Lessons I’ve Learned As A New Business Owner

As we near the end of the first quarter of 2017, I can’t believe I am already about to go into my fifth year of owning Image Builders. It has been a crazy ride so far, but I could not be happier with where we stand as a company today. Here are a few lessons I have learned along the way.

download (1)1. Surround yourself with good people


I have to brag a little bit, my staff is amazing. They are an incredible team and are always working together to reach our goals and take care of our clients. We are a small operation but everyone is always willing to go the extra mile to take care of business. They make me look good!

2. Give up some responsibility

I’ll admit,  giving up control over certain things as an owner was not easy. However, everyone has certain skills and it’s important to let go of some things and let people do what they do best. Trust is the key to every successful work environment.

rocking3. Never worry alone

Sometimes things get stressful at work, it’s okay to talk to others and share your concerns. Worrying is like being in a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but won’t get you anywhere. If needed, grab another chair and rock together! 

4. Don’t forget to have fun at work

Let’s face it, we are here for 40 plus hours almost every single week. We may as well enjoy ourselves and have some fun. It’s okay to laugh at yourselves for the silly little mistakes and blunders. Life goes on either way!

5. Put the customer firstdownload

We strive every day at Image Builders to put our clients first. We make it easy for them to trust us and work with us. We always want our customers to know that we have their best interest at heart before anything else.

6. You don’t need to be perfect

It’s okay to make mistakes. None of us would be where we are today without making some mistakes on the way and learning from them. The road to success is not a smooth freeway; it’s a road full of potholes, roundabouts, and red lights.

comfort zone7. Get out of your comfort zone

I have been so far out of my comfort zone at times I wasn’t sure I would find my way back. However, each one of these sometimes uncomfortable experiences has helped me grow personally and professionally.

8. Be grateful

I am incredibly grateful to all of the wonderful friends, clients, employees, and suppliers that work with us and help to make us a success, I never take that for granted.

9. Time flies, so enjoy the ridefb1

As the great Ferris Bueller once said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look
around once in awhile, you could miss it.”


– Julie Zniewski

New Building, Same Image Builders

There has been a lot of change on the horizon the last six months at Image Builders as we prepared to move from our current office into our very own building just up Clearwater Road. After months of planning, cleaning, painting, and fixing we have finally moved into our new home!


As I approached 5 years of renting, it made sense to have a space of my own so I made the decision to move my business. Having been through 5 years of ownership and 30+ years in sales, I could see that our business was evolving in a number of ways.

First of all, we needed more space for shipping, storage, and fulfillment as we have grown. The new room we have dedicated to shipping is twice the size of our old one and allows us to continue getting orders out efficiently. We know Traci loves bubble wrap, and now we have a massive space to store as much bubble wrap as the eye can see.

Additionally, as technology has developed and more interactions are via email and over the phone, we have less of a need for a huge showroom as we did twenty years ago. Having been at the previous location for 14 years, we had a lot of “stuff” accumulated. We donated five large boxes of overstocked and discontinued apparel to CentraCare Health Charity closet – a program that clothes patients who come into the ER needing fresh clothing. We also donated five boxes of promotional items to the Boys and Girls Club of Central MN and a box to a St. Elizabeth Ann Seton elementary school. It feels good to have a more focused showroom with fresh new samples!


I want to give a huge shout out to my team who worked their butts off to get everything moved and up and running. It was a tiring three days of moving but it has definitely paid off. Also, my husband Mike is the best — he sacrificed multiple t-shirts while painting and worked many hours improving this building. I couldn’t have done it without all your help!

We are so happy to finally be settled in and are excited for our customers to stop by and check out our new home!

Don’t forget to take a peek at our gallery of the moving process and the new building below and follow our blog via email at the bottom of the page!

A Summer In Promotional Products: My Top 2 Takeaways

For many years when people asked me what my mom did for a living, I would simply reply “she sells pens” because I honestly didn’t quite understand what she actually did. All I knew is that we had enough Image Builders pens, pencils, and highlighters in our household to supply an entire college campus.

As I got older I started to understand promotional products better, but I still didn’t fully understand a day in the life until I started working as an intern this summer for Image Builders. Having never worked in a business environment before, I have learned a lot in my short time here. I couldn’t possibly fit all of my experiences into one blog post, but I am going to sum it up by providing my two most important takeaways. Continue reading “A Summer In Promotional Products: My Top 2 Takeaways”

When It Comes To Promotional Products, Trust Us

In society, we’ve all heard more than a few times that honesty is the best policy. Truth be told, however, there’s really no harm in a few white lies. Remember that time at your childhood friend’s house where you had to act like you were enjoying those disgusting spoonfuls of mushroom/tuna hybrid casserole? I do, and trust me, the awkwardness that would arise from passing up a serving of that smelly concoction would be much worse than those few seconds of taste bud torture.

This is an obvious situation where it’s okay to pass a little white lie. Nobody wants to deal with the passive aggressive wrath of Johnny’s mom after spitting out the “delicious” dinner she prepared. There’s clearly a time and a place when and where honesty is not rewarded. When it comes to conducting business, though, honesty will nearly always be rewarded. In the promotional products industry, honesty and trust play a huge role in our process.

Before any order is placed it’s important to us at Image Builders that we’re truthful with our clients about their ideas. When clients come in and try to order 50 custom green and orange polos citing that “they’re trendy”, we’re going to be honest and tell them they’re going to look like a walking carrot. If they place the same order through a high volume online apparel company, they plain and simple aren’t going to get that kind of feedback. We’re honest because we want our customers to be happy (and look just as downright dashing as we do).

The same can be said for the non-apparel promotional products that we distribute. When asked about what business practices create trust between our salespeople and customers our owner Julie Zniewski reflected, “We’ll tell you if something you’re looking at is poorly made – we understand price is important, but if the product you’re using to brand yourself and your company is of poor quality it reflects on you and on us.”

Since there are thousands of products to choose from under a wide array of prices, often times customers are tempted to opt for the cheapest option possible, which is a promotional disaster waiting to happen (imagine this picture 5000 times at your company’s next event). Don’t worry though, work with us and we won’t let that kind of thing happen to you because we hate liars just as much as the next person.

Doing It Right: Fulfillment

There were many sounds to be heard last week within the confines of the Image Builders shipping room. The squeaky snarls of the tape dispensers. The subtle slapping of labels onto boxes. The chit-chat of Traci as she stuffs boxes with bubble-wrap whilst trying to decide which 90’s Bruce Willis movie was the best (see below).

After having collectively put together, packaged, and shipped over 1,200 barbecue gift sets (1 sportula, 2 bottles of barbecue sauce, and a custom bag) in a matter of a few days, we felt like we had just climbed Mt. Everest – minus the gale-force winds and lung shattering atmospheric conditions. In our defense, however, the shipping room was humid enough that we had to casually fan ourselves with folded up packing slips; nearly as extreme as any mountain summit. It’s a rough life, we know.

All jokes aside, when you work with Image Builders for your promotional needs, know that we take pride in our fulfillment capabilities. We want to make sure our customers are 100% satisfied, and order management is a large piece to the puzzle. Every package is personally handled by one of our team members from start to finish. This approach allows us to ensure each and every order is defect-free, packaged carefully to prevent damage, sorted correctly, and shipped out on-time. Whether it’s 12 t-shirts or 1,200 multi-piece gift sets, we handle and pack each order with more care than a suburban dad handles and packs his beer cooler. Now that is some serious attention to detail.




Doing It Right: Customer Service

Back in the day when I gracefully (awkwardly) pranced the hallways of my high school, I occasionally had friends ask me if my mom could do an order of custom t-shirts for them. Whether it was for student groups, miscellaneous events, or just for fun, there was always some unspoken expectation that these t-shirts would be super intricate and dirt cheap at the same time. Even after requesting apparel that included 97 different colors, 4 pockets, a multi-colored zipper, and a built-in GPS system, people just didn’t understand why the t-shirts were so expensive.

Why shouldn’t they just google “custom t-shirts”, create their own design right on the website, and order some cheap t-shirts from overseas? That’s exactly what most of them did. And I shook my head in disappointment every time, knowing what was going to happen. I’m going to refer now to the old adage “You get what you pay for”. 

Obviously there are exceptions to this. For example, the 99 cent slushies at Super America are just as good or perhaps better tasting than the 4.99 slushies at the movie theater (I hope I didn’t spark controversy here). When it comes to custom apparel however, you really do get what you pay for.

It always brought a smile to my face as I watched classmates walking around with flustered looks on their faces, trying so hard to avoid that temptation to pick away at the uncomfortable (and already peeling) heat pressed logo on their “awesome” new t-shirts. Along with that, it was always fun observing the two or three t-shirts with blatant misspellings or crooked logo alignment. On an overall awkward/failure scale, these t-shirt orders ranked just slightly above actor Michael Cera’s attempt at growing a mustache (see below).


Pretty painful, I know. With Image Builders however, this kind of awkward pain can be avoided. Having a small customer-oriented staff with knowledge about all phases of our operation, we can assure you that you will be more than satisfied with whatever promotional item you may need.

We aren’t just some computer generated design and order system; we will work with you to make sure your promotion is high quality, with a visually appealing and effective message. If there are bumps in the road, we have the expertise and flexibility to quickly address any issues to ensure your satisfaction. That’s the small business advantage.

So remember the next time you order custom apparel, you get what you pay for. You can go experience the second-to-none customer service here at Image Builders, or you can roll the dice and end up looking dweebier than Michael Cera’s mustache. Your choice.

Welcome To Our Blog

Hello readers, and welcome to the official blog for Image Builders! There are a number of things that we want to achieve with our blog, and we are thrilled to be officially launching ourselves into the business blogosphere. Whether you are a customer, vendor, insanely jealous competitor, or an 80 year old man that accidentally butt-googled “image builders” on his new-fangled smartphone, we are here to entertain, inform, and connect with you.

As the lone marketing intern here at Image Builders, I will be assuming the primary blog writing duties and am excited to see what kind of journey this takes us on. We have all kinds of tricks up our sleeve, so check in with us the next time you need a sweet escape from your wretched boss or the infamous office bully (or both). Don’t let them get you down. Just grab your phone, put on your best “I’m super busy” face, hide in the bathroom, and let us do the talking (writing).