Kim Massie didn’t originally aspire to become a marketing expert or a business owner. In fact, she started out on a different path entirely. Massie earned a pharmacy degree from The Ohio State University and was the director of pharmacy for two different managed care companies in the early stages of her career. She went on to work in specialty sales for Merck for 12 years before she decided to scratch the entrepreneurial itch that had been nagging her.

“I was constantly seeking out ways to fulfill my desire to be creative—which you really can’t do as a pharmacist—so I opened up Parrot Sports Gear part-time with a friend,” she says. 

Motivated by her daughter Holly’s passion for swimming, Massie focused on providing branded apparel and gear for swim teams. “It was inspiring to see the drive my mom had while working full-time as a pharmacist and running Parrot Sports Gear in her spare time,” Holly Beard says. “I remember her setting up at all my swim meets to sell swim supplies, and when it was my turn to swim, she would run out to the pool deck to cheer me on. Then she would go back to the [Parrot Sports Gear] table until it was my turn again.”

Growing up in Bellbrook, Ohio, Beard’s parents were active in raising her and her twin sister, Krista. They supported Holly’s decision to swim year-round, waking up at 5 am during the week to drive her to swim practice. She went on to swim for Wilmington College for four years, and then graduated with a business management degree.

Following graduation in 2005, Beard landed a job as a purchasing agent with a contractor at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. With her business background, she helped her mother on a part-time basis, expanding the distributorship by marketing to the corporate world. In 2013, they took the plunge and committed to Parrot Promo Essentials full-time.

“It wasn’t until after college that I saw a glimpse of what it could be like to work with my mother all the time, and I was thrilled when we grew to the point that we could work together every day,” says Beard. “We are really the perfect partners. Our strengths and weaknesses are different, which allows us to keep a well-rounded perspective for our customers.”

Massie agrees, citing her daughter’s detail-oriented style, which complements her own big-picture approach. Thinking back to when her daughter was a child, Massie says she could not have envisioned that they would own a company together, although, at the time, she was sure that they would always be close and collaborative. She adds, “Holly has always been a very friendly, kind and intuitive person. She enjoys helping others and that has been one of her greatest strengths for our company.”

However, launching a full-time business hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Since the pair had been in the promotional products industry for years, they hoped that the transition to a full-time distributorship would be straightforward. “I was really surprised that we had that three- to five-year hump to get over, just like a newly-started business,” says Massie. “Although we knew a lot about the industry, there was still much [more] to learn.” 

They were discouraged by the amount of time spent in the office completing paperwork and other administrative tasks, when their strengths and interests revolved around customer sales and service. One afternoon roughly two years ago, they were venting their frustrations to Massie’s other daughter, Krista, who is a customer service manager at distributor Proforma Albrecht. She encouraged her mother and sister to meet with principals Fred and Susie Albrecht.

“Holly and I made the trip to Milford, Ohio, and after meeting for several hours we knew we had found the perfect solution for our business,” says Massie about teaming up with Proforma Albrecht. “It was truly the best business decision we have ever made because it allowed us to increase our knowledge and capabilities overnight and just focus on our customers and what we do best.”

The numbers support her assessment: over the past two years, sales at Parrot Promo Essentials have almost doubled, and in 2017 alone, the company grew 32 percent with sales topping $500,000.

But the partnership with Proforma Albrecht isn’t the only factor to which they attribute their success—Massie and Beard embrace what they call a “givers gain” philosophy: when you help others, you get helped in return. Thanks to this approach, they’ve also enjoyed a strong referral network and consider many of their clients to be friends.

In addition, both owners are heavily engaged in the community, volunteering on multiple boards and managing charity events. Massie proudly notes that her daughter is on the board of the Miami Valley Military Affairs Association (MVMAA), runs the annual Bob Chiles Charity Golf Outing, serves on the board of the Bellbrook Chamber of Commerce and was recently named Member of the Year for the Beavercreek Chamber of Commerce. The mother-daughter team also credits business growth to their respective Business Networking International (BNI) groups, where each currently serves as president.

Looking forward, this dynamic duo is creating a solid five-year transition plan because, as Massie jokingly warns, “I am not going to work forever!” The plan is bittersweet, because they truly enjoy working together. 

But for now, they are focused on growing the business together, getting to know every customer well and appreciating the chance to be creative every day. 

In Massie’s words, “If you love what you do, it shows. And the more you give to others, the more you get in return. Every time you meet with a customer, listen, and then brainstorm how to solve their problem or fill a need. Success will follow naturally.” 

Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.