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The Expo East Show Provides Attendees With Unique Business Advice

Expo EastThe Expo East show in Atlantic City provided attendees with unique business advice and a look at industry product trends.

What do human puppets and excitable hitchhikers have to do with running a business? More than you think, as attendees of Expo East found out at a speech given by humorist and workplace expert Joel Zeff. At a reception following the first day of open exhibits of the show (which ran from May 19-22), Zeff played improvisational games with members of the crowd to drive home lessons ranging from rewarding employees to embracing change.

In one comedic game, two volunteers had to make sound effects for the actions that Zeff and an industry member were performing onstage. Zeff explained how it ties into the importance of working together to achieve a common goal and looking for ways to help others.

"If you're out there helping people be successful, they will remember you," said Zeff, the author of Make the Right Choice. "And I promise you, it will come back around."

Another game highlighted the need for opportunity and support in pushing employees to be their best. Zeff noted how his volunteers thrived in their roles with the support of the audience. "When you put those two things together, opportunity and support, that's what we all want out of a job," he said.

The keynote speech was part of the rebranded Expo East, the new name given to the Promotions East show that is jointly run by PPAI and SAAGNY. Under their agreement, PPAI has taken on responsibility for the production and growth of the event.

"You cannot have an event like Expo East without recognizing the traditions that got us here," said PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, acknowledging the 16-year history of the Promotions East show.

The goal of the show, said Bellantone, is "to answer the industry's call for The PPAI Expo show experience on the East Coast while delivering a greater return on investment through enhanced access to more education, more suppliers and more distributors."

On the show floor, made-in-the-USA products were an emphasis for a number of suppliers looking to capitalize on recurring concerns over the safety and quality of products sourced overseas. Kencraft Handcrafted Confections (asi/64233) makes its custom lollipops and circus sticks in Alpine, UT. Marni Ruller, promotional products sales manager for the company, notes how major retailers have their candy made a year in advance in places as far away as China. "Our candy is fresh, we have control over the ingredients, and we can change quickly with what the customer wants," Ruller said.

Headwear maker Knit Lab is opening a new factory in Winston-Salem, NC, on July 4. Its winter beanies are made from a circular jacquard knit that allows the supplier to do reverse designs on both sides and add in woven logos, cuffs, pom-poms and other custom touches. "The reason we're here is that the brands we manufacture for have a mandate to make products in the U.S.," said President Christopher Cantasano.

A number of new and innovative products were also on display at the show. Glass-U is a college start-up that features foldable wayfarer sunglasses. "What's really been popular is the foldability of the sunglasses," said Bailey Candell, a principal with the company. "We wanted a cool competitive advantage."

The sunglasses can be color customized on the inside and outside of the frame and each arm. In addition, the company is licensed with the Licensing Resource Group and can work with 185 universities and 81 sororities.

Cell phone and tablet accessories continue to soar in popularity. Supplier firm Thumble debuted a branded home button enhancer for iPhones and iPads that will soon be patent approved. "It makes it ergonomically functional," said Thumble co-owner Dennis Melandro. "The original button is concave. We make an actual button that you can touch and hold onto easier." The button has a self-adhesive backing that can be applied in seconds, and also comes in a promotional sleeve that explains its function.

The next Expo East is scheduled for May 19-21, 2014, in Atlantic City, NJ.