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Rising Stars: Meet Zach Hickert, Larry Puzniak and the team at First Place Collectibles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zach Hickert and Larry Puzniak.

Hi Zach and Larry, so excited to have you on the platform. Before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
First Place Collectibles is a local, modern trophy awards company, located right here in St. Louis, Missouri. We both have extensive backgrounds in graphic design, marketing and advertising.

We both have boys in youth baseball and the trophies they won in tournaments were the same year after year. They were the standard old-style trophies that took up room and collected dust on a shelf. We knew we could create better-looking keepsake awards for youth sports that the kids would cherish and hang onto forever.

Essentially, our company was formed out of necessity to create premium, quality awards for youth sports. Our customer base, which started in youth baseball, has now grown to include football, soccer, running, triathlons, bodybuilding, fitness, strongman, and beyond.

Our mission is to provide our customers with beautiful keepsakes that have distinctive quality and craftsmanship. We want people to ask, “where did you get that?’” when they see our medals, rings, and pins. As the company grew so did our staff which now includes a sales team, full administrative staff, and a team of designers.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have been struggles, especially in the first few years. Defining roles, running the business, reaching out to prospects and leads to find our niche. We were almost there and COVID shut everything down.

We were unsure how things were going to look, however, we stuck with it and found industries that were still having events. Reaching out on social media helped to find new leads and we kept going. The business grew, and even in 2020, we managed to survive. Today, we have customers all over the United States and the World.

Through our outreach and network of connections, we have had lots of opportunities. We have a hard-working and passionate team who believes in this company. Aside from that, we have really great customers who have put their trust in us to deliver unique custom awards.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Our wheelhouse includes awards made from pressed metal. We specialize in creating custom-designed medals, rings, coins, and pins. The youth sports crowd and our bodybuilders love our custom championship rings. We can create authentic heavyweight belts and oversized medals.

We are very involved in fitness and bodybuilding. We work with several local race directors as well as baseball tournament directors. We are also the “official pin supplier” to Cooperstown All-Star Village in Cooperstown New York. Most of the teams that need trading pins for the summer season in Cooperstown typically go through us for their pins.

We are very proud of our new unique items and that we think outside the box. When you work with us you will get something 100% unique and premium quality that no one else can duplicate. Having great-looking custom awards for our participants will drive more athletes to your events.

Our customers say that “our quality is unmatched”.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 crisis?
We have learned that we are resilient, if we as a company can make it through a global pandemic and keep our doors open and keep creating beautiful awards, we have something special.

We slowed down but never shut down and we keep moving forward every day to keep bringing great-looking awards to our customers.

Because of our renewed commitment to resilience, we all collectively learned from our strengths, and we had some time to look more closely at the areas in which we could improve. We believe the company came out stronger because of it!

Pricing:

  • Reach out and ask us for a quote. Email Marianne@firstplacepins.com and she will get back to you with an estimate.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Zach Hickert, Larry Puzniak, Marianne Biangardi, Clay Cary, Xavier Jones, Amy Cummings, Nancy Puzniak, Ann Wiegers, Tanner Hickert, John Puzniak, Cooperstown All Star Village, Zafirov Tose, Johnny Damon, Tony Perkins

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