skucon: Where Innovators and Explorers Gathered to Dream


Over 300 innovators and explorers gathered to dream together at skucon, the New Year, kick-ass, kick-off conference for promotional products entrepreneurs.Featuring 28 speakers, the gathering became the strongest outpouring yet of mavericks and forward-thinking business pros who thrive on bridging the world between commerce and creativity.In addition to the fifteen jam sessions and three keynotes, the hallways rippled with ideas. A hallmark of commonsku events has always been simply connecting the community with shared vision and purpose. One attendee wrote, “the connections led to some great ideas independent of the programming.”The keynotes featured April Dunford, former VP of Marketing for IBM and Nortel, and author of the forthcoming book “Obviously Awesome - How to Stand out in Noisy Crowded Markets” who helped distributors understand the importance of using context to stand out in a crowded market. One attendee remarked that "April's topic was wonderful and made me think a lot how about the context in which I speak to clients and present ideas."  Jake Director and Riley Goodman, who started Strideline with just $700 and whose socks can be found in national retailers such as Nordstrom, Champs, Lids, Costco, Macys -and on the feet of Kevin Hart, Snoop Dogg, Marshawn Lynch and many of the most influential athletes and artists in the world- took to the stage to share the Strideline story, including their journey breaking into the promotional products world.  The entrepreneurial jam, a popular high-wire event that allows three aspiring (and inspiring!) entrepreneurs to present their business challenges to a panel of seasoned pros who (and the audience!) who can then offer their opinion and advice. Thanks to Emi Larkin, Sam Kabert, and Cola Svec for inspiring us with their challenges and to our exceptional panel, Brandon Mackay, Anita Emoff, and Chris Ferriter for sharing their wisdom!  The afternoon at skucon was filled with Jam Sessions, improvisational riffs guided by leaders from the world of importing to social media, to e-commerce, and more. These topical sessions were high-impact, quick delivery presentations with plenty of time for the community to riff and jam together on ideas. Jam Sessions were led by some of the most strategic thinkers in the promo biz today: Stephanie Leader with Leaderpromos, Anita Emoff and Joe Drayer with Boost Technologies, Janie Gaunce with Grapevine Designs, Lee Strom with SanMar, Brandon Mackay with SnugzUSA, Kathy Cheng with Redwood Classics Apparel, Chris Ferriter with SoBe Promos, Renya Nelson with Brand+Aid, Jake Malishkevich with Promodealer, Roni Wright with The Book Company, Rich Patterson with Patterson Brands, Ria Lupton with RIGHTSLEEVE, Samantha Kates, Bobby Lehew, and Catherine Graham with commonsku, and last but certainly not least (cause they kicked ass and hauled all the way from the UK): Andy Thorne and Sarah Penn with Outstanding Branding.  The day ended with a rollicking journey through the entrepreneurial exploits of risk-taker and brand-shaker, Scott Alterman with The Icebox. From his journey as a young, serial entrepreneur to his days now as a multi-million dollar distributor success, Scott riveted the audience with his tales of risk and reward. Attendees wrote that Scott "rocked it," "homerun," "entertaining and real," and the day ended, as all skucon events do, with a robust and raw Q&A to dig deeper into his journey.  What were some of the take-aways from skucon? Hear it from the attendees themselves:

  • “Don’t let fear keep me on the sidelines.”
  • “Pick your niche ... and think big!”
  • “Define company values ... put ourselves in the right context!”
  • “Be bigger than you are and stop being afraid to go for something.”
  • “Create a customer journey. I don't know that I have stopped and really walked myself through what it's like to reach out to my own company, inquire about product, receive mockups, communication, payment, delivery - what does that experience look like?”
  • “When we get a meeting with a new account - create an agenda and send in advance to the new customer.”
  • “Take 15-30 minutes each day and dedicate to CRM. Go back into commonsku and fill in all client details."
  • “My team got an earful when I get back. My brain was bursting with new ideas!”
  • “I really took April’s context coaching to heart and it's actually inspired a wave of new development within our staff team.”
And the biggest star of the show was, of course, the skucon gear. Known for his creative flair, promo impresario and commonsku co-founder, Mark Graham, worked with our superb lineup of sponsors (BamBams, Snugz USA, Chameleon Like, SanMar, Hit, YourCo (T-Shirt Tycoon), Maple Ridge Farms, Gemline, The Book Company, goldstar, EMT, RuMe Brandsuite, and peerless) to create a killer compilation of the coolest conference swag ever assembled (at least, we think so!):  Thanks to our friends and ASI and PPAI for covering the event. And to Jeff Anderton, Cody, and the Snugz USA team for their (as always) exceptional video work.You can check out more photos from skucon, hereMay you continue to innovate, explore, and dream!
commonsku is an effortless business management platform that empowers you to process more orders and handle more business. To learn more visit