I Believe: Stephanie Woods

The who, what and wear of industry experts

… Women have a lot more options these days: I think the apparel industry has taken notice that more buyers and recipients of branded apparel are women, and they want styles and cuts that are more suited to complement their body shapes.

… The Golden Rule still applies: I do my best to treat everyone as I would want to be treated. I think you get what you give, and I try to be considerate and courteous to others, remembering to say “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me.” I also have a tendency to smile at strangers. It always makes me feel good, and hopefully it does the same for them.

… The ad specialty industry is never boring: Like many others, I found myself in the industry by accident. I was working for a major entertainment studio that purchased premiums and loved the creativity and fun that went into developing the products. I soon ended up on the distributor side. I never get bored, and I can use my firsthand experience as a buyer to help clients through the process.

… Opportunity doesn’t just knock: My daughter belongs to a local NHL team’s kids club. By chance, the club contacted me to get her T-shirt size for a giveaway. I saw the opportunity to introduce myself as a premiums distributor and asked if they’d be open to a new resource. The following season, I was thrilled to provide two items in the kids club kit and have been proud to have them as a client since.

… Price shouldn’t trump quality: Most of my clients are looking to find quality products on fairly lean budgets. I try to remind them that the product selected is a representation of their brand to the public and they don’t want to make a poor impression with low-quality goods.

… Mother knows best: The person I admire most is my mom. Like any mother-daughter relationship we’ve had our ups and downs, but she’s always my biggest supporter and advocate.

… The Internet brings new challenges: The Internet is changing the way we do business and creating more competition. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve developed solid relationships with my clients and have a strong enough reputation as an expert resource that it doesn’t come up often. The more I can establish myself as a reliable and creative source, the less I have to worry about my clients shopping around online.

… Retail is setting the tone: When it comes to decoration trends, more graphic elements are being added than the standard left-chest logo. It’s a great way to be more creative in presenting apparel decoration to clients and to offer more of a wow factor.

… Social media works: Social media is a great way to boost your business and establish your own brand. I specifically like Pinterest and creating boards for themes or events that many of my clients participate in. I had an order for an annual golf tournament come directly from a product that was showcased on our golf items board.

… It’s all about networking: Whether you partner with a large company or go out on your own, having a strong support network is critical. There’s a lot to this business, and knowing who you can rely on to help with ideas or just lend an ear is crucial. I highly recommend getting involved with your regional associations.

… Finding balance is important: I love yoga and Pilates. This job can be stressful, and I find that both are a great way of getting a good workout while also focusing on slowing down.

… High-end products are great motivators: My client developed a wellness program for employees where they had to complete different challenges, and at each level, there was a gift. Employees who completed all the challenges received a limited-edition embroidered jacket. The employees were extremely motivated to participate with such a high-end reward waiting for them. Of 250 employees, more than 150 qualified for their jackets.

… You can have it all: Being a single mom was a defining factor when accepting my first sales position in ad specialty. By having a flexible schedule and setting my own hours, I was able to attend all of my daughter’s events and volunteer for her field trips while still being productive and successful in business. I’m so grateful I didn’t have to miss out on her big moments.