How you can get an edge on your competitors

Printed silicone phone wallets exiting a drying oven

The tug of war over Tariffs during the last few months has created headaches for suppliers in the promotional products industry. Back and forth pronouncements make price predictions challenging. A large percentage of promotional items are produced in China – the focus of most tariff discussions. 

Suppliers contract with overseas manufacturers months in advance for blank promotional goods that they imprint or embroider with your custom logo in their domestic factories. Fall is the time when they set their prices for print catalogs coming in the new year. Several of our suppliers quietly disclosed to us that they will not be printing catalogs at all this year. Instead, they plan to rely on their web sites, allowing them to be more fluid with product costs.

What this means for buyers like you

For businesses that use promotional products and apparel, this creates a challenge. Promotional product distributors like Sophwell will need to make clients aware that prices published in a catalog or that we quoted last week may have changed due to 10-25% tariffs imposed in the interim. This uncertain scenario is difficult for everyone.

UPS has also announced that shipping costs will increase 4.9% on the day after Christmas, December 26th. Combined with the potential tariffs, businesses will need to be ready to get less for their budgets in 2019.

How to stay ahead of your competitors

If your organization can plan ahead, you have an opportunity to still get next year’s materials at this year’s prices. Some suppliers have agreed to hold their prices on nearly all items until December 31st, so you still have time to avoid increases that your less-savvy competitors will pay.

If you still have budget money left for this year, acting now makes even more sense. Don’t wait too long, though, as suppliers may run out of inventory on popular items and possibly increase prices on new shipments coming in.

How to avoid the price increase

  • Look at your trade show or promotional plans for next year
  • Budget for how much material you will need
  • Develop a list of products you will want in inventory
  • Contact us to see which items you need to buy now and which ones can wait

Items likely to be impacted by tariffs:

  • Hats
  • Tote Bags
  • Plastic Pens
  • Cotton and sport bags
  • Non-Woven bags
  • Leather goods
  • Cotton, wool and synthetic textiles
  • Towels
  • Badges
  • LED lighting (flashlights)
  • Cartons, boxes and cases of corrugated paper and paperboard
  • Drinkware (water bottles, mugs)
  • Technology (chargers, power banks)

Items not impacted by tariffs:

  • Printed products (paper prices already increased 10% in 2018)
  • Large format printing (banners, displays, table throws)
  • Domestically produced products (contact us for details)

Email me at to schedule a time to review how these price increases impact the materials you buy. In some cases, we can switch to either domestic production or non-tariffed countries. If production storage is a potential issue, we can help with that as well.

Photographer: Stefano Ferrario

Event planning means taking care of the details. Here’s a meeting checklist to keep you on track.

There’s a lot of work that goes in event planning for meetings and conferences. Here are some of the typical must-have items for your meeting checklist.

  • Exterior Banners and/or signage to direct attendees to the venue
  • Welcome table with a branded table throw, or a registration booth
  • Logo’d apparel for staff members so it’s easy for speakers and guests to find help
  • Pens for filling out on-site registration forms (and for seminar rooms if the venue does not provide them)
  • Pre-cut, logo’d Name Badges that can be printed on-site (paper or adhesive label)
  • For paper Name Badges, a clear plastic holder with either a safety pin attachment or a branded lanyard
  • Printed show schedules, meeting room maps and tickets to special events
  • Branded Tote Bags or plastic bags to hold printed materials
  • Signage (and sometimes easel stands) displaying the seminar schedules
  • Signage by each meeting area listing times and sessions slated for that space
  • Notepads and pens for the meeting rooms
  • Printed evaluation forms
  • Large bowl or ballot box to collect info for door prize awards
  • Speaker gifts and awards
  • Follow up mailing to attendees thanking them for coming, and inviting to save the date/preregister for next year’s event
  • Printed special offer/show discount offer sheets
  • For exhibitors, sign up sheets for the following year’s show.

Are you too busy to track down all of these items? We can help. Copy and paste this list, then surf over to our CONTACT PAGE with your request.

Did we miss something? Please let us know in the Comments.

Holiday gifts – it’s that time again

Are you struggling to decide what holiday gifts to give your clients, vendors and employees this season? This post is for you.

The #1 reason clients (and employees) report why they move on to another company is because they don’t feel appreciated. Often, it doesn’t take much more than just saying thank you, as long as they feel it’s sincere. Let’s look at ten of the most popular holiday gifts and talk about how you can make them feel more personal.

Holiday CardsCustom holiday cards for business gifts

Many companies have moved away from sending holiday cards because they feel like they don’t have the time or creativity to make something that offers a professional presentation. We’ve partnered with Birchcraft Studios to make it super easy to select, customize and order cards online here. We can mail them for you if needed.

Creating a totally custom card can also have a big impact. The key to making holiday cards feel more personal is taking the time to actually sign them individually and, perhaps, handwrite the address. It’s even better is when you can add a short personal note. When you opt to take time to make your card more unique or personalized, you need to make sure you plan farther ahead. You should be ordering your cards before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving cards for businessBetter yet, get an early start and say “thanks” with Thanksgiving cards instead. If you tend to procrastinate, you can always order New Years cards. Either of these options arrive at different times than holiday cards and can make you stand out.

If you’d only like to send out a handful of cards but want to really personalize each one, or add a gift with your card, SendOutCards let’s you create custom cards from scratch. You can select from hundreds of existing templates or build from your imagination. They print and mail directly from your online order, allowing you to add food treats, gifts cards and other items to your shipment.

Personalized GiftsBusiness gifts engraved pen George Clooney

There’s nothing more personalized than receiving a gift with your name engraved into the item. A good quality pen with your client’s name will always be appreciated and will never be discarded. Here’s one that can include your logo and a name for under $10. Professional Padfolios like this refillable one from Cross can be debossed with the recipient’s initials. It’s the kind of gift that will be kept for a lifetime.

Food Gifts

Food gifts are a perennial favorite gift at the holidays. They are easy to share and are a great option when you need to provide a single gift to a group of people or when you’re not sure of what to give to an individual.

Chocolate tops the list, but not all chocolate is the same. When clients ask us for recommendations, we recommend companies whose main focus is food products rather than include as part of a larger promotional catalog.

Two of our favorites are Chocolate Inn and Maple Ridge Farms. Chocolate Inn creates custom molded chocolates with your logo. That’s great for keeping your brand front and center when the open box is sitting out in an open area for coworkers to share. Maple Ridge offers a wide variety of candy, cookie and smokehouse gifts that are shipped fresh to you or drop shipped to your customers with a personalized note.

Gift SetsWine and cheese holiday gifts

When you want to create a more impressive presentation, gift sets can be a great option. It allows you to bundle different products together in a package designed to fit the items. They can be a combination of tech items, drinkware or home items like a wine and cheese set. Adding a personalized note in the package will also be appreciated.


Switch back bluetooth headphonesTablets and smartphones are everywhere, so providing gifts that enhance the technology experience are extremely popular. People always need cords and chargers. Virtual reality viewers are really hot this year. Upgrading to a bluetooth speaker or headphones will make a good impression, but only if you spend a little more to get products with better sound quality. People on the go will really appreciate having a bluetooth keyboard with a stand to hold their device.

CalendarsDay at a time wall calendar

While many people live and die by their digital calendars, the paper version has continued to hold popularity. There are many different versions you can send based on your budget and interest.

The ubiquitous wall calendar displays your logo in full view to everyone all year long. A planner/diary will travel with your recipient and, for people who use them every day, your brand is connected to their lifeline. A personalized desk calendar with the person’s name incorporated into images on every page is fun and can help a cubicle feel more like home.

Fleece and ApparelTaza fleece quarter zip holiday gift 42.496620, -71.126083

The winter season is a great time to give cold-weather clothing that keep your employees warm. This heathered fleece quarter zip is great for layering or for wearing around the office when the temperature drops. Knit beanie caps are also popular. If you want to hop on the hottest recent trend, consider custom logo’d socks.

Journals and Notebooks

Digital devices are great for accessing information quickly but studies show we retain information better when we write things down. The Moleskine® Evernote Notebook brings the two styles together by using Evernote’s Page Camera feature to capture handwritten notes that instantly become digital and are stored in Evernote.


Drinkware items are another great option when you want to gift something useful but don’t personally know your client that well. You can choose from basic coffee mugs and water bottles to the insanely popular Yeti and similar style vacuum insulated bottles that keeps drinks hot for 5 hours and cold for 24 hours.

Brand Name Products

Anytime you give something with a brand name you let your client or vendor know that you appreciate your relationship with them. That’s especially true with holiday gifts. There’s too many to list, so please reach out to us to discuss what you you are looking for.


Still looking for ideas? Check out one of our older posts at

As the new school year draws near, parents are looking for good quality clothes that the kids will wear but are still affordable. Fruit Of The Loom is targeting those parents with their latest ad.

Families aren’t the only ones looking for t-shirts for kids. Schools, parent associations, teams and youth organizations will also be looking for screen printed shirts. Having the students wear similar colored shirts helps identify the students from your school or organization more easily.

We print shirts every year for many different groups. Typically they are looking for something that is reasonable quality but won’t break the budget. That’s why we like the Fruit Of The Loom brand. They are well known, thanks to national advertising campaigns and easy availability.

Here are a couple of styles we really like.

Great screen printed shirts – Fruit of the Loom Youth HD Cotton™ T-ShirtYouth Screen printed t-shirts

The Youth HD Cotton t-shirt is a great basic shirt that can handle the everyday wear and tear that active kids will put it through. The HD label comes from the High Density cotton fabric that receives a screen printed image with more clarity than other brands in this price range. You can order screen printed shirts starting as low as $5.00 each.

This shirt also comes in a Long Sleeve version.

Ladies V-neck screen printed t-shirtGroup purchases often mean that you also need to add some shirts for the adult teachers, coaches and chaperones. Fruit Of The Loom also offers Men’s and Ladies’ styles made from the same fabrics. Everyone will know the kids belong with you.

Want more information? Please fill out the form below so we can see how best to help you.

Screen Printing Info Request

First Name*

Last Name*




Description of what you need*

Enter the Captcha


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Sophwell receives award for marketing
Press Release


Reading Award Winner Program Honors the Achievement

READING September 3, 2015 — SOPHWELL INC has been selected as the 2015 Best of Reading Award Winner in the Merchandising & Marketing Consultants category by the Reading Award Program.

Each year, the Reading Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Reading area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2015 Reading Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Reading Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Reading Award Program

The Reading Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Reading area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Reading Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

SOURCE: Reading Award Program

Reading Award Program


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The four things you need to do now on LinkedIn via Sophwell
I started on LinkedIn in 2007, and it has been a great tool to use in my business and career. I’ve taught several classes on using LinkedIn and optimizing profiles at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in Harvard Square. In the process, I’ve see many of my connections making mistakes that hurt their profiles.

Here are the four things I encourage everyone to do to improve their profile.

When you look through LinkedIn profiles, it’s not unusual to see incomplete sentences and poor grammar, as well as misspelled names(!!), words and titles. LinkedIn is a professional network. Failing to simply check your work makes you look sloppy and unprofessional. If you get nothing else from this post, please follow this tip.

Switch the notify button to off if you don't want to publicize when you make changes to your profile.

Switch this to off if you don’t want to publicize when you make changes to your profile.

SOLUTION: Reach out to others to read your profile and ask for constructive input. However, if you do not want your profile updates shared publicly for coworkers to see, find this setting on your profile page and set it to “Off.”


LinkedIn Anonymous Head

Are you a real person?

LinkedIn is a professional network, so you should have a professional, recognizable head shot of you. No company logos, pets, group photos or vacation snapshots. How would you present yourself when meeting a potential client or employer? That’s what your photo should represent.

SOLUTION: Have a professional photographer or reasonably capable friend take your picture. Avoid selfies. Your profile photo is cropped as a square. Ideally the image should be no smaller than 50×50 pixels, because below that your image shrinks inside the image box on your profile. The largest file size LinkedIn will accept is 500×500 pixels, or 4mb.

The power of LinkedIn comes from the ability to reach a huge potential network of customers, suppliers and employers. When you add connections, your network grows exponentially. It shows you are connected in your industry and the professional community. Many employers are looking to see how well connected you are when they review your profile, with the idea that you may help attract other good job candidates and potential business opportunities.

To demonstrate the power of this to my LinkedIn students, I use the Advanced Search feature to show how my 1,200+ connections link me to 108 million people in the United States. Then I drill down to show my 100,000 links to people with “Marketing” in their title in the Greater Boston area. Still, I always have one or two students who struggle with this concept. At some point someone will ask, “Why would I want to be connected to all those people? I don’t even know them.” The power of LinkedIn is that it makes your profile available to people who have never heard of you.

SOLUTION: When you meet new people, make it a habit to invite them to be connected. LinkedIn also allows you to connect your email address books and suggest profiles of people who you already know.

Many people make the mistake of simply cutting & pasting their resume into their LinkedIn profile. The resulting clipped sentences and staccato language can be rigid and uninteresting. They don’t tell enough about the unique person you were when you worked at those places at that time. LinkedIn frees you from the “Keep your resume short” rule.

Instead, tell your story. Share some of the passion you had for the work you did. Add a little personality. Build interest. You don’t need to do it for every job on your list, but you should try to share more when describing your current and most recent experiences. It doesn’t need to be a novel, but it can be longer than a tweet. If you have more to say, write a LinkedIn post.

Click here to find the next session I am teaching Cambridge. Look under the Business category for “LINK.”

The class is directed toward anyone who wants to use LinkedIn to help their career – whether to build their business network, find potential service partners or look for a job. I mostly see people who are in some phase of a job search. Some are actively looking, while others are feeling uncertainty in their jobs and are preparing for a time when they may need to be looking for new work.

I teach the class as a workshop. People bring their laptops while I look over their shoulders and help them access the multiple features available that they may not find intuitively. My goal is to make them proficient in using the tools while optimizing their profile to help them create a more compelling profile.

I have also been asked to speak to college classes, networking organizations and businesses. Contact me if you are interested in learning more about LinkedIn for your group or organization.

Happy networking!

Jamie Bradley

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It may still feel too cold in New England, but it’s time to start planning your outdoor events. The feel of the warm sun and the fresh smell of a summer barbecue will be here before you know it. Here are some ideas for helping your guests remember their outing in the great outdoors.

Versatile Convertible Cooler Tote

combination cooler tote bagThis innovative cooler easily transforms from a 12-can capacity travel cooler to a flat tote for added versatility and easy storage. Fill it with a towel, water bottle, hat and t-shirt and you have a complete package to help guests remember your event. The best promotional giveaways are the ones that people will find the most useful.  Click here to watch a short video about this product.

sea glass color vintage mason jar with handle


Bring a little retro flair to your next outdoor event with sea-glass inspired, trendy mason jar. Fill it with a tasty beverage over ice, and its double-wall insulation keeps your drink cool longer. A great take-home gift for your company softball game or picnic.

Cook off BBQ Gift Set

A marriage of form and function, this sleek BBQ set is made from bamboo and includes the tools your recipient needs to look like a grilling expert. Use it to reward participants in a cooking competition, or to thank volunteers who help prepare food for your event crowd.

promotional sunglasses for outdoor eventsA unique and budget-friendly gift, this trendy product looks like it was carved from solid wood. Also available in a variety of stylish translucent and opaque colors, as well as classic tortoise. If you are planning a summer boating trip or sending your people on a cruise, these sunglasses can be packaged with sunscreen and a hat to protect people from the sun.

The best outdoor events include a variety of activities that everyone can enjoy. Send them away with memorable products they will continue to use long after the event to remind them of the good times you shared.

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Numbered pass for  The Daily ShowRecently my wife and I took a quick getaway trip to New York City. The plans were focused on our primary activity – going to a live taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The experience made me appreciate the excellent job The Daily Show has done in building it’s brand. It got me thinking about how they went about that process, and about the characteristics that make it so successful. Here’s what they do that works.

Know your audience
The Daily Show went on the air in 1996, and Jon Stewart took over hosting duties in 1999. That has given them plenty of time to get to know their audience and what they expect from the show. Feedback comes from Nielson ratings, website visits and social media sharing of content. It lets the show know who is watching, and which material resonates with viewers.

Be clear about what you offer
My wife reserved tickets online at their website in December for a late-February taping. The confirmation email told us where to go, where to get discounted parking, when to show up, how the check-in process worked, and what was allowed and not allowed in the studio (absolutely NO photos). We dug a little deeper and found that Yelp reviews gave us really good insight about what to expect.

Scarcity makes the brand more desirable
Because of the show’s popularity and the high demand for tickets, they always overbook seating beyond capacity. They made it clear there was a good chance we could be turned away at the door if we didn’t follow their procedures as directed. There was no way we were going to let that happen. We showed up over an hour early, standing in line on a cold, wintry New York City sidewalk. I think some people who showed exactly “on time” at 2:30 ended up not getting in.

Waiting in line for The Daily ShowMake sure your fans are well cared for
The area near the door where the first attendees wait the longest was covered by an awning. While it didn’t do enough to block the chilly northwest breeze blowing off the Hudson River, it certainly would have protected us had there been rain or snow that day. Every few minutes, as new people arrived, a staff member explained the process to get  show passes and instruct ticket holders to return promptly at 4:30 to go through the security checkpoint (like at the airport) to enter the studio. I think they also use that time to check out the crowd, and would have gladly removed anyone who was creating a problem for the rest of the guests in line.

Any employees that interact with your customers should be helpful and friendly
Every staff member we encountered was courteous and polite. Emptying your pockets, getting bags searched and going through a metal detector is never a fun experience. But this wasn’t like dealing with the TSA employees who always seem either bored, annoyed or drunk with power. The staff smiled. They looked you in the eye in a welcoming way, not with suspicion. They understood that you were there to laugh and have fun, and did what they could to encourage you to enjoy yourself.

Build excitement
Once everyone is seated, a comedian came out to warm up the crowd. He joked with audience members, and coached us on how loud we would need to clap and cheer during the live taping. After about 10 minutes, Jon Stewart came out and took questions from the audience. As it turned out, a group of student from William & Mary College, Jon’s alma mater, had driven up from Maryland for the day to see the show. In Jon’s self-deprecating way, he was able to make a direct connection to their lives. The rest of watched and enjoyed his brilliant comedic talent as he came up with split second funny retorts. Finally, the show was ready to start.

Give them what they expect
The Daily Show is on Comedy Central, so you expect to laugh. Political humor poked fun at obstructionist Republicans in Congress and Obama’s murky legal guidelines for using drone strikes. A “Special Report” with regular contributor Jessica Williams ridiculed a small group of Texans who wish to secede from the US because they, “Want a place where everybody can worship freely as Christians.” The guest was journalist Steven Brill, author of the Time Magazine article, “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Costs are Killing Us.” The show alternates topics that can be funny or serious, and Jon ran this serious discussion beyond the normal time available during the 22 minutes of air time. During the interview he made one of his characteristic jokes about there being Jews in Florida.

Reward your brand’s biggest fans with a little something extra
Contributor Aasif Mandvi was live in the studio for his report, but Jessica Williams report was prerecorded. After the live taping ended, Jessica was in the studio standing not far from my seat, and Jon called her to the front to introduce her to the crowd. Many TV hosts wouldn’t have bothered.

Let your fans know how much you appreciate them
As the show ended, Jon thanked the audience for coming to the taping, and you felt like he really meant it. I think a big part of his appeal is that he can confidently talk to actors or world leaders with complete comfort, and then admit that he’s just a little jewish guy who makes jokes on a comedy network. The respect that he shows to his guests, his audience, and seemingly his staff makes everyone feel at ease. His popularity suggests that the formula is working.

Managing your brand and building a loyal following is no easy task. I’m sure there have been parts of the production and live audience process that The Daily Show has tweaked over the years. The key is to understand what your fans want you to provide, and making sure you deliver.

I welcome your comments.

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Matching up with local schools can create a great branding opportunity for companies that want to connect with families. One approach is to offer practical items with your company logo for giveaways through the school’s PTO.

Conversely, the PTO can use promotional items as fundraisers by getting local businesses to provide sponsorship in exchange for putting their logo on an item that the PTO can sell to families. Talk to us about items that offer plenty of imprint area that can accommodate logos from multiple companies.

Check out these branded products for back-to-school season!

Igloo Polar Lunch Cooler

This heavy-duty lunch cooler is certified kid-friendly, so it’s a great option for students of all ages. Features top-notch Igloo insulation to keep food safe until lunchtime. This is also an item organizations can use for company picnics and outings.



Padded Computer Backpack

This is a serious backpack for the serious student. Jam-packed with features, specialized compartments and organizational tools, this gift means your recipient will carry your logo around on a daily basis.



Mini Football

An affordable giveaway for a variety of audiences, this 6″ molded foam mini football can bring out the kid in just about anyone. It’s also an inexpensive fundraising item for Booster Clubs.



Brain Splatter Toy

Want to promote the Science Fair?Kids will go nuts for this gooey, squishy toy.  Throw it against the wall and watch it slowly crawl down to the ground. Also great for health and wellness.


One caveat: before you jump into providing promotional items for kids, be warned that the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 changed the landscape for providing products for kids. Make sure you talk to us about ensuring the branded items you provide are safe, and that you are complying with all current regulations. The last thing you want is for your brand to be tied to unsafe products or failure to follow the law.

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Why not get creative with your next campaign? Take a look at these memorable campaign ideas that feature branded merchandise, or just contact us to take advantage of our creative expertise.
Heart Pedometer

Host a “Trade Show Marathon” contest at your next show!  Give away this branded heart pedometer and award prizes for the first person to return to your booth after reaching a certain number of steps. This campaign has two benefits: getting people to your booth multiple times and promoting wellness (which makes it great for the health care industry).


Pocket Journal

Try printing a QR code on a branded product that has a flat surface, like this affordable, full-color journal. The code could link recipients to a landing page with some kind of incentive or coupon that they have to fill out a form to access, which helps you collect customer data. Great for consumer brands.


Bright Drawstring Backpack

For an attention-getting event campaign, give recipients something that’s both inexpensive and highly visible (like this brightly colored backpack) that they can wear during the event for a chance to win a prize if they’re spotted wearing it. They’re walking billboards for your brand! Try this for trade shows, concerts, festivals, conferences, etc.

Dyson Air Multiplier

Send an e-mail to your current clients asking for a certain number of referrals to either automatically receive a prize (a great banded giveaway, of course) or be entered to win a higher-end branded gift like this incredibley striking blameless fan. You’ll find new clients AND increase retention of your existing clients because your logo will be on their prize!


Parafoil Kite

Give employees this kite as a wellness initiative for summer. Not only is it a unique and memorable gift, it encourages employees to get outside and be active, and it’s especially fun for employees with kids. This product would also be great for outdoor events.


Bamboo Pen

Even filling out paperwork can be an opportunity for branding. For example, a real estate company could give a client this elegant branded pen at closing as a commemorative gift to celebrate their new home. For even more impact, pair it with a branded folder for the client to store their paperwork.


Interested in seeing samples of any of these items? Get in touch by calling or emailing

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