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In the whirlwind of activities at the 2024 International Personalization Expo, two significant events stood as pillars of celebration and recognition: the Awards and Recognition Industry Educational Foundation (ARIEF) Scholarships and the esteemed Gold Obelisk Award Ceremony. Nestled within the vibrant atmosphere of the expo, these events underscored the industry's commitment to education, innovation, and excellence.

As the APA steps into a new era, we are delighted to introduce the latest additions to our esteemed Board of Directors (BOD) for the 2024-25 term.

Amidst the vibrant energy of Las Vegas, APA hosted the annual International Personalization Expo at Paris Las Vegas, coinciding with the excitement of Super Bowl week. Welcoming industry leaders, innovators, and personalization enthusiasts, this year's expo was more than just a gathering —it was a celebration of collaboration, community, and the growing potential of the personalization industry.

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


(January/February 2024) Leaders strive to leave a lasting impression on their organization. The way they want to make their mark—from passing along a legacy of innovation or being remembered for their empathy—is unique to each individual.

In my case, recent changes to APA’s branding will be part of my legacy as president of the organization. I couldn’t be prouder! As we previously announced, APA made important updates to our brand in November:

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


(November/December 2023) No matter where your business is—physically or developmentally—APA offers specialized resources to cater to you.

I’ve been thinking about the cycle of business ownership because I recently completed the sale of my retail shop, officially moving to the supplier side of our association with my newer company. As I see it, there are four “eras” to a retail company’s evolution in our industry, and the upcoming International Personalization Expo is a great example of how the association helps you at each stage.

(November 2023)
We’re happy to share some exciting changes to our association.

Leadership has conducted months of research and focus groups ahead of these updates. We needed to be certain we’re heading in the right direction—one that is visibly inclusive of our current and future members, regardless of which products they personalize.

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


(September/October 2023) The personalization industry is always changing, and you’ve had to make sure your business evolves with it to guarantee success and longevity.

APA’s leadership—which comprises industry professionals—is tasked with ensuring our association evolves, too. Ideally, we keep APA on pace with the member companies known for innovation! Sometimes, we just need to bring the right ideas to the table. Other times, we need to make tough decisions to boldly move forward. We have to explore and take risks so the association’s membership can reap the rewards.

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


(July/August 2023) The International Personalization Expo is always exciting. It’s the biggest and best trade show in our industry, and we’re looking forward to the 2024 Expo, Feb. 6-9, at Paris Las Vegas.

We’re not the only ones. Las Vegas hosts 24,000 conventions with 6.5 million attendees annually, which would probably overwhelm any other city. Like any convention location, we’ve occasionally shared hallways with other convention attendees—which is sometimes eyebrow-raising when our meeting-space neighbors are there for an entertainment fan fest rather than a professional conference.

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


(May/June 2023) Your APA leaders—the Board of Directors and our committees—are all active members of the industry. We’re people who have gained so much from APA membership that we decided to give back by volunteering.

We’re not significantly different than you, nor are our businesses. We face the same challenges and represent a healthy mix of retailer and supplier companies. (Or, in my case, I’ve been a retailer and a supplier.) This enables us to look out for members’ best interests.

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.

John Stangle, CRM, Creative Awards & Screen Printing
President, APA - Where Personalization Pros Connect


(January/February 2023) Well, this past year has sure flown by. I want to thank everyone for the journey of being associated with this great organization.


On the surface, the APA is an organization that connects you to a wider group that is committed to talking about engraving or awards or gifts or the many other commonalities we share. But the APA is also a family—a community if you will. I have been fortunate enough to meet some of the nicest and most dedicated volunteers who all share one common trait: the love for our industry.

John Stangle, CRM, Creative Awards & Screen Printing
President, Awards and Personalization Association


(November/December 2022) APA’s 2023 International Personalization & Awards Expo is coming along beautifully. Our website,, has all the information you need about the Expo, including a list of suppliers that will be showing off classic and new products. On the website, you can register for the Expo and select educational classes you would like to attend. In addition to learning opportunities, attendees will be able to take part in the Party on the Show Floor on Wednesday evening, the awards celebration on Thursday evening (for an additional fee) and the member breakfast meeting on Friday morning.

John Stangle, CRM, Creative Awards & Screen Printing
President, Awards and Personalization Association


(September/October 2022) Tony Robbins, a prolific motivational speaker, doesn’t mince words when it comes to volunteering. According to an article on his website, Robbins says: “Giving back is paramount to finding meaning in your life. Why? Because the secret to living is giving. No matter how busy or cash-strapped you might be, you have something unique to offer others.” 

John Stangle, CRM, Creative Awards & Screen Printing
President, Awards and Personalization Association


(July/August 2022) I received a phone call the other day, with the caller wanting to know if we had any trophies. I told her, “Yes, we do!” She said she was looking for an unusual trophy, something to do with dogs. I told her we had dog figures available. She further explained that she was looking for an inexpensive trophy for a fundraiser. Sound familiar so far? She then said it could be something we had lying around, like a discontinued or leftover trophy. By now I’m thinking to myself, “How do I get rid of this call politely?”

Shon Roti, Owner, 9th Street Designs

(May/June 2022) I take it for granted that information is available at my fingertips whenever I want. The difficulty now is determining what is relevant and useful.

Over the last decade or so, I’ve discovered many online resources that are indispensable to me and my career. These resources include, but aren’t limited to, fonts, images/photos, production tutorials, community resources, templates, color knowledge and examples, graphic design tutorials, fabrication tips and design inspiration.

John Stangle, CRM, Creative Awards & Screen Printing
President, Awards and Personalization Association


(March/April 2022) I recently saw a football helmet that had a phrase that stuck with me. It said, “It takes all of us.” While I like that sentiment, I feel the message should go one step further and say: “Success—it takes all of us.” After all, one thing the pandemic made abundantly clear is that we need each other—as friends, as family and as a larger business community.

By Lisa R. Higginbotham, CRM, Fivestar Awards And Engraving, and Awards and Personalization Association president


Another ‘Unprecedented’ Year Proves the Resiliency and Ingenuity of our Personalization Professionals.

(January/February 2022) Wait! Did I just blink? Has it already been a year? I guess time flies when you are having fun…or living through a pandemic. This is my last president’s message, and that makes me sad.

Marty Burke retired July 1, 2021, from Marco Awards Group, having created countless treasured relationships with retailers and suppliers alike during his 47 years in the awards and personalization industry.

By Peggy Doherty


Back to school is exciting for every grade—whether it’s preschool or graduate school. Think about all the possible items to personalize and gifts for those starting a new adventure.

By Lisa R. Higginbotham, CRM, FiveStar Awards and Engraving, and Awards and Personalization Association president


A look at the many values of membership

(May/June 2021) Wow, has this been a year or what? I can’t believe it is April (as I write this column). And since I always live in my numbers, looking back at April 2020 was sobering. I am grateful that April 2021 is showing an upward trend. Jeff and I both got our vaccines, and we are so ready to travel! I am still sad that we had to cancel the 2021 International Awards & Personalization Expo, but please know that we value our membership’s health and safety above all. It was not a decision made lightly. In fact, it was very difficult.

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