ASI Awards Three Interns College Scholarships

ASI recently awarded $1,000 college scholarships to three interns who participated in its industry-wide internship program: Kyra Jorgensen, intern at 1338Tryon (asi/287946); Kedrick Shin, intern at HALO Branded Solutions (asi/356000); and Ashley Burrows, intern at Free Advertising Inc. (asi/198245).

ASI’s second annual internship program attracted 166 millennials from 125 participating companies, including 11 suppliers and 114 distributors. ASI supplied the interns with training webinars, free access to ESP, attendance at ASI Chicago, a gift pack, a certificate of completion and the chance to write an essay about their experiences and compete for a scholarship.

“It was evident to our judges that these three interns made the most out of their experience and have a strong understanding of our industry,” said Timothy M. Andrews, ASI’s president and chief executive officer. “I’m sure the companies who participated learned as much from these smart, engaged young people as they learned from us.” For information on joining the 2018 ASI Internship Program, please contact ASI Marketing Manager Christine Shaw at cshaw@asicentral.com.

Below are the winning essays, which offer unique insights into experiencing the promotional products industry through a millennial’s eyes:

Kyra Jorgensen, intern at 1338Tryon

My palms were sweaty and my heart was racing. Like most first days, I was nervous, but this internship was different. My heart pounded harder and my face felt redder than usual because on this first day I was dropped into an industry that I had never worked in, let alone knew anything about. For my first day at 1338Tryon, it’s safe to say that I was intimidated. I knew I was interested in branding and advertising but other than that, I was a blank canvas for my boss to paint on. Immediately after meeting the other employees I was slightly more at ease. They were all very welcoming and assured me that they would help me out with anything I needed to know because the promotional products industry is not taught in a typical university education. My boss, Heather, started me off with taking beginner level ASI courses to help me gain the knowledge I needed to complete tasks throughout my internship. From there I took off and by the end of the summer (with a little help along the way) I could confidently fill client’s demands and interact with distributors to ultimately provide the client with a successful promotional product that they could be proud of.

I learned a lot throughout my internship at 1338Tryon. I learned a number of important aspects of the industry such as communication, design choices leading toward successful products and brand consistency. In addition, I learned how ASI aids both suppliers and distributors through the services they provide. Through my internship experience at 1338Tryon, I had the opportunity to learn about ASI and the promotional products industry as a whole as well as implement the skills I gained toward my own projects from start to finish.

First, I learned the basics of the industry and how ASI connects suppliers and distributors. Through ASI, suppliers can market their imprintable products to distributors who then sell those products to end-buyers who use the specialty advertising to promote their company. Moreover, distributors can find suppliers through ASI because ASI allows suppliers to advertise their products on their websites, at trade shows and in magazines and catalogs. The reason promotional products make up a $21.5 billion industry is because they are effective. By putting a logo on a promotional product, companies not only advertise to the individuals that receive the product, but ultimately to everyone. This is because promotional products are often useful items that individuals use on a daily basis such as water bottles or pens, allowing a wide audience to see the logo rather than just the person using the product. For example, when a company (through their distributor) produces thermoses with their logo printed on them, the logo is not only seen by the person receiving the thermos, but by everyone else the person passes throughout the day while drinking their coffee. This exposure not only provides advertising for the company, but creates a recognizable brand by repeating the imagery. I personally utilize branded merchandise because I enjoy the products and I’d much rather use them than purchase my own. While working at 1338Tryon, I received Bluetooth headphones with the company logo on either ear. Ever since they were given to me I have worn them everywhere; walking to the store, going to the gym or hanging out in between classes on campus. Showing the logo makes no difference to me and only benefits 1338Tryon because I am representing their brand and showcasing the product. Ultimately, everyone benefits. Through advertising specialties, companies are able to gain exposure from a large group while providing practical products to individuals that double as a branding tool.

Second, ASI provides education, awareness and organization, which facilitates further success for both distributors, suppliers and end-buyers. As previously mentioned, I took many ASI courses throughout my internship at 1338Tryon. The courses provided me with lectures from educated speakers who worked in and helped define the promotional products industry. The courses taught me a lot about the industry, from how it all works to what I can do to be as successful as possible. The courses touch on everything from customer service skills to which products are most effective for the client. The ability for individuals to educate themselves about the industry through ASI improves the industry as a whole because it creates better skilled suppliers and distributors, leading toward happier clients and ultimate success. Moreover, ASI provides magazines and catalogs that organize all the products a client could ever want into one place. This helps suppliers provide options for their clients and informs distributors on what types of products are in demand. While I was working, it was very convenient for me to browse through products and aid clients in deciding on a product to put their mark on. In addition, ASI hosts trade shows that further help suppliers and distributors to connect, which allows them to promote themselves at an event consisting of companies with the same interests. Overall, ASI provides these benefits that assist everyone within the organization leading toward an improved industry as a whole.

Lastly, I was able to take the knowledge I gained throughout my internship and use in my own projects. I learned the importance of brand consistency and, therefore, created brand identity guidelines for 1338Tryon that could be sent to distributors assuring color and design consistency of the company logo. The guidelines place strict rules on the depiction of the 1338Tryon logo that emphasizes the brand’s recognition through consistent branding. In addition, I used products brought to my attention by ASI to provide clients with exact specialty advertising they’re looking for. For one client, I used tie patterns provided by the distributors to design a tie that would have the company’s exact colors throughout and logo at the tip. I utilized the distributors’ selections and the company’s guidelines to provide a product that expressed their branding and also looked awesome. Furthermore, I was able to design the perfect hoodie for a company’s employees by implementing their logo on a number of stylish hoodies and showing them to the client to let them choose the style they liked best. I could provide them with options to allow them to select the one that was perfect for their brand and for them.

Ultimately, through my internship with 1338Tryon and ASI, I was able to gain knowledge about specialty advertising that pushed me to take on my own challenges and emerge victorious. Through ASI courses, I obtained the confidence to communicate with distributors and clients. Through ASI websites and courses I could provide the best products to achieve the client's goals. Despite hesitantly approaching my first day with fear, I emerged with applicable skills and a strong understanding of how to be successful in the promotional products industry.

Kedrick Shin, intern at HALO Branded Solutions

Before starting this internship, I was sure that I understood everything about the promotional product industry after one read through of a definition on Google. I quickly realized that it is nearly impossible to summarize the industry into a single definition. Even as I have been working throughout the summer, I am always learning about different aspects of the industry, including what exactly it encompasses, who the customers are, and the effectiveness of promotional products. As an intern at HALO Branded Solutions, I was able to learn about a unique company design where the distributor did not deal directly with the end-users, but with account executives, who represented their customers.

At HALO, I am interning in the E-Commerce department, which is in charge of maintaining and updating the online site, HALO.com. The online site is a relatively new edition to HALO when thinking about the company’s long history. I have learned that, by having the online site, HALO has been able to increase the number of leads and, therefore, overall sales. The site promotes over 4,000 products and features different programs including “Best Sellers and BrandED”, which help customers using the site find the newest and most popular products HALO has to offer. During my time at HALO, I’ve helped with merchandising over200 products for the online site. I was told that, before starting my internship, the product count on HALO.com has been decreasing as products that were featured in programs like the ones mentioned above were never remerchandised once they were taken off the special program. On top of remerchandising, I also helped merchandise new products for the site through our accelerator program, where suppliers provide us with products that they want to be uploaded to HALO.com. With my help over the past couple of months, we were able to achieve a record number of products available online, with a goal of 5,000, hopefully, by the end of the year.

Working at HALO has taught me a great deal about the promotional products industry. When looking at a product page or even HALO.com in general, it is difficult to fathom how much work goes into creating a website to sell promotional products, and it is impossible to appreciate all this work unless you’ve taken part in at least some of it. Everything from getting the correct images to making sure the imprint options and descriptions for a given product are correct and show up on the site properly really is a team effort, as it would take tens of hours to completely merchandise a product alone.

Furthermore, I’ve never really thought about how effective promotional products are until I started working in the industry. Now, it is nearly impossible to go a day without seeing some type of promotional product. I’ve learned that almost anything can be a promotional product and they are not just limited to pens, shirts and caps. Moreover, I found it interesting to learn about the process of how products go from the supplier to the end-user, and the many different ways it can be achieved. I had the opportunity to attend the ASI trade show in Chicago back in July and it was a great experience to get to meet with different suppliers, especially ones that work closely with us. We were able to learn about their newest products and even get some samples. In addition to meeting with the suppliers, I was able to learn a little about ASI. I learned that they are the largest membership organization in the industry and the suppliers at the show were all members of ASI, who can help them promote their businesses with connections throughout the supplier-distributor-client chain. Finally, the ASI show was fun because I got to see the different suppliers I’ve been working with in person, and to see their products in real life, not just through a computer screen.

Working mainly with the E-Commerce team, I was able to see a good portion of what goes into making a good online site for a promotional products company, a lot of which probably applies to almost any company trying to sell their products online. Once all the information for products going online are complete, it is necessary to check that everything shows up on the site the way we want it to. There are many programs and databases that the info gets stored, so we have to make sure that they all match so the correct one shows up online. For example, last month there was an issue where the price range categories to filter searches on HALO.com had some typos, like “less than $1” instead of “less than $1.00.” Since both these categories existed, a customer looking at the site would not be able to see all the products that are less than a dollar on one page. I checked the database that I was working with and it only had the correct ranges. It turns out that the problem was coming from a different database that entries also get stored, and it had the incorrect price ranges, so I had to go in and change them for each subcategory on our site, which helped make the site more user-friendly, which is extremely important for a company in this industry.

Another ongoing challenge for promotional product companies selling their products online is trying to get more traffic flow to their site. By adding more products to HALO.com, I helped contribute to increasing flow to the site, as there are more searches now that will point people toward the site. Simply adding the products online doesn’t do this alone, however. The marketing team did most of the work, by adding key words and descriptions to the products that people typically type online when searching for promo products, thereby moving HALO.com higher up in organic searches such as Google or Bing.

Overall, this internship has taught me a lot about the promotional products industry, and how popular these products are. I’ve heard promo products described as “walking billboards,” and that statement really is true. If someone really enjoys a product they bought, they will be using it, wearing it, or looking at it almost daily, and others will see it too. The advantage of promotional products is that they are much cheaper than an actual billboard, and arguably more effective. The standard design supplier to distributor to client is interesting to me, as I would have imagined them going straight from supplier to client. Even so, some companies such as HALO add another element, account executives, in between the distributor and client. These models work well because this allows people to focus more specifically on less tasks, allowing them to get things done more quickly and efficiently. The industry is incredibly interesting with many components to it, and it is a fun environment, so I can see why people who are introduced to the industry find it difficult to leave.

Ashley Burrows, intern at Free Advertising Inc.

When my mother offered me an internship with her company, Free Advertising, Inc., I expected a typical, mundane office experience. Loud noises from ringing phones, employees under stress, something that I would just have to work through over the course of the summer. However, I never expected to find my future here. My mother always told me, “What you do for the rest of your life should be something you love,” and I can say with complete honesty that I love it here.

The positive attitudes, the music of all genres always playing, and the camaraderie between the employees creates an overall pleasant environment to work in that anybody would be lucky to experience. This company has been around for thirty years, which is much longer than I have been around, so it’s been part of my whole life since I was born. I couldn’t believe there was so much I didn’t know about Free Advertising. There are so many different aspects to this company that over the course of my internship I learned something new every day! Some days, I would call factories to check up on how orders were doing and confirm the dates the products would be sent out. Some of the vendors even remembered me and were very friendly when I spoke to them more than once. It made me feel important. Other days, I would have to do research for a client’s project, which wouldn’t have been nearly as easy without ASI’s research tools. The ESP program gave me all the photos for reference and prices I needed in just a matter of seconds. Thanks to this, I had more time to get other work done and increase my productivity, rather than slow down everyone else with my lack of experience. With ASI ESP, I have access to information about vendors the company generally wouldn’t have known about or used, and how trustworthy they are based upon other distributors’ recommendations. Because of ASI ESP, work at Free Advertising is swift, efficient and well done.

I see that when it’s very busy it’s hard work, but very rewarding. For years, my mom has worked sometimes very late when orders are placed with overseas companies who are on the opposite time table as us and she needs to communicate with them. She has told me that she feels comfortable working with these overseas companies because she found them in the ASI ESP program. Being part of the internship program has given me the chance to see firsthand how important it is to be a part of a trade organization.

My absolute favorite thing to do here by far is to help with the layout for the designs that go on the items the clients order. I have sat with my mother and watched her create the designs herself. Everything is chosen with care and done meticulously from the colors to the placement. I’ve seen her spend a lot of time making sure the small letters in some of the logos are large enough to print clearly, as she has taught me that the ink being printed on the items has a certain thickness which can close in the openings in small letters. Despite spending so much time on it, it’s never been a tedious thing to do. I’ve also learned that the color red, or blue or any other color is not as simple as just saying “red” or “blue.” The suppliers we work with use the Pantone color guide and so do we, to make sure we match the colors perfectly for our client’s logos. I’ve seen that a layout for a tee shirt can be very different than a layout for a pen, based upon how much imprint space there is to work with. I’ve learned that not everything is printed in the same way, such as T-shirts have the imprints printed on through a process called silk screening, which I even got to see happen. As someone who enjoys making art, this always stood out as the most fun part of the job.

It’s not always smooth sailing though. Occasionally there are some mishaps that need to be worked through. Once, a factory had told us that they wouldn’t be able to ship out our order on time for our client’s event. This was clearly a predicament. Naturally, I would accept that something couldn’t be done and move on, but seeing as this is for our client who we gave our word to that their order would be delivered on time, that simply couldn’t stand. I had to speak with the factory representative on the phone to see if there was any way the order could be shipped on schedule. After some conversation, the person on the other end said because of my positive attitude and being so polite, they decided to rush the order for overnight shipping, but only charge only for ground shipping. It pays to be kind. I learned many things that day. You get back what you put in, never settle and always be polite to everyone. It may seem like basic things I would already know, but seeing how this works in business and experiencing these real world examples firsthand will be something that will stick with me forever.

I may not have gone to the beach or soaked up the sun as one would usually do during the summer, but this has been the best summer I have ever had. I’ve learned invaluable life skills I could not learn anywhere else, and now I know what I want to do for the rest of my life. Before, everything was unclear, but next year, when I enter college, I want to major in business so I can come back to Free Advertising better and wiser than before. One day, with the knowledge I have learned now and the things I’ve yet to learn, I will be able to expand this company to heights it’s never seen, and maybe one day, I’ll have a daughter I can teach this all to the way my mother taught me!