By Ellen Chandler • The Bulletin

What: Buzztag

Pictured: Brenda Speirs

Employees: Four

Address: 48 SE Bridgeford Blvd., Suite 110, Bend

Website: https://buzztag.co

The founder and CEO of the promotional marketing agency Buzztag, Brenda Speirs, says she’s in the “swag business.”

Buzztag customizes and sells a range of products from signs, tents and apparel to drink ware, accessories and tech gadgets. The company works with various suppliers to distribute these items to clients from Portland to southwest Florida.

Speirs started work in promotional marketing over 20 years ago. She said the company has seen double-digit growth annually since she rebranded in 2006 as Buzztag. That’s when she put the title “Queen Bee” on her business card. Since then, the business has moved three times and gathered four employees — five if you include Lola, Speirs’ Boston terrier who also holds the title of CEO (Canine Executive Officer).

Speirs said promotional marketing isn’t all about “tchotchkes and trinkets and trash.” She sat down with The Bulletin to talk about the Buzztag journey, which began quietly from behind her computer while she was sitting on the couch.

Her responses have been edited for length and content.

Q: Why did you start Buzztag? Why promotional marketing?

A: I had done it when I lived in San Francisco for a while. … So that’s where I kind of really learned a lot about it. When I moved to Bend, I took a mommy break for a little while — my kids were little — and then just started quietly doing it. And I really love the right-brain, left-brain of it. It’s very creative, and out of the box, and fun, and we get to figure out presents for people all the time, yet I have to be really analytical. I love to take care of people so I get to figure out great solutions for them and make them feel good. It’s a little bit of everything; it’s a ton of fun. And now I have a really great staff, and I love being able to provide jobs for people, and you know, just the culture that we have here is really cool.

Q: What were some of your challenges when you started Buzztag?

A: I think it’s always just being able to think outside your own box and challenge yourself to do things that you’re not comfortable with. You know, getting out in public, selling yourself, talking about yourself is always really hard. So just doing that, and then also figuring out how to differentiate ourselves, because anybody can go online and order anything they want. We really try to put kind of an air of quality to what we do. It’s not more expensive — it’s just the way that we look at it and the way we work with people, and to have that human touch. It’s not always the best thing to just work online, so we really engage with our customers.

Q: How do you define branding, and how would you describe your brand?

A: So branding, to me, is just like the personality and the persona of your business. And I’ve found with Buzztag it started out as one thing but it’s definitely morphed and taken on a complete personality of its own. If you’re not true to yourself when you’re creating your business and your brand, it’s just not going to work. So we’ve definitely morphed as we’ve gone along, and any time I just trust my gut and go with it, it’s been the right thing. The Buzztag brand really is all about generosity, and giving, and caring, taking care of people, being ambassadors in the community for goodwill. And I know it all sounds really corny, but that’s definitely who we are and I’m really proud of that, too.

Q: Did you go to school for marketing?

A: I did not, just self-taught. My original background was in hospitality management, so I worked corporately; I traveled, trained … (I) had done a lot of swag and swag purchases through that, but I just got tired of working when everybody else was having fun. So I stumbled into this industry in San Francisco, and then from there, I just love learning, so I just absorbed everything I can. And actually I’m teaching a class (with BEND X Women’s Entrepreneurial Bootcamp). It’s a nonprofit, and it’s focusing on women entrepreneurs in the startup phase. ... Myself and Georell Bracelin, who’s another marketer in town … we’re going to teach the course on branding, marketing and sales to all these women. It’s just really exciting to me to be able to connect with a bunch of women who are where I was a long time ago and be their mentor.

Q: If you could give your pre-Buzztag self advice, what would it be?

A: Be patient. Don’t worry too much about getting it all right, right away, because things fall into places as you grow. And it will become what you want it to be. But just be patient.

— Reporter: 541-383-0312, echandler@bendbulletin.com

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