Walk into just about any office and there will be a cup of branded pens. Banks hand them out like candy. Eighth graders leave career fairs with enough to last them through college. And branded pens are a regular staple in any new customer welcome packet, regardless of industry.
As ubiquitous as branded pens are, it should come as no surprise to learn that a single family-run business, HUB Pen, makes one million branded pens every single day.
If you have ever felt the frustration of losing a pen, don’t worry, they are making you another…
But their story doesn’t stop there. In the last few years, the second generation of the HUB Pen family has acquired an additional seven promotional supplier companies, and now offers just about every type of hard good promotional product. HUB’s goal is to be a one-stop-shop for everything promotional, and they are doing just that.
A Family Owned Business With Humble Beginnings
The HUB Pen story starts in Boston, way back in 1952. Frank and Rita Fleming started HUB Pen; and, true to its name, the company quickly became a pen-making hub. This was around the time that the ballpoint pen became popular. Having worked for a pencil company, Frank understood the writing utensil business and saw the future was going to be all about pens.
Frank asked a friend to make a mold for him and set out making his own pens. At first, his business focused on putting ink refills in plastic pens. The game-changing moment came later when Frank invested in imprinting equipment and began putting logos on his own pens.
At that time, his customers were strictly from the Boston area. It just happened to be that his local customers included familiar names such as MIT, Harvard, and The Boston Globe. Serving these customers well served the business well too. Their hard work and reputation grew HUB Pen to be a leading pen manufacturer and imprinter. Today, you can find more than 300 HUB Pen employees imprinting logos on a million pens every day.
Under New Management, Onto New Goals
The company was later handed down to their son, Joe Fleming, who became the president, and Mike Fleming, who became the VP of Sales. Keeping things in the family, they brought in their brother-in-law, Bob McGaughey who now, even in retirement, continues to attend and work at trade shows including The PPAI Expo.
With new and passionate management, skills, and customer demands, it was time to pursue new goals.
Promotional distributors have the challenge of dealing with multiple suppliers and different processes, leading to mistakes and headaches. The Flemings figured that if their parents could go from pencils to pens, to imprinting pens, and grow from supplying Boston to supplying the nation, they could make their customers’ lives easier by becoming a North American one-stop-shop for all hard goods promotional products.
The New Strategy: Acquire Companies to Become a High-Quality One-Stop-Shop
In 2017, Joe and his team began leading a strategy focused on quickly and efficiently expanding their product offerings. This required heavy investment in technology and acquiring companies that were already established as customer favorites.
HUB Pen became a subsidiary of the newly established HUB Promotional Group, again aptly named for being a hub of all things promotional. Under the HUB Promotional Group, taking leaps equal to his father’s, Joe and his fellow executives pushed the company forward by acquiring seven companies in two years, with a consistent mission across every deal.
“Our goal is to have the customer win in the end. We’re not afraid to invest money in personnel, machinery, or technology and we’ve made huge investments in IT and equipment to compete in this world. But before we decide to buy a company, we ask ourselves if this is going to benefit the customers, will this make us a one-stop-shop for everything promotional?”
Beacon Promotions became the first company to join the HUB Promotional Group family. They have a reputation for delivering high-quality, every-day use products, on time.
Later that year, they acquired BEST Promotions USA LLC and Cooler Graphics, which added drinkware and the famous Slap Wrap & Go to their product offering. Mike Hicks, the owner of BEST Promotions USA LLC, came along with the acquisition and has become one of the leading visionaries of the HUB Promotional team.
Looking to expand their reach internationally, the next acquisition was Canada’s top promotional supplier, Debco. Debco is known for their tote bags, but also offers a wide selection of products for every home, office, and lifestyle. Debco also has an industry-leading suite of e-tools to help promotional distributors with everything from tracking inventory to marketing.
BCG, another Canadian company, was acquired primarily to add high-quality lapel pens and laser engraved wood products to the HUB portfolio. They have a reputation for being the leader in metal casting and manufacturing of promotional products, as well as meeting seemingly impossible rush orders for their distributor partners.
With the gamut of traditional promotional products covered, The HUB team then looked to meet the demand for innovative technology-driven products. So, the HUB Promotional Group acquired Origaudio and HandStands PROMO.
Origaudio, known from their appearance on Shark Tank, offers creative and unique products that are often higher quality than retail versions. They have also made it extremely simple for distributors to work with them. HandStands PROMO was one of the first companies to offer mouse pads back in the ’80s, and now have a lineup of truly innovative promotional products and creative packaging presentations.
Joe said, “The addition of Origaudio and HandStands not only rounds out our product offering with two of the leading innovators in technology accessories, but it also puts us one step closer to our goal of being the recognized promotional hard goods leader.”
With these last two acquisitions, the HUB Promotional Group also got the talent, insight, and innovation of their leadership team, including Jason Lucash, Mike Szymczak, Chris Anderson and Rodd Steuart.
One challenge of rapid growth is bringing all these companies cohesively together. Trina Bicknell, HUB Promotional Group’s SVP of Sales, is leading the charge to mold HUB into one, easy-to-do-business-with, group.
By sharing proven strategies and investing in the technology that makes the entire group seamless, the HUB Promotional Group is creating a one-stop-shop with easy and consistent ordering and excellent customer service. Together, this world-class management team has rounded out the HUB Promotional Group offering, all so that distributors can win with everything from the latest office tech to the simple, but still effective, branded pen.