By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — It should come as no surprise to many that Barb Burcham is getting ready to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her company, Ad Specialties & More, LTD, but when she started, success was a long-time coming for this Floridian transplanted to Oklahoma.
These days, it’s easy to tell Burcham has found a good balance of professionalism and fun while she’s on the job.
“It’s a blast. It’s so much fun,” Burcham said about her job. “I love what I do and I love my clients.”
Before you even walk in the door, a mermaid about as tall as the door holds a sign saying “Seas the Day” and that’s the first hint that you’re in for a unique experience. Once inside, promotional products of all shapes, sizes and materials display her years of being a successful businesswoman.
It’s a place where you can tell creativity is buzzing through the minds of Burcham and her employees daily.
Burcham started the business July 9, 1993 after she was unable to find the right job at the right pay after moving to Oklahoma. That’s when her husband, Dr. Jeff Burcham, stepped in to help her start her own business with a computer, a truck and $2,500.
It wasn’t easy, though. In fact, she said she nearly ceased operations after a few years.
While trying to obtain clients, everyone kept telling her “bless your heart,” Burcham said. She quickly learned from her husband that meant they weren’t going to do business with her.
“A tall, skinny Yankee was what they called me,” she said with a laugh.
Being from out-of-state was a big barrier, one that she finally was able to break through after her first big order from a client that is still with her today. Jack Ferrel, marketing director of Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, was one of her first big clients.
“It was because of Jack Ferrel. He broke my barrier. He gave me a nice order, maybe a $1,000 order and gave me a couple references,” Burcham said.
After that she was doing business with Basha Hartly from the Pioneer Library System. Then she it was on to business with Jim Miller, former publisher of The Transcript.
“It’s been the most exciting journey a person can have,” she said.
Now Burcham handles local, regional and national accounts such as Pepsi, Allstate, Coors and ESPN. She said some of the top buyers of her products are nonprofits, schools, construction companies, financial and corporate companies.
“Now everybody is as friendly as pie. It’s made it really easy,” she said.
She also attributes her 20 years of success to hard work, networking and being very involved in the community. Burcham said she is always donating to Meals on Wheels, various churches and many of the chambers of commerce in the state.
Ad Specialties & More is not the kind of place you just pick up a catalogue and pick something out either. Burcham said clients will usually call her or employee Lisa Turner and tell them what the event is, what the budget is and if they have any ideas. Then she and Lisa come back with even more ideas for them.
Sometimes within minutes clients can be given a presentation of ideas for the event, she said.
“It’s fun finding just the right promotional product for whatever their event might be,” Burcham said. “Every day is a new day. You never know what they’re going to be looking for.”
As Burcham reflected on business trends over the years she said there has been a shift in what the clients want. While the focus used to be on pens, mugs, and calendars, she said apparel is a much bigger sales item now than it ever was.
“Branding is a really big deal. People are proud of their brand and they want to wear it,” she said.
She joked that because of the rise in apparel demands, it often looks like a Dillards store in her office as shirts and hats with all different colors and logos are displayed on the walls.
Wherever the trends go next, Burcham is sure to be able to keep up with them and deliver quality service for her clients as she has always done in her 20 years of business.
For more information about Ad Specialties & More, LTD., visit www.ad-specialties.com.