RuMe BrandSuite (asi/82700) co-founder Katy Lee is fond of saying “eco can be fashionable.” Indeed, in her company’s case, it can also be quite the growth generator. Between 2014 and 2016 – the supplier’s first years in the promo market – RuMe increased its sales by a mind-blowing 513%. How did this environmentally conscious Colorado-based company do it? With incredibly stylish products and a client-knows-best approach.
Katy and Jae Lee
“We look at distributors as our sales team – they’re the key to our success,” says Dan Frailey, RuMe BrandSuite’s president. “When we came into this industry, we didn’t say ‘here’s how we’re going to do it.’ We wanted to know from distributors how to do it. That’s made all the difference for us in creating relationships and finding success.”
Retail Darling to Promo Power
No doubt, it would’ve been natural for a flourishing consumer products company like RuMe – which is short for ReUseMe – to follow its own blueprint for gains. After all, by 2014, the firm had already become a retail darling, first in boutiques and gift shops and later on shelves at Target, The Container Store and Whole Foods. RuMe’s tote bags, which often show up on magazine covers and in social media posts on the arms of celebrities, were so unique that Shutterfly wanted to sell personalized versions of them on its website. But while the RuMe story may have started at retail, its brand has found a home in B2B.
“Before 2014, we occasionally took orders from promotional products distributors, but we decided we wanted to make promo a primary focus for RuMe,” says Frailey. “So we built dedicated teams to support the channel, including business development, project management, creative and marketing.”
As a supplier, RuMe first went to market under the brand name RuMe PROMOsales – with the word PROMO in all caps to highlight that the division “was all about working within the industry and nothing else,” Frailey says. “We stopped accepting inbound orders from direct corporate marketer clients, choosing to rely exclusively on our relationships with distributors.”
The firm has since morphed its promo name into RuMe BrandSuite, which represents “our vision for the future of what a promo industry supplier should be,” Frailey says. Behind that new vision is a tried-and-true formula that RuMe has perfected: a dedication to personal service, a fast response policy, a litany of name-brand products, and a creative team that delivers one-of-a-kind, presentation-grade virtual mocks and custom designs. RuMe’s staff responds to distributors’ questions in 30 minutes or less, returns complimentary virtuals in less than 24 hours and ships spec samples in less than 48 hours.
“We have a really dynamic team here and we’re extremely specialized in our roles,” says Frailey. “For example, we’ve articulated roles for building relationships, for establishing who RuMe is, and for providing the best service experience for our customers.”
With Katy Lee and her husband Jae at the helm, RuMe has now grown its staff to 70 people, including the recent addition of John McLauchlin as VP of operations. “He’s going to take us to another level,” Frailey says. RuMe’s president also singles out Nicole Hite, who heads the supplier’s marketing team, along with national sales manager Tiffany Tushar, project team manager Margo Benson, key account lead Becky Blyth, and Daphne Brown, RuMe’s director of sales operations, who “empowers our team with data and analytics to make everything we do more intelligent.”
Praise & Planning
Unquestionably, RuMe’s staff and market approach is constantly winning over distributors. One customer, Ben Johnson, an account executive at Top 40 firm HALO Branded Solutions (asi/356000), is effusive in his praise of the supplier. “RuMe rewrote the book for being different, in a good way,” Johnson says. “Their products scream retail, their decoration is unique and their prices are surprisingly affordable for what you get. At a time when the industry was getting stale, they came in and breathed fresh air into the mix. The old adage stating you can’t have great service, great product and great pricing doesn’t apply here. You don’t have to just pick two.”
Another distributor client, Brand+Aid’s (asi/145193) Renya Nelson, credits Frailey with elevating RuMe’s already impressive operation. “Dan has built an amazing team at RuMe that’s dedicated to helping distributors win,” says Nelson, Brand+Aid’s CEO. “They are relentlessly speedy with quotes, experts at mock-ups that include additional product concepts that make your clients swoon. It doesn’t hurt that their website is clean and their product shots are the best. They get behind products you can trust – once you close a deal, client satisfaction is guaranteed.”
Playing to its myriad of cheering fans, RuMe BrandSuite insists on not only being progressive, but industry leading. The firm has expanded its product offerings beyond totes, now offering backpacks, travel scarfs and key tags, among other items. Of course, all of them are designed with reliability and sustainability in mind – manufactured from quality materials, marked by clean lines, pops of color and precision branding options. The firm, which its owners originally launched on Earth Day, aims to satisfy environmentally conscious buyers who refuse to sacrifice style and functionality for sustainability. “Our products are durable and well-made, but also affordable. We don’t want our promo products to let anyone down,” Frailey says.
RuMe is increasingly crafting many of those promo products, by the way, in the U.S. Why? The firm smartly sees the value of domestically produced lines that allow for completely custom designs at low minimums with quick turnarounds. “We’re committed to moving forward and being better tomorrow than today,” Frailey says.
Another way RuMe is innovating is through its soon-to-be-live site pop. brandsuite.co. An ordering platform for distributors, the site will provide “quick and direct access to customization capabilities,” Frailey says. The site will be up later this year.
Through tech advances in the short-term and planned operational efficiencies down the road, RuMe BrandSuite has its sights set on remaining a cut above the rest. “We want to lead the supplier side of the industry into the next decade with better offerings across all product categories,” Frailey says. “That means either the hottest items from retail or originals designed from scratch for the client and values that resonate with millennial audiences.”
And if you think Frailey has set the bar high, listen to what co-founder Jae Lee expects: “RuMe is destined for greatness,” he says.
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