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Ready to Take a Few Risks?

Niels Norby, NetSoft Studio, LLC
President, Awards and Personalization Association


(March/April 2023) As is our organization’s tradition, outgoing APA President John Stangle, CRM, passed the gavel to me in February at the International Personalization & Awards Expo in Las Vegas.

The ceremonial handoff, from a retailer to a supplier, highlights APA’s unique partnership between the two groups. The association must continually ensure that the interests of both types of members are balanced, and that’s a job I’m uniquely qualified for.

Believe it or not, my entrepreneurship and awards industry work started while I was serving as a combat arms instructor in the U.S. Air Force. I made extra money by creating flag boxes and awards in the base’s wood shop, establishing the foundation for what I was pretty sure I wanted to do when I left the military after a decade of service. I bought San Dieguito Trophy in Carlsbad, California, a retail awards business that I operated for 28 years. The military instilled in me a sense of confidence that made me willing to take calculated risks, from purchasing the company to buying out my partner and transforming the trophy shop into a high-end corporate awards business. I sold that successful shop in February 2022.

During my time as a retailer, I really embraced the industry software created by APA supplier member Netsoft Studio, so much so that I became an ambassador for Netsoft. Then, about five years ago, I bought Netsoft Studio from founder David Matney, a risk that let me continue working in the industry I love but presented new challenges from the supplier side of the Expo aisle.

I probably could have retired, so what am I doing helming yet another company and continuing to volunteer my time and skills to lead our association? I’m giving back. This industry has given me a life greater than I could have ever imagined. When I was in an Air Force wood shop, I never could have guessed that I was taking the first steps of such an important journey. I never could have guessed that more than 30 years later the path I chose would have led to an enviable career, two successful businesses and countless industry friends. It was a risk. I took it, and I’ve been benefiting from it ever since.

Now, it’s time for you to benefit from my experiences, too! Over the next year, I invite you to explore opportunities with me and to put aside your fear of failing to embrace a few measured risks like the ones that I’ve taken to create a life I love. Together, let’s take a step out of our comfort zones and shake the tree a little. It’s time to create opportunities we can seize for success—for retailers and suppliers alike.

Awards and Personalization Association

The Awards and Personalization Association is the organization for retailers and suppliers of personalized and customized items. By providing education, meetings, and access to a vibrant network of professionals, the Awards and Personalization Association is the one place to ensure the growth of your talent, your business, and your professional community.

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