Leading By Example
Brandon Mackay, MAS, grew up in the promotional products industry. Just a teen fresh out of high school when he started at SnugZ USA, Mackay went on to become president, CEO and owner of the company; a role he’s served in for the last 17 years, though he’s been at SnugZ for a total of 28 years.
As SnugZ went from a team of six to more than 500, Mackay discovered his passion for promotional products, but it was the comradery and fellowship in this industry that so many speak about which inspired him to get involved in education and advocacy. For so generously giving of his time, talents and heart to the growth of PPAI and those around him, Mackay was named a recipient of the 2022 PPAI Distinguished Service Award, which was bestowed in January at The PPAI Expo.
“I encourage those who think they’re too busy, to just put that to the side and get involved,” Mackay says. “I don’t think you can be too busy—that doesn’t exist.”
Humanitarianism has long been a core value for Mackay in both his personal and professional lives. He was introduced to volunteering early on by his parents, who were active in their community, and he continued to make an impact through Boy Scouts of America. Mackay saw the power of people coming together for the greater good, and offers this same power to the industry by volunteering to raise awareness and share information. Over the years, Mackay has served on nearly every PPAI committee, taskforce and action group, in addition to serving on the Board of Directors from 2008-2011, on the PPEF Board (Promotional Products Education Foundation) from 2009-2011, and most recently on the Leadership Advisory Committee from 2017-2020.
“The greatest thing about serving at PPAI on any level… is that comradery and the pure love of the business of promotional products that everybody has,” Mackay says. “Another thing that I find beneficial to me, and hopefully it’s a benefit to others, is the free-wheeling ability to just share information. Everybody wants everybody to be successful, and the part I’ve learned most inside my service at PPAI is just the sheer desire for us to help each other get better.”
As a company leader, service work is something Mackay strongly encourages of his employees today. Aside from being dedicated to their clients and helping them to communicate important messaging, SnugZ has a company culture that fosters giving through food and clothing drives, afterschool meal programs and building homes for those in need through Habitat for Humanity. In 2014, the supplier adopted a two-mile stretch of highway northwest of its facility through the Adopt-a-Highway program, and twice a year SnugZ employees congregate to clean up the roadway. If SnugZ employees are interested in volunteer work of their own during work hours, they’re supported in doing so with a paid workday.
“Brandon grew up in this industry and has given a tremendous amount back,” says Brittany David, MAS, SnugZ’ chief revenue officer and former PPAI Board Chair, and one of Mackay’s nominators. “He not only volunteers for PPAI, including his four years of board service, but he is also a mentor to many around him and makes time for anyone who seeks him out.” She says, “Brandon has made a great impact on the industry and does so with a servant’s heart.”
From a business sense, SnugZ has been a rising supplier through Mackay’s tenure. In December in acquired California-based supplier Sweda Company in a major industry transaction. Some of the areas that Mackay is passionate about are ease of order transaction and using technology to remove existing friction, he says. In January, SnugZ unveiled its new augmented reality tool, Swagar, which allows distributors to display a virtual 3D model of SnugZ products within the ambient environment around them on their smartphones.
Mackay and his son, Chance, in Ate-Vitarte, Peru. The pair spent three weeks there building an elementary school. Above, right: Mackay, second from left, and his daughter, Addie, third from left, with volunteers in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on another school-building trip
He’s also dedicated to helping people develop and nurture their own capabilities through mentorship. “I just have a real, burning platform for giving people opportunities, regardless of their backgrounds, and just helping to elevate them into a position they never thought they’d be qualified for,” he says.
Outside of the industry, Mackay commits to helping those in need through partaking in humanitarian projects. He’s done service work in Nicaragua, which includes food and clothing gift drives for the holiday season, and he’s built schools in underserved communities in Bolivia and Peru. He also inspired his four children to carry on the cycle of goodness that he learned from his own parents. All of them have participated in hands-on humanitarian projects, he says, from shorter ones to longer, three-week efforts abroad. “It’s priceless time that we’ve had together,” Mackay says.
“When you see an industry continue to expand, it is hard to ignore the people that laid out that path, and Brandon is one of those people. He learned from the SnugZ leaders before him,” says Kevin Felgate, CEO of Name Brand Promotions, a supplier in Boise, Idaho, and one of Mackay’s nominators. “In later years, Brandon and I would talk about the burden that all the travel has had on our families and our desire to make up for it. For me, most of that time was related directly to my job opportunities, but for Brandon, it was mostly to support the industry that his job was within. He has always said it is important to work on the industry as much as it is to work in it.”
Mackay has previously been recognized in the industry for his contributions. In 2019, he received ASI’s Bess Cohn Humanitarian of the Year Award and in 2016, he was named a PPAI Fellow.
When speaking about what the PPAI Distinguished Service Award means to him, Mackay finished with the same closing remarks he said at the award ceremony at The PPAI Expo. “I don’t think I’m done yet. I’ve got quite a ways to go—I think.”
Renda is an associate editor at PPAI.