Shared ideas, resources makes company better

By Andrew Miller
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Spirit Concepts has been on a winning streak in central Ohio for more than six decades.

“We’re in a group of about 40 stores nationwide that get together to share ideas,” owner Bob Zimmerman said. “It’s a very unique group; vendors meet with us and then walk away saying that they’ve never seen a group that competes yet works so well together.”

Sharing ideas and resources makes all the businesses better, Zimmerman said, which is one key to Spirit Concepts’ success.

“We work a lot with local schools, colleges, student organizations and academic groups. We’re not going to directly compete with someone doing the same thing at say, Tulane, or somewhere,” Zimmerman said.

“So instead, we’re working together, sharing ideas and making each other better.”

Spirit Concepts originally opened across from the Ohio State University campus in 1946 as University Jewelers and Spirit Concepts. After graduating from OSU, Zimmerman took a job with the company in 1977 before becoming owner.

“We started out as a full-line jewelry store in 1946, but by 1990, the business climate for that just didn’t exist on campus,” he said. “We’d gotten into screen-printing and embroidery, which is a lot of our business today.”

Currently, Spirit Concepts operates out of a retail and production facility at 7177 Northgate Way in Westerville. From that location, the company provides bulk and small orders of screen-printed items, embroidery, trophies, plaques, awards and various other promotional items to businesses, community organizations and schools.

Zimmerman and his son, J.C., run the business.

“We have several different processes, depending on a client’s needs,” he said. “We’ll match up what needs done with the best process for 12 items the same as if someone needs 100 items.

“A key to our success is we’re people- and customer-oriented, and that’s what we pride ourselves on being,”

Zimmerman also said staying on top of trends is very important to maintaining an edge in his business.

“You have to roll with the trends,” he said. “What’s popular now won’t be in five years’ time, so you have to anticipate what section of the market is going to be attractive five years from now and go in that direction. Keeping up with technology helps that, too.”

A new technology that Spirit Concepts is using is called Square. It works with iPad, iPhone, iPod and Android to function as a remote credit card cash register.

“I’ve got Square on my iPad and they’ve released an app called Square Register, which allows me to email customers their receipts immediately, and then if I am at a festival or something, I’ll know who I sold what to. It helps me to follow up with those customers,” Zimmerman said.

For more information about Spirit Concepts, visit www.ohiostatespiritconcepts.com

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