Liz Rose Choi's history with Five Thousand Forms goes back to her childhood. She shares what she has learned growing up, growing away and coming back to her family's business.
The Fogelsville-based, women-owned company in Lehigh County is a supplier of printed business products and services. It's been in business since 1973, according to the company website.
I sat down with Choi recently to talk about her career and her work with the company.
LVB: Tell us about your history with Five Thousand Forms and GiveMeFive.com and how you became involved with the business.
CHOI: As a child, I was subject to nightly dinner conversations revolving around minute details of print and mail productions.
In the mid-1980s, I recall the fun promo and clothing samples when my mother led the charge to expand our categories. Stickers, paper stocks, new toys, clothing and graphic design tools to test out were a mainstay of my childhood.
I pursued my own path as an educator for 10 years. Then, I had a desire to get closer to my family and my roots. A few visioning conversations with my parents set the stage, and I moved back home and joined the family business.
Remarkably, five people on our team of 20 at Five Thousand Forms and GiveMeFive.com have been with us since I was a kid.
LVB: When we had lunch recently you talked about how your values around "green" products can now help shape some of your company decisions. This differed from the influence you had when you first joined the company. How did that evolution happen?
CHOI: This piece is close to my heart and exciting to me.
When I first joined the company in 2007, the focus of our country’s culture was to buy more and buy bigger. At the time, my personal mission to stand up for health, wellness and ecology conflicted with my primary experience in business, especially with the popularity of one-time-use products, vinyl, toxic chemicals used in manufacturing, overseas productions that lacked transparency, etc.
Now, conscious capitalism has legs, and people’s buying habits are shifting with greater concern for the environment and social responsibility. Here’s a huge example: Living Coral, being the 2019 PMS Color of the Year, is an easy way to bridge our company’s categories with awareness and support for restoring health in coral reef habitats.
We’re so pleased to be part of the solution by offering eco-focused product lines and creative packaging, then donating a portion of 2019 profits to support coral restoration projects. Business is fun when it's purpose driven and the work aligns with values and the heart.
LVB: Your company is a family business. Tell us the pros and cons of working with family. When did you become a company owner?
CHOI: Family dynamics are super interesting. We know one another so well and share some of the same qualities, which help us both to understand one another, and it can make working together a sheer cliff of a challenge.
The hardest part is to be in a present relationship, not clouded by years gone by. I owe it to meditation and my mentors to help me stay grounded through it all.
I love my family very much and having regular interaction with them feels good. We do struggle to make time to go deeper with our personal relationships, since we constantly have business topics to dive into.
We’re getting better at setting boundaries and keeping off-hours time to just catch up about life and our kiddos. 2012 is the year that ownership of Five Thousand Forms and GiveMeFive.com was redistributed to Linda and Herb Levy (my mother and father), Jessica [Levy] Goebel (my sister) and me.
This might seem small, but you shared with me how important branding is to your company, all the way down to the type of coffee cup a restaurant uses. How has that helped you with your company?
CHOI: Not to be dramatic, but to make a point: If a 5-star hotel uses diner mugs, people will notice something is off.
It’s the unspoken branding that speaks volumes about an organization's intent, culture and voice in the marketplace.
The focus of Five Thousand Forms and GiveMeFive.com is to help our clients reach their desired outcomes with tangible communications (for onboarding, recognition, print messaging, uniforms, gifts, event materials, stakeholder appreciation, etc).
My clients tell me that I listen carefully, pay attention to their brand direction and they appreciate how I align their brands with the products, decoration, packaging, presentation and service logistics to bring their visions to life.
LVB: What are some of your favorite promotional items? How can a company, even on a small budget, promote their brand?
CHOI: I love the Sling Grip because I don’t have to hold my phone, and I’ve saved hundreds by not dropping my phone either.
I love the mission-driven lines we carry. Camelbak, Alternative Apparel and Patagonia are a few that jump to mind. I love the washable paper bag. And I am a big fan of shipping goods whenever possible without any plastic bags (polybags).
If there is a small budget available, then target the niche audience with an item that has a high perceived value. The right product with impressive custom decoration may stay with the recipient for months or even years. If it’s edible, it’s key to leave a lasting positive memory with the recipient and a call to action.
Liz Rose Choi is brand strategist and part owner of Five Thousand Forms and GiveMeFive.com. You can reach her at LChoi@GiveMeFive.com.