JH began in 1998 on the campus of Indiana University where John started selling t-shirts to the fraternities and sororities as a way to make some extra cash. Those t-shirts led to other promotional product orders, including pens for a peer's parent who lived in another state. That's when he realized he might be on to something with promotional products. His technical background allowed him to be at the forefront of web development in the early 2000s, and ultimately combined his two passions into one with an online store that sold promotional products.
We could say the rest is history, and that would be true. But to help you better understand how the last 25 years have played out, we've gathered 25 memorable moments over the last 25 years to share. These will be broken up between two posts, so keep an eye out next week for the second batch of stories.
The Early Days
1. Early on, John realized he could blend promotional products with online websites. We started doing ecommerce with our own promotional product stores, starting with pocketcoolies.com in 2003. Three years later, YourPromoPeople.com would begin and push us headfirst into online order sales. For those who don’t know, “pocket coolie” was the name coined for a can coolie that could fold flat and thus could be carried in your pocket. One should always be prepared to keep their beverage cold!
2. Tim Diefenbach, CTO, recalls: The first major project I worked on as an intern was a proof-of-concept for a potential client (the world’s largest online party supply store at the time): designing the layout of a napkin on the web using a large collection of images and hundreds of different fonts, interactively changing arcs and text placement on the design, and exporting it all to a vector file ready-to-print. We won the larger project and a long term relationship! The kicker: it had to work in both Netscape and Internet Explorer 6, and required trigonometry by hand for every font. The year was 2003.
3. Apartment Association of Fort Wayne was our first ‘big project’ that spanned multiple years. A website with member portal was a unique concept in the early 2000s. It was the project that made John realize this "web thing" really was going to be as successful as he thought.
4. In 2005, Safeway ordered 500,000 silicone bracelets to raise money for ARC / Easter Seals. This became our first client that bought over $100k in a year with us.
5. Prior to everyone having a cell phone, we had a seat cushion order that needed to be delivered the same day it was produced. The manufacturer and end customer were both located in Texas. We hired a private courier to transport them, but he got lost in route. After many collect calls on pay phones the cushions arrived to the customer!
JH In The Community
6. For 20 years we have been the Golf Marathon sponsor with Junior Achievement. Playing 100 holes of golf in 1 day isn’t for the faint of heart!
7. JH gave a $10,000 check to honor the doctor that provided surgery and care to John at Shriners Hospital when he was a child.
8. JH dodgeball was friendly competition between our shared building friends at Seely Office Solutions. We didn’t win, but we put up a good fight and some JH team members still have their game day t-shirt to prove it happened.
9. For 4 years running the ladies of JH have teamed up with Habitat for Humanity for the Women’s Build events. They’ve helped to complete projects for new partner family builds including framing, siding and painting. Through their crowdfunding efforts they also raised over $2,500 for the local Habitat builds.
10. An office favorite community activity is adopting a Christmas family. We've been able to give families a memorable Christmas complete with presents galore for all the kids, and parent(s)!
11. James Anderson, Senior Developer, recalls: One day John asked how easily I could modify a website without having access to the server and code. This was a very intriguing and exciting challenge to me. It was later revealed as a prototype in a proposal for a relationship with a new client, ECi – an ecommerce platform for office supplies.
12. In 2014, A Wireless, a Verizon Wireless retailer, came to us with a Black Friday request to promote the latest deals for phones and accessories for the holiday season. The request came at the beginning of November, so we had less than 3 weeks to build a microsite that would hold the look up capabilities to find a store near you, showcase the offers, and build a Google Ads campaign to target the areas where the stores were located. We learned a lot about Trademark Authorization, spending significant dollars over the course of 4 days with Google (and what happens when your credit card believes this to be fraudulent), and getting all 250+ stores verified with Google My Business in an efficient manner. The Black Friday campaign was a success and led to other projects including in-store graphics and a Facebook campaign over the coming years.
Stay tuned for Part 2 to read about more Big Asks, plus Promo and Website stories we'll never forget.