SPARK 2017: The Conference for Millennials by Millennials


SPARK, a PPAI conference for Millennials by Millennials, was a totally new take on networking and education for the young professionals in the promotional products industry.

For two days, we escaped PowerPoint presentations and conference rooms and instead hit the streets of Denver for a more energetic and productive way to work together on industry challenges and educate each other. Four of us from #TeamSAGE (oh, c’mon, you saw a hashtag coming) made the trip and here are our takeaways!

The Millennial generation is such a hot topic right now in every industry because we’re modern-day disruptors and we’re causing change. Although I knew my colleagues at SAGE were passionate about the industry, it really came to fruition to see so many young professionals in one place and all truly care and have a passion for the promo world. My favorite part of the conference was definitely the high-energy networking opportunities that challenged us to talk through everyday issues we face and discuss new approaches to grow not only professionally but also personally. I was surprised by the openness and honesty from my peers.

I loved that I was able to walk away from the conference with so many connections and relationships. That’s going to be so helpful moving forward to find out what others are doing and how it is that we can help each other. Being in the marketing department at SAGE, I’m not always in front of our subscribers as much as our account executives or support team, and I loved being able to chat with others in the industry to find out how they use our services, how we can help them and how we can improve. Cultivating an industry with passionate professionals is what will continue to move it forward!  — Jansen Manfredini

SPARK was full of perspective. Young professionals from all over the country came together to hear from industry leaders, participate in group discussion, and give back to the Denver community.

Creating kits for United Way  photo credit: PPAI

I had some insightful conversations about some unique challenges that our industry faces. It made me realize that the future success of our industry relies on keeping open lines of communication and staying connected. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to discuss prevalent issues with distributors, suppliers, and marketing professionals all in one place and see the same topics we all encounter from a holistic viewpoint.

I feel confident in saying that I walked away with new professional relationships and a better knowledge base on how to optimize my contributions as a Millennial in today’s promotional market. Our industry will thrive with more collaboration, more connection, and more in-depth conversations.  –Michael Empey

I left this conference more motivated to be involved and proactive than ever. As I was listening to Chris Sinclair, VP of Brand Blvd, speak to our group, he made a solid point that I think is so important for all of our industry professionals: When you’re spending time building relationships and putting tons of energy into creating a company culture and you start to question your efforts, don’t.  

Chris Sinclair, VP Brand Blvd.   photo credit: PPAI 

Don’t underestimate how important this is to your future buyers. Your buyers are not the same as you and most new buyers are Millennials who want relationships because they prefer to do business with people that offer them a personalized experience. The energy around you and your brand matters to young buyers.  –John Peddy

Millennials are striving to permanently reside outside the box. Now more than ever, the Millennial generation has an opportunity to influence the vision and future of the industry. One thing that became evident to me through the discussions I had at SPARK was that playing it safe is the riskiest thing you can do. Millennials crave original concepts, bold ideas, and creative risks. The box really doesn’t exist to this generation.

To reverb our favorite phrase from the experience, SPARK really isn’t just an event, it’s a movement! So, if you’re having a case of FOMO now, you can join the movement and register for SPARK 2018 in Nashville!



P.S. We want to give a major shout-out and thank you to the superheroes behind this event! Seth Barnett, Jody Mello, and the SPARK work team, you guys seriously rock!!

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Hayley enjoys debates between Team ALL CAPS and Team no caps. She resides in the middle of that argument, but is however, a supporter of the singular "they" and the lowercase "internet." Some rules are meant to be broken.

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