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2010 Distributor Family Business of the Year: Sunrise Identity
By Joan Chaykin
May 2010

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Mitch Mounger, president and CEO of Sunrise Identity (asi/339206), says that when he was growing up, there was always conversation about the family business around mealtime. "If you didn’t like to talk business at the dinner table, then you wouldn’t be cut out for this," he says.

Mounger says his grandfather was in the apparel industry and was later joined by his father, Larry Mounger. "They sold that company while I was in college (University of Washington), which is where I started making promotional products for sororities and fraternities," he says. "At about the same time my sister (Mindy Blakeslee) started an apparel company and we merged forces when I graduated. Soon after, my dad joined us, as well as my two brothers-in-law (Nick and James Rensch), and one of them married a woman who was selling for us, so now she’s my sister-in-law (Jenna Rensch). It’s a family business that keeps growing – we’re bringing in more through marriage."

Sunrise started as a screen-print company in 1976 and then merged with LCM Apparel in 1997, when it began offering ad specialties to its clients. In 2003 Sunrise formally changed its name to Sunrise Identity, and it’s become one of the largest west-coast distributors in the market. In September, the company’s family environment led its employees to vote it Counselor’s number-one Best Place to Work in the ad specialty market. "I consider everyone that works here to be part of the family," Mounger says. "I treat them no differently than I do a bloodline relative."

As for the challenges of dealing with transitions from one generation to the next, Mounger says that has never been an issue, because "they’ve been around it so long" and it’s such an ingrained part of the family history. His own children are already part of the culture, as well. "I have 13-year-old twins and a 10-year-old, and they are already telling me they plan on coming into the business," he says.

In addition to the fun-loving, dog-friendly atmosphere of Sunrise, the 60-plus employees have a strong family-feel connection. "These guys spend more time with us than their own families," Mounger says. "So we deal with the heartaches and losses together and celebrate the highs with them. We have a lot of people who have been with us over 15 years and there’s not a lot of turnover, so they consider themselves part of the family." – JC

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