In today’s episode, Sheree sits down with Katie Bond, Owner & Sales Director at VMA Promotional Products on the Gold Coast, as part of our mini-series ‘Share Your Small Business Story’.
- her knowledge and expertise in marketing using promotional products and branded corporate gifts
- her experience managing and negotiating with overseas suppliers, which has been especially tough during recent challenging times,
- the lessons she has learnt in owning and running small a business on the Gold Coast
About VMA Promotional Products:
We offer a full service for our clients including coming up with new ideas and products. We have many samples so we can discuss what may work best for them. We can also assist them with their branding and graphic design if needed and can determine the best printing method for their selected products.
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Host: Sheree Cusack
Everything Small Business is a podcast by sixty:forty
00:00 The following podcast is part of the sixty:forty network.
00:02 [Sheree Cusack] Hello and welcome to Everything Small Business. Your shortcut to start, build, manage and grow your small business. I’m Sheree, and in today’s episode I’m sitting down with Katie Bond, Sales Director at VMA Promotional Products on the Gold Coast. This is brought to you as part of our mini-series called ‘Share Your Small Business Story’.
In this episode, Katie shares her knowledge and expertise in marketing using promotional products and branded corporate gifts, her experience managing and negotiating with overseas suppliers, which has been especially tough during recent challenging times, and the lessons that she’s learnt in owning and running small a business on the Gold Coast.
00:42 [Sheree Cusack] So, Katie, it’s great to have you on the show. And welcome to everything small business.
00:47 [Katie Bond] Thank you. Thank you for having me here.
00:49 [Sheree Cusack] You’re most welcome. So, I’d like to start, if you would like to share with our listeners, a bit about your background and what you love about being a small business owner?
00:57 [Katie Bond] I was in education and retail, hospitality. And also, I was a TV presenter, where, you know, back to China, a while ago, I can say. And I studied Chinese language and graduated from there. That’s why I become a teacher, to teach kids how to speak Mandarin and write in Mandarin. That’s what I did and after I become a teacher, after TV presenter because someone promo’d me said, ‘Katie can try this, you know, TV presenter’. I went through and go to interview, and they said, ‘Katie, you’re in.’ But to be honest, after becoming a TV presenter, I still had the question in my mind, what would I love to do? But I have no idea. That’s why after I ran my business and restaurant, and also landscaping business. That’s my background.
01:58 [Sheree Cusack] Did you have your business, your landscaping business, here or in China?
02:01 [Katie Bond] In China, that’s back to China. And retail, when I was moving here, Australia, and you know, the second language, it’s really hard to find a job. That’s why I was working was in retail.
02:16 [Sheree Cusack] Nice. I didn’t know about the TV presenter side, actually. So how did you find using the presentation skills from media to being a small business owner?
02:25 [Katie Bond] I was a TV presenter when I was 16 years old. And because my parents, my family said to me, ‘Katie, I want you to become a teacher in the future. Because that’s the best way for you.’ TV presenter was just short term.
02:14 [Sheree Cusack] So how did you come to Australia and then start your own business?
02:46 [Katie Bond] I never thought about becoming an owner and never thought about running promotional products. Because it was John that said to me, ‘Katie, would you mind helping me source some like, promotional products, stubby holders, pens, that sort of thing?’ I know these promotional products are all from China, that’s why I helped him out, to get very premium quality products with a very good price. And because I was working in retail, after she finished General Manager, I was looking for a job and John said to me, ‘Run this business’. Okay, good idea. But to be honest, I’m not ready yet, but I can try and after, ‘Okay, just try it’. And we start by John helping me build a website and started to put the products on.
03:37 [Sheree Cusack] Okay, so how did you source your product? Like, how did you know what sort of products that you thought might work for the market?
03:44 [Katie Bond] We sourced the product from the factories. And also, we did some research and checked the prices. And from the websites, we can see what’s popular. Then we can start through, for example, like a water bottle, pens and key rings. We just start from there.
04:03 [Sheree Cusack] Obviously with something like that, did you have to buy very large shipments and sort of hope for the best to bring them in? Or were you able to sort of buy smaller quantities to test it when you were selling here?
4:16 [Katie Bond] Because this about services, it’s about a services, so you’ve got to test the market. You can’t just buy the items and sit here and the sell to the customer. Before I tried once, I tried an aerator, wine aerator, you know that one? Okay and John said to me, ‘Katie would you mind importing this one, we can sell’. After I think I ordered like a heap of them, one hundred of them, we can’t sell. And why, I think, you got to sell – people need it, want it. You can’t sell something you like, or want, you like to sell or want to sell. People don’t want it. That’s very important. That’s why we offer the services. Also, we think, because Australia’s population, they don’t look for like a big amount. They’re looking for a small amount, sometimes 200, 100. For me, of course I’d more prefer like a big amount for orders, and I can make money. And also, like a big amount, you know, by shipping, save lots of money there. And after I think but I prepare everything, also I think the market can match what I saw, and I just import. Doesn’t matter – small mouth to big amount, large amount. We can help them now. This what we do.
05:30 [Sheree Cusack] So, when you bring like you import items here, are they branded over in China, and you land them as you sell them to the client? Or do you bring in sort of, I guess, white label things, and then you get them printed here?
05:44 [Katie Bond] Overseas, because labor is cheaper than here. Of course, printing overseas is much better than printing here. We sort of, because we have our warehouse over there, everything is just in our warehouse. For example, like a silver printing, we can do our end. Okay, and laser printing, we can do our end. But digital printing, we won’t do it. And also, color coding, we just go to the factory. We can organize, really good, and at low cost, and everything is done over there, and they send it here. We also do quality control; this is very important. Because, we have checked with retailers or you know, the company, they say to me, ‘Katie, I got this item, and the sample is perfect. After I ordered a big amount, 50,000 of the products – all faulty’. They went through Alibaba; they don’t know who they are. That’s what happened. That’s why we’re here. We understand like, I’m here, nine years now, I understand both cultures. And I know, it’s really tough. Sometimes it’s really tough to deal with factories overseas. I can’t imagine, Australia, how to deal with them. Sometimes they just do things in their way. Anyway, yeah, that’s why we offer the services. We get very good results and also people, you know, that order from us are happy with premium quality, also happy with the price. That’s why we always get customers that come back to us.
07:20 [Sheree Cusack] Nice. So, I mean, obviously that is a common story that we hear – is people buy, they’ll get a sample and it’s fantastic. And then they order the big quantity, and it doesn’t work out so well. So yeah. So, you think it’s the relationships and that you’ve been able to build which allow you to have the really good quality control?
07:38 [Katie Bond] Relationships are very important. But in China, there’s lots of factories. Which one you’ve got to go? You talk to one of them – yes, I can do it. The other one – yes, I can do it. But some are not.
07:51 [Sheree Cusack] So how did you weed them out then? Like how did you work out which factories to go to or is that, like you knew prior, or it’s just been a matter of trial and error for you as well to find the best suppliers?
08:02 [Katie Bond] Yeah, sometimes we try and for the small ones for myself, I will try, and I got to, you know, check them what they do and check the whole factory background, and also check how many years they’ve already run the factory. That’s very important. And also, we have friends also they do business, always give me good advice. That’s why we are doing good.
08:24 [Sheree Cusack] Okay, great. So, with your business VMA Promotional Products, so you basically supply promotional products and then branded corporate gifts as well. Do you only service the Gold Coast, or you do all areas?
08:37 [Katie Bond] All Australia – all around Australia. We have customers from Western Australia, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth – all around Australia.
08:47 [Sheree Cusack] So, I like your tagline too – making your brand memorable. Yeah, so what’s been one of the quirkiest or oddest type of promotional products that you’ve branded?
08:56 [Katie Bond] I don’t think I have any odd, you know…
08:59 [Sheree Cusack] Don’t have any randoms?
09:02 [Katie Bond] What we do, we do different. I always check with the customer first to start with, and find out what they do, what they like, what’s their ideal client? Then we can check about what’s the product that’s good for their business. The customer, normally a customer with an open mind, to tell me anything. And until now I think the product’s all good. I haven’t found anything weird.
09:30 [Sheree Cusack] What’s the best-selling thing or the one that’s most used?
09:34 [Katie Bond] The best one is a water bottle. Very popular, the stainless steel, and the quality one. And also, the bags, because they’re so popular, people can carry around and also put their logo on, it looks really good. And also pens. Pens, always sell a heap of them, thousands and thousands of pens. All metal pens.
09:57 [Sheree Cusack] So, do you allow people to choose their own design? Or do you actually have a standard frame that you’ve you asked them to use, or they’ve pretty much can do whatever they like?
10:07 [Katie Bond] They will tell you about what color they like, what sort of pen they like, sometimes we highly recommend bamboo and metal. And they say, ‘Oh, I like metal.’ Okay, I know the one. And also they will tell me about, you know, their tastes and you can – when you’re on the phone or when you’re with the person – you sort of can feel about what they like and from their outside look and what color they like. Then you show the color, you show, you know, the products normally they love to have.
10:38 [Sheree Cusack] Nice. So, are there any specific industries that you work with them? Like any business types, like construction or do you work a lot with hospitality businesses or retail businesses or professional services? Is there any particular type of industry that you work with best?
10:55 [Katie Bond] I think retail is a good one for me. I love challenge. I love custom made products, because you can see people’s ideas; I love to see people’s ideas become true. And for example, these days, we help our customers – one is a lady that’s an online business and gets clips from us. I help them for the product. And also, the second one is called a strap chain. It’s a strap that has a clip on, sort of like lanyard but attach to your cap. And when you go to sailing or you go to do some exercise, you don’t worry about your hat blowing away, because you know Gold Coast is sometimes very windy and they want like a customized product. But the amount is a really small amount. They don’t want like a big amount, order like a whole ship here, and then to sell it. I understand that and that’s why we do custom made with unlimited. You know, we do it differently.
11:59 [Sheree Cusack] Do you find there’s a demand for that – being able to do such small runs of custom products?
12:05 [Katie Bond] It’s a real challenge to be honest. Because, for example, for the clip, they just ordered 2500 of them, and in five different colors. That’s small. Normally, the factory doesn’t want to do the color coating, because colour coating is very expensive. Also, you’ve got to do it very professional. And the colors, right? It’s lots of work. Lots and lots of work.
12:29 [Sheree Cusack] So, what I’ve been some of the best results that you’ve seen from customers then using your products?
12:34 [Katie Bond] They’re happy with the products. They love to see their logo on the products and to give them away to their clients. Like me, I love receiving gifts, and specifically like a quality one. Like you, I think you are the same, right?
12:50 [Sheree Cusack] Definitely. Quality control…
12:52 [Katie Bond] Is very important.
12:53 [Sheree Cusack] It says so much about your brand, really. I mean, as what Jeff Bezos says – your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room, you know, and if you’re leaving them with a product, you want it to be a great brand representation. So, you want it to be good quality.
13:07 [Katie Bond] Yeah, definitely, that’s very, very important. And also, our goal for starting this business, our goal – my goal – is I value every business’s money. This means they don’t need to worry about you know, it costs too much to get the products, put their brand on and give it away. They can think about premium products with very good price that everyone can afford. That’s very important.
13:36 [Sheree Cusack] So, do you help them as part of an overall brand strategy too? Or do you just supply products that they come to you to tell you that they want?
13:45 [Katie Bond] Yes, some people have no idea. Some people, they do have ideas. They come to me – I want this or this. Okay. And because service is very important, to know about the people that order from you. I want this done and I said, most people they want, you know, personal service. Most people come to us, I can say, after, you know, we have a conversation, they also change their mind. Before ordering a big amount, probably they will think about, ‘Oh is this a good idea for them?’ And change a little bit. I think it’s personalized merchandise is very important.
14:25 [Sheree Cusack] So, do you help them understand then too, just how promotional products can fit into a brand strategy? And sort of how they can create metrics? So, how they can work out what the return is on that as an investment because obviously it’s not direct. So, it’s not here’s the product, I’m getting money in exchange; this is part of an overall strategy. So how do you help them work out the success of a campaign using products?
14:52 [Katie Bond] This is very, very important because you give away the product, people have got to like it. Got to enjoy it. And the what’s the audience? That’s very important. You can for example, like in real estate, if they bought a house, you just give them a pen. What do you think?
15:12 [Sheree Cusack] A bottle of champagne would be nice.
15:15 [Katie Bond] Yeah, definitely. But if you give away a nice water bottle, what do you think, people will use it?
15:21 [Sheree Cusack] But I guess it’s what sticks around really isn’t it? And it is a reflection, and it needs to be sort of connected to the service that they’re providing as well, you know? So, something like a water bottle would work fantastic in say, fitness industries, you know. And like pens to me are, they’re a tool, to me, it would be a tool, but I would give a journal for example, because we like people to write. I like people to have self-reflective moments as they write with real pens on real notebooks.
15:52 [Katie Bond] Yeah, definitely. That’s very, very important. Know about the customer, what they like and also know what their business is and know what’s their audience, ideal client. And when you have a gift to give away, they’re happy with it. That’s very important. They can remember it and also appreciate it.
16:14 [Sheree Cusack] Actually, it is very funny that you say that. So, I’m an accountant. I’m not sure if you know that. But we get a lot of gifts at times from, like, mostly software companies. So MYOBs and QuickBooks and things like that. It’s so timely, because two days ago, there was a big post on one of the groups that we’re in about Xero not giving branded products, except to very premium contributors. Whereas QuickBooks went completely the other way, and did this like neon green beach mat and swag that we’ve never seen before. And it was amazing. And it actually had like – because I’m a member of a number of different groups – it just blew up, like they obviously had sent it out over the space of about a month. And just to see the brand recognition from sending that out to people who are like, wow, this stuff, I would use this as opposed to, you know, oh okay, another mousepad, or something like that. Although I do like mouse pads. But you know what I mean. Like, it’s the usefulness and the quality that goes behind the representation and whether you would use it too.
17:17 [Katie Bond] Yep, yeah. We got this as well. Yep, the mouse mats and the 3D, we call it 3D popup. Yep. And your wrist rest and it’s quite comfortable. Because you use the computer all the time. And every time we give away this one, everyone loves it. They never say, ‘Oh, I don’t want this’ or ‘Oh, I don’t like’. They always ask, ‘May I have that one?’
17:43 [Sheree Cusack] Do you have any others that people, like, request?
17:48 [Katie Bond] Yeah, lots of people request some, like, products that they normally use every day. Yeah. And one of them is the lens cloth as well. But I went through an expo and lots of lens cloths, just a small one, they give away. And after we help our customer make a big one. It’s 18 centimetres wide and length. It’s sort of like a square one, it’s big, and also the quality is really good. You just, you know, wipe your glasses, working really well.
18:27 [Sheree Cusack] I could see that. Like, I wear glasses too. And the tiny little ones. But the big ones, like the microfiber type ones. But you know, the size, the microfiber size? They’re fantastic.
18:39 [Katie Bond] Yeah, definitely. Also, the customer, it’s like a custom printing, because they want both sides to have a different logo. And also, they expect very high-quality printing. We did that.
18:52 [Sheree Cusack] Which is great. I mean, that comes I guess from the consistency in the quality because you control where it comes out from. So, you said before it’s your own factory?
19:00 [Katie Bond] It’s not my own factory. It’s the facility.
19:04 [Sheree Cusack] But you work with them?
19:05 [Katie Bond] Yeah I work with them. We have staff, our own staff. We have printers.
19:09 [Sheree Cusack] That makes a big difference. I think, you know, having that confidence. Yeah.
19:14 [Katie Bond] Much easier. Like, yeah, it if we want to do this business, you want to do better, you got to train your staff. Our staff are quite strict on the products. They check everything. If the factory, you know, didn’t do right, they will send them back. Ask them redo them again. For this part, it costs a lot of money. They can’t make money for it. We also have this experience before. That’s why people are so scared.
19:41 [Sheree Cusack] I would agree. Yeah.
19:43 [Sheree Cusack] So I mean, we’ve mentioned before that you’ve serves, like, mostly business to business type businesses who use this product. So how did the COVID pandemic affect your business?
19:53 [Katie Bond] Oh my God. Oh Covid! Our business was just totally flat, from the start. And the freight express – the price goes like up, you know, everything slowed down. It’s definitely bizarre. But after, you know, what can we do? But we just started, you know, we went through lots of things. So, you know, it’s like, your risk to spend all energy on your business and you’ve got to continue, you’ve got to work harder than others. You’ve got to find out another solution, what can you do better? I started, and also I spend loads of time on the products to learn them. And also John was in the printing industry for 30 years; that’s perfect for me – I can learn lots of things from him. After, you know, we pick up the job, we’re getting better and better. And the people always come back to us, it’s about, we definitely help them with good quality products with good price. They also, you know, introduce us to their friends and other people, that’s why be keep going.
21:04 [Sheree Cusack] So, do you think service then sets you apart, because you care?
21:09 [Katie Bond] Very, very, very important. You got to do that. What I think – run the business, service is very important. We are sort of like a services, you know, company and services plus good quality plus you value their money. I think that’s why promotional products can continue.
21:28 [Sheree Cusack] So, what were some of the strategies? Because you’re quite a big networker, and I’m assuming networking is more of an in-person type thing. So obviously, with COVID, when you couldn’t do in-person networking, how did you manage that?
21:41 [Katie Bond] Online meeting, still introduce yourselves. And yeah, during that time, I think we’re not, but I’m also a BNI member. And the people getting to know you and know your products give you support, is a very important path. And also try to connect them and ask them, how they’re going, and how’s business? They all tell you about it.
22:07 [Sheree Cusack] So just relationships?
22:08 [Katie Bond] Yeah. Yeah. Just try to you know, understand each other. Try to build relationships.
22:15 [Sheree Cusack] Nice. So obviously, with the things opening up a little bit more, and you’re getting out new groups.
22:20 [Katie Bond] Yeah. When, you know, we can face-to-face. Oh, I was so excited. Oh, my God, finally!
22:30 [Sheree Cusack] That’s good. So, I mean, I guess are there any current trends in marketing or these types of products that you’re sort of seeing? Are you seeing any changes?
22:38 [Katie Bond] Probably really useful products, and also good for the environment. People really care about that. More and more people care about that. That’s good. That’s really good. Yeah.
22:50 [Sheree Cusack] So, is that in relation to the types of products that they’re buying? Or is it into what the products are made out of?
22:57 [Katie Bond] For example, stainless steel, and for example, cotton bags and paper bags. Just not plastic. Okay. Yeah. People are more aware off sort of, like the environment. So of, what’s good for them?
23:11 [Sheree Cusack] Any finding a lot of like bamboo uses?
23:14 [Katie Bond] Yeah, bamboo uses. Yeah.
23:16 [Sheree Cusack] So I like the one that you’d written down about the phone chargers with the bamboo? A bamboo phone charger?
23:22 [Katie Bond] Yeah, that’s a cool one. That’s good one. I like it. And also, bamboo paper grows fast, grow really fast. And also, why not?
23:34 [Sheree Cusack] So how do you choose then what products to put on your inventory? Obviously, you give people a catalogue. Like it’s not millions of products, you sort of define, I think I want to sell this, this and this. So how do you choose which types of products that you will present to your customers?
23:50 [Katie Bond] Okay, for this one, that’s really a good question. Normally, that’s why we have a chat. It’s not about sell, sell, sell – sell a product to you. I’ve got to care about you. I care about your business; I care about your money. I don’t want to waste your money to, you know, buy something, and, you know, people don’t use the products. And I always ask the question – what they like, what they want. That’s why, in my mind, I also can feel the person if they really, they like good ideas – oh, I will highly recommend something different. You know, for them, they’re just surprised and say, ‘Yeah, that’s good idea’.
24:32 [Sheree Cusack] When you first meet a client then do you actually have like a consultation that you go through with them to get this understanding to know what to recommend?
24:40 [Katie Bond] Yes. That’s very important. You know, when you become a salesperson, you want your customer to stick with you, become a long term, you know, not just a new relationship. And also, you couldn’t understand what people like. That’s very important. I was working in retail. And it’s good for me to practice because when people walk in – I was working in like a handbag retail – walking in, you always ask questions, what they like, have a chat with them. And feel about, you know, you always have the personality, you can feel their personality is different. In your mind, you can tick in your head, what’s the best product for them? And you show them, and they love the product. That’s what we do.
25:25 [Sheree Cusack] So that’s about caring consultation really, it’s like education based selling, because you’re taking the time to get to know the customer and what they’re trying to achieve, so that you can actually provide them with the best products and services.
25:37 [Katie Bond] Yeah, because also the companies, they all have budgets. Sometimes they want the product, “I want this”, but after they find out it’s too expensive. Anyway, there’s sometimes we always ask the question, if they have the budget. And sometimes they think, “Oh, you asked me the budget, you put the price up to match my budget”. It’s not, because when they’re looking for the price too high, we can find the product to match their price, also get quality, also get the same product. It’s not all the same, just some you know, similar I can say, similar products to match their budget.
26:14 [Sheree Cusack] So, are you finding now that we’re coming out of COVID, a little bit more, are you finding that people are becoming a bit more optimistic about the future?
26:23 [Katie Bond] Yeah, yeah, definitely. That’s very important.
26:28 [Sheree Cusack] So, with your why, like, I’m big on people’s why. So, I actually quite liked when we were reading your story about the passion that you have for helping customers. It’s like, you can clearly see that that’s been part of who you are. So, then your why in starting this business. I know that what you said before about the products and that was sort of more the tool to get you there. But this passion to be an entrepreneur, like where did that come from?
26:53 [Katie Bond] I never think about being an entrepreneur. I just some think in my mind helping people and learn and grow and focus. Because what I want in the future, I want people, you know, when looking for promotional products, thinking about me. And one day I can become like an international company. That’s the goal.
27:15 [Sheree Cusack] Okay, so that’s your big, audacious goal – international.
27:19 [Katie Bond] Yeah, international.
27:23 [Sheree Cusack] What would be the first market that you would like to break into?
27:26 [Katie Bond] Gold Coast. You know, and you still live in the city, start with people around you. That’s very important. And also, we already got orders from Sydney, Melbourne, and you know, Western Australia. But, you know, we just want to continue to do better and better.
27:43 [Sheree Cusack] Nice. So, the future plans. I was really interested about this. So, you’re currently rebuilding a website?
27:49 [Katie Bond] Oh, yes.
27:50 [Sheree Cusack] How’s that going?
27:51 [Katie Bond] We just started and also, we put lots of time in it, and over 8000 products we are putting on the website. People can have a look at what they like. And also, it’s not just about the website and also we do custom made. That’s the way we do things different because our ideal clients, it’s not just some business for the business, they want promotional products. Also, retail as well. I love to do that part. I love people’s ideas.
28:23 [Sheree Cusack] Do you think in the future, then you might take people’s ideas to create your own products?
28:28 [Katie Bond] Probably, one day. Just to know about their ideas, probably one day, I’ll have my idea, the same as them, and have my products.
28:38 [Sheree Cusack] How good would that be? So, what have you liked most then because obviously, you’ve got quite a varied career like that’s hospitality, retail, TV presenter, educator. So, what have you liked most than about your journey to being where you are now as a small business owner?
28:55 [Katie Bond] To be honest, experience is very important. I’m really happy I have that experience. Doesn’t matter what you do. TV presenter, teacher, and the business – you always learn lots of things, they all connect with each other. Definitely. It’s not just you learn things, or just one thing, just one thing, you know, you’re finished that part, you go to another journey. It’s not. Your experience, also learned a lot, can connect together. For example, like in hospitality, and in sales, I can use the tips now. And also, TV presenter, and I can talk in the public, I use that now. I was a teacher, Chinese teacher, I went to lots of competitions, because I was young, I have lots of ideas in my mind. That’s why I always, when I go to the competitor, I always want the price and their idea, because I love to create the things, ideas. And now I can use it in retail products. I can understand people, what they want in my mind, because I understand like, for example, one product, you can’t make it in one factory. You’ve got to organize different factories, for example, color coating, one factory, and materials from another one. And all, you know, managing all the factories to make just one product. I really enjoy it. I’ve learned a lot.
30:16 [Sheree Cusack] It’s amazing, isn’t it, what you can learn. Because we here say lessons learned are lessons shared. But when you look back, you actually do realize just how much it is that you have learned. Have you found that?
30:27 [Katie Bond] Yeah, yeah, definitely.
30:28 [Sheree Cusack] So, what’s in the future then for you? Aside from growing the business, where would you like to see yourself in the next three years say?
30:35 [Katie Bond] Next three years? Of course, business becomes better and better, and I want to become bigger. And we prepare for international, we will go international. That’s my goal in three years.
30:51 [Sheree Cusack] Okay. Great. That’s fairly ambitious.
30:52 [Katie Bond] Yeah. Got to work harder.
30:56 [Sheree Cusack] So, what do you actually love most then about helping your customers achieve their results using your products? You’re clearly very customer driven. Which I really like – it’s such a nice focus to see. So, what do you like most then about being able to help somebody get their result? Because obviously that can sometimes be the difference between whether they – if that campaign doesn’t work, you’re working with small business owners too, right? – so, if that campaign doesn’t work for a small business owner, how do you or can you help them change it to get a better result?
31:31 [Katie Bond] Like before, I said, it’s a personalized service, and you got to find out the people’s, you know, ideal clients and you don’t want to waste their money. That’s why normally, if a customer just wants the products definitely, we can help them out. It’s no problem if they’re really busy. But sometimes, probably they’re looking for the products for example, just a little plastic, they just put their brand on it and give away. Lots of people throw away the stress balls because lots of businesses, they don’t understand, they just order the stress balls and just give away. And I talk to many of them. They say, “Oh I hate the stress balls, I get a lot, all thrown in the bin.” That’s a waste of money. It’s got to have something that people can use everywhere. How about the stress ball becomes a bounce ball? You can play on the ground. The kids can play. It’s a good one, right? And the same cost. How about a plastic – just one piece of plastic, that you put your brand on, becomes a bottle opener? People can use it. Keep it. It’s always value for money. And also, value their time, and, you know, good for business. That’s very important.
32:46 [Sheree Cusack] So, what do you use then to promote your business?
32:49 [Katie Bond] Yeah, I do use. We have a bottle opener. It’s a metal one. And metal pens. And also, mouse mats and caps. We do quality caps.
33:04 [Sheree Cusack] The caps are very good. I do like them. They’ve got the nice shape at the front.
33:09 [Katie Bond] Yeah. And we do like ear buds. Yeah. Ear buds. Yeah, we do that too. And carry bags. And what else? I think – stubby holders. I remember now because we give away a heap of them sometimes. I love to change. I understand people love to order small amounts, sometimes always change. My business, I don’t know, you know, the products you have all the time. For example, if you order like 1000 of them, you give away the same items sometimes I more prefer 500 for this one, 500 for that one, and the people love to use, or people can select what they want, what they like.
33:52 [Sheree Cusack] So, being a fairly customized business, you actually help people do small runs like that?
33:58 [Katie Bond] Yeah. Yeah, we don’t have limits. And they can order 20, 30 – 30 products, and sometimes we check, because we are sourcing from overseas, but we also sourcing locally. We can double check the price – what is the best for them, to help them out.
34:14 [Sheree Cusack] That’s really interesting. How do you go then finding local products?
34:19 [Katie Bond] Because we deal with a local supplier. And we order big, you know, like bulky products. And yeah, sometimes it makes it easy for them. If the customer says, “Oh I want local”, these days, people love local products. If you use Australian made, or I just want Australian made. And yeah, definitely we can offer the services. But the other way I can say, most of the products are from overseas. They’ve got to understand that. Most of the products, yes, they say Australian made, but materials, you know, or the product, they’re from overseas. They import from overseas and put it in their warehouse and just print, do the printing, and send to the customer.
35:04 [Sheree Cusack] Are you looking to do more locally sourced stuff like that?
35:09 [Katie Bond] Depends, because now, you know, Covid. And people also value their money. What we offer the services, like me, I will double check locally sourcing, what’s it sourcing, what’s the best way for them? And also, for the big amount, for example, for the big amount. I will, like with our overseas stuff, will help with consolidating all the parcels. Some are – if they need something urgent – some are just, you know, by express and the rest of them by shipping. What does it mean? It means they can get the products, to you know give away, and when they finish, the rest have just arrived, and also, save a lot of money.
35:52 [Sheree Cusack] So, that brings up an actually really interesting point. So, obviously shipping costs like boat shipping has exploded so high. So, do you do much air freight? Or you still do shipping?
36:05 [Katie Bond] We do both you. Yeah, we do both because air freight is a crazy price these days.
36:12 [Sheree Cusack] So how do you manage then obviously, such a big increase in price of like boat shipping?
36:17 [Katie Bond] So, it doesn’t matter if it’s a small amount or a big amount, we can still do ship shipping. And the price compared to air freight is still better than air freight. Anyway, that’s the way, you can change it.
36:30 [Sheree Cusack] How do you manage though that with clients? So, do you pre-price them? Or are you having to wear any of these extra costs? Or do you pass it on to your customers?
36:42 [Katie Bond] Look, what we do, and for the customer, sometimes we quote for them, for example, we find that overseas, for the big amount, it’s cheaper, and we separate the price. Product, you pay this one and includes the printing, and the freight and shipping costs is this. I just, you know, all the writing in the email, and they can select all. And like the air freight costs, for example, ours is $18 per kilo. I say you pay $18 a kilo, if they just want 2 kilos for start with. Okay, by air. And the rest of them just go ship shipping and save a lot of money.
37:21 [Sheree Cusack] So do you do containers? So do you like to 20 or 40 foot containers to bring them here? Or do you actually ship with others?
51:59 [Katie Bond] 20 or 40’ containers? So, for promotional product for Australia, it’s not you know, for my side of the business not much for that order. But normally it’s like a five cubie or six cubie or 10 cubie sort of products. And you’ve got to understand, the Australian population is not that big. They do like, it’s hard to compare to the American market. Yeah, normally like, we are just sending out five cubie, six, and ten.
38:00 [Sheree Cusack] So, being where you are now and all of the lessons learned from the past, what do you think is the one big thing that you’ve learned that you would you think other people should know?
38:09 [Katie Bond] Never give up. And never stop learning. And never stop to grow.
38:19 [Sheree Cusack] Nice. Yeah. That’s really good. So how can people find you?
38:23 [Katie Bond] They can find us online. We have a website. VMA Promotional Products. They can find us on Facebook, we have VMA Promotional Products in Facebook and LinkedIn, Instagram.
38:36 [Sheree Cusack] That’d be pretty good actually, you’d have lots of little photos.
38:41 [Katie Bond] Yeah, yeah. And also, look, we got lots of reviews on our website, and the most of the people, I haven’t met them.
38:50 [Sheree Cusack] Oh, wow. That’s really interesting. So, it’s nice when people give a review. Do you seek to get the reviews or do people just give them?
38:58 [Katie Bond] Firstly, I will give them a call and ask about the services? Right? I’ve asked them any feedback, and I can, next time, you do better. They just tell me the truth – you did really good. I’ll be coming back to you next time. That’s why they put the, you know, review five star. We have 70 5-star, you know, we are a new business.
39:21 [Sheree Cusack] Nice. So that’s actually really interesting. So, you ring people to seek their feedback?
39:26 [Katie Bond] I ring people, yes, I got to ring people for the feedback. I love to hear what people say, because this is very important for the business. Lots of people say to me, “Katie, you’ve got to listen to the positive and the good words, you’ve got to talk the words”. No, I more prefer if someone can, open mind, tell me about, you know, everything. I’m happy with this part, I’m happy with this part, I’m not happy with that part. Next time you can prove yourself and do better.
39:57 [Sheree Cusack] You do take action then on the feedback if you think its warranted?
55:20 [Katie Bond] Yes, yes.
40:01 [Sheree Cusack] Wow, that’s fantastic.
40:03 [Katie Bond] You’ve got to take action because you’ve got to listen to people, so a business can well.
40:08 [Sheree Cusack] Honestly, like, I was just talking to somebody before and they were saying much the same thing. Like, it’s the customer service and oftentimes you can turn a customer, that if something goes wrong, you can actually turn them into the best fan by how you work with them to fix their issue. Do you find that?
40:25 [Katie Bond] Yes. And that’s what we are. We offer services, we help people, we fix the problem. It’s not to say, “Oh, it’s not that good.” It’s not to, not judge customer. Got to think about how you can help them. That’s very important.
40:40 [Sheree Cusack] Nice. Thanks for coming in. It’s been great.
40:25 [Katie Bond] Thank you.