Fun Is Their Business…
“And Business Is Booming,” Say Prize Specialists at Fun Express
by Sara Saenz
It was New Year’s Eve, and the holiday season had been very good to Rev’d Up Fun, a family-owned family entertainment center in southeastern Michigan. It had been so busy, in fact, that the prize shelves and bins were starting to look bare.
Zach Johnson, the center’s vice president, emailed his Fun Express rep, Steve Loberg, at 8:30 a.m. with an urgent question: “Is Fun Express shipping orders this week? We are getting pretty bare – been way busier than we ever expected! Which is awesome, but we are running out of product.”
An hour later, Steve responded: “I’m off but I’m working on your order right now from home.” Steve had planned to spend his day off hanging out with family. But he spent the time to make sure that the order was placed and on the way to Rev’d Up. After all, if he’d waited until he was back in the office after the New Year’s Day holiday, then the FEC could really be in a bind.
Zach was quick to respond with another email. “Steve, you are the best! We really appreciate you and your hard work for us. We have regretted a number of vendor decisions since we opened. But you have made Fun Express one of the best decisions we made.”
That sentiment has been shared with the Fun Express redemption team time and time again. The team’s dedication to customer service is what really puts Fun Express on another level, the company says.
Loberg, along with Cris Millar, Andrew Vetock and Lae Phonephakdy, are Fun Express’ redemption sales representatives. They work under the leadership of Kevin Klein, the director of sales redemption/promotional premiums and alongside sales support specialists Jamie Griffin and Teresa Hybner. With a combined 86 years of experience among them, the Fun Express redemption team is in tune with its customers’ needs and how to fill them.
Fun Express is well-known and respected in the industry, as is its parent company, Oriental Trading Company. Fun Express is the wholesale arm of Oriental Trading, which has been in the business of spreading smiles and “making life more fun” for over 87 years. They are owned by Berkshire Hathaway, an association that comes with high expectations for success.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Fun Express over the past several years,” said Mahesh Sadarangani, the president of Peter Piper Pizza and chief administrative officer of CEC Entertainment, which also operates Chuck E. Cheese’s. “With Fun Express being a part of the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio of companies, this gives us further confidence that their business will be managed properly for the long term.”
The members of the Fun Express redemption team are also highly invested in their community.
One of the team’s favorite community activities is Habitat for Humanity. This year will be the fifth that team members have helped build a house, and they don’t shy away from getting down and dirty from floor to ceiling. They’ve helped with siding, building closets, building decks, framing, installing insulation, painting and more – all in varying Nebraska weather conditions. They’ve been through rain and sun, cold and heat, but they love “knowing that we’re helping out,” Griffin said.
Team bonding also gets a boost. “We’re a pretty cohesive team from a work perspective,” Klein said, “but this really refines our connection and helps us work together in a different way.”
The Birthday Party Project is another company favorite (see photos below). The nonprofit hosts monthly birthday parties for kids in homeless and transitional facilities in dozens of cities. Oriental Trading provides the party supplies for free as part of a sponsorship agreement, and employees help put on the parties in Omaha, Neb.
The Fun Express team has also served lunch at the Open Door Mission, an Omaha shelter for the hungry and homeless, and donated food at the annual employee sale, which takes place during the holiday season. Employees donate about 9,500 pounds of food for the Food Bank of the Heartland each year (left).
While community outreach is important to members of the redemption team, they say customers are definitely the top priority. And it’s not all about business.
“These aren’t just business relationships, these are personal friendships,” Klein explained. “We become part of our customers’ families and they’re part of ours. We’ve gone to weddings and anniversaries and parties. It’s not just a supplier or a vendor.”
Phonephakdy said Fun Express’ customers “know that we care about them” and doing business with someone who is “a true partner makes all the difference.”
On the business side, the vendor-customer relationship gets a boost from Fun Express’ massive inventory. With more than 40,000 items for sale, Fun Express and Oriental Trading always have just what their customers are looking for. The companies have more than 1.2 million sq. ft. of warehouse space, including 750,000 in the fulfillment center in La Vista, Neb. To put that in perspective, 12 football games could be played simultaneously inside that facility. During the peak season, between 25,000 and 40,000 orders leave the fulfillment center every day, shipping packages of toys, novelties, decorations, gifts, prizes and more.
Fun Express says with such a huge space, massive inventory and “industry-leading 95 percent fill rate,” it can “quickly and efficiently distribute any order – big or small, tried and true or new trends – that a customer needs right to their door.”
“Fun Express is a one-stop shop – a huge selection of trendy redemption items meeting all price points and awesome customer service,” said Lisa Price McGlothen, the vice president of merchandise for Family Entertainment Group.
No matter how good the customer service and customer relations are, Fun Express doesn’t think it would be a major player in the industry without low prices and the services its customers value. One factor in keeping costs down and prices low is the Shanghai, China office which has helped to simplify the production process and allowed Fun Express to pass savings down to customers.
Fun Express also streamlined its customization business by bringing it in-house. Oriental Trading bought the necessary equipment to customize t-shirts; signs; wall, window and floor clings; tableware; plush items, socks; crane fillers and more. Customers also have the opportunity to design their own custom products thanks to an in-house design center with more than 20 artists to lend a hand.
“Having Fun Express available as a custom t-shirt vendor has not only saved me money on screen-printing costs, it has saved me time looking for another resource for these print needs,” said Beth Powers, the national redemption manager for GameWorks, Inc. “Fun Express offers competitive pricing, quick turnaround on projects and quality results!”
Fun Express representatives also have a lot of experience in helping their customers set up and refresh redemption centers. From back wall displays and prize bins to prize shelves and everything in between, Fun Express says its reps will help create the perfect prize mix for a new facility or for a new customer. “We work hand-in-hand with the customer to come up with a game plan, and then execute on budget and time,” Phonephakdy said.
With everything that Fun Express can provide to redemption centers and family entertainment centers, they claim that attention to customer service and personal relationships are always the top priorities. Fun Express representatives still provide a personal touch to every customer, big or small. After all, the company’s motto is “When it comes to fun, we’re all business!” — and there’s reason to believe that even more fun is on the way!
To learn more about the company, visit them at www.funexpress.com.