Mark Jaroszewski never pictured himself selling promotional goods around the globe. It wasn’t in the master plan. But when he received a well-timed message from Soardist’s owner and founder, Jacky Wang, inviting Jaroszewski to get to know his company—the seed was planted.
A new player in the space, Soardist was already punching above its weight. Wang was looking for the right partner to help further expand the Soardist footprint in the US. Soon, Jaroszewski was flying to Vegas to meet up with Wang and his team at a tradeshow, to kick the tires a bit and check out the quality of their core goods—print-to-order tents, flags, and table throws. What he experienced when he got there surprised him.
“I was VERY impressed,” recalls Jaroszewski, who then continues. “They do all of the hardware, and the printing was very, very good quality.” In a previous role, he’d seen the range of offerings in this market space and knew that this combination of high quality and low price point positioned Soardist for huge growth opportunities. So, he flew out to China to look beneath the hood. Twice.
“I was sold. This company was the real deal. After that, it was pretty much game on.”
Soardist spent 2019 making new inroads, building their client base across the US. They found the richest opportunities along the sunbelt where tents are year-long investments. Clients who tried out their goods as one-offs soon became fully converted customers. Initially purchasing based on price point, then sticking around as loyalists for the quality. It didn’t take long for their product to get noticed in other sunny destinations, with Australia emerging as their second-largest market and Europe rising to third.
As their clients grew, staff followed. Jaroszewski and Wang built their team with the same eye for quality that they used to design their product offerings. “That’s the key, on both sides of the water,” explains Jaroszewski from his home office in Chicago. “Jacky and I make a lot of the decisions. But our team in China has only ever come through for us, every single time, to make it happen for me, my team, and my customers. And then my team here in the U.S. is one of the best, if not The Best sales-service teams in the country in this business.”
They stay lean and don’t hold a traditional office space, which Jaroszewski believes gives them several advantages. By keeping a tight-knit core team, they’re able to quickly pivot to solve problems, offer new solutions, and bring new products to market, fast. And by allowing employees to work from home, they believe they get the best of everyone.
“Everyone works from home, and we were doing that before it was cool to do,” he says with a chuckle. “It’s way better. And unlike a traditional 9-to-5 office, my people are checking their emails at 9 at night. They’re working all day. They might block time to take their kid to the doctor or help take their mom somewhere—handle important life things—but then I’ll see their emails still going out and coming back at 8:30, 9, 10 p.m. –They’re committed and checked in.”
This always-on mentality gives them another advantage to deliver for their clients because today’s orders are being fulfilled overnight with Wang’s team in China. “The advantage is they’re working while we’re sleeping, and vice versa,” he explains. And in China, Jacky Wang is staying up late, working until 2:30 a.m. so there’s a consistent flow of information keeping projects on track and communications aligned. It’s working so well that most smaller orders placed and paid for today, with good artwork, can begin shipping out tomorrow, with hardware distributed separately from strategically positioned hubs. “Usually that process, from beginning to end is about five days, start to finish,” says Jaroszewski.
Soardist reaped the full value of being a lean company as the pandemic began. Wang decided they should try masks and PPE in early March 2020. By not being beholden to cumbersome processes and sourcing issues, they were able to beat competitors to market and grow their infrastructure in China simultaneously. Jaroszewski attributes that success to Wang’s overarching vision.
“He has great foresight. All of the greats do. He’s always two or three steps ahead of the game. He’s always trying to work on the Next Big Thing. And we try to keep that relatable to what we do.”
For Soardist, the current Next Big Thing is apparel. “Our bread and butter is printing,” he explains. “Anything that’s dye-sublimated we figure, why can’t we do it? We have the technology. There’s no reason why we can’t do it.” So, they’ve started using their techniques to churn out athletic uniforms, and according to Jaroszewski, it’s really taking off. “We’ve been lucky. We’ve been getting a ton of teams. A ton of fundraiser walks. It’s all starting up again and we’re ready.”
They’ve also used some of their time in 2020 to update other aspects of their infrastructure. They’ve added distribution sites in the U.S. to stay even closer to their core customers in Texas and Florida. They’ve also improved their website to provide added transparency.
Jaroszewski sees all of these seeds they’ve planted over the last two years building to something really big. The new customers they’ve acquired by selling masks and PPE are now looking to them for their core promotional products. And with trade shows now on the rise again, so are the orders from their customer base. From this vantage point, he sees unlimited potential in untapped markets around the globe. And with Wang’s team keeping the quality high and the price low, he thinks Soardist is perfectly positioned to meet the needs of the moment. Both today, and tomorrow.
“The goal moving forward is to grow. Locally. Internationally. There’s such a huge thirst and there’s such a huge place for us and need for us. In the future, we’d like to be on the scale that we have here in America in Australia, Spain, and so forth. And we will.”