Five Minutes With: Kara Keister, MAS, Promise Keeper For Social Good Promotions
Kara Keister, MAS, doesn’t like to sit still. That go-getter attitude comes in handy in her role as “promise keeper” for Social Good Promotions, the Midwest-based distributor she helped launch in 2019.
She describes “promise keeper” as a counterpart to the company’s promise makers – the sales and marketing team working directly with clients to create promo programs and curate products to make their brands shine.
“My job as the promise keeper is to make those dreams come true – all of the crazy back-end stuff,” Keister says, “so I deal with all of our supply chain, all of our production, keeping everything on track, making sure everything is delivered on time.”
She admits the role has been more challenging than she had anticipated – thanks in no small part to the pandemic – but she loves the feeling of getting things done, as well as the challenge of coming up with imaginative solutions.
“I really like to be creative,” Keister says. “I had that when I was little, and then you start adulting and don’t always get to use that that muscle so much. I always used to joke that I also love to shop, so this career is perfect for me, because I shop all day using other people’s money, which is really wonderful.”
Like many promo professionals, she found her calling almost by accident, starting as an outside sales rep with City Apparel in 2010 after earning her MBA.
“It was not on my radar,” says Keister. “I did not think that sales was for me. I said no a million times until finally I said, ‘I’ll give it a shot,’ and it turns out, thankfully, they believed in me and they were right. I actually really love sales.”
PPB spoke with Keister to learn more about her company and what she wants industry peers to know about CSR efforts, as well as her goals as a Regional Relations Committee delegate to the PPAI Board. (The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
PPB: Why Social Good Promotions? Tell us about your company and your mission.
Social Good Promotions was founded on the idea that we can use our power for good. We can leverage promo with purpose, and there are enough items and programs that exist now that we are able to sustain using a supply chain that is curated around that mutual belief. It’s incredible, and we’re so thankful to PPAI and to the industry for encouraging this.
Our mission is threefold. One, we’ve curated our supply chain around the betterment of the industry, so we are looking for partners that have a give back, that have a corporate social responsibility mission –really anything that we can defend to our clients as “this is doing good in the world.”
The second thing is that we are working to increase the knowledge of those partnerships. And then third and most important to us is that we actually give back directly to our communities. Just like every other distributor, we are for-profit, but at the end of the year we take a portion of the monies that we make and we invest back in the community in organizations that are near and dear to our employees’ hearts. We let them pick.
PPB: What do you want people to know about charitable giving and other corporate social responsibility efforts?
Start small but start somewhere. I know that seems incredibly simple and basic, but a lot of times these conversations get very overwhelming. Restructuring your whole business or redoing your mission statement or completely changing your value system is a wonderful sentiment, but it’s not necessary. You can start with one thing.
For example, we all are selling T-shirts, so pick one T-shirt that has some kind of CSR initiative or give back associated with it, and just try and show that T-shirt.
PPB: What do you want to accomplish in your role as RRC delegate for District 3 (Midwest) to the PPAI board?
My goal is to be a representative of the regional community I’ve been part of for almost nine years. I’ve worked my way through regional boards, through the RAC (Regional Association Council) board and now the Regional Relations Committee. I do try and stay in touch as much as I possibly can with that regional community to make sure that they are supported.
Secondly, I am there to represent small business. Often the PPAI board consists of large-scale distributors and large-scale suppliers, and my role is to fulfill that small-business portion, which makes up a really large portion of our industry.
PPB: What do you do when you’re not keeping promo promises?
I have taught dance for a very long time at a local studio I grew up in. I teach tap, ballet, jazz and lyrical, and I teach hip hop now, too. I’ve been dancing for basically my whole life since I was a child.
I also volunteer extensively with different groups. One of my favorites: I work with Special Olympics Ohio. I have been a key volunteer with them since I was roughly 15 years old, and this summer, I had the opportunity to go to Disney World and coach for the USA Games team. It was incredible. I absolutely loved it. We got to meet just tons of different delegations, and I loved getting to experience that.
My husband is a physician, and just in the last 60 days we have moved back to our hometown, where we are hoping to settle now that we’re going to have a family.
Keister and her husband, Alex, welcomed their first child, Boone Daniel Keister, on October 27.