Ever since she can remember, Sara Webb has been a juggler. Juggling activities, career, family, friends, and volunteering. Sara has learned through all of this juggling that she can do it herself. But it’s far easier (not to mention more fun) to juggle with a partner.
And it was on this premise that InTandem Promotions was born! With over 20-years of experience in the promotional products industry and working with a wide range of companies and organizations building their brand stories, Sara is excited to build upon that experience and meet our clients’ needs.
In 2013, InTandem Promotions open its doors. And from there, Sara has built the organization to over 12 employees, numerous online stores, national and international reach, fulfillment and warehousing, safety and recognition programs, and custom-designed products.
Sara received her undergraduate and graduate degree from Kennesaw State University in both Marketing and Finance (because one degree was not enough, neither was one major). Sara believes that only through continued education can she continue to develop not only herself but InTandem Promotions.
In 2017, Sara was awarded the CVS Supplier Diversity training (a 6-month mini master’s program) and in 2018, she was selected to participate in Launchpad2X for Women-Owned Businesses. In 2018, Sara was thrilled to receive the Trailblazer Award given by the Greater Women’s Business Council. Sara was awarded the 2019 Advocate of the Year Award.
Sara currently serves on the board of The Partnering Group. The Partnering Group is a buying group representing over $100MM in promotional sales. Additionally, she serves on the Marketing Committee of The Greater Women’s Business Council. She is also a member of EO – Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
She lives in Dallas, Georgia with her husband, Matt Webb and 2 daughters – Riley and London. Her family is highly entrenched in the success of InTandem through their support, weekend help, and late-night work and brainstorming sessions. Sara’s passion is to be a role-model for young women entrepreneurs (including her daughter’s) and loves building up the next generation.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Creating Great for 2022
- Moving from Salesperson to CEO
- Importance of being Diversified in all aspects of your life (finances, business, team, hobbies)
- Creating opportunities in a saturated market
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business. And this is going to be a good one. Today, on the show, we have Sara Webb with InTandem Promotions. Welcome, Sara.
Sara Webb: [00:00:29] Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:32] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about InTandem Promotions. How are you serving folks?
Sara Webb: [00:00:39] So, InTandem Promotions focuses on creating those emotional connections through tangible products, and we do that through over a million different products in our industry. We leverage online capabilities, including online stores, employee recognition and fulfillment, and just having a fun, great time packaging and all of the things.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:02] So, what’s your backstory? How did you get into this line of work?
Sara Webb: [00:01:06] It actually is a funny story. So, it was in the early 2000s, and I was working for another firm, and I thought I was going to be a project manager. That company ended up laying off, and I found myself going full-time in college, full time in work, and needed to find a job. And so, I faxed – yes, I am that old – my resume.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:30] Faxed?
Sara Webb: [00:01:30] I know. Who does that anymore? I don’t even have a fax machine. And I sent my resume to about a million different companies, and I ended up working for a promotional products business, and I had the pleasure of working there for over 15 years. I started out as an administrative assistant. And then, worked on some global accounts and just had a really great time. My first day on the job, I received a goodie bag, and I was hooked ever since. So, that happened. And then, in 2013, I decided to go out on my own and venture into this crazy world, and I started InTandem Promotions at that time.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:09] Now, for people who aren’t familiar, can you explain how the industry works? Like promotional products, how are your clients typically using your services?
Sara Webb: [00:02:20] Well, that’s what I love about our industry is that there is no “You have to buy products this way and do it that way.” We leverage name brands. So, companies like Corkcicle and Carhartt, and even some of the other name brands like Marmot. The sky’s the limit. We use Ghirardelli chocolates and Starbucks. So, you’re leveraging brands and then co-branding, creating these amazing experiences for our clients where it has the company’s name and brand imprinted on it.
Sara Webb: [00:02:56] What’s cool is that there are a million different products in our industry. So, not only do we have retail, but we also have products that are produced and made all over the world, globally. So, Mexico, China, here in the US, all over. And what we do is we take the brand, and then imprint the brand on the best form and fashion.
Sara Webb: [00:03:19] What’s cool about our industry and what’s changed over the years since I’ve been in this industry is that it used to take forever. So, when you think about it, there used to be camera-ready artwork, and you’d do the artwork, and then you’d create the product, and there’d be a proofing process, and it would take this extensive amount of time. And now, it’s cool is that the technology has really changed how the industry goes to market. And so, you’re able to produce one-off of this fully beautiful custom speaker and have it produced in a reasonable amount of time. And so, I think that’s some of the cool parts that have changed and updated over the years.
Sara Webb: [00:04:01] And then, also, how we go to market – packaging and fulfillment. So, whether you’re doing like a new hire kit, we really take a look at the demographics of who’s going to be receiving that gift. So, it could be for some really cool hip millennials that are in the technology sector. And so, then, you have a different approach to the products that are going to go into that kit versus something that’s going to go to maybe a traditional type of firm that is looking for a different level of experience, the leathers, and the deboss, and things like that. And that’s what I really love is that we can market to and brand based off of who the recipient is, creating that emotional connection.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:45] And then, when your clients are working with you, is it something that they say, “Okay, I know exactly what I want and like, I have a trade show coming up, and I need stuff to give away at the trade show,” or “I want all my salespeople to use this briefcase,” or “I want all my reps to wear this polo”? Is that how it is, or is it something like do they even know what some of the opportunities are to leverage your skills?
Sara Webb: [00:05:15] It’s absolutely a mix, Lee. So, we’ll have individuals that come that have something very specific in mind where they want a particular brand, or a particular look, or have a special or specific budget; in which case then we go out into the industry and we find exactly what meets the needs. My favorite are the clients that want us to literally go shopping for them. And so, those are where our brains go crazy, and we’re so excited to come up with all of these different solutions and suggestions for them. And that can be anything.
Sara Webb: [00:05:50] So, again, it just depends on what they’re looking for and what their end result could be. So, anything from, “I have a budget of $30 a gift, or “I have an upcoming trade show. What’s something cool?” We just had a trade show that was for the pipeline industry, and that’s what’s really cool about what I do is that we work with industries all over. So, everything from pipelines, to technologists, to law firms, to CPAs, to the energy industry, to car manufacturing. So, it gives us an opportunity to really be the experts in what the recipient is looking for.
Sara Webb: [00:06:32] So, for example, this one for the pipeline, I know one of the solutions that we put together for them was we did fishing, custom fishing lures because the individuals that are attending the event, they had a high demographic and interest in the fishing industry. So, their booth was swamped. They actually sold out. They weren’t selling them; they actually ran out the first day, and we’re calling me to overnight blank fishing lures because they were such a hit. So, based off of what their target is, we’re hunting down products that are going to be the most appropriate and impactful to get that type of response. When everybody is running to a booth, that’s a huge win for us.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:19] Now, that’s part of what separates you from others, right, is you really get to know what the client, who they are, who their clients are, like a client’s client thing, and they don’t know what you know, and you obviously don’t have the depth of knowledge of their industry, but together, when you’re sharing and brainstorming and coming up with these ideas, you’re going to come up with something that may not be obvious to either one of you until after you’ve had this kind of deep dive conversation to really understand them.
Sara Webb: [00:07:50] A hundred percent. What’s great about the internet is that you can search and seek out products that might be the top 10 fit. You can find blogs that say, “I’m looking for work from home products,” and they give you a pretty good foundation. Where you can make the most impact is by partnering with InTandem, and us really having an understanding of going to market with you. So, we have an in-house showroom where we have over 20,000 different products, where we can show samples you can feel and you can touch.
Sara Webb: [00:08:28] Because that’s the key to our industry. It is the only industry that leverages all five senses. So, we have sight, and sound, and taste, and touch. And you’re able to really provide that full experience. So, by inviting our clients to our showroom, but then also we’ve done a number of Zoom calls, and then we do go-sees as well. So, going to see them, and sharing what are the top 10 products, and then having that conversation, and deep diving into what are you actually hoping to accomplish. If it’s something where you want to blanket the whole world with your brand, we can do that. If you’re looking to create an experience, then we can do that. But what is the ROI that you’re trying to accomplish on this branded product?
Sara Webb: [00:09:17] Because branded products have a tendency to stay around long after the event? I mean, just looking at my desk, and I’m in this business, but I have at least 20 different branded products. And I have speaker, I’ve got a post-it note cube, I’ve got a pen, I’ve got a journal, and I can tell you when and where I received all of those items. And I’m pretty sure that your audience is going to have a similar experience. Products that they brought home that they use on a daily basis, cooking or a charging pad. So, those have lasting staying power beyond just a particular event or a moment.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:53] And that’s an important consideration when you’re thinking about choosing the appropriate product that you’re co-branding with because it has to be congruent with your brand. If you’re like a super high end, classy organization, you can’t have like the least expensive, cheapest pen, right? Like when it comes to that, everything has to kind of look the same way or feel the same way. If your brand is premium, then these co-branded products have to be premium. You can’t skimp in that area.
Sara Webb: [00:10:26] A hundred percent. So, one example is we started working with a financial company, a set of financial advisors, and that started this year. And we built their online store for them. Throughout the entire process, it was a conversation of what is the look and the feel. How should a pen feel? Is it going to be heavy? Is it going to be plastic? Is it metal? What are the quality of the journals and the notebooks? But then, also being conscious of price. How do you blend the price point, so that you can give it out if you have an event that has 15 or 20 people, and do that economically?
Sara Webb: [00:11:08] So, when working with them, we went through, and shopped and picked out product that was going to be appropriate. We got a call about two weeks into the program and the client was very upset. “This is not the image that we were looking for. I’m not happy with this product.” When we dug back into it, and realized that the product was purchased online, they didn’t have the relationship, they read the price, they saw the description and they ordered it. And so, the client came back and said, “Obviously, I’m so sorry. Obviously, we didn’t order this from InTandem.” But sometimes, having those conversations and the understanding of what is behind the product versus just saying, “I’m going to put this online,” can really have a tremendous impact.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:57] Right. And that’s why having a partner like your firm that’s kind of watching my back, I know that you’re not going to let me pick something that isn’t the right fit. Like, you’re going to say something. That’s part of why I’m working with you is you’re watching my back.
Sara Webb: [00:12:12] Yes, A hundred percent. And sometimes, you’re not going to like the words that I say, and that’s part of the conversation. Lee, I love this product. You’re right, it’s got a great, great brand. But I promise the feedback that I have gotten has not been up to par up to your brand. And just having those authentic moments where you’re stating the facts. “Look, the zipper on this stinks or it doesn’t hold all as it says it does,” or “I know that you want the Yeti, but I have three other brands that are just the same quality and I can get them to you faster.” So, having a personal shopper that’s literally they’re focused on the brand and the integrity of it.
Sara Webb: [00:12:55] And that’s the other key, too, is that we really pride ourselves on being the branding police. Understanding what your PMS colors are and actually matching them. There’s a lot of digital overlays and color changes. And then, what is it going to be printed on? What is the background? When you’re doing stitching, is the material going to come up through the logo? There’s different techniques that you have to do beyond just embroidering a logo or slapping a logo on a product because again, it has tremendous staying power. And that’s the impression that they’re going to have of the brand. And it’s definitely something that we pride ourselves on in ensuring that the quality.
Sara Webb: [00:13:35] One of the things that we do is we make sure that we receive one overrun of all of the products that ship out, so that if when we get it, we know what our client received. And there’s some things that we can catch or stop after we’ve received it to help prevent any kind of concerns. So, for example, if something’s come off of the press and it’s crooked, which you have a proof, you prove the proof, but things do still happen. There are humans and machines that are involved in this. And so, if the imprint is crooked, that’s a conversation I can have with the client before they’ve even received it because I’ve received my sample first. And so, there’s opportunities like that and things that we do on the front end to make sure that every brand impression is going to be met with a positive response.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:25] Now, let’s talk a little bit about your journey into entrepreneurship. You mentioned that you started as an administrative role, and it’s obviously evolved into now a CEO role. Can you give advice to maybe these emerging CEOs or emerging entrepreneurs out there that are making a similar transition? Is there anything that you would like to share about that journey on, maybe save them some scar tissue that you experienced?
Sara Webb: [00:14:56] I’ve got a lot. I probably need surgery to remove all the scar tissue. I think a lot of things that I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to scale. So, I was a salesperson. I started out as a salesperson. I knew the back end, so I assumed that I could just start my business. And here you go, and I’m just selling. But the role of the CEO is leadership. It’s leading a team, it’s training a team, it’s developing the team. And yes, I do still sell, but the majority of my job is determining what direction are we going in, establishing partnerships, growing the company.
Sara Webb: [00:15:37] And so, a lot of things that I didn’t do were and included. I didn’t have processes established. I’ve been doing this for so long that for me, it’s inherent, it’s innate, it’s part of who I am. The processes are very clear because I’ve always done them that way. So, creating processes and having that separation of what the next steps are.
Sara Webb: [00:16:01] The second thing was is that individuals cannot wear multiple hats. Some people are absolutely born and bred, and they can manage and multitask, but in business, you really need to make sure that your team is not pulled in a million different directions and distracted. And that was one of the key challenges that I learned in 2020, and then 2021, is really separating out role-specific responsibilities to ensure that the team wasn’t going crazy.
Sara Webb: [00:16:35] And then, the third thing I would say is just make sure that your team has an understanding of your vision. A lot of times in the entrepreneur role, you see things, and you’re driving the business, but your team behind you might not necessarily know what that looks like. And so, you have the opportunity to really teach your team and let your team be part of what you are building as a company and organization. And those are three things that I didn’t realize their importance until I didn’t have them and until I actually did them.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:11] That’s great advice. And as we end this year, how does 2022 to shape up for you guys?
Sara Webb: [00:17:20] I’m really excited. I name all of our years. So, last, in 2020-.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:25] What was this year? Do you name it before the year? You name it ahead of time?
Sara Webb: [00:17:30] I do, believe it or not. So, 2020, it was the year of intention, which, 100 percent, it turned out to be the year of intention because I had to be intentional in all of the actions that we were going through. 2021 was the year of traction. So, our focus was on building out the team, separating out processes. And then, actually, we’ve expanded into overseas. So, we’re now in London. And then, we’ll be expanding into Birmingham in 2022.
Sara Webb: [00:18:01] And so, I think, with that and naming our years, 2022 will be our year of onward. So, this past year, our focus again was just on making sure that we had the strong foundation, so that we could move forward. So, 2022, now that we’ve done a lot of hard work, I’m excited about what’s to come because, hopefully, the supply challenges are going to not be a situation, my team is going to feel like they can breathe again. And then, as we continue to grow and expand, I’m excited to be able to to do more for them, and then for the industry as a whole.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:43] Now, speaking of which, where you’re having kind of — I don’t want to use the word balance because I know a lot of people don’t like to create or use the word balance in terms of a life because it’s so difficult. How do you help lead your clients, your people, or yourself when it comes to all of these different things pulling on you and requiring your attention?
Sara Webb: [00:19:12] I think the biggest thing for me is to not listen to the voices, to make sure that I don’t give in to fear. That has been a challenge, especially during all of the uncertainty that the past two years have brought. And just really allowing the fear to wake me up versus shutting me down. And with that, if I can stay the course and not be distracted, being consistent has been the key. So, waking up at the same time every day, going ahead and getting my workout in the mornings, every morning, preparing for the day accordingly, and then really making sure that my team and everyone knows when I am available and then when I’m not available.
Sara Webb: [00:20:08] And when I’m not available, that doesn’t mean that if there’s a fire or something going on that we can’t address it, but it does mean that I need to block off certain times of the day to manage what is going on, so that I can be a better leader for the team. So, whether that’s doing quotes, or that’s finalizing contracts, or whatever the case may be, they know that there are certain times where I’m just simply not available. But then, also making sure that the team has been trained up, that they are autonomous and are able to handle what is going on, so that we’re not running around with fires happening, and that they feel confident enough in what their day should look like to be able to run and manage their roles and responsibilities accordingly.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:57] And it’s like you said earlier, having these processes in place kind of makes things a lot easier for everybody because there’s a way we do things, and everybody knows the protocol. And then, you’re prioritizing things by blocking time on the calendar, and that’s your process to make sure the important things are getting done. So, kudos for you for creating such a wonderful environment.
Sara Webb: [00:21:23] Well, we’re having a a lot of fun, and it has definitely been — we’ve had our highs, the highest of highs. This is what I tell anybody coming in, it’s going to be the highest of highs and the craziest of crazies, but just trying to find that opportunity to leverage and balance is the key for all of this.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:43] Now, talk about GWBC. Why was it important for you to get involved with that organization?
Sara Webb: [00:21:49] Oh, it was definitely tremendously impactful for us. So, as soon as I was eligible, I think we had to have a year’s worth of sales. As soon as we were eligible, we were signing up because, number one, I don’t know anything. I started out in sales. I wasn’t going to be an entrepreneur. I wasn’t going to be a CEO. I had no idea what I was doing. And so, having the friendships and the connections that we’ve made through GWBC has been tremendously impactful. The learnings, the trainings, the the events, the networking, all of that.
Sara Webb: [00:22:29] Through the pandemic, I mean, that really enabled us to continue to move forward because I knew that I wasn’t in it alone; and what I was experiencing, so was someone else. And so, together we were able to help manage the situation and move forward successfully.
Sara Webb: [00:22:47] And then, in addition to all of that, just the tremendous opportunity is like we’ve got a client that we received because of our certification. We’ve had several clients because of our certification, but one is a global client and that enabled us to also open up locations overseas and in multiple locations as we continue to grow and build. So, GWBC has been a tremendous impact, and so much so that we are also now have our certification with WEConnect, which is also a sister company to GWBC. So, the global impact of having the certification, and the support and the family has really enabled us to continue to move forward.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:34] Now, who is your ideal fit client? Who out there listening or maybe somebody who knows somebody that’s listening is the ideal fit client for InTandem?
Sara Webb: [00:23:47] My best friends and my favorite clients, they’re the ones that are looking for us to be an extension of their marketing and branding needs. So, a company that has usually multiple locations or has a sales team where they’re needing brand merchandise and products, and we can help in all avenues, whether it’s with your HR, your uniforms, your new hire gifts, anything for your online stores, your trade shows and events, or just some employee love. We work with businesses that are small, medium and large domestically, globally and nationally, and that’s really what gives us our special sauces that we’re familiar with, a variety of different industries. So, in terms of different verticals and target audiences, we’re able to support your many needs.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:40] Well, if somebody wants to learn more, have a more substantive conversation with you or somebody on the team, what’s the website?
Sara Webb: [00:24:47] Check us out at intandempromotions.com or intandem.shop.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:54] Well, Sara, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work, and we appreciate you.
Sara Webb: [00:24:59] Thank you, Lee. Thank you, Lee, for having us and thank you GWBC for sponsoring.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:04] All right. This ad Lee Kantor. We will see you all next time on GWBC Open for Business.
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