As a pioneer of “made in Poland” promotional products, badge4u will be celebrating its 21st anniversary this year – and like so many pioneers in the Polish industry the history of the company is characterised on the one hand by riveting spirit and on the other by rapid growth.
“At the beginning of the 1990s I was frequently in Sweden, where I had a work permit as an electronical engineer, my profession back then,” recalled Wojciech Pawłowski, the Managing Director, owner and founder of the firm. “I attended a promotional products show there and got to know the badge making industry. When I returned to Poland in 1992, I approached an organiser of a large sporting event as a badge manufacturer. After receiving an order for over 40,000 pieces, I drove to Sweden and bought a badge machine and components. That was the birth of my company and the beginning of an occupation that I am best at – selling.”
badge4u exclusively manufactured badges for years and focused totally on the Polish market with a few odd orders from Russia, the Ukraine and Denmark. “Then, finally in 2007 we were ready for the export market on a bigger scale, because we had our own premises and the corresponding capacities,” reported Pawłowski.
Today, badge4u’s export share accounts for approx. 80% of the overall turnover, which according to the company totals 3 million Euros a year in the meantime. The international business is fuelled by the company’s participation at trade fairs in Lyon, Milan, Düsseldorf, Kiev, Hong Kong, Prague, Sofia and Bucharest – and by its impressive output: “We are capable of producing around 100,000 badges a day,” reported Pawłowski. “In 2012 around 15 mil. badges and three mil. sticky cleaners left our factory.“ The small display cleaners for mobile phones and smartphones were added to the company’s lineup a few years ago. “As far as I know we are the only firm that produces the sticky cleaners in Europe,” stated Pawłowski. “They are a good enhancement to our product range and can partly be produced using the same machines as the badges.“ The same applies for fridge magnets, nametags, sticky hooks and key pendants, which are also made in Jaworzno, near to Kattowitz in Silesia, as well as sticky hooks, a brand new product: Hooks applied to special silicone with a printed back which can be attached to any surface.
Of course, badges are still the core competence and around 90% of them are manufactured at the company’s headquarters, which they moved into in 2008. badge4u carried out an extensive expansion to the new building just a few weeks ago.
To make badges, first of all the components have to be punched out of strips of aluminium sheet – four machines produce 100,000 components a day, to which the pins are attached. The waste material is 100% recycled. Then, a Xerox digital printing machine prints the actual motif – the figures here are impressive too: “Our printing machine manages 40 Badge motifs are laminated. A3 pages per minute,“ explained Wojciech Pawłowski‘s son Marcin, who joined the company’s management a few years ago. “We print between 50,000 and 60,000 pages a month.” In a next step, the pages are laminated with paper and the motifs are cut out of the sheet. At the end of the production line, the motifs are assembled with the metal components and prepared for dispatch.
“The latest expansion of our building enables us to make the production process even more efficient, furthermore we have acquired a whole row of new machines which made the expansion necessary,” explained Marcin Pawłowski.
A team comprising of multi-lingual customer service employees and six graphic designers keeps the production department busy, the coordination runs via a digital order management tool. Incidentally, badge4u’s quality control system is ISO 9001 certified; the company also holds an ISO 14001 certification for its environmental management system. And the company will be gaining a further certification in the near future: the ISO 18001 (work safety management).
Continuity and growth
In total approx. 30 permanent employees work in Jaworzno, whereby the number of staff can increase up to 60 in peak seasons. “All of the regular staff members that started working for us are still with us and they grow with the company,” reported Wojciech Pawłowski proudly.
A continuity, which proves to be a big advantage – because constant further development means there is always a lot of movement at badge4u. “In spite of the expansion we have almost reached our limits again, so I am already planning to purchase the piece of land next door,” revealed Wojciech Pawłowski.
The strategic alignment that badge4u is pursuing for its further growth is quite clear: Export. “We do have a stable basis in Poland, but the pie definitely won’t get any bigger,” assessed Wojciech Pawłowski. “This year the Polish market is experiencing a clear stagnation for the first time in years, the boom of the past years has significantly slowed down. Our European business on the other hand is expected to grow by a further 15-20%.“
A good sign for the future – and for Marcin Pawłowski, who, if everything goes according to plan, is to carry on running the company in the second generation someday.
A detailed report about the Polish promotional products market can be found here: