Danielle Renda, PPAI’s associate editor, recently visited several industry suppliers in the Greater Cincinnati, Ohio, area to learn more about their products and services, manufacturing processes and company history. Among them were Links Unlimited, Inc. (PPAI 375603, S1) in Cincinnati and IMAGEN Brands, parent company of suppliers Crown Products (PPAI 113430, S10) and Vitronic (PPAI 114197, S10), in Mason.

At Links Unlimited, Renda met with Sherry Barry, marketing manager, and Scott Kooken, president and co-founder, who shared how the company got its start. Kooken (pictured above, with Renda) started the company with co-founder Bret Williams with a vision to sell logoed golf clubs. The team launched their business out of their apartment—Kooken sold his mountain bike for a computer—and for the next four years, they bootstrapped their efforts. Kooken and Williams both worked full time outside of their business, Kooken working days and Williams working nights. When they finished their first workday, the pair would switch off and focus on growing their business. Today, the company prides itself on developing partnerships with its clients, says Kooken, with a full product line and 70 employees, in addition to a range of high-quality, elevated products. The turnkey company also manages incentive events for some of its clients.

At IMAGEN Brands, Renda met with Lisa Brooks, vice president of marketing, (pictured above, right, with, from left, Paul Lage, president; Shannon Jenkins, director of marketing, and Renda) who shared some of the supplier’s new, on trend collections and innovative products. One of these products include its digital drinkware, which can undergo a full imprint without any trace of a seam. “I challenge you to find the seam,” Brooks said. Renda accepted the challenge and did try—pleasantly to no avail. Brooks also discussed two of the company’s most popular collections, one with products targeting the outdoors, the other with games. With “wanderlust” being a major trend, especially with Millennials, Brooks explained, the outdoors collection includes multi-use products that are easy to carry and easy to store, such as a water bottle with a bottom compartment that twists open and closed, enclosing a first aid kit. This compartment has other uses, such as carrying snacks on the go, or doubling as pet’s bowl. The gaming products, she says, are also an ode to Millennials, with more Millennials opting to stay in for a night of games rather than go out. Some of these traditional games include tic-tac-toe and 3D puzzles, along with cornhole and a set of life-size, blow-up pins and a bowling ball.

Coverage of Renda’s other visits in Ohio, including Osborne Coinage Co. and The Allen Co., was featured in Tuesday’s PPB Newslink.