Under 40: Bret Bonnet, Quality Logo Products
Bret Bonnet, 35
Quality Logo Products, Aurora, Ill.
Bret Bonnet got his first taste of the promotional products sector during high school. He was working for the local Best Buy, when the owner of a small distributor came in to purchase a DirectTV system.
“I guess I impressed him or something because he came back in and offered me a job a week later,” Bonnet joked. But it wasn’t until his time at North Central College and meeting his best friend, Michael Wenger, that he realized the potential of a career in the industry.
Together, they started Quality Logo Products in Bret’s basement. The company has since grown into a nearly $50 million operation, with more than 110 employees and two locations. Bonnet’s management style is unique in that he believes in creating a relaxed work environment, while pushing for bold changes to advance the business. His influence in developing a more user-friendly website is a great example. It was a financial and operational risk that resulted in the explosion of online orders—transactions increased by over 300 percent in one month, to be exact. How many 30-somethings can say that?
Why he loves the industry: Everyone says they love the people the most, so that’s a given. For me, it’s also that no two days are ever the same. Every day challenges me. Complacency is death, and there is never a dull moment in this industry.
Age roadblocks and advantages: Health insurance! Now that I’m the ripe old age of 35, I miss the days when my insurance premium was only $180 per month. I’ve honestly never found myself in a situation where my age played a factor. It’s not something I share often, so customers never know how old or young I am. Most industry suppliers also never asked or didn’t really care. I think how you carry yourself and act has a lot more to do with an outcome than one’s age. I mean, I’ve met some 60-year-olds who are clueless, and I’ve met some 20-somethings that blew me away. Age is just a number. It’s only an excuse if you make it one.
His biggest career influence: Jeff Kanney from Star Printing & Promotions was extremely influential to me. He’s regretfully no longer with us, but he’s the one who first introduced me to the industry and took me under his wing. He was the best salesperson I’ve ever met. He set me down the path I’m still following today, and, for that, I will be forever grateful.
His most meaningful business accomplishment: After 19 years in this space, it’s hard not to have several accomplishments along the way, but I think the most meaningful one was when we located and hired our first employee. For someone to risk everything and buy into the vision that we had for Quality Logo Products when we literally had nothing to show for it, was the most amazing feeling. Even after 15 years, that person still works at Quality Logo Products. Knowing that we made a difference in his life, and the lives of our 100-plus other employees, is super awesome and beats any sales goals or other accomplishments we’ve achieved.
His differentiating factor: I believe in always going down the road less traveled. Build it, don’t buy it! If one is to stay relevant in this space, he or she needs to always have a finger on the pulse of things, plus an eye to the future. There are way too many “clones” in this industry. I use technology, like our patented No Surprise Pricing, to stand out from the competition and stay ahead of whatever challenges might be coming our way.
What he does for fun: I love spending time with my wife, 16-month-old son, Jax, and my two English Bulldogs, Dunky and Chubby. We’re also big foodies, so we eat a ton. When I’m not shoving my face full of food, I’m usually binge-watching something on Netflix or playing a round of golf. I also love driving. I’m no Mario Andretti, but I do like driving fast cars and just letting the road take me wherever it does, which is honestly usually a Taco Bell, if I’m being honest.