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Penn Makes It Look Easy

PennHeaderby Peter Hildebrandt

Most people are hard-pressed to name more than a few woman-owned firms. But one Philadelphia business proudly bears the title of “all-woman business.” The family business, Penn Emblem Company, founded in 1947 by Frank Blumenthal, began embroidering emblems out of a Philadelphia garage to serve the uniform rental market. He brought the first heat-sealable emblems to the industry. By 1970, his oldest son Robert took over, adding technologies to introduce a variety of new products from appliqués to bar coded ID labels. Today Randi Blumenthal-Joseph is president of the Penn Emblem Co., representing the third generation of Blumenthals to lead the family business.

For more than 70 years, Penn Emblem has been a premier supplier of image and identification solutions, servicing the uniform rental market, garment manufactures, and the ASI and PPAI customer who serves the promotional products industry. The company is a leading manufacturer of embroidered and screen-printed emblems, appliques, sublimated products, thermal barcode systems and related products. It provides customers with customized ecommerce identity tools for the business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets.

Penn7Running a woman-owned business can be complicated and a bit different than a traditional operation. In 2010 Penn Emblem Co. was certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council when Randi took the helm. The company has been recertified every year since. The WBENC is the nation’s largest third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women. More than 700 U.S. companies and government agencies rely on this certification as an integral part of their supplier diversity programs.

Blumenthal-Joseph’s upbringing in the family business gave her the expertise to carry the company forward. It never occurred to her that being a woman in a man’s world made a difference and would present challenges. When she was 25, her father Robert told her that he wanted her to join the family company. He was the second generation owner at the time.

“My father told me, however, to remember, ‘You start at the bottom and it’s on you to make the most of what we teach and train you; never forget you’re just an employee.’ There were no special favors and, most important, the salary was just adequate.”

Blumenthal-Joseph knew most of the employees at the plant in Germantown, Pa., from her early days of working after school and on Saturday. She learned, listened to and worked in every aspect of the business. Her favorite saying regarding every decision became, “Bring it on; I accept the challenge.”

Blumenthal-Joseph trained in every area of the business: scheduling, shipping, payroll, research and development, manufacturing, travel, sales, customer service and union negotiations for both plants. She met with banks, she worked second and third shift, and she participated in several acquisitions.

At all times her focus was gathering the experience from wonderful teachers and mentors, educating herself at trade shows and always creating and looking along with her dad for new ways to diversify their customer base as well as the products. “I began working and building lifelong relationships with customers and clients,” adds Blumenthal-Joseph. “I wanted to be recognized for my values, qualities and leadership rather than being ‘Robert’s daughter.’”

In 2013 Blumenthal-Joseph was honored as one of Stitches magazine’s Power 75, an annual list of the most powerful people and companies in the decorated apparel industry.

Penn Emblem has expanded beyond its original facilities and capabilities over the years. Though headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., Penn Emblem also has manufacturing facilities in Mira Loma, Calif., and Santa Ana, Mexico. Each facility is equipped with specialized technologies and staffed with expert decorators.

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The company has more than 67,000 square feet of manufacturing space served by 25 employees, 32 temps and 172 contract workers. With this force, they have the ability to produce 200,000 emblems per day. Penn Emblem also has proprietary identification technologies and processes as a part of its company’s day-to-day activities.

As part of a Global Identification Alliance, Penn Emblem serves over 5,000 customers from more than 20 countries in at least 10 languages. Penn Emblem is trusted by top textile and uniform companies. Their clients include all the major uniform rental companies, public as well as independently owned. Also, a diverse customer list recognizes Penn Emblem Co. as experts in innovative products and cutting-edge brand embellishments.

Penn2“Penn Emblem has always stayed on top of things with new products, innovations and processes in an effort to meet our clients’ image needs in the uniform rental, institutional laundry, uniform/textile manufacturing, sportswear and promotional markets,” says Blumenthal-Joseph. The firm’s identification products are used for uniform programs in many sectors, including hospitality, work wear, safety personal protective equipment, outerwear and corporate apparel. From shirts and shoes to caps and gloves, they can create an emblem, patch or transfer that will adhere securely, look smart and withstand industrial use and laundry.

“Our firm’s products and services include online ecommerce applications to streamline and make it easy to do business with Penn Emblem,” explains Blumenthal-Joseph. “Custom embroidered or screen-printed emblems, appliqués and woven patches come in a selection of 20 different types of state-of-the-art heat-seal transfers, which enable them to do direct embroidery options and embellishments on everything. Sublimated products and heat transfers, along with a thermal barcode system, mending materials, and uniform labels and label tape all keep us ahead of the curve in our industry.”

Online program management, customized ecommerce identity tools, stock-and-hold emblem programs, complimentary custom e-artwork and design as well as patented products such as Penn Rite fabric, engineered to optimize color, are all part of the mix as well. Penn Emblem also offers Penn Bond backing for a durable heat seal, and their unique decorative processes also include Penn Duo embroidered/woven emblems, Color Print Sublimated Emblems and Penn Edge emblems to seamlessly blend with a garment’s fabric. Penn Emblem’s also out with a new Inline Heat Seal transfer line for all types of markets.

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The diversity the network can give customers is among the most important things. The firm tends to be trendsetters instead of followers. They attend every educational seminar or customer service workshop available. Aside from their wealth of technological pluses, Penn Emblem also has very basic core values and company credo: Do the right thing. Do things right.

“This simple mantra represents the heart of everything we do here at Penn Emblem,” adds Blumenthal-Joseph. “These core values have been passed down for generations, originating with our founder Frank Blumenthal. Today, we continue the tradition.”

She continues, “I’m a visionary and a lot of the women I work with are visionaries. However the difference between male-led businesses and those run by women is that men tend to want to be the boss as well as be focused on growth. It’s a personal challenge for me to succeed; the vision and the perseverance are all part of that as well as finding the right balance. We also have a passion for what we do, in how we treat our employees and in how we serve our customers. With emblematic decoration, this matters a great deal because image is everything. Partnering with a supplier like Penn Emblem that does things right the first time makes our clients look good in front of their customers every time.”

As she brings the company through its third generation of ownership, Randi has made the vision for the future about technology and service to the customer. It is very important in staffing – both in hiring new employees and in selecting the leadership team – to have a balance between experience and what they bring to the table. The people coming up are the most critical to keep the business going, according to Blumenthal-Joseph.

“You want to keep the loyalty within the people who serve you versus making the business grow. My focus has been on technology,” she says. “Key to that has been the social media sector which has been growing enormously. Distributors and wholesalers don’t have time to talk to you, and you have to serve everybody. I need to think big, and the growth part means that it’s very important that you think about how you are going to do this. The only way to do that is to embrace the millennial concept.”

That means making sure the company is constantly in front of the customer and industry organizations. This all remains people to people. Penn Emblem considers itself the experts in brand embellishment as well. Blumenthal-Joseph considers the biggest challenge to be keeping themselves abreast of every technology. “In my world, not enough people do that. You have to find the right people; you can’t just be the owner every day of the week. The balance has been hard too; I have children and it’s not been easy. I love my family and I love what I do, so it works well.”

Penn Emblem Company
10909 Dutton Rd.
Philadelphia, PA 19154
(800) 793-7366
Pennemblem.com