Shark Tank Co-Host Robert Herjavec Delivers Wisdom, Wit And Warmth At ASI Chicago

ASI Show celebrates 20 years of bringing together suppliers and distributors at annual trade show

CHICAGO, IL – July 26, 2018 – Shark Tank co-host and tech millionaire Robert Herjavec delivered a warm and funny motivational keynote on Thursday at a trade show hosted by the Advertising Specialty Institute®, advising the packed house of entrepreneurs that the key to success is to make an emotional connection with customers.

During a riveting, hour-long talk and Q&A with ASI president and CEO Timothy M. Andrews during ASI Show® Chicago, Herjavec told suppliers and distributors in the $23.6 billion promotional products industry that “people never remember what you say – they remember how you made them feel … Unseen, untold, unsold – if you can’t tell the world about yourself, you won’t succeed.”

Andrews said Herjavec’s keynote was a terrific reminder that, in business, we need to put people first. “The personal touch and human interaction that can only happen in person at trade shows is really what it’s all about,” Andrews said.

Branding, Herjavec told the audience, is extremely important. His company’s logo is displayed prominently across all their promotional materials. “One thing I’ve found is great companies believe in their brand, and marketing isn’t a dirty word,” Herjavec said.

ASI Show Chicago at the McCormick Place convention center opened Tuesday and closed Thursday, and was attended by 563 exhibitors (including 99 new to Chicago this year) and 4,213 distributors – up from 2017. Attendees came from 43 states and nine countries, including 515 companies from Illinois, 232 women-owned companies and 217 minority-owned companies. All told, 23 distributors – 14 of which are top 40 companies – also chose ASI Chicago, the largest promotional products trade show of the summer, to bring groups or host their sales meetings.

According to ASI’s Advantages magazine, promo companies in the Midwest sold a total of $4.8 billion worth of promotional products in 2017, 2.4% more over 2016. Illinois leads the region with $807 million in annual promo sales.

After bounding onstage, an energetic Herjavec complimented ASI Show’s trademark red hats and said, “What’s amazing about your industry is that you give people the ability to make an emotional connection… You guys are in a fun industry!”

Herjavec and his family escaped Communism in the former Yugoslavia, settling in Canada when the U.S. refused them entrance. The 55-year-old Dancing With the Stars competitor succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, building and selling several IT companies to major players like AT&T and founding cybersecurity company Herjavec Group in 2003.

During his keynote, the jeans-and-jacket clad Herjavec recounted hilarious stories of his parents (in a spot-on Eastern European accent), including his mother’s dismay when he told her he was starting his own business. Her reply? “‘Don’t worry, you get job one day.’”

His father swept factory floors and his mother was a receptionist, motivating the so-called “Nice Shark” to launch his company and work long hours to succeed. “I never thought about being rich,” he said about his rags-to-riches trajectory. “I just got tired of being poor.”

Attendees raved about the keynote, with Lori Schumanis of Shubox Promotions (asi/326202) saying, “The key takeaway for me was that he brought sales back to the basics. He reminded us that being in front of people and talking to people – and not getting completely caught up in the online metrics and social media scene – is still one of the most important aspects of selling. It’s all about the relationships.” 
Matthew Ibalio of Customize Me (asi/173418) said, “It’s important to realize why you do what you do – it’s hard to own your own business, so understanding your motivation, your intent and your goals will make the hard work well worth it.”

Exhibitors at ASI Chicago were happy with steady traffic and engaged distributors. Supplier Terry O’Brien of Blue Generation (asi/40653) said, “ASI Show has historically been one of the leaders, if not the leader in the industry, and we think supporting them and partnering with them is a valuable part of our sales and marketing plan. We continue to attend their shows, and are proud to do so, and look forward to them being successful in the future.”

Distributor Brady Zirlin of Blue Sky Marketing Group (asi/141930) has attended Chicago for 15 years. “I keep coming back to visit with the suppliers I work with throughout the year that I don’t regularly get to see, as well as to find solutions for clients’ specific project needs. Our company comes out here in full throttle and we always come back with great ideas and strengthened vendor relations.”

Rita Ugianskis-Fishman, senior vice president and general manager of ASI Show, said she was thrilled with the response to ASI’s last large trade show of the season and is already planning to wow attendees at ASI’s 2019 shows in Orlando, its brand-new location in Fort Worth, and Chicago. Registration opens August 6.

“The reason we’re celebrating 20 successful years in the trade show business is because we deliver what our customers want and need: busy show floors, plenty of networking opportunities, stellar education and top-notch facilities,” said Rita Ugianskis-Fishman, adding that education day alone attracted 623 people. “We plan to keep bringing people together for product sourcing and relationship building for at least the next 20 years.”

Andrews was delighted so many people took advantage of ASI’s numerous festivities, with nearly 500 enjoying a boat ride around Lake Michigan, with cocktails, dinner and music at the ASI Show Bash aboard Mystic Blue. “Robert Herjavec said it exactly right – it’s all about making connections, and there’s no doubt ASI is the industry leader in bringing people together to do business, have a little fun and build lasting relationships.”

On Wednesday, at a prestigious black-tie event at the The Geraghty event space, ASI announced the winners of the 2018 Counselor® Awards, including ETS Express (asi/51197) CEO Sharon Eyal as Person of the Year and president and CEO of Cimpress-owned National Pen (asi/162149), Peter Kelly, as International Person of the Year.

The awards, nominated by industry peers and chosen by the editors of ASI’s award­-winning Counselor magazine, recognize outstanding individuals and companies in eight categories. For in-depth profiles of all the winners, visit or read this month’s special State of the Industry issue of ASI’s Counselor magazine, available in print and online.

Go to and for complete coverage of the show. 
To learn more about exhibiting or sponsorship opportunities for 2019, contact Paul Elmer at [email protected] or (215) 953-3652.

About ASI Show
The ASI Show Family of Events – ASI Show, fASIlitate and the ASI Roadshow in the U.S. and Canada – fosters business-building relationships among ASI member distributors and suppliers, and includes options to meet the needs of the entire membership base. ASI Shows, the flagship series, are large-scale convention center trade shows held in Orlando, Fort Worth and Chicago. fASIlitate is a hosted buyer event that brings together the industry’s elite – top suppliers and million-dollar distributors – for three days of scheduled one-on-one meetings in resort venues across the country. The ASI Roadshow visits top cities across North America and gives distributors an opportunity to escort their top clients. Visit for more information about our full event portfolio.