A Family Business Built on Innovation and Integrity
Returning home to Alberta after serving in World War II, Cecil Bishop, the founder of Elite Promotional Marketing, was given the opportunity to learn a trade: he chose metalworking. Both a trade and an art, metalworking included casting, jewellery making, stone setting, enameling, and engraving, but Cecil’s specialty was engraving. Back in the 50s, engraving wasn’t just a skill, it was a talent. After working for jewellery shops as an employee, Cecil noticed a demand for trophies and, between his talent and entrepreneurial spirit, in 1952 he opened the first free standing trophy shop in Canada: Alberta Trophy and Gift Shop. Cecil built Alberta Trophy on quality and skill, and relationships and community – customer service was everything to him. Raising his children in the business, Cecil passed the torch – or rather, the engraving burin – to them in the 1980s: daughter, Sharon Schamehorn, son-in-law, Drew Schamehorn, and son, Harvey Bishop.
In 1988, Drew saw an opportunity for expansion from trophies, medallions, and ribbons to t-shirts and the company acquired a small screen-printing company called Elite T-Shirt. Since the company was growing exponentially, they also adopted the name. Today, Elite remains a family business with Sharon running inside sales, Harvey overseeing operations, Drew acting as president, and Sharon and Drew’s son, Gord, managing business development, and their daughter, Heather, managing the sales team. Now, Elite Promotional Marketing is an industry leader in corporate branding, sports marketing, awards and recognition, and custom merchandise.
“To be able to walk through the door and pick up a product, or to touch and feel a sample in our showroom is still important. As exciting as the digital age is, and as fast-paced as the industry is, we don’t want to disband what we’ve built.”
Creating Community and Listening to Customers: The Evolution of Elite
But Elite’s family fold extends from the family members who make up the executive to their entire team and their customers. “We built the business on networking and community,” Gord says, “That is a huge part of our success. It’s because we have been a part of something. We have been a part of your fundraiser, we have been part of your school team. We’re involved in the community and we give back as much we can. From little clients to big, we treat everyone equally. You can get caught up trying to get the big fishes in any business, but if you look at the core of your business, it’s really about how you treat everybody: your staff, your suppliers, and your clients. Whether it’s a seven-figure account or a few hundred-dollar account, we give that same consistent level of service to every client.”
As the grandson of the company’s founder and son of its current leaders, Gord grew up folding tee shirts in the family business. Having worked in many roles, he started out in sales and says, “There is no better feeling than when I was doing inside sales and working the counter. When you have a consultation with a customer and you are formulating this vision with them, you get to be a part of the experience. When they come to pick up their hat with the logo that they brought to you or that you helped design, when they see it and it just warms your heart. This is their world and you had an opportunity to help them achieve their success. You helped them achieve more.” Keeping that feeling front of mind grounds Gord as he leads research and development. Listening to customers is a key component of Elite’s business philosophy and approach to growth.
“There are still obviously a lot of people who like to have a sales rep in front of them or jump on a phone call,” Gord says, “To be able to walk through the door and pick up a product, or to touch and feel a sample in our showroom is still important. As exciting as the digital age is, and as fast-paced as the industry is, we don’t want to disband what we’ve built.” Consequently, Elite caters to their clients preferences as well as customizing their solutions by offering both online and in-person services.
Elite’s Core Values: Quality Service and Quality Products
Elite’s Core Values:
Quality Service and Quality Products
At Elite, quality is what differentiates them from their competitors. Amidst the world of online shopping and direct delivery, you don’t always know what you’re going to get – but with Elite, you can rest assured that the quality will be outstanding. Whether you’re ordering branded safety awards and apparel, soccer jerseys for the whole team, or company swag for a sponsorship event, Elite’s quality is unsurpassed. Because Elite offers unparalleled in-house production and meticulously manages and oversees any out of house work. In fact, they’re screen printing, embroidering, lasering, engraving, and sewing right here at their 70,000 square foot office and production facility in Edmonton.
“Our people are our biggest competitive advantage,” Gord says, “A letter has to be sewn on a jersey. Embroidery is finished by hand, it comes off the machine and they finish is by cutting the threads and cleaning it up. There is a lot of handwork that goes into everything we do, and we do so much work in-house. So, we can turn things around quickly and we have control over the product quality. But it’s not possible without the people running the machines, the people sewing the numbers and names on the jerseys, or the people working the counter and consulting with customers.”
Working with individuals and big corporations, Elite isn’t just about the product, they’re also about the service. Offering promotional products and strategy with intelligence, imagination, and insight, Elite’s extensive services include sports marketing and team apparel, incentive and recognition awards, and online company stores to give businesses a platform to manage and sell their promotional products. Plus, in addition to in-house production, Elite’s graphics department can assist with logo development and optimization. Continually evolving and growing, Elite is a forward-thinking business that wants “to continually push the envelope and be better.”
To learn more about Elite Promotional Marketing and how they can help you achieve your branding goals, check out their website or contact Gord Schamehorn at [email protected]