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What kind of mask is the RIGHT kind of mask?

Our world has changed, and we need to adapt and figure it out.  We are working with big changes, social distancing, online learning for our children and wearing a mask – every time we are near other people.  Whatever your feelings on masks – wear one, don’t wear one…..please just educate yourself, especially if you are putting one on a loved one.

There are A LOT of really cute masks with funny sayings on them, if I have to wear one, I want one of those.

Sure, have at it, but chose wisely.  Do NOT chose a mask with ANY kind of print over your mouth and nose!! 

Let me clarify…printed fabric is one thing.  If you are wearing a homemade mask with fun or pretty fabric, chances are the person who made it, washed the fabric first, so you are good.  If not, wash it yourself – still good.  Here’s why – all fabric on the shelf at the store has what’s called ‘sizing’ on it.  It’s a water-soluble chemical used like starch to aid in keeping the fabrics shape and to preserve the color.  Once the fabric is washed, that covering is gone making the fabric softer and safer to wear. 

What about the ones with a cool design that my friend made at home with their home vinyl cutter?

Sure, if the design is placed on your cheek.  If the design is in front of your mouth or nose, you are breathing through Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC, which emits dioxin, a toxic chemical.  While safer to use on other garments, it’s probably not a good idea to have it that close to your air intake.   There ARE non-toxic forms of vinyl available, but I’m guessing it’s probably more expensive and that’s not what most home-crafters are using.  Could be, certainly worth asking the question.

What about the ones that are screen printed or have a printed pattern all over?

Some screen printers (should be all) use ink that has been certified as safe by the rules governing CPSIA – Child Protection Safety Information Act, which means what they are using is non-toxic.  However, a reputable screen printer will STILL print a design on the cheek area.  Think about it, we are already working to breathe through 2-3 layers of fabric and maybe a filter, why add another layer?

As for the ones that are printed all over, same rules apply as rules for screen printers.  And if that’s the one you have, wash it first, then it will be fine to wear.

The bottom line is – please choose wisely.  Use a bit of logic and ask questions if you are not sure.  Above all else stay safe and take care of your family.

Thanks for reading, 

Julie

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Helping clients adapt in a WFH world

We recently had the pleasure of working with one of our clients to help restructure a marketing awareness program, in a world with no trade shows.

The scenario:

The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) at Cohesity, started the year with a targeted and themed marketing plan to create awareness and social media chatter.  They had created and scheduled a series of trainings and events around a Race Circuit Theme, complete with a trip to the Grand Prix in Amsterdam.  In January, we started coming up with race related ideas.  A big piece was around events at VMWorld, one of the largest trade shows in the industry.  We came up with ideas, orders were placed and everything shipped to STK Promotions to be warehoused until trade show season.  Specifically related to VMWorld, we ordered SWAG for two distinct programs.

1 – Eight unique 1/64 scale cars, each roof printed with a letter spelling Cohesity

2 – Car jump starter/battery packs

Then the pandemic happened. 

All of that product was here in our warehouse but the mechanism to hand it all out was gone.  The team had to adapt and get creative. 

The Track Walk (set of 8 cars)

Original Plan:  A scavenger hunt.  At VMWorld, each member of the team would carry a bag of one type of cars and folks would have find each team member and collect the set, one car at a time.

Pandemic Plan:  The team created an online course with eight sections.  It was quick and probably took participants about 20 minutes to complete.  This was not a simple task and they did a lot of work to find the right tools and to pull it all together, but they did it.

How we helped:  Prior to the Track Walk going live, we pre-packed the cars in boxes with a note from the team.  Then when the program started we were ready to go. 

At the end of the Track Walk, participants landed on a form where and were asked to enter their shipping address.  That shipping information was automated to create an order in our shipping software.  At the end of each day, we printed the labels and stuck them on the pre-packaged boxes.

We typically use the customer’s FedEx account to ship any product from our warehouse.  However, this time it made sense to use USPS and save our client several hundred dollars in shipping. 

We packaged and shipped 144 car sets, over the course of two weeks.

vExpert 2020 Gift Program (Car jump starter)

Original Plan:  Again, at VMWorld, folks that have achieved vExpert 2020 would stop by the Cohesity booth, maybe see a demo and talk to a rep, maybe not.  But they would check in to be verified as a vExpert and receive their gift.

Pandemic Plan:  The team had to conjure up some more creativity.  The Track Walk had been very successful, so they created a similar training.  There was an additional step this time, the participants had to be verified.  Team members watched as entries came in and authenticated each participant. When each vExpert completed the course, the process on our end was the same.

How we helped:  Again, shipping information created an order in our shipping tool.  As we had done with the Track Walk, we ordered boxes and proper shipping labels to fit the starter.  We pre-packed the boxes and stacked them back on the shelves.  At the end of each day, we printed labels and scheduled a pickup with FedEx.  

Pre-packing helped a great deal here, as we shipped 134 starters the first day, 56 the second day and as I write this, the last 15 are waiting for the FedEx driver.

We shipped a total of 205 starters in four days.

These were win-win projects for both TAG and STK Promotions.  We were able to provide new fulfillment services for our customer.  And they were able to not only distribute the SWAG they bought BUT they also collected more qualified leads.  On top of that, there has been about 100 mentions per day on Twitter for both Cohesity and STK Promotions, pretty sweet.  Thanks Cohesity, for allowing us to help be a part of the solution.

Thanks for reading, Julie

 

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Introducing FREE Team Pop-Up Shops!

A few months back we had a team of people that wanted to order, pay, and ship individually call us to help out.  As with everything we do things tend to evolve over time and get better.  As we come closer to some yearly technology conferences like VMworld, we get more of these requests.  While the initial solution worked, it lacked a few things that new groups wanted such as:

  • Password protected access
  • Multiple product variations and options
  • Live shipping rates
  • Easy checkout functionality
  • Account based order history
  • Local pickup locations
  • Bundled product options

So what this sounded like was we needed to build a store.  Well, not a full blown store, but what we have started to refer to as Pop-Up Shops.  So how do they work?  We will get into some detail but first watch this short video about them.

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Helping Customers Through Technology

We wanted to share a short story of how we helped a customer with a specific challenge.  This customer problem is not in fact unique and maybe you or someone you know has this same challenge.  If they do after reading this you can see how we are uniquely positioned to help them.  This can be quite a knot to untie.

Project:  Order embroidered team polos based on a single design and model shirt
The Challenges:   These are common with these type of orders

  • Manage and track all the individual sizes
    • Have each individual on the team place their own order based on size and quantity
  • Have each individual pay on their own credit card for expense purposes
  • Ship each order individually to the purchasers

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Understanding The Various Tee Shirt Decorating Processes?

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There can be a lot of confusion around the various processes that decorators use to produce custom items.  Most people understand Embroidery versus Screen printing, but more specifically when it comes to Tee shirts you see two general processes.  Those two general processes are Screen Printing and Heat Press Applied Graphics.  Here at STK Promotions we have also broken down screen printing into two distinct processes we call Spot Color and Special FX screen printing.  So when it comes to your Tee Shirts we effectually give you four total options if you include embroidery, which is possible, but not very common.  Let’s take a quick look at those three processes since each has it’s pros and cons.

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What Are CPSIA Labeling Requirements All About?

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We wanted to take a moment to educate our customers a little bit on what is known as The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and how it affects the printing specifically of YOUTH garments.  This federal Act has a lot of components to it that covers various industries, but we wanted to provide some information specific to the screen printing process.

First and foremost this is a FEDERAL MANDATE and everyone is required to comply with it.  In some cases we have had customers say our pricing is slightly higher on youth garments, and we have explained the CPSIA requirement as part of the reason to no avail and come to find out some other companies are not following this requirement.  That being said, STK Promotions will always comply with this, but there is a slight cost addition to the process for another custom screen that is created PER ORDER.  We pride ourselves on our morals and running a business by the book.  Therefore if we do lose business because we are a little higher, but following the law, so be it.  At least you know we will not compromise on our values.

We have established a flat fee pricing table based on quantity of youth garments on an order to accommodate for this process.  We assure you it’s not that expensive, but is something we simply looking to cover our costs for so we can comply.

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Fighting The Uphill Battle of Not Being The Preferred Vendor

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Making the decision to start a small business is never easy.  Many of them just don’t survive for a lot of reasons.  Depending on the type of business one of the biggest hurdles you face is trying to become that elusive “Preferred Vendor”.  To some a preferred vendor is just the one that’s first in the old rolodex.  To others it’s a contractual relationship where certain aspects of the relationship are decided on well ahead of time.  In either case it’s difficult to be the first place someone calls either out of past relationships or because you just do great work.  We are fortunate enough to be the preferred vendor to a few places on a small to medium scale.  Those relationships are huge for us and mean more to us than you can imagine.

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Employee uniforms yay or nay?

Should your employees wear uniforms?  Maybe, maybe not or maybe they should sometimes.  Any business that directly interacts with customers should present themselves in a professional manner. So many establishments require their employees to wear something, a polo shirt, a vest an apron or something that distinguishes them from their customers.  But who benefits if your employees are easily identified?  Well, in a word, everyone.  The company, the employee, and of course, the customer all benefit.

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