Interview With … Tracey Phillips
The third time was the charm for small business owner Tracey Phillips — her business had three different business models before hitting on the right one.
FIrst, in 2002, the University of North Florida graduate who holds a degree in marketing with a minor in business, started Creative Treasures — a company that focused on the consumer gift basket market. Then, in 2005, the company was in the midst of providing gift baskets for the New England Patriots coaches when they were in Jacksonville for the Super Bowl. Phillips pivoted her company again when she was notified that her company was one of three chosen to produce official Super Bowl XXXIX commemorative plates.
Finally, in 2010, Phillips changed her company’s name and again changed the business model: Promotional Presence, LLC, is 100 percent in the business-to-business promotional products market.
The company now has a total of six employees, including sales representatives and staff members plus an independent contractor graphic design artist. Phillips said they sell more than 750,000 promotional and marketing products such as apparel, mugs, portfolios and corporate gifts. They also have a division for schools, which sells customized spirit wear to local schools.
Q: What do you like most about doing business in St. Johns County?
A: The people. As a former president of the St. Johns County Ambassador program and a former member of the Chamber’s board of directors, I have gotten to know a lot of great people here in St. John County.
Q: What do you consider to be your company’s edge?
A: Our consultants (sales representatives). They really always have the customer’s best interests at heart. They brainstorm ways to find the best promotional product for the businesses and don’t just sell them a pen or a mug. They creatively find the best way to get the business’ branding and message out.
Q: What has been your best business decision?
A: Growing the company slowly, because I have been able to manage growth, be more strategic in planning and make sure proper systems and processes are in place. I’ve had to do it that way because I’ve always seen the bigger picture and have known where I want to go with the company.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: Finding good sales reps. Fortunately, we have great ones now, but for growth, I will need more and it is always a challenge.
Q: How do you spend most of your day?
A: Every day is different. I’m always answering emails, out in the field with our reps, visiting customers, in a ScaleUp class or strategically planning and handling the operations end of the business.
Q: Tell me about your participation in the ScaleUp program.
A: This is a federal grant program which provides education to businesses that are a few years old and wanting to make the next step in their growth. Jacksonville is one of about 10 cities in the country chosen to be able to offer this program to small business owners. Last October I applied and in December I found out I was one of 50 companies selected. The one-year program started in January. The program is repeating for 2017 and open enrollment is now. The application process is online.
The amount of information we have received as part of this program is awesome. The first half of the year, we had very experienced guest speakers who were with large companies and who talked to us about topics such as human resources, strategic planning and marketing. The second half of the year, the ScaleUp small companies are participating in peer group masterminding sessions called “CEO Roundtable” where we share ideas and learn from each other.
Q: What is your long-term goal?
A: When my son, Landon, graduates from Creekside High School in two years, I will start branching out and growing the company. I want to help other women have the opportunity to work as hard as they want and be successful selling our promotional products. I’m not sure yet if we will franchise or license, but I want to take the company statewide and then go nationally.
Photo courtesy Tracey Phillips