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Creating a tradeshow showstopper

For over 20 years, Ann Baiden and the team at Innovatex have helped businesses showcase their brands with unique and unforgettable promotional products. 


If you work with hundreds of brands, it’s not uncommon to see one of your products on the floor of a tradeshow or office. What’s less common is to run into a stranger raving about their favourite cooler bag that you just happened to work on over two decades ago. But creating a lasting impact is what Innovatex Solutions is all about. Launched by friends Ann Baiden and Tammy Rutledge in 2000, the business is passionate about crafting a great impression for big brands like Asics and Taylormade along with small operations just starting out. From checking orders atop a basement pool table in her early days to creating branded ice cream sundaes for a product launch, Ann never knows what the next order will bring. 

Rogers Business: What does Innovatex do? 

Ann: Our tagline is promotional products with heart. Anyone can find themselves a pen and slap their logo on it. Absolutely you can do it, but that pen is now representing your company. I think it requires a little more. For example, if you're a lawyer and you're signing $1,000,000 contracts, you should not be giving someone a $0.99 pen that may or may not break while they're signing it, because it's part of your image. If you're giving that out, that's how will people perceive you. People will sometimes say, ‘It's just a pen.’ But that pen can mean so much. It represents your brand. 

Rogers Business: What drew you to the industry? 

Ann: They say promotional products are the only form of advertising that you'll get a thank you for. And it’s a lot of fun! I love that I'm able to create something that brings someone else joy. You know how you feel when you give someone that perfect gift? I get to do it everyday. I get to create things that people are excited to receive. 

Rogers Business: Do you have a favourite order you’ve created in the past? 

Ann: This was a long time ago, but we were working with the shoe brand Rockport and they were looking for a way to get their retailers to come to product knowledge sessions. Turnout was usually very low. So, we built a session all around an ice cream sundae building contest. We supplied branded sprinkles, spoons, lobster bibs and bowls and offered fantastic prizes. It was phenomenal. From the client side, they had the largest turnout ever for a product knowledge session and all of the attendees were talking about it for years afterwards, which was exactly the goal. It was a little bit different but fun and memorable.  

Rogers Business: What was it like being a new mom and an entrepreneur at the same time? 

Ann: Once I was out of the hospital, both my children actually came to work with me as newborns. My joke was always that the photocopier was like their only toy. They had a playpen beside my desk. Looking back, that time was a bit of a blur, but I was fortunate. I got to be with them. It wasn't like I was making a choice between work and family. I got to do both! 

Rogers Business: How did you gather so many glowing customer testimonials? 

Ann: We’re lucky! And we put a strong effort into building each relationship. We're not just chasing a sale. We're happy to help clients of all sizes because we know that the person that starts as that small business today can be the big business tomorrow and we want to help them get there. So, our clients tend to be loyal to us because we're loyal to them. We literally do everything we possibly can to help them. Our tagline is promo products with heart, but it's because we truly, truly care. Probably care too much if that's possible! 

Rogers Business: What advice do you have for other women hoping to open their own business? 

Ann: I would say take the time to know people, embrace your industry and build those relationships. Always put things into perspective, because when something goes wrong, I think we all feel like the world is shattering, but it’s not. We need to deal with the issue and move on because we're all a little too hard on ourselves sometimes. 

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