What you tend to hear from professionals working in promotional products is that the industry allows people to find their niche and their passion. Others will say they value the way the industry caters to the entrepreneurial or ambitious. In promo, there’s no stopping you from paving your own path.

Lori Bauer, appointed to a two-year at-large director position on the PPAI Board of Directors, represents both of those perspectives. Her career at BIC Graphic, now Koozie Group, the No. 10 supplier in the inaugural PPAI 100, spanned nearly a quarter century as she worked her way up in a company full of people she appreciated while accomplishing a great deal.

But when the itch for a new challenge came around, Bauer remembered that, in this industry, you can always keep going.

“I am someone that is OK getting out of my comfort zone,” Bauer says. “Although it’s not always easy, it is the only way to continue to challenge yourself and grow.”

A Successful Supplier Tenure

Fresh off earning a marketing degree from Miami University in Ohio, Bauer relocated to the Tampa area and learned of a position in the promotional products division of BIC. Sometimes a place and a person are just the right fit.

“I really had no idea I was entering the world of promotional products,” Bauer says. “It didn’t take me long to get hooked.”

She began her career with BIC in 1998 as an assistant product manager in marketing. Over the next 23 years, Bauer held responsibilities in both sales and marketing, including product development, branding, promotions, creative services and sales strategy. It would take her a little over a decade to work her way up to director of marketing, only to transition to sales a few years later. By 2019, she was the company’s senior vice president of sales.

Bauer was with the company through various acquisitions and big-picture changes. In 2009, BIC acquired the Koozie brand, and BIC Graphic North America underwent a name change to Koozie Group in 2020. She says it was a valuable education in complex business operations.

“Not only did it prepare me to advance in my career,” she adds, “but it also taught me the value of working alongside peers who are invested in a business’s success and working together to do their best.”

Providing challenges, learning opportunities and room for advancement made the supplier the perfect fit for Bauer. It was an environment where she was not only comfortable but happy.

“You don’t stay somewhere that long if you don’t love what you are doing, and most importantly, the people,” Bauer says.

Bauer had an accomplished track record at Koozie Group. While in marketing, she oversaw the launch of hundreds of new products. After transitioning to sales, she led a team responsible for over $120 million in sales.

And yet, comfort doesn’t always lead to contentment.

A New Frontier

Early during the pandemic – when most of us were pushed toward moments of self-reflection – Ross Silverstein, a friend of Bauer’s and then president and CEO of iPROMOTEu, the No. 13 distributor in the inaugural PPAI 100, reached out about a senior position he was hoping to fill.

After some back and forth, Bauer decided to step away from the supplier side of promo in 2021 and join one of the most recognizable distributor names in the industry as senior vice president of affiliate sales and support. It turned out that those 23 years were building toward such a switch. Distributors had been her customers at BIC/Koozie Group. Now, she could draw on what she had learned in those partnerships.

“I built strong relationships with my clients, came to understand their business interests as entrepreneurs and commissioned salespeople and what they needed to succeed,” Bauer says.

When Silverstein initially approached Bauer, he knew retirement was on the horizon for him. Bauer will admit that her ultimate goal was to someday lead iPROMOTEu – one doesn’t leave a company they love without higher ambitions.

Last December, Bauer was officially named CEO of iPROMOTEu following Silverstein’s retirement. She says she’s fully aligned with her predecessor’s vision. But she brings her own experience and expertise to the future. “iPROMOTEu is in the strongest business position in the organization’s history,” she says, “and we have an outstanding staff in place, led by our executive leadership team.”

As she leads iPROMOTEu, Bauer will also align with some of the industry’s other top voices as part of the PPAI Board, continuing her journey in promo.