Hot List

Find Out Who They Are

Hot ListWhen compiling the annual list of the Hot People in the industry, we consider a myriad of accomplishments, accolades and aspirations achieved by those who ultimately make the cut.

But there are traits infinitely more intangible that have garnered each person their spot on the Hot roster …

  • Because they don't believe in "it can't be done," they shun the status quo and have the prescient ability to spot a need, a trend and a cresting zeitgeist before the masses and then make it happen for the industry.
  • Because when they walk into a meeting, a trade show floor or a party, the electricity is palpable and the wattage of their charisma jacks up the room's star power.
  • Because they don't operate in a vacuum. The sheer force of their personalities and creativity creates a magnetic pull, drawing other enigmatic, innovative iconoclasts towards them, building strength in numbers.
  • Because, quite simply, their passion, sales and marketing brilliance and willingness to embrace the new and different, wacky and weird, gives us hope for the future of the industry.

Introducing the 2012 Counselor Hot List!


Head Honchos

When you're at the helm of a company, regardless of size, the pressure to provide top-quality products and services for clients and motivate employees can seem like impossibly Herculean tasks at best. The nine company owners shown here have found a way to consistently exceed expectations for their own businesses and the industry overall.

From Taylor Tadmor, owner of Tekweld, who led his company to nearly 60% growth between 2009 and 2011, to Heather Sanderson, this year's Counselor Distributor Woman of Distinction who runs Overture Premiums & Promotions with such devotion that her employees have made it a mainstay on the Counselor Best Places to Work list, to Lion Circle's Rich Carollo, who's leading the charge for Made in the U.S. products that are competitively priced, to 30-year-old Ryan Moor, founder and CEO of Ryonet, whose embrace of new technologies has led his screen-printing supply company to grow to nearly $25 million in only eight years, these owners come out of the boardroom, get their hands dirty and know what it is to build – and sustain – successful ad specialty companies.

Consider that surfers Gabe Gerhardt and James Fox, co-owners of the Counselor Fastest Growing Supplier in 2012 – US Flash & Technologies – achieved 1,000% sales growth between 2008 and 2010 by adhering to the simple business mantra of giving clients what they want. Harry Ein, owner of Perfection Promos, is a self-proclaimed "one-man operation" on call 24/7 for his customers. Terry Chen, who's running the only apparel company on this year's Counselor Fastest Growing Supplier list, did so by mastering the fine art of inventory management.

And Sanjay Srinivasan, president of Global Promo? Well, he's so persuasive that when he and his team created customizable sunglasses for clubs in Miami and Orlando, they ended up on the famous faces of Lil' Wayne and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. These movers and shakers are setting the pace for the industry. Catch them if you can.

Click here for a separate link to HEAD HONCHOS


Right Clickers

Twitter. Facebook. Pinterest. Blogs. Videos.

These people are so adept at using social media in all its forms to promote their businesses and themselves that their competitive edge is undeniable.

Look at Charity Gibson, head of Green Banana Promotions, who made the complacent and compliant in the industry sit up and take notice with her adapt-or-be-obsolete battle cry as she sat on social media panels at industry trade shows, espousing both the need and staying power of new media to keep the industry relevant and moving forward. Or Kathleen Booth from Quintain Marketing, who refocused her company's marketing approach to include a comprehensive social media package for clients and watched its sales skyrocket.

ECO Apparel by Boardroom's Jason Neve uses his blog and Twitter to raise awareness for the sustainability of eco-friendly clothing and how embracing it is just smart business in today's youth-driven consumer culture.

Kim Laffer, director of strategic development at Motivators Inc., creates video and interactive technology content so impactful and effective in driving traffic to their site that they won Counselor's Best New Media Promotion in 2011. Sergio Munoz, Debco's national program manager, took it upon himself to learn how technology and social media increase not only sales, but also performance, morale and workflow.

And let's not forget Kathy Whitburn from Counselor Top 40 Distributor American Solutions for Business. Go to YouTube and check out her equal-parts entertaining and informative "Check the Deck with Kathy" videos, in which she promotes her business and her marketing abilities in a way that's funny, compelling and memorable. Think social media is a passing fad? Then please step aside while these pioneers blaze a trail right past you ...

Click here for a separate link to RIGHT CLICKERS


Sales Superstars

When some think of salespeople, the stereotypes still come to mind: hucksters and slicksters, fast-talkers and snake oil-peddlers. But in our industry, successful salespeople are the rock stars, the first-round draft picks, the A-listers. They can write their own ticket and it's not for nothing that they wield such power – their presence, or absence, can make or break a company.

Andrew Hughes, sales rep extraordinaire for the FL-based supplier IDProductsource, is one of the main reasons the company has experienced double-digit sales growth. So much do his distributor clients adore and value him that they voted him the runner up in this year's Supplier Global Resource Supplier Rep of the Year contest.

Monica Channa, sales executive with Ottawa-based distributor Akran Marketing, has become such a force to be reckoned with in her country that she was named one of Canada's Most Powerful Women in 2011. Lora Williams and Chris Jenkin, the partners behind Gotcha! Branded Mobile Solutions, use Smartapps, Managed QR codes, Augmented Reality and SMS Messaging to help distributors' clients such as GE, Absolut and Pacer create buzz.

Jeanna Abercrombie, sales manager for Pepco Poms, just implemented new internal procedures to increase the speed of information flow from the customer to the factory floor to keep her company's pricing competitive. Carla Younan, only with Counselor Top 40 supplier Dard Products for two years, has grown sales in her territory and taken the time to learn the intricacies of product importing and exporting. Baker, fashionista and trend-hunter Frankie Gashler, with PromoMatting by Americo, races across the U.S. and Canada regularly meeting with clients.

And then there's Roger Burnett, national director of branded merchandise with Counselor Top 40 distributor WorkflowOne. He not only shares a first name and air of confident insouciance with Mad Men's Roger Sterling, but his witty bon mots and bon vivant attitude make him – like the retro Roger – the salesman clients clamor to spend time with. While other industries' sales stagnate, it's because of the prodigiously talented people on this page that ours continues to thrive.

Click here for a separate link to SALES SUPERSTARS


Marketing Mavericks

Marketers tend to get short shrift behind the much-lauded salespeople and company owners often lionized and profiled by the press. But like the fuel that keeps otherwise stagnant objects moving forward, it's the marketers who really drive the industry's creative message.

Jennifer Grigorian, now 34, has been in the industry since she was 21, crafting the marketing for not one, but three Counselor Top 40 supplier companies, including Hit Promotional Products – with its amazing double-digit sales growth – where she's currently its vice president of marketing. Amy Swaney was instrumental in helping one of her salespeople create an award-winning recognition campaign, "You Rock," for Time Warner Cable.

DaCasso's Donny West, not one to stand on ceremony, has dressed as a cow (yep) to garner publicity for his company at trade shows, and Proforma's Karen Phillips proves that old-school marketing techniques – sending personalized greeting cards – still have the juice to garner crazy amounts of new business. Lindsey Whitney runs her company, Solar Advertising, with an eye as focused on her community as it is on the bottom line, donating a percentage of her profits to clean water initiatives and animal welfare organizations.

Mary Bostwick, Delta Apparel's Swiss army knife of a multitasker, oversees its catalog, advertising and trade show efforts, as well as supporting the national sales team and determining fashion trends for Delta's line. Matt Waterman, marketing director at Hanesbrands Inc., spearheads the compelling marketing for such heavy hitting names as Hanes, Outerbanks and Champion. And then there's Virgo III's Wendi Platt, who's parlayed her love of running marathons into penetrating that niche with ad specialty sales and making it a thriving revenue stream for her company. The people on this page make the incredibly challenging job of marketing seem astonishingly goof-proof. To them, who've raised the bar in the industry, we raise a glass.

Click here for a separate link to MARKETING MAVERICKS


The Next Wave

If there's one question that defines this industry it's "What's New?" Suppliers hear it on a constant loop from their clients when they exhibit at industry trade shows, and distributors are forever being grilled by their clients about the latest and greatest product offerings.

But we invite you to contemplate an equally crucial aspect to the "What's New?" query: The people that populate the industry. As with any smart business, a succession plan is key to its success. With that in mind, we present to you people who've shown – through their ability to galvanize others as change-makers – their commitment to the future of our industry.

Jeff Hinds, now only 29, has been with Rainkist since he graduated college at 21. When the industry collectively whines that young people aren't gravitating to our business, he begs to differ. He declares his love for the industry and says he's here to stay.

Josh Goodelman, omnipresent at shows and after-hours events alike, is poised to take the reins of his family's company, Liqui-Mark, and shepherd it into its next incarnation using his formidable social media, networking and marketing skills to cultivate new relationships for the industry overall. Rhea Aslin, with Counselor Top 40 supplier SanMar, is spearheading the company's foray into street-wise, cutting-edge apparel for juniors and young men with its just-launched District line.

A devotee of golf and the movie Old School, that doesn't stop Scott Alterman, owner of distributor The Icebox, from focusing as much on work as play, carving out a portion of his company's resources for civic and charitable causes. Anthony San Martino, son of the owners of Genesis, works in the trenches at his family's business, not content to be handed a titled position without paying his dues. Frenchman Bruce Coustillas, owner of Frenchy Stars, brings his unique brand of savoir faire to his bling-based business and his networking, cutting quite a wake through the industry in a very short amount of time.

And John Hurley? Well, he started his business, Campus Cups, as a freshman in college. With that kind of ambition and drive, he could have gone into any profession, yet he's chosen ours. And for that, as well as the other Gen Nexters on this page, the industry sighs with relief.

Click here for a separate link to THE NEXT WAVE