CEO reflects on 10th year in business amid coronavirus lockdown

EverythingBranded founder and CEO Paul Rowlett has put his business’s anniversary celebrations on hold but found his near decade of experience more valuable than ever amid the coronavirus crisis.

The promotional products supplier, which has offices in Leicester and Las Vegas, has just entered its tenth year of trading, but the party has been put on pause while the business negotiates a pandemic that, due to cancellation of exhibitions and other events, originally wiped out 90% of sales.

“Over the past decade, there have been many occasions where we’ve had to adapt to changing market trends, whether it’s placing a bigger emphasis on eco credentials or offering a greater range of tech products. COVID-19 required a quicker response, but the approach was the same: what do our consumers want, and how can we deliver it?

“We realised that healthcare products were still in demand, so focussed our energies there. This has allowed us to start recovering sales and bringing back furloughed staff,” Paul said.

The company has also been using its resources to help the wider community, having donated 20,000 head thermometers to individuals and organisations needing help with self-diagnosis. Staff are now in the process or creating and distributing 500 goodie bags for disadvantaged children, which contain items like colouring books and crayons to keep them happy and occupied.

“Despite the challenges we’ve faced, it was important to me to give back to the local community. After seeing the sacrifices that front-line workers are making, donating products and spreading positivity seemed like the least we could do. You also can’t underestimate the power of building relationships in business.”

Paul isn’t a stranger to hardship. After leaving the Navy and then being made redundant, he moved into direct sales, but the financial crisis left him claiming benefits and led to the repossession of his home. After more bad luck in employment, he found a role selling promotional products and quickly realised that the industry could benefit from being more ecommerce focussed. That’s when the idea for EverythingBranded was born.

Using an old laptop and a £500 loan from a friend, he launched the business in 2011. Just two years later, turnover exceeded £2 million and the company was winning awards. In 2019/20, the business achieved £24 million in sales across four countries, including the USA — the so-called ‘graveyard of British business’.

“Taking on the American market was an emotional and expensive learning curve, but one that has been massively rewarding. Many of those lessons have been invaluable in helping us tackle the coronavirus crisis. I’m proud to say that by working smarter, harder, and longer, I am confident we have got through the worst of it — despite being in an industry that many might have written off.

“My number one piece of advice for any business owner struggling right now is to trust in others. As someone who’s extremely passionate about their company, it took me a long time to loosen the reins and let others make decisions. But by delegating and outsourcing effectively, I’ve been able to channel my energies where they have the biggest impact and maintain growth over the years. You only have so many hours in the day, so use them wisely.

“Despite the current climate, I believe that the next ten years have lots of positivity in store for EverythingBranded. I won’t rest until the business has gone global and we reach $100 million in annual sales. Watch this space!”