(Editor’s Note: Amid the ongoing voting for the new slate of nominees for the PPAI Board of Directors, PPAI Media is profiling each potential new addition. Be sure to also check out today’s introduction to The Image Group President Zack Ottenstein.)

As a senior at John Hopkins University, Erin Reilly (and her best friend Sterling Wilson) started making Pantone-matched sunglasses and accidentally fell head over heels into the promotional products industry.

Launching College Glasses in 2012 and rebranding to Pop! Promos (PPAI 564497, S1) a year later, Reilly has worn just about every hat at the Philadelphia-based supplier, scaling the firm from a small startup to an award-winning organization with more than 125 employees in offices across the globe.

Reilly, who also serves on the PPAI Women’s Leadership Committee, has been nominated to a seat on the PPAI Board of Directors.

The election to approve the two-person slate (which also includes Zack Ottenstein, president of The Image Group) begins August 28 and closes September 4. Each PPAI member company’s voting contact is eligible to cast a vote for the slate. Voting will be done electronically, and a new 2023 username and password will be emailed to the voting contacts when voting opens. A candidate must receive majority approval among votes cast to be named to the board of directors following The PPAI Expo 2024.

In this interview with PPAI Media, Reilly explains why she wants to serve and what she brings to the table.

PPAI Media: Why are you interested in being part of the PPAI Board of Directors?

Erin Reilly: This industry has been so generous to me over the past 10 years in my role as CEO and founder of Pop! Promos. I’m excited to “pay it forward” to the industry as a whole and the PPAI Board specifically. The industry is at a crossroads with the rise of e-commerce and the increased reliance on technology-enabled solutions for doing business. I look forward to the opportunity to play a role in shaping the industry’s strategy regarding digital transformation.

I’m also excited to represent the next generation of leaders in the industry on the PPAI Board. As an executive in my early 30s, I come to the board with a unique perspective and vision for how we can cultivate, nurture and elevate rising leaders in the industry. 

PPAI Media: What unique experience or perspective do you bring that will be valuable to the board?

Reilly: Pop! Promos has a unique business model relative to a conventional promotional products supplier. As the leading rapid importer in the industry, we are an asset-light and highly creative solution for the sophisticated promotional products distributor. As an entrepreneur and female CEO, I’m looking forward to bringing my perspective to the board to help nurture young businesses and entrepreneurs.

PPAI Media: What do you hope PPAI can accomplish during your potential board tenure?

Reilly: I hope to be involved in two major initiatives the board is already focusing on: digital transformation and the public perception of branded merchandise. I hope to be involved in the next set of industry-sanctioned digital connectivity tools, as well as the initiative to elevate the industry’s public perception, value and the professionals who work so hard in it. 

PPAI Media: What do you see as the greatest challenge for the industry? What potential solutions do you envision?

Reilly: It’s our responsibility to tackle environmental sustainability as an industry. Sustainability standards aren’t universal across the industry, which creates a lot of uncertainty, inefficiency and sloppiness for suppliers and distributors. An enormous amount of time, money and energy are being deployed on both the supplier and distributor sides to try to share sustainability information through an endless number of audits, associations and compliance regimes.

There is an opportunity for PPAI to create something similar to the university “common application” for sustainability standards in the industry, so we all have one shared source for sustainability information that can be understood by both suppliers and distributors. 

PPAI Media: What is the greatest opportunity for the industry, and what is required to meet it?

Reilly: We have a huge opportunity to foster the next generation of industry leaders. It’s critical for us to create a more welcoming and supportive environment for new entrants to the industry. The inner workings of our industry are quite veiled and very difficult for new companies to navigate – it has taken Pop! Promos 10 years to really feel like we have a grasp on the industry, and we’re still learning things every day! 

To meet this opportunity, we must change the public’s perception of the industry, make it more welcoming to newcomers by sharing support and driving deeper connections across our existing industry leaders to maintain our bond. By welcoming the next generation of talent, we’ll inherently help address other opportunities in the industry, including environmental sustainability and enhancing our digital transformation.