Chris Babiash, MAS, president and CEO of Minnesota-based distributor Booshie, will be attending PPAI Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.) for the seventh time this year.

“During my time with L.E.A.D., I’ve seen and learned so much about how Washington, D.C. works and how important it is for our industry to have face time with the leaders running the country,” Babiash says.

On May 13-14, Babiash will join fellow PPAI members and staff to once again meet with members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill to discuss pending legislation and issues relevant to the promotional products industry.

  • As L.E.A.D.’s name suggests, the first objective is always to inform legislators and their staffs about the size and importance of the promo industry, which represents a $26 billion sales market in the United States and employs roughly half a million Americans.
  • Last year, during the first in-person L.E.A.D. since 2019, more than 60 promo pros held over 80 meetings designed to make connections and educate lawmakers on the branded merchandise industry and four key points important to it today.

Being Informed And Involved

Babiash, who also serves as president of the Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals (UMAPP), believes many promo pros are like he used to be – unaware and uninterested in the issues impacting the industry unless (or until) they directly impact them.

“For too many years, I had my head down and only focused on myself and my career, but I’ve evolved and believe we should be doing everything we can to expose, teach and educate people about our industry and its issues,” Babiash says.

Nowadays, he’s most concerned about sustainability, compliance and importing costs, particularly carriers’ ability to “nickel and dime” customers with fees and “emergency charges.”

Although Babiash has become a familiar face on Capitol Hill through L.E.A.D., he doesn’t consider himself a political junkie. “I neither love politics, nor do I like to engage with and discuss it,” he says.

“But I like L.E.A.D. because it allows me to push myself in my comfort zone of seeing and understanding the movement and happenings while staying in the bipartisan world, which is how it should be. I like to see and understand both sides and make decisions based on what is best for everyone.”

Promotional Products Work!

As in years past, one of the main points that 2024 L.E.A.D. participants aim to get across to lawmakers is that promotional products are the most cost-effective, memorable and longest-lasting form of advertising.

  • According to PPAI’s most recent Consumer Study, nearly three quarters agree that promo products are a good way to learn about sales and events, and 72% agree that they’re helpful for learning about new businesses in the area.

“If used correctly, promo is powerful,” says Patricia Dugan, MAS, vice president of sales and marketing at Massachusetts-based supplier BUDGETCARD and a 2023 recipient of PPAI’s Women of Achievement Award.

Dugan, who says she attended a previous incarnation of L.E.A.D. several decades ago, will be attending this year to represent the New England region. “L.E.A.D. is very important, especially regarding Prop 65,” she says. “We need to know about and fight for certain issues. Look how long we worked on the independent contractor issue!”

Throughout her nearly half century in the promo industry, Dugan has served in dozens of board positions within PPAI, as well as Promotional Products Education Foundation chair from 2015-2017, leading the nonprofit through a defining period of change that ultimately led to increasing scholarships.

  • Under her guidance, PPEF increased scholarships from $25,000 to $150,000, the highest dollar amount ever awarded in a single year at the time. 

So, it should be no surprise that education on the importance of promo products is important to her. “Government shouldn’t limit the sale or use of promo products because they do solve problems, especially with getting people to vote,” Dugan says.