Elite Promotional Marketing has more than 60 years’ experience in the promotional industry, and is one of Western Canada’s largest suppliers of promotional products, awards, sportswear, and corporate apparel. Recently, Elite added custom branded online merchandise shops to its product offerings. In-house graphic designers and award-winning customer service back up Elite’s goal to help their clients build long-lasting relationships with their customers. At its core are the values and spirit of entrepreneurship found in Alberta’s hardworking family businesses, along with a mission to remain committed to the products and processes that have worked for decades while being the first to embrace the technology that keeps Elite Promotional Marketing at the forefront of the industry.
Elite Promotional Marketing’s roots go back to the merger of two businesses: Elite T-Shirts and Alberta Trophy and Gift Shop.
“Elite T-shirts was originally started in 1978 as a sideline business in the back shop of Elite lithographers,” explains Drew Schamehorn, president. “At the same time, since the early 80’s, I have owned and operated Alberta Trophy and Gift shop, which had been started by my wife’s family in 1952. I could see the synergies of putting together a cresting company alongside of our trophy business. So, in 1988 we purchased Elite T-Shirts and had the sellers teach us how to screen print apparel over the next year. After a year of training we moved Elite next door to where Alberta Trophy was located and continued to grow the businesses together.”
The business grew steadily for the following decades.
“We had to relocate to four different shops over four decades!” exclaims Schamehorn. “In 2000 Alberta Trophy and Gift Shop and Elite Sportswear became one company, Elite Sportswear & Awards, while joining forces together and building our current premises, which is now approximately 65,000 square feet.”
Schamehorn continues, “In 1988 we started with just one employee at Elite and didn’t add additional staff until after the first year. Today, with the three Alberta store locations as well as the two external sales offices, we now operate with between 70-80 full time sales and production staff.”
There is more to Elite than meets the eye.
“Early into the first stages of owning Elite we managed to pick up business from the Edmonton Oilers/Oil Kings and Edmonton Eskimos and continue to work with both organizations today. However, while schools, sports and universities continue to be a large part of our business, we also produce web stores for businesses like WestJet and Fountain Tire, to name a couple,” says Schamehorn. “As we grew over the years, we also expanded our services to include laser engraving, sandblasting as well as embroidery, screen printing and pro-twill. While continuing to add additional cresting services and new product lines, Elite stays ahead of the competition by offering a wide variety of services. We aim to be a one-stop-shop for all your promotional and branding needs.”
There have been plenty of memorable moments for Schamehorn and the team at Elite, including the day they printed 20,000 orange t-shirts in four days so the Edmonton Oilers could have them on hand for fans at the first opening game at Rogers Place in 2017.
“Getting to assist our clients in creating memorable customized merchandise is such a highlight,” Schamehorn admits with a smile. “Every project is different and it’s very rewarding to see projects through from the initial concept to a tactile final product.”
As with every business, however, there are also some challenges to overcome.
“Elite’s greatest challenge is currently adapting to the changing marketplace and moving into the online sales space. Traditionally, our business has been face-to-face, but more and more buyers, even when it comes to corporate buying, are moving to utilize online services.”
The team meets this challenge head on by not only optimizing their site with a full product catalogue and the means to start a project with them online, but by also creating online branded apparel shops for other businesses. One recent shop was created for The Suspendables, a podcast hosted by Jungle Jim Jerome and former NHL player Russ Courtnall. Thanks to Elite, fans of the show can easily buy Suspendables branded hats, hoodies, tumblers, and duffle bags online.
It’s easy to understand why everyone from startups to the biggest names in sports and business turn to Elite when you realize one of their best kept “secrets.”
“One of the advantages that Elite has over its competitors is that most of our competition do not brand the products which they sell themselves,” says Schamehorn. Elite Promotional Marketing has its own in-house decorating services, which allows us to control our own delivery times and has helped Elite build a strong reputation throughout the many years of being in business in Alberta. Since we can control our production in most cases, we have the ability to turn around orders in a much faster time than our competitors.”
This local focus and rapid turnaround time enabled Elite to be agile and productive when COVID-19 disrupted business across the province.
“With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, many of our customers are asking which products are made in Canada. Elite Promotional Marketing will continue to find new product lines to align with our clients’ needs, while maintaining the lines we and our customers already know and trust,” says Schamehorn.
Beyond the ability to access Canadian product lines, Elite also quickly pivoted to provide much-needed PPE. Clients can purchase a variety of hand sanitizers from full ounce bottles to spray pens and clips, cleansing gel packets, paper soap, several styles of masks, FDA authorized respirators, face shields, forehead thermometers, social distancing floor graphics, protective counter barriers, and more. Elite even has a variety of tools that allow users to press buttons, lift bags, hook door handles, etc., without touching surfaces.
Schamehorn rapidly responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that best protects both clients and staff. While the showroom can be reached online and by phone, the staff work remotely and the showroom remains closed. This way clients can continue to get the products they need while they, and the Elite Promotional Marketing team, are able to properly maintain social distancing.
Whether your business, school, institution or team is looking for a giveaway, PPE, team building or promotional product, Elite has what you need.
“Using a local, experienced company like Elite for your promotional products and awards is the key to getting the highest quality products because we are easily accessible and have built a very strong network of reliable product suppliers that we work with to turn our clients’ visions into reality. We know how to source the best products for each project and offer our expertise when it comes to product ideas for your project or event. We’re here as an extended member of your team and work with you to achieve our common goal – creating the best uniquely customized merchandise for your project/event that is on brand, on budget, and on time,” Schamehorn says.
“Drinkware pieces, notebooks, pens, t-shirts and hats are some of the most popular promotional products we get requests for,” he continues. “They make relatively inexpensive giveaways and gifts for companies and all work to get our clients many brand impressions for their businesses.
“Having a dye-sublimation machine on-site helps us quickly turn around awards and gift items for our clients. Using sublimation, we’re able to apply a full colour print to a variety of products and easily personalize them to individual recipients.”
Under Armour is just one of the respected names Elite collaborates with to brand the highest quality items with clients’ logos.
Elite Promotional Marketing is proud and humbled to have won an Edmonton Chamber of Commerce Small Business Award and a Business in Edmonton Leaders award.
“Being presented with those awards are two events I will cherish for a long time,” says Schamehorn. “These types of awards are a testament to the quality of staff that we have been able to attract here at Elite. With many staff having 20-25 years of employment with us and everyone pulling together as one big team, we are in a position to offer our outstanding service and delivery. Our team has also had the honour of winning the Consumer Choice Award for Promotional Products in Northern Alberta. This year’s win marks eight consecutive years of winning this particular award.”
Schamehorn’s passion for providing the best promotional products to deserving clients is eclipsed only by his desire to help serve the community.
“Supporting local business is key to the economic livelihood of both Edmonton and area as well as the rest of Alberta,” he notes. Whether it’s supporting your Chamber of Commerce or many of the other social networks, I find the Edmonton business community is always there and supporting the many valued civic causes that makes Edmonton the great community that it is.
“We at Elite have always had a strong personal commitment to giving back to the Edmonton charity community. From our involvement of the donation of clothing to the intercity community member agencies which Elite has always supported, we are proud to give back to the many charities who make Edmonton a better place to live.”
With the way products and services are made and delivery changing, and with the uncertainty of the pandemic and how it will continue to impact the world, Schamehorn knows things are poised to change – and he is ready for it.
“Today, I feel fortunate to have come this far and to work with my team along with our children, the second generation, who have been working alongside us for many years at Elite,” he says. “When we talk about what the future may look like down the road, I believe the new tomorrow will make business look much different than it does today. Business over the next 5-10 years will probably look totally different from what you and I have seen to this point. When you think back when we first got into business, we had no photocopiers, cell phones, internet, etc. With the market changes happening and the internet world getting bigger and bigger with online shopping etc., one does not know how much bricks and mortar will be needed going forward with what we might consider to be traditional shopping where you actually walk into a store. I’m sure these are all things we will learn in due time.”
He concludes, “These changing and challenging times are increasingly obvious in the retail business environment. With this said, it is also paramount that we re-target the direction that we go forward with, and that includes looking at facilitating online shopping/ordering. Going forward will not be without its challenges but I have every confidence that our team at Elite will be able to adjust to whatever the future brings.”
Learn more and connect with Elite Promotional Marketing online at elitepromomarketing.com online, @elitepromotionalmarketing on Facebook, @elitepromomarketing on Instagram, @ElitePromoMark on Twitter, Elite Promotional Marketing on LinkedIn, and Elite Promotional Marketing Edmonton on YouTube.