We spoke to Kenn Burns from Fully Promoted Vancouver about how he worked with PLE Painting to produce all of PLE’s shirts, caps, and other promotional materials for PLE’s rebrand process. Kenn is the owner of the Vancouver franchise and is an expert on creating impactful, memorable products that stand out in the market place.
About Fully Promoted
Fully Promoted is the largest international promotional product customization, embroidery and screen print service franchise in the world. Each location is independently owned and operated.
Fully Promoted started with the first EmbroidMe store in 2000 with franchising veteran Ray Titus, who realized that the $45 billion dollar promotional products industry could use some of the same expertise and initiative he’d already applied to building Signarama, the world’s largest sign franchise in the world.
They are a privately held company based in West Palm Beach, Florida with 10 brands and over 1,800 locations worldwide. EmbroidMe was rebranded to Fully Promoted in 2016 to offer more services to their clients.
How did you first get started with Fully Promoted?
Kenn: I was doing an import business in the late nineties. It was mostly soccer uniforms and it all came about because I had studied in China for a while. And I kept a connection there for some custom manufacturing.
When I wound that business down and I wanted to do something was a little more flushed out I came across, Fully Promoted which was in 2006. And, the advantage to it was that, when I was doing in-house production. We own our own equipment and we do our own imprinting.
And then also it’s really more business-focused. So as opposed to being seasonal with uniforms, we really had something for all seasons in particularly for businesses like trades, uniforms, et cetera. They always need something. And so, it was a transition from being a very niche business, doing soccer uniform importing to being a more fully fleshed out uniform supplier for businesses as well.
What do you like best about your job?
Kenn: There’s a lot of guys out there who are brokers and they just buy from one person and sell to another. And I actually really enjoy being the doer and owning the equipment and having the shop that actually does the work of putting the logos on the shirts.
There’s that aspect to it. And then also there’s the creative aspect to it as well. I’m not a branding specialist. I certainly have folks I refer to regularly for branding. PLE actually uses a branding company which is also the one that I refer to the most.
But still, there is a very creative side to what I do. I get that nice blend of having both creative aspects to every day at work, but also the actual physical work and machinery that’s just fun to be around.
What are some of the challenges you face in your job?
Kenn: I think like everybody, staffing is always a challenge. We have long time long-term staff but we have a lot of seasonal aspects of our work. We are scalable in terms of what we may be doing in January versus what we might be doing in April.
In a city like Vancouver, staffing is always a challenge. I think that runs across industries, but we’ve been, we’ve been bused, always be able to find really good experienced professionals. I work a lot of late nights with part-timers and contractors just making sure we keep quality control.
How many staff do you have during your busy season?
Kenn: On a regular year, like, especially in the spring-summer is the schools wind down with their end of year swag, but the camps are, are ramping up with stuff for their camp goers and conferences, et cetera.
We have as many as seven to eight people working in the shop a day. Sometimes that’ll be split over a couple of shifts. But regularly we have four people at a time.
What is something that people don’t know about your industry?
Kenn: How easy it is to waste money. It’s so easy to waste money on this stuff that my industry does. It really helps to work with good marketers and good branding specialists to really get a handle on what you want and what’s going to be a benefit for you. Probably one of the most common things I say, honestly, is don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy selling expensive shirts, or I really enjoy selling expensive pens, something of that nature, but the truth is that your marketing dollars don’t necessarily have to go into the most expensive items. And, not only that, but folks will waste money on things that aren’t achieving their marketing aims.
I often find myself in a position where I’m actually asking them to second guess what they’re doing. I may just suggest something else that they should buy from me. But working with a good marketing agency or branding specialist will definitely help you spend your money wisely when it comes to the imprints.
What is one project that you’ve worked on that particularly stands out?
Kenn: They come big and small. There’s so much mask stuff going on right now. We do all sizes in all quantities, but one piece that I really enjoyed doing in the spring as kind of the dust settled on what we needed to be doing in terms of wearing masks and what constituted a good mask and what constituted an adequate mask. Most of us just need to be wearing adequate masks.
We did a project for a local Aboriginal family and children’s services support group. We did a thousand masks for them using what actually was a photograph of an artwork that they had. Essentially it was a large panel that basically took a photo of a block and then it became the actual piece of the mask at the front.
The artwork was beautiful and the piece itself ended up being a very artistic piece. We really like doing that kind of thing. We do left chest logos day in and day out, but every now and again we get to work on a project that really has a little more artistic merit to it.
How have you worked with PLE Painting and what do you like about working with them?
Kenn: We worked with them in a couple of capacities and in a couple of different directions. First and foremost, all of these nice things I’ve said before I realized you were going to ask this question were they do work with a marketing agency and one of my favourite ones. They had a very specific aim when they come to me to talk about uniforms.
We did a lot of variations of uniforms for them, everything from caps and t-shirts, to hoodies and jackets. They had a very specific approach. It makes the initial portion more challenging. We had to be very particular and go through proofs and go through a few different samples to understand what they wanted. But then once that’s done, it’s a front-loaded effort on my part and on theirs. Once all of those decisions are made, it makes everything else easier.
A lot of folks in my industry would love somebody to just walk up and just say you need a thousand of something and then they print it off and it’s done. But it’s a very transactional way of doing things when you actually invest time.
When you find a client that’s willing to invest time in what they get, then you get to enjoy it much more than just the transactional nature of the process. You actually become involved in their business and invested in their success because their success means that you did things right with them.
And they come back to you. PLE also happened to be my preferred choice for a painter as well. So I have referred my own clients to them and my own friends to them. I always get great feedback on the work that they do. I spend time as a strata council president and I referred work that I know ended up going to PLE and everybody was just, was just really happy with them.