GBG Celebrates 30th Anniversary

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GBG The Corporate Gift Source is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. The promotional goods company, a certified Minority Woman Owned Disadvantaged Business and Government Approved Contractor, is located in Trumbull, CT.

We don’t just place orders and send invoices. We have relationships with our customers and we have a lot of fun with them, too. I don’t want us to ever get so big that we lose that.

GBG The Corporate Gift Source (http://www.gbginc.com) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. The promotional goods company, a certified Minority Woman Owned Disadvantaged Business and Government Approved Contractor, is located in Trumbull, CT.

GBG President and Fairfield native Charlotte O’Banion founded the company, originally known as “Gift Basket Gallery” in 1987. What started as a local, home-based business selling gift baskets to a handful of clients has since grown into a multi-million dollar company that provides several Fortune 500 companies with promotional goods, logo branded apparel, employee recognition programs, and warehousing and fulfillment services.

“Everyone at GBG is so excited that we’ve hit this milestone,” O’Banion says. “It reaffirms the rewards that come with hard work, attention to detail, and consistently showing your customers that you care about them.” It’s also a strong testament to the loyalty of GBG’s customers, she notes, adding that some of them have been with her since the beginning. “I’ll always be grateful to the companies who put their trust in me when I was just a small startup,” she says.

Prior to starting GBG, O’Banion had a 9-year career as a flight attendant for American Airlines, where she honed her customer service skills. It was during this stint that she saw an ad in the back of Entrepreneur magazine for a business plan to own and operate a gift basket business. She purchased the plan for $50 and studied it during flight layovers before making and selling gift baskets out of her Westport home. The business quickly grew through customer referrals and local advertising. “That $50 business plan turned out to be a pretty good investment,” she says.

Great investment notwithstanding, GBG has seen its share of challenges over the past three decades. “When I landed my first big customer in the eighties I had all I could do to keep up with their orders,” O’Banion says. “I was so focused on serving them that I didn’t devote enough time to growing my customer base, which proved to be a mistake.” When that big client experienced a major financial crisis and stopped ordering promotional goods, GBG suffered a major setback. “I basically had to start all over again,” O’Banion says. With a strong resolve to grow from the experience, she began to place a greater emphasis on networking and business development.

In 1990, GBG attained certification as a member of the Greater New England Minority Supplier Diversity Council (GNEMSD) and was certified as a Small, Woman-Owned, Disadvantaged Asian Minority Supplier by the State of Connecticut and The Small Business Association. O’Banion, whose mother is Japanese, credits much of GBG’s subsequent success to the resources and support she’s received from those affiliations.

“Still,” she adds, “memberships will only get you so far. Customers aren’t going to stick around unless you’re providing them with quality products, good customer service, and competitive pricing. That’s what we do, and that’s the main reason why we’re still in business after 30 years.” The company, which has just five full-time employees, has received several “Supplier of the Year” awards from its customers and is recognized as an “ACE Gold Supplier” by United Technologies, which only awards that status to suppliers who continually provide exemplary levels of quality and service.

O’Banion is quick to give credit to her employees, too, most of whom have been with her for more than 20 years. “We’ve worked together so long that we’re like family,” she says. “We work hard, we laugh a lot, and everyone is as dedicated to our customers as I am.”

Today, GBG has more than 100 steady customers. In addition to United Technologies, its biggest customers include Pratt & Whitney, Otis, United Technologies Aerospace Systems, Pratt & Whitney Power Systems, Lockheed Martin, and United Healthcare. O’Banion says she finalized a new 3-year contract with another Fortune 500 company earlier this year but can’t disclose the company’s name due to proprietary reasons. “All I can say is that the company has more than 20,000 employees,” she says with a smile.

Despite GBG’s success, O’Banion isn’t planning to grow the company much larger than it already is. In an industry that typically relies solely on website orders and electronic communication, GBG maintains distinctly personal relationships with its customers, frequently meeting with them to best understand their industry, company goals, and customers.

“We don’t just place orders and send invoices,” O’Banion explains. “We have relationships with our customers and we have a lot of fun with them, too. I don’t want us to ever get so big that we lose that.”

About GBG The Corporate Gift Source
GBG The Corporate Gift Source, Inc., (http://www.gbginc.com) is a certified Minority Women Owned Disadvantaged Business located in Trumbull, CT that specializes in corporate gifts and promotional products. The company’s products and services include a wide variety of promotional items, logo branded apparel, catalog programs, warehousing and fulfillment services, employee award redemption programs, and premiums and sales incentives – all at highly competitive prices.

About Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council (GNEMSDC)
GNEMSDC (http://www.gnemsdc.org) advances business opportunities for certified Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American business enterprises and connects them to corporate members. One of the region’s leading corporate membership organizations, GNEMSDC was incorporated in 1975 to provide increased procurement and business opportunities for minority businesses of all sizes.

GNEMSDC is an affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council. GNEMSDC is one of the 24 regional councils represented across the US territories. GNEMSDC serves the six (6) New England States of MA, CT, RI, ME, NH, and VT.

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Charlotte O'Banion

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