Women in Print and Promo: Angela T. Miller, Proforma 3rd Degree Marketing
ANGELA T. MILLER
Business Development/Solutions Provider
Proforma 3rd Degree Marketing, Canton, Ohio
Years of experience: 15
How she got her start: In 2002, as a new business owner, my [then] business partner and I were looking for other items to sell in order to sustain and grow our business. He had experience in the print industry, and suggested we try advertising specialties. We started off mostly with one vendor, promoting decals. As our knowledge grew, we ventured out into other print and promo areas. We started to experience a lot of growth very quickly once we entered the ASI industry. We came in during a big boom in the internet, which is where we were primarily based.
What she loves most about the industry: I love helping people solve problems. We are all so busy at our jobs. Marketing and promoting can be overwhelming, especially if it's not your daily responsibility. The Internet is simply saturated with options. … I love to be able to take something off of someone's plate and make the process easy for them. I also love to be able to utilize my creativity through products and artwork. It is very rewarding to work with clients from beginning to end on a project. It gives you a good feeling of accomplishment, especially if you made their job a little easier.
An average day: I start every day by checking my email, [where] 95 percent of my communication is done. Most of my clients seem to prefer that method, though I do have some who prefer phone calls. That's one of the first things you need to find out in the very beginning. How do your clients prefer to communicate? You adapt to their needs from that point forward.
Most of my day is simply spent fulfilling client requests or reaching out to clients to see if they have anything upcoming. Once clients reveal their need(s) to me, I then start searching for the right products that match their request. We used to have to hit print catalogs, but now most of that is done thru ESPonline, which makes life easy. I do still have a fair amount of catalogs to browse through, but only from my favorite vendors. After we go through the process of finding the right product, and pricing it, I develop their proofs. I taught myself, out of necessity, how to create my own art files and proofs in Illustrator. This allows me to develop a proof extremely fast, instead of waiting for a vendor to develop. As I've grown in my art skills, most of the time I can even take a non-camera ready art file and turn it into a vector file, without turning anywhere for outside help. A lot of my clients simply want to see a proof before they officially order. I find it's easier to close a sale, if you can provide a proof quickly. This also really helps when you are dealing with rush orders. We live in a very impatient world, and if you can't provide your client with pretty immediate results, they will move on to someone who can.
Once we finalize the proof process, I then enter their orders into our system and start generating all the necessary paperwork to the vendor, etc. We don't have anyone who takes our orders over from that point. Instead, we follow up with the vendor and continue the process. Once the order ships, we also are responsible for billing the order. Like I said, I work on a project from beginning to end, which definitely reduces mistakes, since there is nothing lost in translation. So, my day could be spent in numerous ways, from searching for products, quoting, developing art and proofs, billing and keeping my clients up-to-date during the whole process. I also spend time making sure they don't forget about me, with email marketing and other follow-up measures.
Her proudest career achievements: During my own ASI distributorship/business ownership, our business was in the Fortune 5000 for three years and in the Northeast Ohio Weatherhead 100 for two years. We started from nothing and grew fast, so this was a big accomplishment for us. During that time, in 2009, our tremendous growth also helped me earn a spot in the Akron, Ohio “30 for the Future.” That same year, I was chosen as a Woman of Achievement in the Northeast Ohio Women’s Network.
On working in a traditionally male-dominated industry: Before I entered business ownership, I was actually a nurse, which is not male-dominated, so this world was much different in that regard. I can’t say I had a lot of challenges when it came to the print/promo industry. We are often perceived as in the customer service/sales business, and women generally are very well accepted, even preferred, when people are looking for help, which is what I like to think I mostly offer. However, as a business owner, I definitely did see challenges. People, women included, assume the man in the business is the owner and you are just there to “help.” My former business partner was also my husband at the time, and I remember a specific occasion that definitely surprised me. A female colleague of his came into our office one day and saw me there, as well. I remember her saying, “Oh you got your wife in here to help you, now do you?” I was insulted. This was a business we had started together, and I was 150 percent committed to building and growing it. I was breathing it and I felt like I really had invested my blood, sweat and tears. I also had equal ownership. I was a little taken aback that another woman would be so quick to jump to that conclusion.
Her job advice to women: As women, we are expected to hold down a lot of different titles, [two] of the most important being “wives” and “mothers.” This business has allowed me the flexibility and freedom to raise my kids and work mostly from a home office. This is a huge advantage when you have a family. If you like to help people solve problems, plus need to be creative and also be there for your kids when they get off the bus, this is a great industry to enter. I had a chance to return to nursing after I left my business, but it just didn’t offer me the flexibility I needed. You have to adapt to the changing needs of this industry, but I highly suggest it for any woman looking for an independent career, but one that also provides you with a very nice income.
Who she turns to for career advice: I don't really have a career mentor. I lean on books a lot, and I seek wisdom in all realms of life from my husband, good friends, pastor and other established leaders. I read a lot and make sure I stay educated when it comes to our ever-changing industry and life, in general. I avidly read self-improvement books for career growth and personal growth. I have a goal of reading at least two books per month, while also journaling on them. I find writing down the information I learned sets it in my brain a little better, and then I make plans on how to implement or follow through on that information. I love to learn, read and find pearls of wisdom from others who have been there before me.
When she’s off the clock: I'm an avid reader. I mostly love to be around my family. I have three children, the youngest being 15, so I'm enjoying these last years with him before my nest becomes empty. I remarried in 2015, and I enjoy spending time with my husband. We love movies and finding new and interesting places to eat. We also love to travel together, though we can't do a lot of it just yet. [My husband] owns a chocolate factory, so I spend a lot of time helping out in the marketing/retail area. This time I really am the "wife who came in to help" and I'm OK with that. I love opportunities where I can be creative, including home decorating, crafting and gardening. I actively volunteer at our church, whether it is working in our café or helping lead a small group. And my husband is teaching me how to ski.
(The following profile appeared in Print+Promo’s “These Women Mean Business” cover story in the May 2017 issue.)
Related story: Women in Print and Promo: These Women Mean Business
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.