to having a good mentor - mentee relationship is with action. Action is usually in the email or phone call variety. Sharing and connecting is important.
But for killer results, you have to occasionally show up and meet each other. That’s what we did in Atlantic City. After about a twenty minute conversation on a few of her accounts, we left the speakers lounge and walked the trade show floor together.
Afterwards, here are the things that Sara learned in that forty-five minutes of ping-ponging through the booths:
Sara says, “After we were through my head was spinning with information.” But one thing she learned is that she now can curate ideas to bring back to her clients. She doesn’t have to rely on simply quoting with what her customers request. Now, she can be proactive and bring ideas to them.
You have to make yourself different. “What is going to separate you from everyone else is the ideas and creativity you bring to the table.” It’s the problem solving aspect of the business.
One thing that Sara discovered is that she needs to “pick a lane”. She says that she understands now that you can’t be all things to all people. Take a close look at matching up who you should be doing business with and go after them. Don’t worry about the tire kickers.
After the show, Sara wants to go back to her local decorator vendor and discuss all the techniques and interesting ideas. There was a lot to learn. She grabbed a lot of catalogs and took notes.
The action part of success starts early on with laying the groundwork. There is an education component that can’t be missed. When you reach out and grab that information, that’s when the sparks fly and ideas start swirling around your head like fireflies. Which is exactly what the PromoKitchen mentorship program is built to do!
Do you have a few hours each month to connect with another individiual in the industry and help make these types of things happen? If so, please visit www.promokitchen.org/mentorship-1/ to sign up today. We'd love to have you involved!