2022 Women in Print and Promo: Traci Tarquinio, Hit Promotional Products
Vice President of Product Development
Hit Promotional Products, Largo, Florida
Traci Tarquinio is passionate about trends, influencers and brands. Throughout her career, she’s been known to travel overseas to research new products at fairs. Or to study a factory’s manufacturing processes. You can also catch her delivering presentations, entertaining clients, and overseeing a focus group of customers to stay current on changing end-user preferences.
Tarquinio’s merchandising roots took shape in the apparel sector. She started out as a buyer for a global retailer before becoming a merchandise manager at American Eagle Outfitters Corporate. She thrived on fast-paced energy, but after years of what she called “retail insanity,” Tarquinio was ready for something new. She’d been hearing whispers about the promotional products market, and learned quickly that the two industries shared several similarities. But there was one striking difference: Promo made room for comradery and relationships.
Industry supplier PCNA (Leed’s at the time) hired Tarquinio in 2002 as a development manager, linking product development, marketing and sales, then evolving into global management roles. In 2011, she crossed over to the distributor side, working as a vice president of e-commerce and merchandising. This opportunity gave Tarquinio a different view of the industry model and a better understanding of the end-client.
Today, Tarquinio is vice president of product development for supplier Hit Promotional Products — a role she’s held since 2017. Based in Pittsburgh, she’s been busy building a product development and merchandising team of category managers, designers and merchandise brand managers that has launched over 400 new items per year. At Hit, no day looks the same, though Tarquinio is constantly reminded why she fell in love with promo more than 20 years ago.
“Because we are a family-owned company and we all operate as one huge ‘Hit Family,’ we can move fast, work smart and stay nimble, always driving success and growth,” she said. “I am thankful to have this opportunity to work alongside so many talented people. I feel inspired each day at Hit because I am always learning and empowered to take on new experiences.”
Her Proudest Career Achievement
I am most proud of my relationships and the people that I have made an impact on throughout my career. I am grateful for having the opportunity to work at successful companies with excellent mentors. I am most proud of the people that I was able to grow and mentor along the way. I am thrilled when I see people that I hired early in their career move to advanced opportunities, open their own companies or in management/executive roles. I still receive hand-written thank you cards from people that I mentor through their career path, which is rewarding and a great learning experience for me.
On Working in a Traditionally Male-Dominated Industry
Honestly, I feel confident in a male-dominated industry. I only experienced some challenges early in my career at my first job out of college as a corporate retail buyer. The challenge made me work harder and build partnerships with the right people that I trusted and felt empowered by. I also had some amazing experiences to work with global companies in Europe and China, where it was all men in leadership roles. I worked hard to prove myself as a leader and a decision-maker until I overcame the challenge and became their equal.
Who Inspires Her
I am inspired by women that hold very different roles. They do not necessarily need to be in an executive or management role, but that they are positive and a natural leader. I am motivated by their energy and their experiences. I am most inspired by those that can successfully manage a career or other priorities and balance life to the fullest. There are so many women that are life coaches and share “real” experiences in work and life. Of course, I should have an iconic female world leader or celebrity figure, but it is the women that I know personally that are real and strong, they motivate me the most.
Her Job Advice to Women
Go for it 100%! Surround yourself around people that are passionate, work hard and love what they do. People are lifers in the promo industry. It is nice to see and collaborate with the same people as I did when I started in promo 20 years ago. I made some of my closest friends and I have had the best life experiences while working in the industry over the years. This industry is also diverse in the career path that it offers. There are many opportunities from the supplier to the distributor side of the business and now a larger emphasis on e-commerce and technology. I also like seeing the evolution of lifestyle demands and personal needs such as sustainability and social platforms. Years ago, that was not even a thought and now it is a way a life that the industry is focused on.
Her Biggest Lesson Learned
Take chances, stay strong, work hard and outside of your comfort zone, surround yourself with positive people. Work hard and play harder. Invest in people and partnerships that will last a lifetime.
Her Upcoming Goals
Continue to grow in my role at Hit Promotional and in the industry. Personally, travel and treasure my time with family and friends by trying new experiences.
How She Thinks Companies Can Attract and Retain Female Talent
Respect and empower them.
What She Wants People to Know About Her
I am passionate and loyal; people and strong relationships are the most important to me.
How She Recharges
Stay active! My hobbies are hiking, kayaking, yoga and hip-hop dance — anything that keeps me moving. But the best way to recharge is surrounding myself around friends and family. I love to travel with my family and my friends/ girls’ trips around the world are the best way to recharge!
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.