Close Up: Enjoying The Ride
Quinn Bui learned an important lesson early on: money does not equal happiness. “Throughout middle school and high school, I sold candy and paper lanterns. I envied people who owned businesses,” says Bui. “Growing up, I was always told that money equals happiness. We weren’t well off, so my parents always said it’s important to go out there and try to make money.” But one simple question would change Bui’s perspective forever.
“During my college years, I would always ask business owners out to lunch whenever they would come speak to the class. I would ask them a bunch of questions, but I’d always end with the same one: What do you regret?” Bui says the answers would vary between not spending enough time with family, not traveling more and working excessively. “These people were making millions of dollars and most weren’t happy. Then it hit me—money does not equal happiness. I had to change my mindset. If you asked me mid-college why I pursued a profession in this business, I would have said ‘money.’ Now, I say it was so I could create the freedom to do what I want, be around my family, travel more and help people whenever I can.”
Bui has been in the promotional products industry for eight years. After studying entrepreneur studies at the University of New Mexico, he moved to Colorado to help his sister start her nail salon. It just so happened that her then-boyfriend was the owner of supplier Tropical Imports, and Bui took a job with the company. “When I started there, I was a customer service rep and graphic designer. Then, I took over trade shows and handling communications with our international suppliers. I wore all the hats at that business,” he says. In 2017, Bui decided to chase his entrepreneurial dreams and opened his own business. “I started my own distributorship, Nine Promotions. After running that for two years, I thought I was better fitted on the supplier side. With my knowledge of the industry and my love for small business, I decided to hop on with Raining Rose, and now I get to help distributors grow their business.”
Before joining the industry, Bui says he never thought about logoed products as advertisements. “When I first started, I was surprised to see how big the industry was. It was kind of like a secret society of people selling promotional products,” says Bui. “After working on the distributor and supplier sides of the industry, I’ve learned that putting logos on products is a tool for end users to grow their businesses, create awareness and show pride. Now, I always push distributors to go above and beyond just putting a logo on a product and to add value. It’s nice now, being in the industry long enough, that I get to educate people.”
As a niche supplier with a smaller product line, Bui says he knows his products inside out. “If you’re working with a supplier that’s selling 1,000 products, it’s actually really hard to learn everything. All you can do is give people what they need,” he says. “Knowing ingredients and a product’s backstory has helped me to truly be a professional in selling personal care items in our industry.”
Bui says the most important lesson he’s learned this year is not to be afraid of change. “When the pandemic happened, all of us had a choice: sit back and be scared or go for it.” As president of the Rocky Mountain Regional Promotional Products Association for the past two years, he has helped guide the regional association through uncertain times. “We decided to brainstorm and come up with new ideas. We thought of the ‘Rocky Box,’ which was modeled after Birchbox. In a time when suppliers couldn’t connect with distributors, we brought people together in a space to talk about products. We did 100 boxes, and we had a time on Zoom for each supplier to talk about their product in the Rocky Box.” Bui says volunteering with the association has been fun. “I like to see our association and industry grow, and you learn so much when you connect with other people in our industry. It’s important to have a web of support.”
Bui and his girlfriend, Jenny Duong, with their beloved dog Mia, who passed in November 2021. Right: Bui's adventure van.
Along with virtual trade shows and meetings, Bui found a new “vehicle” to connect with his clients. In March 2021, he bought an adventure van. “I’ve been thinking about this van for years, but through the pandemic, I felt like I could get it and use it for work,” he says. The van has a living space with a bed and kitchenette. “I have a territory of Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California, and within that realm, I can travel in my van and see people along the way. As an outside rep, you usually fly places. When you fly to, say, Los Angeles, you book a hotel in that area. After you see everybody, you go back to your hotel, and the next day, you are still at the hotel, so you can only go so far. With the van, I can travel without having to go back anywhere.” Bui says it cuts down on travel time. “With that extra time, I can see clients who outside reps normally can’t meet because it’s too far from the airport or hotel. The van has helped with meeting those who usually only get a phone call or virtual meeting, and it’s also helped people recognize who I am.”
Bui’s #vanlife is a testament to his values. “It’s not the money that I am chasing after anymore. It’s really about life and being able to explore and see things. Having a job that gives me the ability to go out and truly be me, and Raining Rose supporting who I am, is special. If you talk to my clients, they’ll probably say I’m really excited about lip balms. But it’s all about enjoying life and loving what you do, and I think people can see that.” Bui’s excitement for life is also influenced by his Vietnamese heritage. “I have a second culture, and I understand the different mindsets and norms of America versus Vietnam. I think I look at life differently because of this,” says Bui. “I came to America when I was one-and-a-half, but my parents always took us back. They made sure we went back home and understood what home really is. When we came here, we weren’t well off. Going from nothing to where I am today, I feel like a millionaire.”
PPB spoke with Bui to learn more about how he adds value beyond product sales.
PPB How do you improve your skills?
Bui Be open to new things. Question the process of how things were done in the past and think about how to improve on them. Always ask questions—I feel like that’s taken me far in life. There’s always room to learn more. The day that you think you’ve learned everything is the day you fail in life because you’ll never be able to understand life. Just be open and absorb what’s around you. If you see something interesting, pull it in and learn everything about it. I’ve done a lot of things in life and I’ve never been afraid. I’ve learned how to scuba dive while not knowing how to swim well. Take every opportunity that’s put in front of you.
PPB What advice would you share with someone who is struggling to maintain client relationships?
Bui Do more than just sell and show products to your clients. Listen to what they say rather than assuming what they need. Be an extension of their marketing team. Narrow down what they are looking for and present thoughtful ideas and products to them. We live in an age where you can buy anything online, including promotional products. What are you going to do that they can’t do on their own? Don’t sell promotional products. Your main goal shouldn’t be to sell a product. Your goal should be to sell your ideas, knowledge, personality and professionalism.
Kristina Valdez is associate editor of PPB.