Interview with Owner of EXG Brands, Al Cheek
Today, our Triad Business Feature interviews the owner of EXG Brands, Al Cheek. Al lives in the Triad area and provides high-quality custom branded promotional products & apparel/employee recognition in Clemmons and the greater Winston-Salem area.
Business Phone Number:
2575 Old Glory Road Ste 600, Clemmons, NC 27012
Home Services / Trade Niche:
Custome Branded Promotional Products & Apparel/Employee Recognition
Describe Your Business
EXG Brands specializes in custom branded promotional products. We provide professional design & fulfillment of products to promote your business, organization or event. We develop and host company web stores and also offer corporate awards, business uniform programs and a full line of print services.
What Made You Decide to Open Your Business?
I spent over 25 years in the corporate arena in roles ranging from entry level to the executive suite. After leading teams and divisions in a variety of industries I decided to explore my entrepreneurial side and purchased a small trophy business in 2006. We have grown and evolved our product and service offering over the past 16 years to become a premier provider of custom branded products for clients large and small, local.
Why did you chose this profession?
I enjoy this business tremendously. Most of the projects we help our clients with are celebrating achievement and success – so it is a very fun and exciting environment. Our consultative approach and “high-touch” service keeps our customers engaged and over 90% of our business revenues are generated from repeat customers or referrals.
What drives you to do what you do? what motivates you?
We are motivated by a desire to serve our clients with industry-leading products and services designed to help build their brand.
What has surprised you most when owning a business?
Small business ownership is definitely not for the timid, especially during the last couple of years with the impacts of the Covid pandemic on product manufacturing and supply chain/logistics. The ability to “flex” or adapt and pivot to new ways of conducting our client relationships have been key to our survival.
What was it like when you first started?
When we first started back in 2006, our business was mainly focused on producing awards and recognition items for local sports leagues, schools and athletic departments. As our business evolved over the years, we became more focused on our corporate clients and their needs for a “one-stop shop” for all things branded..
Would you recommend this profession for a young person?
Business ownership is typically a difficult proposition for a younger professional due to some of the financial requirements and flexibility required to manage a start-up or assume ownership of an existing business. But, if an individual can start early in their career and build their team, the long-term benefits are extremely attractive to more traditional career paths.
What is something most people don't know about the business?
Most people don’t realize that EXG Brands serves clients across the country. In fact, 85% of our revenues are generated from customers who don’t necessarily have a local presence in the Clemmons and Winston-Salem area.
What would your customers say they love most about your business?
The most consistently positive feedback we receive from our clients is that they appreciate our attention to detail, our desire to get to know their business and provide appropriate product options for their project, and of course professional service, communication and follow-up are key to their satisfaction.
What are some odd requests you've had from clients?
We have had some very interesting requests from our clients over the years, from designing a trophy made out of food to creating and producing marketing collaterals featuring historically accurate images of a companies’ many facilities.
How do you motivate and encourage your staff?
It is pretty easy to keep our staff motivated because there is so much direct and constant interaction with our clients, whether that is in person, over the phone, by email/text or (of course most recently) video calls. They see the delight on our customers’ faces when their projects are complete and they get to touch and feel the final product featuring their logo and tagline.
What are your goals over the next year?
Over the next year we will be focused on expanding our network of suppliers to offset the impacts of the Covid pandemic on product availability to ensure that our clients’ needs can continue to be met with solutions that are high-quality but cost effective. Managing the rapidly evolving supply chain has been and remains our toughest challenge.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had working with a customer?
Our most memorable client experiences always come out of scenarios where they are in a bind and need a solution in a very short timeframe. While these situations are sometimes very stressful, the satisfaction we see from our customers when we “make a miracle happen” is unbelievable.
How long have you lived in the Lewisville-Clemmons area?
I was born and raised in the Winston-Salem area and have lived here in NC most of my life. After a brief stint in AZ when we were first married, my wife Beth and I returned to NC in 2020 and settled in the Oak Valley neighborhood in Davie County to raise our two children.
What were the factors that made you choose Clemmons?
Our business was already established in Clemmons when I purchased it in 2006. However, we have decided to keep our base here as the surrounding area has continued to grow and prosper, and the availability of great employees, resources and support services are hard to beat.
What do you love most about the Lewisville-Clemmons area?
The people of Clemmons are the best part of owning a business here – everyone is so polite and even other business owners are always willing to help out with ideas and support (even some of our competitors). There is also strong local government leadership that supports small businesses and a wide range of business groups to interact with.
What are your favorite restaurants in the Lewisville-Clemmons area?
Some of our favorite restaurants in Clemmons include Clemmons Kitchen, 2520 and of course Simply Southern.
Have you witnessed any significant changes since moving here?
The growth we have seen over the past 16 years in Clemmons and the surrounding area is astounding. What used to be a little known village has really gained popularity as a “go to” for shopping, dining and other services. Of course, infrastructure challenges and traffic flow continue to be impacted by this growth and as most folks know is a constant source of debate for local officials on how to manage going forward.
Why do you think it's important for people to shop local?
I think it is important for residents and businesses in our area to fully utilize all the products and services available to them from local companies because that keeps our tax dollars local for new development projects and shopping local contributes directly and indirectly to property values, continued community viability and the security of our residents.
Where are your favorite places to go in Lewisville-Clemmons? Or Any favorite Day Trips (Boone, Hanging Rock, etc.)?
We regularly enjoy a wide variety of restaurants in the Clemmons area and frequently visit the many festivals, markets and other events hosted in our area. Great culture, great food and great people to interact with.
What is the best way for customers to contact you?