Koozie Group Interview with Harold Wood


Alison Adams: Hey, I am Alison Adams and welcome to the supplier spotlight podcast. We are delighted to sit down with Harold Wood whose strategic account manager for koozie group Harold and Koozie group had been so good to our members. And so, we are really excited for you to get to know more about him and more about Koozie Group. So, Harold, tell us who is Koozie Group and what are they best known for?

Harold Wood: Well, thank you, Alison. So Koozie Group is a company that was put together by a couple of different things. First off, it was Norwood Promotional Products, then Bic Graphic had purchased them.
And then finally in this past year, we have changed the name to Koozie Group through a license agreement. But Koozie Group is best well known for obviously the brand koozie. We own that brand. So, when people say, you know, think of canned coolers and bottle coolers, they’re thinking of koozie. We’re also very well known for our breadth of line.
We have pretty much everything from apparel, all the way through writing instruments. And we are experts at writing instruments, being part of the big family for so many years, we definitely have pens, pencils, highlighters, all of those type of products dialed in.

Alison Adams: Awesome. So, kind of going back to your transition from BIC Graphic to Koozie Group.
Tell us about that and how that’s been.

Harold Wood: So, it’s, I mean, obviously with a pandemic, no one wants to change the name of their company or their identity. You know, this is required by a license, Bic Graphic was sold in 2017. We have a great new partner or ownership company called HIG and realistically they had this, the license agreement we knew we had to change the name.
And what we wanted to do is go with something that. Spoke to the industry, was born in the promotional products industry. And, you know, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried the name, product, or name a company, but there’s a lot of steps you have to go through. At one point we had over a thousand different names we were looking at and, you know, when legal looks at it and it, you know, that quickly, that list becomes a shorter and shorter list.
And ultimately, we landed on Koozie Group because, you know, people know koozie, they know the brand and they know the products. So it was, it was a pretty easy decision.

Alison Adams: You said that pens and koozies are big items for you guys. Are those, some of the items that you’ve got plenty of stock of that are ready to ship?
And if so, what are some other items are also available to ship immediately?

Harold Wood: Yeah, with us, we’re a little bit different. A lot of suppliers are just importers and decorators. We’re actually a manufacturer. So, like on the writing instruments side, we have a writing instruments that we actually manufacture in our Clearwater facility that are always in inventory.
Whether you need, you know, a simple order of 300 pieces or you need several million. Those are things that we can absolutely do domestically. We do have partners in the U S we have a bunch of drinkware options. You know, some stadium cups, as well as some water bottles that are also domestically made.
We manufacture all of our own sticky notes and our calendars, in our sleepy eye facility. So those are made to order. We’ll never run out of inventory. And then we do have other partners that are also domestically made like Tervis, their tumblers, where we imprint them in our Clearwater facility.
So, we’d have a lot of options that are either domestically made, made in USA or manufactured here in the U S so, you know, when you, when you look at that, we definitely have more options than a lot of other people for items that you don’t have to worry about inventory.

Alison Adams: And that’s amazing. And I do want to point out to our listeners too.
Because I was reading through the koozie group blog, which I absolutely loved to read. It’s got great information and things that are pertinent to what’s going on. But a recent blog that you guys posted said that 69.4% of Americans actually prefer US-made products. So that’s a huge selling feature, for our members who are really interested in the USA made products and they can get them right from Koozie Group.

Harold Wood: Yeah, absolutely. You know, USA made is one of those focus that we see, it kind of goes up and down kind of like sustainability. But in the current environment with all of the issues with shipping and inventory, having something that you make yourself is really critical now. And probably through the end of the year.

Alison Adams: So, speaking of the delays, it’s kind of like the elephant in the room, our country is experiencing tons of widespread delays in production and shipping, as we’ve all kind of seen is Koozie Group experiencing the same kind of adversity. And then tell us about what you guys are doing about that.

Harold Wood: You know, I think the pandemic really affected a lot of suppliers, a lot of distributors. I mean, it was a great impact to our industry as a whole, not just the country. So. Obviously, you know, you have to make some hard decisions with staffing, well as what you’re bringing in. When your sales are 30% of where they were over prior year, you kind of got to look and like, say, okay, well, we don’t need to bring in, you know, $2 million of goods, because obviously we’re not going to sell them for a full year.So, I think inventory is going to be a challenge for the rest of the year. Staffing will continue to be an issue. There’s a lot of people who are, on unemployment or taking that extra incentive, which is fine, but eventually they’re going to get back to work and we’ll have full staffing. We are working towards.
You know, we do have some delays, like we’ve taken some items off of 24-hour service, but right now with the exception of a handful of items, most of our products are on our standard five-day lead time.

Alison Adams: That is amazing. Because like I said, I know a lot of us have struggled through kind of the supply and demand situation, but that is amazing that our members and listeners are able to get those products quickly.
So as our country transitions out of the pandemic, are there trends that you are seeing are becoming more prevalent?

Harold Wood: Yeah, definitely a couple of trends. Like we, we discussed the made in USA. I mentioned sustainability. There’s more and more end buyers as well as distributors are looking for sustainable items.
So, on that end, we were offering something called, we called a kg factor, which stands for keep it or give it. And you’ll find there’s probably about 500 items on our website that note that. So, while we love. Yeah. We’d love to have every single item made from recycled materials or, or renewable resources.
The truth boils down to it that not everything can be done like that. So, what we’ve done is select some products that. Have a longer lifespan so that the end buyer who gets it is going to hold onto those products a lot longer than something that they may get and just toss away. So, we want to make sure those items have a real impact to them.
It’s something they’re going to hold on to, and it’s not going to end up in a landfill.


Alison Adams: Absolutely. So, sustainability is such a huge thing right now, and I love to see it more and more. What are some of your favorite sustainable products that Koozie Group offers?


Harold Wood: So, I mean, we love sticky notes. We’d love writing instruments, obviously. And we have both of those where we’re recycling plastics on our pens, or we’re using recycled paper on like the sticky notes and calendars, but there’s a couple of new items that we’ve gotten. We’ve gotten this new, it’s a mouse pad foam holder stand slash wireless charger.
And it’s actually test. Yeah, it does have some plastic components because it is electronic, but the top of it is made from cork and cork is a great renewable resource. It’s basically the bark of the tree that you can skim off. We also added a cork, exterior on a koozie cooler so there’s a lot of different things.
We’re looking at. We’re looking at bamboo, we’re looking at recycled cotton. So, our whole goal is to be more, offer more sustainable products in the long run. Absolutely. And so what would you say is koozies goal as far as percentage of products, that will be sustainable in the future? So that’s a moving target right now.
So, to speak because obviously with everything going on this year, you know, we’re not going to pull in as much new products, but, you know, speaking to Melissa Ralston, who’s our CRO, our goal is to get there and really have more sustainable products throughout the line in every single category, because we have so many different categories.
It’s hard to say, okay, we’re going to dial this one in, but we definitely want to look across the board and bring more of those sustainable items in, in every single category. So, distributors and end buyers have a choice on what they pick.


Alison Adams: That sounds awesome. Does Koozie Group offer marketing tools, that Universal members can use like customizable flyers or catalogs videos?
I know digital is huge right now for everybody, especially in the marketing realm.

Harold Wood: Yeah. We’re, we’re definitely the video thing. You know, I personally did some like top five videos and we’ll all continue to do that, which can be shared. I try not to put as much. Koozie Group information, obviously it’s listed on there and it has my name, but, you know, we can kind of customize that.
Cause that’s something that I do, but as far as flyers and catalogs and some, you know, Product videos. We have a lot of that already available. If you log into koozie group.com, you can get flyers, you can use, I catalogs to customize, you know, with the distributors name, their information already. And then on YouTube, we do have our own YouTube channel, which does have product videos that, you know, if you’re, capable, you can edit a little bit, or you can just use them as is. Most of them are very generic product videos. So, it’s obviously may have our item number and stuff like that, but it is easy to share too for end buyers.

Alison Adams: Perfect. And then will you tell us a little bit more about, the top five videos that you’ve been putting out?
I’ve watched one or two of them and I think it’s so interesting. So, will you tell our listeners just a little bit more about that?

Harold Wood: Yeah, with the pandemic, you know, obviously we were all looking at ways to do more outreach to customers. You know, and I had a wider territory than I have right now today.
So, I had customers in Louisiana as well as Kentucky. In addition to the UPA members, it’s changed a little bit. Now I covered two national accounts. So, I do have a national, Territory, so to speak. So, I put those together both as like product informational videos. So, you can see, like, if you’re thinking about writing instruments, what are the writing instruments you can show to a client that would be a top five.
And the reason I thought about that is because there’s so many different products in our industry and so many different categories, you know, just writing instrument alone. If you search on ESP or Sage, you’re going to get thousands and thousands of. Opportunities or products to show your client. So, by narrowing it down, it gives you, you know, that you get more of a consultant type of aspect where you can say, these are the top five that I recommend.
I’ve also done some videos that talk about, you know, business needs are, are things you can do in your business to change things up. So those are more, you know, more sales techniques or marketing techniques that I think, you know, some smaller distributors may not have access to a consultant that can help them grow their brand.
Whereas these are quick fixes. They can employ in their everyday world and make it pretty fast and easy for them to kind of update themselves.

Alison Adams: So. What is the most important thing that you want listeners to remember about Koozie Group?

Harold Wood: So with us, you know, we may have gotten a bad rap in the last. Couple of years or so. You know, some of the service things that have gone on, the biggest thing is give us a chance, let me know what you need, and I’ll be more than happy to try and facilitate what you need.
Again, we’re, we are hungry for business. We want to work with you. I think the biggest thing is just, you gotta be a little patient and give us a little grace. We’ll get there and we’ll make sure your orders get. Out and done, correct. It just, we may need a little extra time, especially right now with, you know, with the staffing and everything that’s going on in any industry.

Alison Adams: Absolutely. And that’s totally understandable. I do want to reiterate that our members get an amazing discount with Koozie Group and also the opportunity to work with, such an esteem professional like yourself. So why would they not want to right.

Harold Wood: Well, I mean, I, you know, we have to be realistic in our approach and we know that some customers have had some issues in the past and, and we’re not going to just go, oh, those weren’t a thing.
We completely recognize it. And we understand that, you know, we’re changing as a company we’re growing. We had to adapt with the pandemic, and we have to adapt with a changing industry, that, you know, not everyone’s used to. So, you know, it, it may not be. Everyone’s in everyone’s wheelhouse to kind of go, okay, this is what I need to do, but we need to educate both the distributors and their end buyers on, you know, the process, how long things are taking right now versus 2019 or, or previous to that, there is a change.
And, you know, if you’re educated and you understand, and you can kind of talk to your customers about that, you won’t have any issues.

Alison Adams: Well, I really appreciate you addressing that because, you know, sometimes things like that are, are brought up and, I appreciate you addressing it head on and knowing that Koozie Groups, making every effort that they can to grow and learn from these types of situations and move forward so that, your customers are able to get what they want and what they need.

Harold Wood: Yeah, absolutely. And we’ve hired a lot of new, customer service managers to help support that. We’re constantly looking at ways to be more effective in the marketplace, be more effective in our order entry system. Pretty much it runs the gambit we’re we don’t sit back and while. You know, changes in those types of things can, can create some speed bumps.
I think overall our goal is to really set up the company right now for the future. So, you know, when you’re looking at the presence, sometimes it’s hard to go, oh, you know, everything is going on and everything is horrible. Yes, but a lot of, especially other suppliers are setting themselves up for the future so we can be successful. So, we’re here in five to 10 years. So, distributors have a consistent product that they can always go to.

Alison Adams: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for sitting down with me today and, telling our listeners more about Koozie Group and what you guys have to offer. Where can our listeners find more info about Koozie Group and how can they contact you?

Harold Wood: So Koozie Group. The easiest way is our website, which is koozie group.com. For me personally, you can reach me at haroldwood@kooziegroup.com. Everyone should have my contact information, but if you need anything else, just email me and I’ll get right.

Alison Adams: Perfect. Thank you so much, Harold.

Harold Wood: Thank you, Alison, and I really appreciate the time and being able to work with UPA.

Alison Adams: The pleasure is ours.