PPAI’s Product Responsibility Summit Draws Impressive Speakers, Subjects

More than 160 professionals responsible for ensuring the safety and compliance of the promotional products they sell gathered in National Harbor, Maryland, near Washington D.C., in September for the PPAI Product Responsibility Summit. As the critical need for understanding how to manufacture, source, ship and sell safe products has increased in significance, the conference, now in its sixth year, has continued to broaden its scope and this year it pulled out all the stops to fill the need.



Members of the PPAI Product Responsibility Advisory Group celebrate the opening of Summit.

Summit attendees took advantage of 18 comprehensive sessions focused on key topics such as Prop 65, product recalls, lithium-ion batteries, voluntary standards, intellectual property and mitigating risk, among many others presented by experts from inside and outside the industry. Leading the impressive list of presenters were two commissioners from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

“The world of product safety and responsibility is constantly changing, and the Summit is the only place where promotional products practitioners can come together to learn from experts and share best practices,” says Gene Geiger, MAS+, CEO of Geiger, chair of the PPAI Product Responsibility Action Group and co-chair of the Summit. “Each attendee leaves with a manual of information and best practices that is easily worth more than the cost of attending the Summit itself.”


The Summit featured 18 sessions focused on key topics such as Prop 65, product recalls, lithium-ion batteries, voluntary standards, intellectual property and mitigating risk.

CPSC Commissioner Robert Adler delivered a luncheon presentation that surprised the audience by presenting an enlightening, engaging and interactive discussion on ethics. Asked afterward how he chose the topic, Adler said, “By all counts PPAI is an extremely ethical organization and your folks care a lot about this. My plea to everyone is to have a rule of thumb by which they can make ethical decisions. Ethics is not something separate and apart from our daily lives. Ethics is something that fills all the decisions we make on a daily basis. Develop a mastery of ethical decision making. You’ll be a better person because of it.”

The session resonated strongly with a number of attendees, including Pete Gleason of CPS/Keystone. “What I loved most about it was that it gave me a glimpse into the chairman of the CPSC and made me feel they weren’t a foe but a friend. It was a great presentation,” he said.


CPSC Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic explains the CPSC’s role.

CPSC Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic addressed the conference with a focus on the CPSC’s role and its responsibility to consumers. “Unsafe products hurt not only consumers but brands and businesses as well,” he said, emphasizing that the best way to avoid problems is to understand the CPSC’s role and businesses’ role for product safety. He also spoke about the myriad resources the CPSC can provide and urged listeners to look to the agency for information. “Only about a third of calls to the CPSC result in a recall,” he said, adding that fear of recalls keeps a lot of people from engaging with CPSC staff.

The commissioner also applauded PPAI’s efforts to educate the industry in all aspects of product responsibility. “PPAI has a vital role to play in this exchange of knowledge … and has become a model for safety education. Those efforts don’t go unnoticed at the CPSC. If the size and eagerness of this crowd is at all indicative of your commitment to compliance and safety, I’m confident this industry and its members will continue to thrive and deliver safe, enjoyable products for years to come.”

In a separate interview afterward, Mohorovic further addressed the misconceptions about the agency. “We are reemphasizing the priority of the agency to be externally engaged,” he said. “We went through a new strategic plan and that’s identified as one of our goals. The entire organization is thinking about how it can become more and better engaged because we feel that a better-educated community is going to provide a safer product.”

Rick Brenner, MAS+, president of RFBrenner, LLC and co-chair of the event, says, “I’m most pleased that this year’s Product Responsibility Summit was able take this critical area of product responsibility education to the next level for our attendees by continuing to identify the most significant issues and needs, and attracting the right subject matter experts to address them. From the comments I heard throughout the event—from attendees and speakers—PPAI is heading in the right direction to provide industry members with the information, tools and resources their companies need most now to manufacture, decorate, ship and sell safe promotional products.”

PPAI Welcomes Rosin, Willochell And Zimmer To The PPAI Board

Danny Rosin, co-president of distributor Brand Fuel, Inc., and Sharon Willochell, president of supplier Trimark, were elected in September to PPAI’s Board of Directors. In addition, D’Anna Zimmer, CAS, the Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana business development manager for BAG MAKERS, Inc., has been appointed as the RAC Delegate to the PPAI board. The new board members and RAC board delegate will begin their terms immediately following The PPAI Expo 2017. Rosin and Willochell will serve four-year terms, while Zimmer’s term is for two years.

“I am excited to welcome Danny, Sharon and D’Anna to PPAI’s board,” says Tom Goos, MAS, PPAI board chair. “They are experienced, passionate leaders and the industry and its members are lucky to have them. I look forward to what they accomplish over the next four years.”

Goos adds, “I also want to extend my thanks to all of the candidates in this year’s election. They displayed an impressive depth of talent, enthusiasm and expertise. We are privileged to have such an excellent slate of candidates stand up in support of the industry and the Association.”

The board of directors is the governing body for PPAI and plays a major role in directing its strategic activities, adopting policies and approving budgets to carry out the work of the Association. PPB spoke with the new board members about their qualifications and goals for their terms on the PPAI board.

Danny Rosin

danny-rosin A 26-year industry professional, Rosin has served on a number of PPAI committees and presented at the North American Leadership Conference as a featured speaker. He is also an active co-founder of PromoKitchen and is serving as president of the Carolinas Association of Advertising and Marketing Professionals (CAAMP), his regional association. In his community, Rosin is the co-founder and a volunteer leader of Band Together, an organization that raises over $1 million annually for a different nonprofit through live concert events. Additionally, he has been a speaker at Creative Mornings, is a member of The Harvard 100 and is a board member for The American Marketing Association, Triangle Chapter. Rosin and his wife have two daughters.

PPB: Why do you want to serve on the PPAI Board?

Danny Rosin: There are new business models and opportunities emerging in our space and I do not want to sit on the sidelines and just watch. I want to be invested at the highest level of helping the Association adapt and offer even greater resources to its members to help them be as successful as they can in the marketplace during this time of change. I think I can do this by building community and providing vision.

Ultimately, this opportunity is about servitude. I love this industry. I want to leverage my volunteer work in the nonprofit sector and leadership experiences and offer them to the greater industry during what appears to be a pretty volatile time. Wallace Stegner said, “There is a sense that we are all each other’s consequences.” I believe that is true. And I’d like to think that our industry can work together to adapt and succeed.

PPB: What unique strengths and experiences do you bring to the PPAI Board? 

Rosin: My industry experience, the creation of several successful for-profit and nonprofit organizations coupled with many hours in boardrooms are important. Aligning with the right people and organizations is even more important. I am not much of a politician. I speak my heart and mind. You can count on me to be open, direct, respectful, forward thinking and most importantly, help the PPAI staff execute its plan.

I am a brand builder. I am a progressive. I am an advocate for change. I want the Association to continue to keep its eyes wide open. To try some new things. To open some new doors.

PPB: What would you like to accomplish during your board term?

Rosin: There are a number of industry issues I would like to focus on, including interactive trade shows and programming that continue to draw more invested audiences. We also need to continue to put resources towards research, lobbying, education, product safety and the Get In Touch! initiative, and connect our market strategies to younger buyers and potential new members.

If having a sense of purpose in the workplace is important, can PPAI, and its membership, develop social innovation programs? Unequivocally, I say yes. Let’s consider progressive learning and teach sales and marketing techniques that respond to the undeniably young and advancing buyer mindset. Can we connect with colleges and create a promotional products curriculum? Can we build a plan to recruit from local colleges and establish a robust internship program for our members? Yes, we can.

Sharon Willochell

sharon-willochell Willochell has worked in promotional products for nearly 20 years and is a longtime volunteer with PPAI, having served on the Women’s Leadership Conference Workgroup and as a speaker for WLC and for the North American Leadership Conference. She has also been a speaker for the Promotional Product Professionals of Canada and several PPAI panels. In her community, Willochell has served on the board of directors for Leadership Pittsburgh and on committees for the American Heart Association and Strong Women, Strong Girls. Her previous work experience includes stints at Deloitte & Touche and Alcoa. Willochell and her husband, Ron, have a nine-year-old son, Jonah.

PPB: Why do you want to serve on the PPAI Board?

Sharon Willochell: I’ve been in the industry for more than 18 years, and have had the opportunity to be involved in a variety of ways. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity now to contribute at the board level to the future direction of the industry. I care about this industry. I want to see us continue to be strong, and to capitalize on the opportunities we have in the fast moving and dynamic business climate that exists today.

PPB: What unique strengths and experiences do you bring to the PPAI Board? 

Willochell: I’m fortunate to have been able to develop a variety of different perspectives in different roles within the industry. I was with Leed’s when we were a small supplier, helped build us into a mid-size supplier, and now as part of Polyconcept North America, we are one of the largest suppliers in the industry and as part of Polyconcept, one with global reach. With PCNA’s acquisition of Trimark in 2011, I’ve had the opportunity to expand my knowledge to apparel as well as hard goods, and learn more about the Canadian market. In terms of strengths I think one of the things I do very well is to move between high-level strategic vision and more tactical execution management. I believe it is critical at this time for us to think very broadly and strategically, but be able to translate that into action quickly.

PPB: What would you like to accomplish during your board term?

Willochell: I am thrilled to be on the board, and coming in at a time when we are embarking on our new strategic plan. One thing I am certain of is that there will be a technology component to that plan, both in terms of operations—supplier-distributor efficiencies—as well as market opportunities—online presence and our place in the digital advertising world. I think we have to push forward aggressively in these two areas and I would like to see us make significant progress during my tenure.

PPB: Are there any industry challenges or issues that you’d like to see renewed focus on?

Willochell: I believe compliance will continue to be an issue we need to stay focused on. Our focus on the role of promotional products with our Get In Touch! campaign is also critical in my view.

D’Anna Zimmer, CAS

danna-zimmer-cas-web Zimmer has worked as a supplier rep for more than 19 years. She has been involved with the Promotional Products Association Southwest (PPAS) since early in her career and has served two terms as board vice president, two terms as president and several terms as RAC Delegate. She is a four-time participant in PPAI’s Legislative Education Action Day (L.E.A.D.) and helped PPAS host L.E.A.D. Local in Austin, Texas, in 2015. Additionally, Zimmer is involved with mission outreach work at Prestonwood Baptist Church.  She leads the prayer ministry for her Bible fellowship class, The Encouragers, which was the class started by Zig Ziglar.

PPB: Why do you want to serve on the PPAI Board?

D’Anna Zimmer, CAS: It will be a great learning experience for me and I believe that I will be a good representative for the regional associations and their members.

PPB: What unique strengths and experiences do you bring to the PPAI board? 

Zimmer: I have 20-plus years of being in the trenches and out on the road as a supplier rep and this certainly brings a different perspective to the board. Additionally, a large portion of my career has been spent volunteering for an industry for which I am passionate. Volunteering is a wonderful experience. It deepens your understanding of the industry, makes you more resilient and teaches you how to better manage your time.

PPB: What would you like to accomplish during your board term?

Zimmer: I don’t have a mission or an agenda of my own to implement during my term. I do want to gain more knowledge about the industry. Additionally, I hope to walk away with deeper friendships and a larger bank of mentors during my term.

PPB: Are there any industry challenges or issues on which you’d like to see renewed focus ?

Zimmer: As an industry we struggle with bringing younger folks into the fold.  Engaging them once they enter also proves difficult.  I know this is being addressed and I am looking forward to seeing a new generation enter our industry.