Survival of the Fittest

PinMart does a lot of work with military pins. Veterans pins, patriotic pins, active duty military pins, you name it. We do unique coins for military organizations and we have plenty of stock options for the military enthusiasts out there. But there’s a difference between creating pieces that honor the military, and creating pieces that *are* military. So I’m pretty stoked to announce that PinMart has officially started selling paracord bracelets!

When I was told about this, I caught the excitement pretty instantly because, well, that sounds pretty cool: paracord bracelet. But of course, after a moment, I had to ask the inevitable question: so what *is* a paracord? To save you all having to google it yourselves1548 if you’re not familiar with it, paracord bracelets were created during WWII when paratroopers would weave extra parachute cord into bracelets to be worn during flights. These would be used in any number of ways other than on their parachutes though, everything from repairs to fishing to actually pulling people to safety.

This practice has now become popular outside of just military culture though, showing up in sporting good and survivalist stores all over the country, as campers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts find paracord bracelets just as useful as their paratrooper predecessors (say *that* five times fast). And as a company devoted to military men and women, and their culture, PinMart was eager to get involved as well.

And while I’m not exactly an extreme hiker, biker or sky-diver,  with the diverse colors and awareness causes we’ve tied into these paracords (pun intended), folks like myself can wear them for their asthetic or philanthropic benefits as well as for traditional survival purposes. And heck, if someone sees me wearing it and confuses me with an extreme outdoors-man, so be it.

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Thumbs Up for Down Syndrome

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day. She just recently had her third baby, a little girl named Lumina. She’s perfect, beautiful and curious, and you fall in love with her the moment you meet her. She also happens to have Down Syndrome. One in ever 691 babies are born with it. My friend was not aware her little girl had Downs until after she was born, but the moment she was, she was without flaw in her mother’s eyes. And that’s how she’s going to be treated her whole life: complete, unique, perfectly Lumina.

It’s experiences like the ones I’ve had with Lumina and her mother that make me doubly proud that PinMart is the official supplier of promotional products for the NDSS (National1132 Down Syndrome Society). Every time you purchase Down Syndrome lapel pins or lanyards, we give more than 7% of those sales towards the NDSS to help them fund programs, research and outreach to families across the US raising children with Downs. And let me tell you, that adds up.

A lot of people don’t understand what I do for a living when I tell them I create and sell lapel pins and other awareness products. They think I either sell jewelry, or that it’s just event swag. Honestly though, what I do, at least in part, is promote hope. Corny perhaps, but I like to think that’s true. Hope for a cure for cancer, hope for a better future for children with Downs, hope for the next generation with graduation pins. At the end of the day, whether that’s a pin, or a new drug breakthrough, or anything else, it’s not a bad way to make a living.

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What are Some Ways to Honor Veterans on Veterans Day?

On November 11th, Americans will be celebrating another Veterans Day, honoring those who have served in one of the branches of the military. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, there are roughly 23 million veterans of the WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, and Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan service time periods.  These are courageous individuals who have gone to hostile environments all over the world to defend our way of life, and it is a day in which they should be honored. Here are some things to know about the day:

  • Many people confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day. The difference between 517new (1)the two is that Memorial Day only celebrates those who died in battle. Veterans Day, on the other hand, honors all veterans.
  • It was not always celebrated on November 11th.  From 1971 to 1978, Veterans Day was celebrated on the fourth Monday of every October. Due to public demand, the holiday was moved back to November 11th; however, if the holiday is on a weekend, it’s observed the following Monday.
  • The day was first formally made a holiday by Woodrow Wilson. It was in accordance to Remembrance and Armistice Day holidays, which honored the peace time that was created from the armistice with Germany after WWI. It wasn’t known as Veterans Day until 1954.

If you’re still unsure of what you can do to honor the veterans in your life or just veterans in general, here are few ideas that can make a veteran smile on their day:

Make a donation: Unfortunately, many of our veterans do suffer from physical/ mental ailments, which can be burdensome financially. Making a cash donation to a telethon or organization that supports our veterans is a very effective way to help those in need. If you can’t afford a cash donation, clothes and food items are certainly welcomed as well.

Give a pin: Pins with the symbols that mark the particular branch of the military that you wish to honor is an effective way to honor the strength and courage of a particular serviceman. For example, if you know a veteran of the Navy, a Navy pin is fitting gift for them on this day.

Visit a vet: Do you want to hear a great story? Talk to a vet. There are many vets in nursing homes, psychiatric facilities and hospitals who may not have many people in their lives. By visiting one of these servicemen, you’ll honor their time served.

Happy Veterans Day to all the Vets Out There and Thank You!

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Sorry, we’re closed!

No matter who you ask, today is a good day to take a side. For the third time in my lifetime, the government has… closed. Closed? That’s such a weird concept, and yet, it has. Shut its doors, shut down National Parks, shut down a large part of Washington D.C. Closed. And it’s over a fundamental, very distinct difference in opinion between democrats and republicans concerning health care reform in our country. And I’m not going to talk about what I think and why. There are thousands of blogs out there for that. I’m actually concerned, for the sake of this blog, more with the way branding plays a role in how we got here.

When you brand your business, you want to set yourself apart from the competition. Be that with lower prices, better service, more perks, even little things like later/earlier hours, or free swag at the door like lapel pins. You work hard to keep that distinction clear,767 and to prevent any ambiguity between yourself and your competitors. It’s a desirable place to find yourself in: everything your competition isn’t, in every beneficial way. Well, that’s what congress has done.

In the past three or four elections, politics has become increasingly polarizing. Arguably since the 1960′s it’s been so. Regardless, republicans have moved further to the right, democrats to the left, and a moderate on either side is considered a traitor to both and either has to pick an extreme or perish. In a sense both parties have been branding themselves, working very hard at it. They want to be everything their competition isn’t. They don’t want the American public to just vote, they want every American to be registered red or blue, to have their lapel pins, their talking points, and their fighting spirit on hand at all times. But what I think has escaped people is that, unlike business branding, politics isn’t about extremes: it’s about compromise.

Some claim government and business are almost interchangeable. I would argue that if they are… they shouldn’t be. Branding has its place. Polarizing oneself from the competition has an important role to play. My company helps other businesses make that branded distinction. But in politics, as cool as the lapel pins are… compromise and progress are so much better.

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Pay it Forward

I’m having one of those days. You know the ones. Almost late for work, forgot an important item at home, got a stain on your bright white shirt, watching new voicemails flood your phone as you listen to old ones… just no way to get ahead. One of those days where everything is going to miss the mark. We’re all entitled to them, sure, but that doesn’t make it any easier to live through. But I’ve discovered a great way to perhaps see the forest through the trees. Paying it forward.

It’s a concept we’re all familiar with: you’re in line at the grocery store, cart piled so high it looks like you’re going into hiding for the whole winter, and you notice the person behind444-1 you with a single carton of milk. You pull back and let them go in front of you. You saved them time, made a small part of their day easier, and paid it forward. It’s easy, but not always easy to remember to do in the midst of your day to day. So I was very excited when we started producing Pay It Forward rubber bracelets. Like other awareness bracelets, but for a whole different genre of people. For givers.

It’s on days like today, when my head is full of grumbling and grousing, when I’d rather just get buried beneath my trivial issues, that paying it forward is most important. And hardest to remember. Wearing one of these rubber bracelets, and giving them away to others, friends or strangers, can help us all get out of our own heads a little bit, look around, and see the forest for the trees. See the little kindnesses we can do for each other.

In fact, getting a few extra rubber bracelets to hand out to complete strangers could be exactly how you pay it forward. A gift from a stranger, a positive message, passing along a smile. It’s the little things that make the biggest impact on days like this.

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Gone but Not Forgotten

I don’t know about you, but I get antsy when one of my loved ones is even 15 minutes late for anything. I start the line of texting and phone calls to check up on them, to make sure they either just got side-tracked, or lost, and not something more serious. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. And it’s always a relief to hear their voice on the other end of the phone explaining that they just took a right instead of a left, and that while late, are on their way. For families of POW/MIA service members, there is no phone number to reach them at, and no reassurance of their loved ones that they’re “on their way.”

Today is National POW/MIA recognition day. It’s estimated that since WWII over 83,000 service men and women have been labeled POW or MIA. That’s a lot of American families who will have the gut-wrenching experience of not knowing when, or if, their loved ones will ever pull up into the driveway ever again. It’s a fear I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, so on days like this, and honestly, every day, it doesn’t hurt to recognize these families and their struggles with things like awareness ribbons and lapel pins.

Thankfully there are organizations that work with families and the countries where their loved ones were stationed, to shed light on the unanswered questions and in some cases, bring them home. It isn’t always a happy ending, and sometimes the best outcome is a resting place, but occasionally these service men and women are returned alive and it is also for them that myself and others wear POW/MIA lapel pins. For the successes and not just the tragedies. For hope, and not just for consolation.

On a personal note, I just want to thank the families of these POW/MIA members. These soldiers and their families are paying the ultimate price for my freedom, and I can’t begin to convey my gratitude. You’re truly heroes.

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The secret to incredibly happy people

Someone sent me an article the other day about the supposed secrets of extremely happy people. I won’t go into it here why I was suspicious about my friend’s reason for sending this to me, because I think I’m perfectly happy, it’s just that sometimes the glass *is* half empty… anyway. I read the article despite my trepidation and noticed a theme throughout: being true to yourself, and to spend time, effort and even money, on those you love, instead of just yourself. To give is to receive. And I had to agree that those were both great suggestions.

It also helped me better understand the customers who call into PinMart every now and then to replenish their stash of various lapel pins, which they give away to friends and complete strangers alike. There are men and women, young and old, who do this. Sometimes the pins are particular to an event like a holiday, and sometimes they just buy our smiley face lapel pins in bulk and give those away to Joes and Janes on the street who perhaps look a little glum. I always thought it was a great gesture, but didn’t make the connection between giving and receiving in such a way.

But the other thing I notice when these individuals call in, besides their purchasing large quantities of our pins for personal use, is how happy they seem to be to do so. They get a charge out of gathering their lapel pins together, and I imagine a much bigger charge when they see the smiles on the faces of these lucky recipients. They’re living the secrets of incredibly happy people, both in giving to others, and in being true to themselves. Because it takes a person secure in themselves to walk up to complete strangers and hand them a random pin, especially in today’s society.

Other suggestions on the list included getting enough sleep, and allowing yourself to lose track of time now and then when you’re having a creative or engaging experience. And great as those sound, I doubt I could convince, say, my dentist, that the reason I was three hours late for my appointment was because I’d lost myself in an engaging nap, and could I please still be seen? Giving away smiles and lapel pins though… that’s easy enough to do. But don’t tell anyone: it’s a secret.

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Guest Blog: Get Organized with Neck Lanyards

With September brings a new school year, and that means prepping kids for their future, but also getting them through each day as it comes. Organization is a huge lesson for most kids and for most adults in general. There are many methods for staying organized and on top of things during a hectic school year, and once these habits are implemented, they become second nature, and get kids off on the right track that will hopefully continue to help them their whole lives over. Simple tools and tricks like labeling things, creating a routine, and using accessories like neck lanyards will take a fair amount of stress out of this new school year.

Clearly labeling various containers, cupboards and drawers in your child’s room can help them make morning decisions faster, if they know where to look for what they want. For even quicker morning routines, setting out clothes and other necessary items out can save lots of hassle, and get everyone off to a great start. Keeping necessary things in one place can also help. Using things like neck lanyards to make sure that keys and school ID cards are not lost can save a lot of panic at the last minute when it’s time to leave the house.

Backpacks should be organized as well. Putting folders and notebooks that correspond to each class together can help reduce confusion, and putting folders and notebooks into the backpack in the order that they will be pulled out and used also helps keep things in order. This can also help newer students who are still trying to remember their daily schedule. Backpacks with lots of pockets can keep clutter from collecting in the bottom of the backpack, so pencils and other items are always within reach. Attaching neck lanyards with keys and IDs to a loop inside or on the outside of the backpack also reduces the chance that something will get left behind in the rush from one class to another.

Maintaining these activities will help smooth over the transition from summer to school, or from one grade to the next. Routines help to save time, increase productivity, and make sure that your kids are ready for anything and everything. And if you know that everything your child needs is organized and collected in folders, backpacks, and on handy neck lanyards, can bring you the same peace of mind it brings them.

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We haven’t forgotten

12 years. A whole new generation is growing up in a world now where the events of September 11th have always been a reality. Where terrorist threats are not just a fear in other countries, or a plot for a movie, but very real fears. And for the rest of us, like any defining moment in history, our lives are now separated: life before 9-11, and life after. We were all effected by the events of this day over a decade ago, and as someone who watched the horror unfold that day, I can tell you that it still feels like it just happened yesterday.

What matters most though, on this day, is the distance we’ve come from this tragedy. This day reminded Americans of what we stand to lose. It has re-instilled our sense of community, of charity and of progress. Working for a company that deals with non-profits and corporate entities alike, the volume of stock and custom pins that are devoted to the families and communities connected to 9-11 continue to inspire me. The desire to keep improving our country and our world, and the active remembrance of those who lost their lives that day, and those who helped save them, has not been dulled over time.

That’s the thing about working in an industry devoted to promotion and charity: you get a barometer for what matters to people. Military members, their families; EMTS, police, firefighters; those suffering with disease and those who make them better; volunteers of all sorts. These are the pins that fly out the door. Not the democrat pins, or republican. Not the rubber duck or the motivational lanyards. It’s the pins that promote and celebrate our eagerness to help make the world a better place. Knowing this makes me continually hopeful about our future.

9-11 was a wakeup call. It was a realization that we need to take care of one another and strengthen our society from the inside out. The reaction of fellow Americans and others around the world confirmed that as people, we are caring, selfless, and devoted to each other. And in my small way, helping folks thank these selfless individuals through pins, keeps me devoted to making my own corner of the world a better place.

9-11. For a million reasons, none of us should ever forget.

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Shanah Tovah

It’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This is when those of the Jewish faith celebrate the creation of Adam and Eve, the Biblical first people. It is at this time that self reflection is given, prayers are made, and celebration about the sweetness of life is done. It is celebrated by millions all over the world, and I just wanted to wish everyone of the Jewish faith “Shanah Tovah”, which means “have a good year”. At least that’s what I’ve been told it says.

I’m wont to point out that much like Christians will make a point of wearing their cross necklaces and lapel pins during holy days, Jews will don simple Star of David pendants or pins, and as in all other religions, will wear these symbols with pride and reverence. Despite the fact that less than 75 years ago, the Star of David worn on a Jew was not only considered a shameful symbol, but was forced upon them as a means of keeping them separated from the rest of society.

Every group of people understands the sting of segregation, bullying and discrimination. And the goal is to rise above that discrimination, if you believe in what you stand for. For groups like the Jewish community, that strength was harder to maintain than in some situations and for that, and many reasons, I offer my sincerest wishes to Jews world wide  on this happy holiday. Their pride in their beliefs, and their willingness to still wear Star of David lapel pins and other jewelry, to reclaim their affiliation each time they do, is what true faith is all about.

No matter what you believe, the golden rule should always apply. And with that comes the strength to stand up for what you believe in, to never waver, and to turn what used to be a stigma back into a memorial by proudly donning the Star of David during holidays, and on your average Tuesday. Happy New Year.

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