Kristin Overbey was at a career crossroads. She was working retail, had just finished emergency medical technician school and planned to go on to paramedic school, when her mother-in-law, an entrepreneur, asked her to come to work at Overseas Advantage, Inc.
“She was working with overseas vendors as well as clients she had in the U.S. and I thought it was really interesting, so why not give it a shot?” says Kristin about this Crown Point, Indiana-based provider of high-quality premium and promotional items.
Just recently, Kristin celebrated 20 years with Overseas Advantage and is now co-owner. About five years ago, her mother-in-law began thinking about retiring and shifted into a mentor role to help Kristin continue to run and grow the business in the years ahead.
Piecing Together the Puzzle
Luckily, Kristin had a strong foundation on which to build. She came into the organization to assist a salesperson. From there, she began processing orders and doing import documentation. “It just grew every year until I said, ‘I think I can do payroll and the books, too,’” says Kristin. “Taking over that was the final piece of the puzzle.”
Today, Kristin oversees the sales and import of premium and promotional items to companies of all industries in the U.S. and Canada that want to promote their brands. She sources products from overseas, with an emphasis on different regions of China, serving as liaison between client marketing departments and overseas suppliers.
Overseas Advantage has a physical location in Indiana, which serves as office space for Kristin, her mother-in-law and a team member who handles order processing plus a showroom filled with final products and samples. The company doesn’t warehouse products they bring into the U.S.; those are sent to their freight forwarder’s warehouses and then shipped to clients.
Addressing Unique Requirements
Along the way, Overseas Advantage addresses various requirements that are unique to companies that import. There are import tariffs, or taxes charged by the customs authority when importing goods into a country. There is also required testing for harmful chemicals in products that’s required, for instance, in California under Prop 65.
During COVID, Kristin was fortunate that her suppliers were spread out in different regions of China, so if one was in a city experiencing a shut-down, another was open and eager to do business. “The logistics were definitely a rollercoaster,” she remembers. “We had to be innovative about finding new ways and places to bring goods into the U.S.” And, of course, plan ahead with mounting supply chain challenges.
Over the years, what’s continued to set Overseas Advantage apart is their ability to source more than a branded mug or umbrella. They’ve done everything from cosmetic brushes and bags to bookmarks, bracelets, tote bags and more that sell under client brands in major retail stores. “I remember the first time I saw a horseshoe bracelet we did in JCPenney,” shares Kristin. “I found and sourced it on my own, so that was very cool.”
Discovering Her Extended Community
While Kristin’s mother-in-law is still there for her when she needs advice about sourcing or pricing, last fall, Kristin was feeling like she needed to expand her network of support. She also likes attending conferences to see what people are giving away and if they’re happy with their current suppliers.
Kristin saw that NAWBO’s National Women’s Business Conference was headed to Kentucky and asked a co-worker to join her. “I thought it would be inspiring,” she says. “I left feeling a sense of community and when I got home, I signed up. The Zoom meetings and other online resources have been great.”
“Also, I never knew any other women business owners who were in the same boat as me, going through the same things—now I realize there’s this huge group of women out there,” adds this NAWBO Chicago member.
Kristin also learned about the NAWBO Institute’s certification program. Her mother-in-law was previously WBE certified through another organization, but didn’t know how to leverage it. “After listening to NAWBO’s group say that you’re not going to be handed purchase orders, but it will open different doors for you, I felt like I needed to take this next step,” she says. “The checklist was great, and the process was super straight-forward. I’m looking forward to the support NAWBO certification will bring.”
In the months and years to come, Kristin plans to continue to grow the company to help even more clients, starting with personal outreach to supplier diversity program managers now that she is certified. At the same time, she’s inspired by her mother-in-law, who always ran the business with a focus on family. “I have two daughters so it’s important that I have people in the office so I can leave to go to their volleyball practice or choir concert,” she says.
“It’s a great business,” Kristin adds. “I love that we have such close relationships with our clients and vendors”—certainly nothing to be at a crossroads about.