After being laid off from the accounting firm Citrin Cooperman & Co. in 2008, James Higgins was looking for a change of pace when he began working part-time for a marketing and advertising specialties company. But the seeds of change were planted in 2009 when he attended a seminar by Greg Muzzillo, the founder of Proforma and PFG Ventures. “Afterwards, I spoke with Greg about his organization and all the benefits of starting my own franchise within Proforma,” Higgins says. “When I met him, something clicked—I could be doing everything I was doing at the current moment, except I could be doing it for myself and getting paid a monthly commission.”
The seeds finally came to fruition in 2011, when Higgins, using money he’d saved from commissions from his previous job, opened Proforma Branding Excellence, folding his existing clients into the new company.
During its first year of business, Proforma’s total sales grew by 168 percent. In 2012, its revenue was $168,000, an increase from $74,000 in 2011. Another big increase is projected for 2013, as Proforma is on pace to make over $350,000. “My sales increased solely because of my individual efforts,” says Higgins. “Network marketing, referrals, and word of mouth is the cornerstone of my company.”
With a staff consisting of two independent sales reps, an intern, and a graphic designer, Proforma offers everything from printing services and promotional products to customized apparel, website design, and more. Higgins’ five-person operation has successfully landed some big-name clients, including Pace University, Monroe College, Steiner Sports, Bloomberg LP, Silverback Social, Porter House, The Junkluggers, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
“We are set apart from other companies in our field because we provide our clients with whatever they need,” says Higgins. “We work alongside our clients to create promotional products that are custom-tailored to suit the promotional needs of the company.”
Jerri Reilly, special-events and promotions coordinator for one of James’ biggest clients, Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, says, “I have been working with Jim for over a year now. He understands that we often work within tight deadlines and does everything he can to accommodate those deadlines—even if it means personally delivering pre-production samples for approval. He is a constant supply of creativity and is always helpful, positive, and courteous.”
In just over two years, Proforma Branding Excellence has conducted business with more than 150 separate entities, and has had 514 sales to date.
Another Proforma client, John Zanzarella, regional marketing manager for the law firm Jackson Lewis, LLP, in Stamford, Connecticut, says, “Jim is great at providing solutions. He has a really extensive knowledge of the different promotional products—golf balls, flash drives, T-shirts, cellphone holders—and what is well received and what is not.
“Aside from consistent performance, it’s the relationship that Jim has built with us that sets Proforma apart,” Zanzarella continues. “He gets to know the business as well as the person and uses that to build a personal connection. That personal connection separates him from the competition.”
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