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When Opportunity Knocks: "How I Got Into the Promo Business"

How Paula Gossett made the transition from ER nurse to promotional products distributor.

The wildly popular medical show ER, which featured a young George Clooney and  ran on television from 1994-2009, was a realistic depiction of what it was like to work in a hospital emergency room. So says Paula Gossett, an ER nurse for nearly three years who went on to spend 32 years in the promotional products industry after making the most of an excellent business opportunity. “Working in an ER is like being inside a popcorn popper,” Paula says. “Things are flying around all over the place and you have no idea what’s going on. It looks like chaos from the outside. But from the inside it’s a well-orchestrated scenario.”

Gossett worked in an ER in New York City, located in the Bronx on the ominously named Gun Hill Road.

“We saw a tremendous amount of overdose cases,” Paula says.“The city bus would pull up outside and the driver would indicate us to bring over wheelchairs for all the people who’d overdosed and taken the bus.

Gossett also got to deal with the homeless population.

“The police would do sweeps of the park, and bring us all the homeless people,” she says. “We’d have to get their clothes off them and delouse them.” Then there were the elderly.

“We tended to see the same older people come back again and again,” she says. “ This one lady would come in with a pulmonary edema, and we’d know she’d been out to her favorite deli eating her favorite chicken soup that was too salty and always caused her condition to flare up.”

When Gossett became pregnant, she kept working in the ER, until a couple incidents caused her to clock out. The first time, she was doing CPR on a patient when a runaway stretcher hit her in the stomach. The baby was okay. After that, somebody handed her a sick baby full of spots. Those spots turned out to be German measles, and Gossett hadn’t been vaccinated for measles as an adult.

She spent a very scary two weeks before determining that she and her unborn child had not been infected.

Gossett wanted to go back to the ER after her kids were born. But that meant working nights, holidays and weekends. She started to look around for alternative opportunities.

“I did what every good Long Island woman does – went to get my nails done,” she says. “I asked my manicurist if she knew of opportunities for anybody looking to hire part-time workers. Turns out Sharon Tallif had just left the chair right before me.”

Tallif ran Prestige Promotions in North Massapequa, and was looking for inside support staff. Tallif hired Gossett on the spot, over the phone.

“Sharon would go out and sell, and I’d process the orders,” says Gossett. “Even though at the beginning I had no idea what an invoice was. Those were different times. You had to make copies at the library, and it cost a quarter. Processing time was like four to six weeks. It was like shipping by Pony Express.”

When Gossett moved to Florida, she interviewed around and was hired by Ad Ease South owner Aviva Suppo. After about a year in the Florida promotional products industry, Suppo pushed Gossett into sales. About six months after that, they became partners.They built the business, and it went through several iterations. Today, Gossett is part of the Geiger (asi/202900) team.

Gossett likes to laugh, and she keeps busy. But is her life as busy as those crazy days in the ER? And did she bring along any life-saving lessons?

“Well, in the ER you learn to shut down your feelings during a crisis,” she says. “ You deal with the situation in a logical manner. You fall apart afterward, once the crisis is over.”