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Ready to Take a Few Risks?

Niels Norby, NetSoft Studio, LLC
President, APA - Where Personalization Pros Connect


(March/April 2023) As is our organization’s tradition, outgoing APA President John Stangle, CRM, passed the gavel to me in February at the International Personalization & Awards Expo in Las Vegas.

The ceremonial handoff, from a retailer to a supplier, highlights APA’s unique partnership between the two groups. The association must continually ensure that the interests of both types of members are balanced, and that’s a job I’m uniquely qualified for.

Believe it or not, my entrepreneurship and awards industry work started while I was serving as a combat arms instructor in the U.S. Air Force. I made extra money by creating flag boxes and awards in the base’s wood shop, establishing the foundation for what I was pretty sure I wanted to do when I left the military after a decade of service. I bought San Dieguito Trophy in Carlsbad, California, a retail awards business that I operated for 28 years. The military instilled in me a sense of confidence that made me willing to take calculated risks, from purchasing the company to buying out my partner and transforming the trophy shop into a high-end corporate awards business. I sold that successful shop in February 2022.

During my time as a retailer, I really embraced the industry software created by APA supplier member Netsoft Studio, so much so that I became an ambassador for Netsoft. Then, about five years ago, I bought Netsoft Studio from founder David Matney, a risk that let me continue working in the industry I love but presented new challenges from the supplier side of the Expo aisle.

I probably could have retired, so what am I doing helming yet another company and continuing to volunteer my time and skills to lead our association? I’m giving back. This industry has given me a life greater than I could have ever imagined. When I was in an Air Force wood shop, I never could have guessed that I was taking the first steps of such an important journey. I never could have guessed that more than 30 years later the path I chose would have led to an enviable career, two successful businesses and countless industry friends. It was a risk. I took it, and I’ve been benefiting from it ever since.

Now, it’s time for you to benefit from my experiences, too! Over the next year, I invite you to explore opportunities with me and to put aside your fear of failing to embrace a few measured risks like the ones that I’ve taken to create a life I love. Together, let’s take a step out of our comfort zones and shake the tree a little. It’s time to create opportunities we can seize for success—for retailers and suppliers alike.

APA - Where Personalization Pros Connect.

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