Supplier Family Business of the Year – Lion Circle

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Lion CircleIt was 1984 when Phil Carollo saw the first of his four children, Philip Jr. (Jay), join Lion Circle (asi/67620). Like his father, Jay also started in the shipping department, learning the business from the ground up. They were focused on becoming more efficient and decided to invest in some paper lamination equipment to provide a different type of matchbook to their customers. Jack was the next to join in the shipping department – an area he now oversees, with Jo-Ann and Rich coming to work during school breaks.

But by 1988, the match business was declining due to anti-smoking campaigns. Almost by divine intervention, Phil had gone to Mass and noticed the old church fans in the pews. At the end of the service, he had a plan of what he could do with his existing equipment. In a stroke of perfect timing, the Wall Street Journal ran an article on the reintroduction of church fans as an advertising vehicle just a few weeks later.

Today, Rich leads the day-to-day operations within the organization with oversight from Phil. Jo-Ann now spearheads the company’s internal operations, human resources and financial responsibilities. Currently, all four of Phil Carollo’s adult children are working in the family business full-time.

With the second generation fully engaged, Lion Circle continues to grow and thrive as a family business, experiencing 10% growth for the last four years, with YTD sales stronger than those in 2013. The company has won the Counselor Distributor Choice Award in the Fan category for the past five years, and its new growth is coming from acquisitions as well as new business development. The HaPi Line was integrated in 2007, adding more paper products and promotional headwear; Sam Line was purchased in 2012, adding magnets and plastic substrates.

Rich says that they’ll continue the commitment to make Lion Circle a successful family business for generations to come. “My dad will continue to direct the business and tell us all the crazy new products we should be developing based on a TV show he saw or an idea he had while walking on the beach in Florida. And because our kids will be graduating college in 10 years, I would think a few of them might choose to join us.” – MB