After over 29 years in business, PinSource has evolved into one of the most successful lapel pin manufacturers out there. However, like many successful businesses today, this did not happen overnight.
At 34 years old, Rob Rothman was a simple guy, and lived a simple life in Vermont with his wife Lorrie and their newborn, Jessica. He was a man of routine; he would start the day with an early morning run, have his usual breakfast with his New York Times, and then begin his long day as an Agway plant manager. Rob’s need for routine however, coincided with his extremely hard work ethic that he never let slide. He soon worked his way up to general manager at Agway, and began to make a name for himself in the corporate world.
“It was a big deal being a general manager at 34,” Rob recalls as we sit down for tea in his current office, located in his beautiful new home in New Zealand. For the President of an international company, his office doesn’t reside in a high skyscraper or luxury building—it is built into his garage, with a minimalist work space, and desk that faces a wide open window facing the ocean. While this is what one might be able to call the antithesis of corporate America, it perfectly suits the lifestyle that Rob strives for. As we sit in the garage, letting the ocean breeze cool our tea, Rob discusses with me his time at Agway. “I wore a jacket and tie everyday and it made me feel important. But I wasn’t happy.” Like many other things in his life, Rob didn’t feel like he fit into the cookie-cutter nature of the corporate culture, and thus began to open himself up to other options.
It turns out that opportunity wasn’t so far away, as Rob’s wife Lorrie had just recently started selling promotional products out of their living room. When sales picked up, Rob decided to join Lorrie, and together they launched their own business, driving through the Vermont countryside selling hats, mugs, and calendars out of their cars. After a few years business hit a roadblock as Vermont’s economy fell. Rob then decided to make a bold move—to narrow the niche of the business and broaden the marketing. “We decided to concentrate on just lapel pins,” he explained, as they met a wide range of promotional needs. Soon there after, PinSource was born, and neither Rob nor Lorrie ever looked back.
“Business is all about risk,” Rob says as he carefully pours the tea into two small Chinese cups. “You have to be smart, but you also can’t be afraid to fail. You have to accept that you will try many different things, and many of them will not succeed—but it only takes one right move to make it all worth it.” Rob further described how both his mistakes and successes opened up new doors for profit and opportunity in his business. This became particularly true for the international sector of PinSource, as Rob began to travel the world opening new companies in Hong Kong, Costa Rica, and Austria.
Rob always has believed in the power of the individual, and continually strives to never fit the mold of anyone else’s expectations. He wanted to do something that made him happy, but also made him successful. “I didn’t start the business to make money, but instead so I could be independent,” he explains. “What motivates me now is the challenge of opening new markets that promote interdependence among companies and brands.” Rob always has new ventures going on, and constantly tries to keep things interesting and fun. “As long as we keep doing new things, it’s fun. Being successful is just a nice side perk.”
A lapel pin is just a small piece of the journey for Rob Rothman. It signifies both his failures and his successes, but ultimately symbolizes his pursuit for happiness, independence, and undeniable work ethic. While these humble beginnings shaped PinSource’s business track, they have also shaped the way Rob continues to look at the world today, and everyday to come.