As an apparel decorating company, AMPRO counts on the general public being more familiar with their products than their name. Founded in 1973 and nearing 50 years in business, they’ve had numerous opportunities to createexciting and unique products, some of which end up becoming part of the larger cultural landscape. The AMPRO team is the force behind a host of entertainment industry merchandise, as well as this year’s Philadelphia Phillies National League Championship shirts.
Put simply, things are always busy at AMPRO. At the time of this interview, their team was hard at work on multiple projects while preparing for the possibility of an all-night printing session if the Phillies had gone on to win the World Series. Although their past is full of memorable moments, AMPRO is firmly rooted in the present, while still looking ahead at all the possibilities—and opportunities—of the future.
Changing with (and ahead of) the times
In their early days, AMPRO grew their business largely as a screen-printing company, providing printing services to companies of all sizes. But around 20 years ago, the company shifted its business model, pivoting from selling their services to selling actual products. “Selling services is great, but selling products is better,” says Stephanie Shea, CEO. “We wanted to build client partnerships that focused on evergreen eCommerce apparel programs so we could confidently expand our capacity. Having these direct client relationships enables us to grow the business and control our own destiny.”
Over the years, they have provided event merchandise, e-commerce, private label products and company store products to clients like the Rock, Oprah, WWE, the Flyers, and many of the concert tours as they come through the area. Through it all, AMPRO has continued to focus on technology and automation—they are one of the earliest adopters of hybrid printing, a blend of digital printing and traditional screen printing.
The company’s willingness to be flexible meant they were also willing to look ahead to the future, as Stephanie prepared to acquire the company that was founded by her grandfather, her father and their partner (Walt Huddell, Gary Huddell and Geoff Traub).
Planning for the future
As AMPRO began looking at their succession plan, they knew they needed to prepare the business for the transition and began looking for a large regional bank with scale to support future growth. While they had been with their previous bank for around 10 years and had been talking with other banks, their connection with WSFS Relationship Manager Kevin Beaford—who reached out to AMPRO well before the succession process began—stood out, as he consistently showed sincere interest in the business itself and the best interests of its people. He also knew and understood their industry.
Stephanie knew AMPRO needed continuity and a real partner who understood the company and its goals to help it grow. The willingness of WSFS to look at more than numbers to the people behind them was what set them apart.
In the end, AMPRO wanted to find a bank that focused on the intangibles—good culture, good people with a deep understanding of how businesses operate, and the continuity of a relationship manager invested in the company’s growth and long-term success. “When you talk to enough banks, you get competitive offers that all kind of look the same,” noted Stephanie. “But for us, it was about who ‘gets’ it, who understands the relationships within the business and also wants to see the business grow and thrive.”
Beaford recalls what drew him to the company and the prospect of partnership: “AMPRO is kind of a hidden gem in our region that I feel should be a household name throughout the country. I had the chance to tour the entire facility recently, and something that really resonated with me was the sense of community. That sealed the deal that WSFS and AMPRO were a perfect match.”
With a firm banking relationship established, Stephanie is already looking ahead at what’s next for AMPRO. “We want to grow in a smart way. Our team is the key to our long-term success, so we want to become a magnet employer in the area.” AMPRO has also become certified as a woman-owned business, and plans to continue innovating within and around the decorated apparel world, staying as far ahead of new technologies and trends as possible.
About the Author – Rebecca Acevedo
is Senior Vice President, Director of Corporate Communications at WSFS Bank, where she leads corporate communications, including public relations and social media. She holds a bachelor’s degree from LaSalle University and a master’s in corporate communication from Rowan University.