Featured Success Stories of Companies Certified by NWBOC
Meet Ree Wysong of GGI Worldwide, Inc., in Lake St. Louis, MO
Being a ground breaker. . . defines how Ree Wysong started her business, and how she has led it through years of economic and industry fluctuations of good times and bad.
Back in the 1980s, 'branded merchandise' meant printing a logo on a pen, a t-shirt, or a cup. However, Ms. Wysong envisioned broadening the concept dramatically to include every item a golfer needs, uses or touches. Employed as a CFO with a large golf retailer, she took her idea to the company owner in the form of a proposal to establish logoed merchandise as a separate partnership. Ms. Wysong saw that major corporations State Farm, Anheuser-Busch, and McDonnell Douglas were a huge, favorable target market. In the end, her boss was still unwilling to partner with her. "It was the best outcome that could have happened, because it allowed me to start my company immediately," she says.
Because Ms. Wysong is a rare combination of possessing both sales skills and financial expertise, she knew the biggest challenge at first would be to establish credit with suppliers. The first call she made was to her contact at Titleist, the biggest brand in golf. She said that she was starting her own company, and asked for a line of credit. "They gave me $150,000 line of credit before I walked out the door. I asked why they did that, and they said, 'Since we know you've handled someone else's money as well as you did, we trust you to handle your own money as well!'" That gave her the confidence to launch, lined up with the largest suppliers in golf.
GGI Worldwide, Inc. received its WBE certification from NWBOC in 1998. "I had a big pharmaceutical client who asked me to get certified as a woman-owned company, so I did," Ms. Wysong says. "It's also especially important to the big construction companies, and the products I provide can be part of their WBE spend." Having certification helped her to secure the business long-term, and is an added benefit for corporate clients.
The company began with logoed golf products, and over the years expanded to providing virtually any merchandise from shot glasses to snowboards, to deep sea fishing equipment. The corporations would typically provide each of their salespeople a budget with which they can purchase logoed items to give away as promotions to current and potential customers. In that scenario, the orders came in like clockwork, but providing the high-level customer service GGI is known for tended to require all hands on deck all the time. "The money is good, but you do run the risk of relying more and more on your largest client, so when something happens to them it is very tough for the company to survive," Ms. Wysong relates.
On two separate occasions, GGI Worldwide had to survive the unexpected and sudden loss of its largest client. One huge client stopped ordering immediately upon a directive issued from the AMA for big pharma to cease providing freebies to doctors. Another big corporate client was sold to an international buyer, which set up insurmountable dynamics GGI could not change. "That was a perfect storm, in 2008. I lost the large client, the economy was also suddenly in free-fall, and existing customers had no budget," Ms. Wysong recalls. "We went through cash reserves; I didn't take a paycheck for a long time. From there, it was a slow, step-by-step build up again." She doggedly called on former customers and kept in touch for literally several years before they gradually started ordering again.
During this time she did negotiate with top brands for exclusivity in selling branded merchandise for awards, gifts, and incentive purposes. Now, after 4 years of development, she has launched Luxury Brands, uniquely offering Jimmy Choo, Under Armour, Gucci and Kate Spade merchandise. She has hired salespeople again, and has more than survived - Ms. Wysong is providing jobs and economic growth for the larger community.
Company website: www.ggiww.com/
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Using the green arrows, click through to see other Success Stories that were previously featured.
A list also appears below so you can go directly to a specific person or company.