Full service promotional products supplier, Pop! Promos was co-founded in 2012 by Erin Reilly and Sterling Wilson while the two were in college. The young entrepreneurs have since built the award-winning business into a leader in the rapid import of branded merchandise manufacturing with nearly 100 employees worldwide. During the pandemic, Pop! Promos relocated its worldwide headquarters into the newly-restored Harbisons Dairy Building in Philadelphia.
Erin & Sterling’s business started from a college football game.
Pop! Promos became a leader in the rapid import of branded merchandise manufacturing.
As a full-service promotional products supplier, the Pop! Promos product line features full-color and Pantone matched products with thousands of decoration options for clients to create something that truly is unique to their brand. Pop Promos! was co-founded by CEO, Erin Reilly, and President, Sterling Wilson in their dorm rooms at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Southern California (USC) in 2012.
The company, formerly known as College Glasses, began when Sterling started selling sunglasses in his college’s Pantone colors out of his backpack at USC football games in Los Angeles. Since customized sunglasses like his weren’t available to be worn at his college games, all 2,000 glasses he bought from a manufacturer in China sold out in just three days. After partnering with his high school friend, Erin, product demand took off even further. “What started as a way to pay for rent and beer quickly became a real business opportunity as other universities started to contact me to make customized, PMS-matched glasses for their schools,” said Sterling.
The young entrepreneurs have since built the business into a leader in the rapid import of branded merchandise manufacturing with nearly 100 employees worldwide. Compared to 2012, in 2020, Pop! Promos was fortunate to see approximately 15,000% revenue increase and 2,500% headcount growth. Over the years, the business has moved into four new offices and garnered recognition for its major business growth. In addition to numerous awards in the promotional products industry, Pop! Promos has been ranked Philadelphia’s #1 fastest growing company and earned spot #135 on the INC 500 list of fastest growing companies in America.
“The PIDC team helped us find a senior lender, advised on construction budgeting, and provided the capital we needed to expand our business as we grew past 20 people in our rented offices in Queen Village,” -Sterling
Working with PIDC
As Pop! Promos began to grow in size and recognition, Erin and Sterling sought help from PIDC to finance the purchase and renovation of a new office for Pop! Promos in 2015. In August 2020, Pop! Promos relocated its worldwide headquarters into the newly-restored Harbisons Dairy Building in Philadelphia. “The PIDC team helped us find a senior lender, advised on construction budgeting, and provided the capital we needed to expand our business as we grew past 20 people in our rented offices in Queen Village,” said Sterling.
Expanding into Kensington
The 62,000 square foot Harbisons Dairy complex, which once stood with its iconic 30,000 gallon milk bottle, was shut down and left vacant in 1990 after investments started to decline in one of the densest manufacturing centers in the world — the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. By relocating Pop! Promos and nearly 50 employees into its 20,000 square foot office in the newly restored Harbisons Dairy complex, Erin and Sterling plan to reinvigorate the space and the surrounding area. “We’re thrilled to bring new jobs to Kensington and be part of a broader revitalization of the neighborhood,” said Erin.
Pivoting Amidst Difficulties During COVID-19
After a governmental order to shut down amidst COVID-19 in March, Pop! Promos, like other businesses across the country, lost much of its revenue. Determined to save the business, Erin and Sterling converted their operations by delivering FDA approved N95 masks, nitrile gloves, face shields, isolation gowns, and other essential PPE to hospitals, nursing homes, municipal governments, and FEMA. The business also revamped its product offerings by manufacturing branded face coverings for businesses and offering fulfillment services so that companies could send products to their employees working from home.
“If you want to survive, and maybe even thrive, talk to your customers about their problems and think about how you can find solutions,” said Sterling. “You might learn that you’re in a different business than you thought. The business world has never changed so quickly and while larger companies have deeper financial resources, small businesses are more nimble and can adapt more quickly.”