Distributor Entrepreneur of Year: Fred Parker

Meet Activate's Fred Parker

Fred ParkerIn 1995, Fred Parker jumped into the business world with both feet ... firmly planted in a pair of Wigwam Socks. Parker's first company was the sole representative of those socks to the golf industry, a market that the hosiery company had largely ignored. And while he was living an entrepreneurial dream, there were problems. "We were being paid a commission, yet we had to pay independent contractors a commission as well as cover operating expenses," he says. "The business model was just flawed."

Rather than throw in the towel, or socks as it were, Parker and his partners looked for other business opportunities. "We saw logos everywhere, so that was just a gut feel," Parker says. "When you're young and right out of college, you're doing anything just to figure out how to get a paycheck. It just started from there." Besides the excitement promotional products offered, the business model was something that worked for the company.

Since then, the growth has been nothing short of amazing – in 2010 the company realized sales growth of 26%, followed up by a 12% increase in 2011. And though with nearly $27 million in 2011 revenues, he considers Activate! Promotions & Marketing (formerly Bluegrass Promotional Marketing, asi/141964) to be a small company, Parker says it's the sophisticated approach to business that has a huge effect on the work environment. "There's definitely a level of respect that's mutual throughout the entire organization, no matter what your position is, what your role is," Parker says. "That just breeds a lot of positive things in a work environment."

That work environment has changed over the last five years with large investments in the infrastructure – a new CRM system, voice-over IP system, communication system, etc. Most recently, a rebranding effort that has been years in the making has officially launched. "I think it's a new beginning," he says. "Our upgraded approach was very calculated, and we wanted to start it with our sales folks. It has invigorated new life and more energy into the sales force. That's a by-product I wasn't thinking of when we made the decision to do it."

Because of this, the future looks bright. "I didn't think we would grow it to where we are," Parker says, "but I think we're just getting started."