Growth has been fueling the ad specialty market for a few years now. In fact, the industry has surpassed its record annual revenues, and in 2013 steamed past a major milestone with distributors reaching $20.5 billion in sales.
And, with that success, some in the market are capitalizing. They’re finding fast success, creating new opportunities, and identifying new ways to spread their wings. They’re the ones that are helping their companies – and the industry as a whole – to grow quickly.
Welcome to the 2014 Power 50. These are the movers and shakers of the ad specialty market, helping to set the industry’s agenda at the same time as being influential and successful players. They not only inspire their own employees, but they make others in the market – competitors, clients, and vendors alike – change the way they do business.
On the following pages, you’ll find the rankings along with reasons for why they place where they do on the list. Indicated along with each profile is where they placed on last year’s list, to reflect their changing influence on the market. Rankings are often based on a survey Counselor conducts, which asks the industry and the Power 50 members themselves to rate whether each person on last year’s list has gained or lost influence over the past 12 months.
Turn the page to see the 2014 Power 50, as well as how the influential executives foresee the industry changing in the coming years and what they believe are the market’s biggest challenges as it turns the calendar to 2015. Plus – for some fun – check out their latest vacation spots, what books they’ve read recently, and what their childhood selves wanted to be when they grew up.
1 - Marty Lott & Jeremy Lott
2013 Rank: 2
The Lotts, in charge of industry apparel powerhouse SanMar, take over the top spot for 2014 after garnering tremendous influence ratings in Counselor’s survey of the Power 50 members and the industry overall. The duo led SanMar to take home five Counselor Distributor Choice Awards this year, a testament to the legendary customer service that distributors have become accustomed to receiving from the Pacific Northwest-based supplier.
2 - Kevin Lyons-Tarr
2013 Rank: 4
The head of the largest online distributor in the industry jumps two spots in this year’s ranking, thanks to high influence ratings from his fellow Power 50 members. As he has seen his company through massive success – 78% revenue growth over the past five years – 4imprint has capitalized on a business model that others in the market are desperately trying to emulate.
3 - Michael Bernstein & David Nicholson
2013 Rank: 3
The duo in charge of supplier organization Polyconcept North America maintain their top-three spot after garnering high influence ratings from the industry and leading their company to 7% revenue growth last year. After adding Trimark Sportswear to its coffers a couple of years ago, the supplier has become a major player in nearly every category in the industry.
4 - Marc Simon
HALO Branded Solutions (asi/356000)
2013 Rank: 1
While HALO Branded Solutions continues its high-growth pattern (41% sales growth in the past five years), Simon falls three spots on this year’s ranking after receiving moderate influence ratings on the Counselor survey. Also, Simon’s one year as chairman of PPAI has come to an end, giving him more time to focus on the fast success of his company.
5 - Greg Muzzillo & Vera Muzzillo
2013 Rank: 5
The husband-and-wife team that founded and operate Proforma have turned their company into the second-largest distributor in the industry following revenue growth of nearly 50% over the past five years. The Muzzillos also received high influence ratings from Power 50 members this year, helping them to maintain their top-five standing on the rankings.
6 - Bill Schmidt Sr., CJ Schmidt & Bill Schmidt Jr.
Hit Promotional Products (asi/61125)
2013 Rank: 12
The family at the helm of Hit Promotional Products has turned their supplier firm into a hyper-growth juggernaut. Revenues have grown by nearly 200% in the past five years (including 16% last year), and now surpass $200 million. The success propels this trio into the top 10 of the Power 50 for the first time.
7 - Gene Geiger & Jo-an Lantz
2013 Rank: 7
Geiger and Lantz maintain their solid position in the Power 50’s top 10 after receiving high influence ratings from their fellow Power 50 members and the industry at large. Geiger has also grown its sales by 13% over the past five years, and has helped to focus its efforts on the distributor side of the business after recently selling off its SunGraphix supplier division.
8 - Jonathan Isaacson
2013 Rank: 9
Isaacson jumps one spot in the Power 50 this year after receiving high influence ratings from the industry overall. Also, Isaacson has recently helped to bring some major brand names to the market – as Gemline has begun selling products from brands such as Isaac Mizrahi, Igloo and Brookstone.
9 - David Woods
AIA Corporation (asi/109480)
2013 Rank: 10
Woods solidifies his position in the Power 50 top 10 after steering his company to solid growth and turning the headquarters office into a perennial member of Counselor’s Best Places to Work list. Sales at AIA Corporation have grown by more than 50% over the past five years, and now are nearing the $150 million mark.
10 - Norm Hullinger
2013 Rank: 11
Hullinger, the winner of Counselor’s Person of the Year award in 2014, has successfully managed his company through major changes recently: new brand name, new logo, high-level brand integrations and major acquisitions. It was all capped earlier this year when the newly named alphabroder purchased fellow Top 40 supplier Ash City. Not one to sit back and wait, Hullinger expects further change and even more growth for the largest supplier in the market for years to come.
11 - Bob Lederer, Jeff Lederer, Rick Brenner & Paula Shulman
Prime Line (asi/79530)
2013 Rank: 14
The group that heads up Prime Line jumps three spots on this year’s Power 50 after receiving very high influence ratings from both the Power 50 members and the industry at-large. Being outspoken voices on product safety and compliance, as well as rapidly expanding their offerings to the industry, seems to have paid off for the Prime Line posse. It didn’t hurt that they added supplier firms Points of Light, ROI Line by Source Abroad and Get it Global earlier this year.
12 - Ross Silverstein
2013 Rank: 13
Jumping one spot from last year, Silverstein is gaining on the Power 50 thanks to the rapid growth of his company. iPROMOTEu jumped five spots on this year’s Top 40 when it surpassed $100 million in revenues for the first time – the result represented sales growth of 20% last year and 122% over the past five years.
13 - Rich Witaszak
Staples Promotional Products (asi/120601)
2013 Rank: 8
Counselor estimates show revenue at Staples Promotional Products to have surpassed $430 million in 2013, making it the largest distributor in the ad specialty industry. With that heft comes power for Witaszak, although the industry and the Power 50 gave him lower influence ratings, which dropped him five spots on this year’s list. Also, will the parent company’s announcement that it is closing 140 stores this year have any impact on the promotional product sector?
14 - Jack Ma & Jonathan Lu
2013 Rank: 19
Ma, chairman of Alibaba, and Lu, the CEO of the company, oversee one of the largest and most successful companies in the world. With a public offering launching in September that was one of the biggest of all time and sales growth every quarter this year exceeding 40%, the China-based e-commerce company has hit its stride. And it’s coming to the U.S. in a big way, following its June unveiling of 11main.com, a site through which small businesses can sell their products. Expect even more ventures to expand Alibaba into U.S. businesses, including the facilitating of sales of promotional products.
15 - Trevor Gnesin
2013 Rank: 15
Gnesin maintains his spot on the Power 50 after receiving positive influence ratings from the industry at large. The industry innovator is betting on a whole new service to expand his profile in the coming year. In June, Logomark introduced MyLogomark Marketing Hub, a software program that allows distributors the ability to create custom catalogs, marketing materials and custom packaging options.
16 - Edgar Hernandez & Emmanuel Bruno
BIC Graphic (asi/40480)
2013 Rank: 22
Hernandez, who oversees all of BIC’s global promotional products business, and Bruno, who manages the company’s vast North American operation, jump six slots on this year’s Power 50 as they’ve begun to turn around the company’s ad specialty business. In fact, BIC Graphic is showing revenue growth in 2014 for the first time in five years, and this duo’s influence ratings jumped in Counselor’s survey as a result.
17 - Jay Deutsch & Eric Bensussen
2013 Rank: 6
The duo in charge of BDA, the fourth-largest distributor in the industry, drops 11 spots from last year’s ranking, as the company’s North American ad specialty revenues have fallen from $313 million in 2011 to $275 million in 2013. Deutsch and Bensussen also received low influence ratings from the Power 50 members and the overall industry, as the company has gone through financial issues this year.
18 - Amin Rahman & Alan Tabasky
2013 Rank: N/A
The highest-ranking newcomers to the 2014 Power 50 join the list after BEL USA acquired Top 40 distributor Branders.com in February of this year. That makes BEL USA a major player on both the supplier side (with BEL Promo) and the distributor side (with DiscountMugs.com and Branders.com) of the ad specialty business. Will this company’s model of supplier and distributor ownership, as well as a laser focus on e-commerce, become the norm in the industry? Or will it be shot down by the market’s traditionalists? Time will tell, but for now Rahman and Tabasky are certainly making powerful moves that the market is noticing.
19 - Glenn Chamandy
2013 Rank: 16
While Chamandy oversees a $2 billion (yes, with a B) operation in Gildan, his profile in the market is not so well known, which is why his influence ratings in the Counselor survey were low compared to the size of his company. However, Gildan T-shirts are ubiquitous in this market, and his company’s recent acquisitions of Anvil Knitwear and decorator New Buffalo Shirt Factory are only increasing Gildan’s impact on the industry overall.
20 - Eric Belcher
2013 Rank: 17
InnerWorkings, with Belcher in the CEO seat, has expanded its business in both the ad specialty industry and the print and point-of-sale markets by more than double digits in recent years. It’s ad specialty business has grown by 50% in the past five years, and the company is now the 11th-largest distributor in the industry. Will its model of mixing print business with promotional products be emulated by others? Belcher is certainly a believer.
21 - Ira Neaman
Vantage Apparel (asi/93390)
2013 Rank: 18
The head of Vantage Apparel, the perennial Counselor Distributor Choice Award winner in the Decorated Apparel category, falls three spots on this year’s list after receiving lower influence ratings than others around him on the list in this year’s Counselor Power 50 survey.
22 - Sharon, Taly & Ely Eyal
ETS Express (asi/51197)
2013 Rank: 21
The family in charge of Top 40 supplier ETS Express oversees a continuously growing and influential supplier of drinkware. In fact, ETS has grown its ad specialty revenues by more than 100% in the past five years, doubling its business in a single product category from $24 million in 2009 to more than $50 million last year.
23 - Joe Fleming
Hub Pen (asi/61966)
2013 Rank: 27
Fleming continues his rise up the Power 50, jumping four spots on this year’s list after receiving positive influence ratings from both his fellow Power 50 members as well as the industry at large. His company has increased its revenues by more than 70% over the past five years, and won Counselor’s Supplier of the Year award in 2012.
24 - Jason Black
Boundless Network (asi/143717)
2013 Rank: 23
While Black’s influence took a dip in ratings from the Power 50 and the industry at large, he oversees a growing Top 40 distributor firm – Boundless Network grew its revenues by 8% last year and by 78% over the past five years.
25 - Mike Rhodes
Bodek and Rhodes (asi/40788)
2013 Rank: 20
Rhodes drops five spots on this year’s Power 50 after receiving lower influence ratings from the Power 50 and the industry overall this year. However, he oversees the sixth-largest supplier in the industry, and Bodek and Rhodes increased its revenues by 12% last year and by 68% between 2009 and 2013.
26 - Craig Callaway
2013 Rank: 24
Callaway is the CEO of eCompanyStore and Instawares Holding Company, an organization that has more than $130 million in revenues. While eCompanyStore, a perennial member of Counselor’s Best Places to Work list, has fallen out of the Top 40 in recent years, its business model of running online stores for clients has certainly received the highest form of flattery lately.
27 - Bill Korowitz
The Magnet Group (asi/68507)
2013 Rank: 34
Korowitz, an economist who received high influence ratings from the industry and the Power 50 members, jumps seven spots on this year’s list after leading his company to 11% revenue growth last year. The consistent winner of Counselor Distributor Choice Awards, The Magnet Group also won Counselor’s Supplier of the Year award in 2013.
28 - Alan Vaught
Evans Manufacturing (asi/52840)
2013 Rank: 25
While the head of Evans Manufacturing received influence ratings a bit lower than last year, Vaught continues to lead a company that is a model of efficiency on the supplier side of the market. It has used technology to quickly ramp-up its operations, and the result has been rewarded with consistent wins of Counselor Distributor Choice Awards.
29 - Marc Roy & Alan Chippindale
2013 Rank: 33
Roy and Chippindale, who lead the fast-growing distributor firm BrandAlliance, received positive influence ratings this year from their fellow Power 50 members, moving them up four spots on the 2014 Power 50. The company has increased its sales by more than 50% in the past five years, and is now the second-largest distributor organization in Canada.
30 - Kurt Kaeser & Gregg Emmer
Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600)
2013 Rank: 28
The duo in charge of Top 40 distributor Kaeser & Blair have led their company to 4% revenue growth last year and 24% sales increases since 2009. The company has grown its profile in recent years, after winning Counselor’s Distributor Family Business of the Year in 2011 and late that same year acquiring West Coast distributor firm The Singleton Company.
31 - David Thompson
National Pen (asi/281040)
2012 Rank: 31
Thompson maintains his spot on the list after leading his company to 5% sales growth last year and receiving good influence ratings from the Power 50. The industry at large, though, isn’t as familiar with Thompson, who leads National Pen, the seventh-largest distributor firm in the market with $160 million in 2013 sales.
32 - Paul Bellantone
2013 Rank: 36
As the CEO of industry association PPAI, Bellantone received high influence ratings from both the industry and the members of the Power 50 in Counselor’s survey. As a result, he continues his rise up this year’s Power 50 list, jumping four spots on the rankings.
33 - Paul Lage
Gill Studios (asi/56950)
2013 Rank: 35
Lage, who received positive influence ratings from both the industry overall and the members of the Power 50, jumps two spots on the list following his company’s acquisition of the assets of former Top 40 company Barton Nelson, which had closed amid financial troubles earlier this year. The purchase will make Gill an even larger player in the market in the years to come, as it expects the additional revenue from the deal to increase the company’s overall sales by at least 20%.
34 - Jack So
Hong Kong Trade Development Council
2013 Rank: 26
The HKTDC runs multiple trade shows that impact and service the ad specialty market, including the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair. However, So, the leader of the organization, drops eight spots on this year’s Power 50 after receiving significantly lower influence ratings from both the Power 50 members and the industry at large.
35 - Ted Stahl
2013 Rank: 30
A newcomer to the Power 50 last year, Stahl is the head of GroupeSTAHL, the largest international manufacturer of heat-printing products and services that complement embroidery and screen printing. He falls five spots on this year’s list, though, after garnering lower ratings of influence from the industry overall. However, Stahl is a decorating technology pioneer and has led the way with new printing processes and technologies.
36 - Chuck Fandos
2013 Rank: N/A
Fandos, who runs perennial Counselor Best Places to Work member GatewayCDI, comes back to the Power 50 this year after dropping off the list for the last few years. Many nominations from fellow Power 50 members this year, as well as Fandos’ increase in influence thanks to his leadership with The Facilis Group, a technology and consulting company for industry distributors, put him firmly back onto the Power 50 ranking.
37 - Jim Hagan
2013 Rank: 39
The head of Top 40 supplier Sweda has overseen a growing company (5% last year and 25% over the past five years), one that has continuously introduced new and unique products to the industry. It’s also on the cutting edge of technology products, following its recently announced partnership with supplier firm BrandCharger to carry the company’s full line of power banks and charger products.
38 - Mark Godsey & Kim Newell
Gold Bond (asi/57653)& World Wide Line (asi/98290)
2013 Rank: 42
Newell, who has been on the Power 50 since 2010, is joined on this year’s list by Mark Godsey after Gold Bond acquired World Wide in July. While the two supplier firms will operate separately and run different product lines, the combined revenues of the organization will make it a top 40 supplier in the industry, as well as one that annually wins Counselor Distributor Choice Awards.
39 - Fred Parker
A Brand Company
2013 Rank: 41
Parker, whose A Brand Company is the parent to Activate! Marketing + Promotions as well as Grapevine Designs, has grown his company into a $31 million distributor in 2013. It also recently announced a partnership with Top 40 Canadian distributor BrandAlliance to sell in the U.S. market under the BrandAlliance USA name.
40 - Rick Mouty
2013 Rank: 40
Profill Holdings, the parent company of wearables suppliers such as TSC Apparel, WearMagic and LightHouse Apparel, has increased its business so dramatically over the past five years (nearly 50% revenue growth) that it is now the 11th-largest supplier in the market. Mouty, who has been with the company since 2001, has become a growing influence in the apparel sector of the ad specialty market.
41 - Lori Kates
EBSCO Promotional Products
2012 Rank: N/A
A newcomer to the Power 50 last year, Kates oversees EBSCO Promotional Products, the parent company to supplier firms Vitronic Promotional Group and Crown Product. Kates won Counselor’s Supplier Woman of Distinction award last year, and her organization increased its revenues in 2013 by 7% to surpass $66 million.
42 - Dan Craig
Accolade Promotion Group (asi/102905)
2013 Rank: 38
The head of Accolade Promotion Group, the largest revenue-generating distributor in Canada, drops four spots on the 2014 Power 50, after receiving lower influence ratings in Counselor’s survey. The company, though, figures to grow in influence in the coming years, following its announcement in December 2013 that it was entering the U.S. market through a partnership with its parent company, Golfsmith International.
43 - Chris Vernon
The Vernon Company (asi/351700)
2013 Rank: 43
Vernon maintains his spot on this year’s Power 50 after being promoted to president and co-CEO of this 112-year-old industry distributor. Vernon also received good influence ratings from his fellow Power 50 members, and has grown his company’s revenues by 20% over the past five years.
44 - Bill Smith Jr.
Brown & Bigelow
2013 Rank: 50
A newcomer to last year’s list, Smith jumps six spots on the Power 50 after continuing a string of acquisitions for his company. It purchased JSA Promos in September 2013 and then followed that with an acquisition of CPI Promotions this past January. And the industry has noticed, as fellow Power 50 members rated Smith with increasing influence within the past year.
45 - Billy Dolan
2013 Rank: 32
After receiving lower influence ratings on Counselor’s Power 50 survey and overseeing a 20% sales decline at the former Camsing Global in 2013, Dolan drops 13 spots on this year’s ranking. However, in August he engineered a buyout of Camsing by Capital Supply Group, which then created a partnership with Top 40 supplier Sunscope to manage the former Camsing supplier brands. Now, Dolan is overseeing Aprinta, a new organization that is managing the Fruit of the Loom and Russell Athletic factory in Alabama, which gives his organization a foothold in the apparel side of the market.
46 - Mitch Mounger
Sunrise Identity (asi/339206)
2013 Rank: N/A
Another newcomer to the 2014 Power 50, Mounger is a well-known industry distributor who has led his company to fast growth and now sits as a $30 million firm based in the Seattle area. The company has been a member of the Counselor Best Places to Work list since its inception, and even ranked as the top workplace in the industry in 2009. Mounger and Sunrise count major brands such as Starbucks, Microsoft, Nokia, and Gillette as clients.
47 - Maribeth Sandford
Bag Makers (asi/37940)
2013 Rank: 47
Sandford maintains her spot on the 2014 Power 50 after receiving mixed influence ratings – an increase from the industry at large and a decrease from the Power 50 members. Bag Makers, though, has ridden the wave of reusable bags to become a $50 million supplier in the industry. Also, Sandford was named the winner of Counselor’s Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
48 - Larry Zavadil & Justin Zavadil
American Solutions For Business (asi/120075)
2013 Rank: 49
Larry Zavadil is joined on this year’s list by his son, Justin, who has increasingly taken over day-to-day operational responsibilities for this Top 40 distributor. The company surpassed $100 million in North American ad specialty revenues in 2013, and now ranks as the 14th-largest distributor in the industry.
49 - Eric Rubin
Blue Generation (asi/40653)
2013 Rank: 45
As a major player in the uniform sector of the industry, Rubin oversees Blue Generation, which grew its revenues by 2% last year and by 18% over the past five years. Rubin, though, drops four spots on the Power 50 after receiving lower influence ratings this year in the Counselor survey.
50 - Dov Charney
American Apparel (asi/35297)
2013 Rank: 46
The man with nine lives? In a board of directors shake-up, Charney was removed as CEO of American Apparel earlier this year, but has been making moves behind the scenes to come back to the company he founded. He struck a deal with equity firm Standard General in which he gave them control of his ownership shares in the company and they purchased additional shares to give the investor a 43% stake in American Apparel. While Standard General has not promised anything to Charney, it is conducting an investigation into his actions and said it could still re-appoint Charney to some position in the company pending the results of that investigation. Our bet? Charney comes back in a leadership role.