Some are content to carve out a comfortable career, a safe predictable space in which to earn a decent living. Folks, Kelly Stone isn’t among that group.
The owner of The IdeaBox – Powered by Proforma (asi/300094) makes no bones about her ambition. From the days she was flying solo as the founder and only employee of the Oakland Park, FL-based distributorship, Stone had her eyes set on something bigger. “You can make a decent living as a one-man show, but I want more than decent. I want to get as big and profitable as possible while still serving every client correctly,” says Stone.
The last part of that statement holds the key to the success that Stone and her talented team – now seven strong – have engineered over the last several years. They know their ability to prosper is contingent on crafting top-notch solutions that produce ROI for customers – and they’re fanatical about delivering on every order.
It’s a fact to which The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma’s long list of loyal clients – from small businesses to Fortune 500 enterprises – happily attest. “Kelly and her team are exceptional partners,” says Sandra Piedrahita, events and engagement manager at Spirit Airlines Inc. “I’m always amazed that no matter how unique the order, The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma always comes through on finding us the perfect item. Kelly is someone I can rely on and trust to get the job done right every time.”
Piedrahita points to a rush order earlier this year in which she needed custom socks for an annual company charity golf tournament. “In the blink of an eye, Kelly designed and ordered us very special socks that were a big hit at the event,” says Piedrahita. “She had hundreds of gift bags loaded with yellow and black branded socks ready for us in a pinch.”
Such rave reviews provide telling testimony to why The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma has achieved 212% growth between 2015-17, with revenue in seven figures. Stone believes further sales acceleration is in the cards. “Our goal is to keep growing by being a true marketing partner that brings value to our clients,” she says.
A New Door Opens
Things were going south.
It was about years 18 years ago, and the medical software company Stone was working for was hitting hard times amid the dotcom bubble burst. As fortune had it, a headhunter contacted Stone about a sales position in the promotional products field. She took the opportunity, discovering the career that she’s now built for nearly two decades. “I had a mentor who was passionate about the job, and that rubbed off,” she says. “I love helping my clients thrive.”
After working for others, Stone felt confident enough in her expertise to found The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma about five years ago. “I figured if I was going to put as much time, effort and passion as I was into my work, I might as well be working for myself,” says Stone, who affiliated with Proforma for the support the Top 40 distributor provides.
A student of changing marketplace dynamics, Stone believed that to win and retain high-quality clients, The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma would need to provide a suite of solutions. Under her leadership, the firm has evolved into that one-stop shop – a significant factor in the team’s ability to generate client devotion and capture ever more spend from existing accounts while attracting new ones.
“We aim to help clients with all marketing efforts, not just promo and print,” says Stone. “It could be helping with event activation, an email campaign, building a custom tool to explain a new product, or getting their marketing on an e-store platform to help streamline spend and brand control.”
E-stores The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma creates hint at the range of the distributorship’s capabilities. The stores can be stocked with branded apparel, logoed hard goods and an expansive variety of printed marketing collateral. For e-stores, The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma can print-on-demand as clients require and warehouse stock. The Florida firm can also host the stores on private portals, or make them public, allowing fans of clients’ brands to order whatever swag the company wishes.
Additionally, The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma spearheads automated email marketing campaigns for clients and provides soup-to-nuts service on initiatives like customers’ trade show presence, coordinating particulars such as booth design/build, in-booth activities to generate interest and, of course, promo products to hand out.
While promo and print continue to constitute the majority of The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma's revenue – the print category spurred to greater gains with the hiring of VP Tim Clark a few years ago – offering the additional services further interweaves the distributor with clients, keeping competitors at bay. “Being able to meet our clients’ broad marketing needs has been instrumental to our growth,” says Stone.
In recent times, Stone and her team have been communicating about their array of services and products through automated marketing initiatives that increase the firm’s overall visibility, which helped spark sales increases.
Still, The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma doesn’t simply throw the kitchen sink at clients. Rather, once talks begin, Stone and company get consultative, asking meaningful open-ended questions that allow them to understand a client’s goals, needs and true budgetary reality. That client-first approach empowers The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma to draw on its vast capabilities to custom-fit a solution that’s unique to each project. The strategy, practiced consistently, is at the foundation of the impressive sales gains of the last three years.
Going forward, The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma will further this blueprint as it builds sales with household-name clients while balancing the scales of its customer roster by adding more small and medium-size businesses – the latter initiative helped along recently by bringing another locally focused distributor into The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma fold. “We don’t want to be viewed as the pen and T-shirt people,” says Stone. “We want to be perceived as the solution.”
As the sales growth confirms, that’s exactly what The IdeaBox Powered by Proforma is to its clients.