At last week’s Green Sports Alliance Summit in Chicago, we caught up with executives from two companies we interviewed at the 2014 Summit in Santa Clara. We wanted to see how business has been over the past year or so, both at the intersection of Green and Sports as well as in general. So here’s an update from Kari Brizius, President of Relan, upcycler of signage and banners, and Molly Ray, Office Depot’s Environmental Solutions Manager.
KARI BRIZIUS, RELAN (to read the 2014 GSB interview with Kari, click here)
GreenSportsBlog: How have things gone over the past year for Relan’s business (“Products with a Purpose”) of up cycling banners and signage, from all manner of events and attractions, including sports?
Kari Brizius, Relan: Things are great–business has grown and we’ve been adding staff–now we have 4 people selling as compared to one (me!) at this time last year. We also now have a social media/marketing manager.
GSB: That’s great to hear! How important is sports to your business?
KB: It’s a small but important piece–sports represents between 5-10% of our business. Museums are also a big factor.
GSB: To my mind, sports, with its high profile and also, I imagine, big volume of signs and banners, could even be a bigger portion of Relan’s business. Do you agree and, if so, what will be the impetus to take sports to the next level?
KB: We definitely agree. To get to that next level, we will need to get league licensing deals. So far, we’ve mainly done team deals.
GSB: What do you think will get those league licensing deals done?
KB: Getting the word out about what we do and the benefits to the leagues and all of their teams of upcycling banners and signage through Relan. Really, it’s an education effort…
GSB: …And now that you have a bigger sales staff and a marketing infrastructure, you should be better able to educate the leagues. What was one of Relan’s biggest successes over the past year?
Kari Brizius, President of Relan. (Photo Credit: Relan)
KB: That would have to be our work with MINI (Cooper) USA. We repurposed MINI billboard signage into re-usable tote bags for each new MINI owner. What was really great was the upcycled totes fit right in with “The New MINI. The New Original” tagline. The label of each tote told the story: “This bag is made from a real MINI billboard. There is no other like it. Just like you and each MINI.”
GSB: What a seamless way for MINI to use Relan to enhance their brand image. Congratulations! Going forward, what are the highest priority challenges for you and the Relan team for the next year?
KB: Building the league licensing business. Converting interest from new prospects into actual deals. And, as we sign bigger deals, making sure we can manufacture large volume programs with the same high quality as with our smaller deals.
GSB: Good luck, Kari, with your very full plate!
MOLLY RAY, OFFICE DEPOT (to read the 2014 GSB interview with Molly, click here)
GreenSportsBlog: How was the past year for Office Depot, particularly from a sustainability/”Greener Office” point-of-view?
Office Depot’s Greener Office helps customers buy office products in a more environmentally friendly manner. (Photo Credit: TreeHugger)
Molly Ray: It certainly was a busy and interesting year, especially since our merger with OfficeMax really took hold during that time frame. From a sustainability perspective, our team had to integrate and inspire OfficeMax employees and their customer base from a green standpoint.
GSB: Using a sports analogy, that’s like absorbing a new free agent into a team who might have played under a different system–not always the easiest thing to do. My guess is OfficeMax was not in the same league, green wise, as Office Depot, when the merger took place…
MR: …That’s true; they were less steeped in sustainability at first–they didn’t have anything akin to our “Shades of Green/Greener Office” program. But, a year on, the former OfficeMax folks are into it. I’m in demand, frequently fielding calls from the field about sustainability.
GSB: What do you think got the OfficeMax team “into it”
MR: Well, we had to essentially go out and sell sustainability/”Greener Office” to the new employees just like we did to our Office Depot colleagues when we began the effort. And that meant going back to our five part program of 1. Assessing where the new customers were, sustainability-wise, 2. Defining sustainability priorities, 3. Implementing the “Greener Office” greener purchasing program, 4. Re-assessing once “Greener Office” had taken hold, and 5. Telling success stories. This may be the most important part because it is the stories that help gain team buy-in. It really has gone well.
GSB: Good to hear! Are any former OfficeMax-ers on your Environmental Sales Specialist (salespeople who’ve expressed particular interest in sustainability/Greener Office) team?
MR: Yes! And this is a voluntary team so it shows that sustainability is resonating with our new colleagues.
GSB: So what is Office Depot looking at, sustainability-wise, over the next 6-12 months.
MR: One thing we’re focused on in is our Greener Purchasing Awards event in October. For the first time, we will have former OfficeMax-ers in the mix.
GSB: Good luck to them and to Office Depot as it keeps on greening America’s offices.
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