Ellen Allentoff talks about her creative passion, the best product she’s ever sourced, and her love for baking (spoiler: it’s all about cakes, not pies).
I had the pleasure of speaking with Ellen Allentoff, one of our awesome Sales Affiliates, who has been with Boundless for the past three years. An industry expert, Ellen discusses the importance of balance in her life as well as the key to building great relationships with clients. Read on to learn more about Ellen!
Tell me a little bit about yourself, where are you from?
I was born and raised in the Washington, DC area and currently reside in Maryland. I am married with two amazing kids – a 15 year old son and 12 year old daughter. I left the area as an undergrad to study at the University of Delaware and earned an undergraduate degree in Textile Merchandising. But I returned to DC to earn my master’s degree in Business Administration from American University!
What are your hobbies or personal interests?
I love to work out and play with my dog. We are a very active family! My kids are involved in a lot of activities – both of them are in karate – my son is a 3rd degree, and my daughter is a 1st degree. My daughter also plays on a travel field hockey team, so we spend a lot of time traveling!
I’m also really into crafts. I love to crochet and bead and make things—whatever crafty activity I can find. I really enjoy spending time with family and friends because they are so important to me. I also like to use my personal time for cooking and baking—I’m a big baker. I have a coconut cake recipe that takes four days to make and is outstanding. But I have to admit, I’m not into baking pies – I’m all about cakes and cookies!
How did you get into the promotional products business?
I worked in retail for a very long time after I got out of college, but I didn’t really like the business. So I went back to grad school to get my MBA. I found my way into corporate marketing for a major hospitality company and I became the person responsible for promotional merchandise. I developed a company store for one of their service brands, which gave me a taste of promotional products from the client side. The store was a big success and I really enjoyed doing it! My mother was in the promotional marketing industry and she offered me the opportunity to work with her, so I gave up my corporate job to start in this industry. I love the creativity involved—I’m a hunter when it comes to finding the perfect product. I enjoy giving ideas to clients, not just about what products would help them meet their goals, but also how to use the products to their potential. And I think my clients really like that extra touch.
Plus, working in this industry gave me more flexibility so that I could be with my kids, which was huge. I’m happy to say that as of July, I’ve been in promotional marketing for 10 years!
What is the most creative product you have sourced for a client?
Well, it wasn’t a particularly big job. But I had a client with a board member who was retiring, and they wanted to give him something unique that he’d appreciate. I asked them to tell me things about him and it turned out he was a big Volkswagen Bug enthusiast. So I found a 47:1 to-scale replica of a 1965 VW bug convertible, and had it shadow boxed and encased with a glass plate. It was perfect!
My whole approach to this industry is finding something that’s meaningful and memorable to a recipient, even if it’s just a pen. I’m working with someone whose clients are physicians and they want a pen—so it’s just about finding the element of that pen that will make someone want to keep it. It should be something that stays on your desk, in your house, or you keep it in your car and grab it when you go to an event.
What professional goals do you set for yourself and how do you achieve them?
My biggest goal is to adequately support my clients by making sure I’m very responsive. There are a lot of people who do what I do so I have to differentiate myself on my service recovery. When something goes wrong, I use every ounce of my time to make sure I make it right and my client is satisfied. It’s not about how much money I make—it’s about the fact that I close out my desk every day and I feel good about what I did.
Aside from great service recovery, what is your secret to building great relationships with your clients?
I always have a sense of humor and don’t take myself too seriously. I use humor to read each person and understand how best to interact with them. I think when you ask people about themselves, you make it more personal and fun to work with them. I don’t like to be salesy or “push push push.”
What has been the biggest game changer in the promotional products industry?
The internet and access to information has changed how we do business and connect with customers. Using Boundless’ core technology platform, Portal, I’ve been able to give my clients the full package: I create Idea Books to share product ideas, and seamlessly provide quotes on projects. My clients don’t feel like they need to look elsewhere to find or buy the product they want. The access to information from anywhere at any time is also one of the reasons I think our email marketing is great—it’s so advantageous to get great products in front of people to keep us top of mind.
How does working with Boundless give you an edge?
Portal – the ability to simply go onto one great digital platform to place orders and create company stores free of cost. I also love the ability to customize the Portal experience for the client. Since I’ve joined Boundless three years ago, I have seen a steady increase in my business. I don’t have to worry about anything except for client contact and making the sale. Boundless has made it very easy for me to be successful, and I’m so glad to be a part of the team!