2016 Rhode Island Small Business Person of the Year

ParsonsKellog2Tom Kellogg

Tom Kellogg graduated from Vanderbilt in 1983 and began his career as a Manufacturer’s Representative for various sporting goods brands, including Asics and Oakley. In 1989, Tom joined Nike as a Sales Representative and worked his way up to Eastern Regional Sales Manager for Nike Golf.

After many years of success with Nike, Tom saw the potential to create his own business meeting corporate sponsors’ demand to purchase premium golf equipment bearing their own logos. Tom’s company literally began in his basement, where he started adding sponsors’ logos to golf balls, and with that, ParsonsKellogg (PK) was born. His business began growing quickly, with more merchandising options and a rapidly expanding client base.

Like many other small businesses, the 2008 recession battered PK, and for the first time in Tom’s business life, he faced the overwhelming task of keeping a business with over 40 employees afloat during a time of economic uncertainty. When asked how PK survived this time, Tom explained, “You have to make tough decisions, and some of those tough decisions don’t wait.” For Tom these words could not have been truer. During better days, the company could absorb high volume customers that were not highly profitable, but that model no longer worked. He also had to take a hard look at his expenses, make cuts and work with his team to find new ways to compete. Unfortunately, Tom also had to lay off some employees and friends. Throughout this painful episode, he took steps to ensure PK’s survival. He began securing payments in advance and did whatever was needed to keep the doors open. This strategy, while a difficult one, continued to keep PK afloat through uncertain times and eventually guided PK out of danger, securing the company’s future and emerging stronger. Tom looks back on those uncertain times with a learned eye, admitting that when times are steady, a business owner can postpone making a hard decision, but today he understands the value of making the tough call when needed. Now that the team at PK has weathered the storm, Tom says his people are stronger in their  roles and more accountable than ever to PK and to each other. He also was heartened to discover that people who left PK found jobs they were well suited to for the long term.

PK has since established itself as a Top 100 distributor in the 50 billion dollar promotional products industry. The company offers apparel, corporate gifts, tradeshow giveaways, awards and accessories, all in premium brands. PK stocks over a million dollars’ worth of inventory at any time to ensure immediate demand, and Tom hopes to one day expand regionally, while remaining committed to doing business in the Ocean State: “I love Rhode Island, I wanted to make a business here, and I wanted to stay here.” He elaborated, “Rhode Island is not a bad place to do business or recruit people. We, for example, have an internship program with Providence College, Bryant University, and the University of Rhode Island, and I am truly impressed by the young talent that comes out of this program.”

Tom Kellogg has continually done it his way, with respect, class, humility, and a belief in the people around him, a way his staff has embraced and affectionately branded the “PK Way.”

When asked to elaborate, Tom explained, “We were at our holiday party, and it had been an incredible year, and while I was thanking everyone, I just said that I was proud we had done it the PK Way. The PK Way isn’t anything set in stone, but all of us here know it when we see it.” And what they see is the drive to better their products, explore new and interesting directions and deliver excellence and accountability to the customer and one another.

For his demonstrated success, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Tom Kellogg, President of ParsonsKellogg, as the 2016 Rhode Island Small Business Person of the Year.

Leave a comment

Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

previous arrow
next arrow