Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

August 23, 2021 COMPANY PROFILE

Newington promotional company finds growth with new acquisition, pivot to PPE production

John Michael Associates Inc.’s leadership team: (from left) Paul M. Sposito, executive vice president; Sara K. Papa, CEO; and John J. Papa, president.

While businesses across the country tried to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, the executive team at John Michael Associates found a way to grow.    

With $23 million in annual revenue, JMA specializes in developing corporate branding programs using a variety of logoed merchandise. The company’s apparel division, which includes everything from T-shirts to hats, accounts for about 40% of sales, executives say. The company also offers an assortment of other goods including tote bags, writing utensils, and an array of drinkware.

In addition to its logoed merchandise, the company builds, hosts and maintains e-commerce stores for clients.

About 90% of JMA’s clients are Fortune 500 companies that include Aetna, Cigna, CVS, Pratt & Whitney and Travelers, said company President John J. Papa.

Since 2012, JMA has grown by double-digits each year, however, in March of 2020 at the height of the pandemic, logoed merchandise sales began to plummet, cutting into company revenues, Papa said.

JMA pivoted to making personal protective equipment and formed a new division called DistinctiveMed PPE.

It focuses on supplying healthcare, municipal and industrial clients PPE products that include face coverings, gloves and hand sanitizers.

JMA has since sourced and delivered millions of units of PPE products.

“It allowed us to salvage our business — it kept us whole,” said JMA Executive Vice President Paul M. Sposito.  “We just delivered over 10 million nitro gloves to the healthcare network this month. It was pretty special that we were able to do that.”

As the pandemic enters a new phase, Papa said he’s unsure of where PPE product sales will go from here, but JMA has no plans to abandon the division.

“It’s up for grabs,” he said. “We know enough about it and we are going to stay involved.”

New acquisition

Today, the promotional merchandise industry is beginning to rebound. Papa said he anticipates the second half of the year to be stronger than the first.

“As the country starts to move along and events start to happen, so does the promotional merchandise industry,” he said.

JMA, which received a six-figure federal Paycheck Protection Program loan last year, was able to avoid employee layoffs during the pandemic. The company employs more than 40 people between its Newington office, at 94 Holmes Road, and remotely across the country.

Some employees have stuck with the company for 25 to 30 years, which executives credit to their “close-knit” culture that includes holiday parties, company outings at Hartford Yard Goats games, and walking for cancer with Relay For Life.

In May, JMA continued its growth streak by acquiring for an undisclosed sum competitor Creative Concepts Promotional Marketing of Glastonbury. JMA’s current operation and organizational structure will remain the same as they transition about 200 new clients under the JMA brand.

Among the new clients are a couple Fortune 100 companies, Sposito said.

JMA CEO Sara K. Papa said the marketing company was the right choice to bring under JMA’s umbrella as it exemplifies years of quality service predicated by strong relationships.

Company history, future outlook

JMA was founded in 1980 by John Papa’s father, John T. Papa, who retired in 1993. In 2010, Sara Papa — John J. Papa’s wife — became the majority shareholder and was appointed CEO of the company.

In 2012, JMA became certified by the Women in Business Enterprise National Council, which the company says sets them apart.

They are also distinct in their on-demand products, that include everything from jackets and drinkware, to pens and cups, which they house and offer turnarounds as quick as 24 hours.

“It’s been a very big part of our growth strategy,” John J. Papa said.

JMA’s five-year plan is to double in size through organic growth and potentially other acquisitions, John J. Papa said. And while the company’s Newington office has additional capacity, they are looking to add another facility, he added.

“We worked really hard to scale our business, so that we can, when it’s right, make acquisitions,” Sposito said.

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF