Jerry Hutter and his wife, Linda Templin Hutter, each learned about business from their families. Now they are pooling their experience and talents in their own promotional-products business – .
Linda Templin’s family owned the automotive-parts business that her grandfather bought in the 1940s. But Templin had other plans for her career. She studied communications at Eastern Illinois University.
“I was always out doing something for the newspaper at the college,” she said. Templin tried radio and photography before selling ads for the newspaper. That led her to a job in outside sales with the Hammond Times.
Jerry Hutter left school for a job in retail sales. He was successful but not satisfied, and he began to look for other opportunities.
He began working at the southside newspaper the Beverly Review before moving to the SouthTown Economist and eventually the Hammond Times, where he met Templin.
In 1984, Hutter found another path that seemed promising and pursued it.
“I had an opportunity to join a fairly new national direct-mail company called Advo,” he said. “I was hired primarily to open up the Chicago market.”
At the same time, Templin’s father coaxed her into the family business.
“My father wined and dined me to get me to join the family business," she said. "He was looking for outside sales reps and knew I was doing very well at the paper."
Templin worked for her dad for 20 years, and then for her sister after he retired. She left that company when it was sold in 2005.
Hutter returned to the newspaper industry, working for Suburban Life. But in 2010, as the print-media business shrank, he found himself looking for work once again.
He and Templin decided that the time was right to begin marketing promotional items full-time—something he had been doing on a part-time basis since 2001.
Hutter credits his father with getting him started in promotional sales.
“My dad is 89, and he just retired this past month," he said. "He had started selling promotional advertising as a way of supplementing his income in 1950. When I needed a way to get some additional income, he said to me, ‘Why don’t you sell some of these specialties? You’re calling on the same people (that) you call on right now, and there’s some good money to be made.’ So I didn’t work for him, but he set me up with finding the right distributors who would sell to me direct. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years.”
Hutter’s father retired and gave him his entire book of business. As they merged the two businesses, Hutter and Templin looked for resources.
“Part of what we’ve had to do is to create a larger entity that we run a number of product businesses under,” Hutter said. “So as of this past month, we are now Hutco, LLC."
Hutter has also formed a partnership with Newton, one of the largest promotional products distributors in the country and a company his dad has worked with for years. Newton has provided a customized website for Hutco, allowing Hutter and Templin to reach a wider audience.
“We’re an electronics-based society,” said Hutter. “There’s too much paper. People like to be able to look at a catalog on the Internet.”
The business relationship with Newton gives Hutco access to more products at better prices.
“Newton is a leader in that industry,” Hutter said. “I have instant online access to a quote on any item that’s out there, which makes being able to serve our clients much more efficient. Also, they can take advantage of pricing that I cannot.”
Hutco has established relationships with 20 other suppliers as well. Pens are the most popular choice of their clients. Lanyards, magnets, letter openers, cups, shirts and hats are often chosen too.
Hutco has provided products for a variety of organizations and events, including the Chicago Marathon, healthcare businesses and nonprofits. One of these nonprofits is “Girls on the Run,” which encourages positive development for girls 8-13 years old.
Local businesses and civic organizations are also clients, including engineering firms, Wintrust Mortgage and Mike’s TV Repair. Hutco has even provided printed signs for local political candidates. From lanyards for the to golf towels for the Darien Chamber of Commerce to lip balm for Fairview Dental, Hutco offers a variety of products to fit clients’ needs.
“You need to promote your business in a lot of different ways,” Hutter said. “This is a great way of doing that.”
As Hutco continues to grow, Hutter and Templin are looking to expand into new areas.
“There’s fulfillment business,” Hutter said. “Like if you have a little store where you sell T-shirts, where we can fulfill orders on an ongoing basis. Incentive programs, where you can have your own catalog for your employees.”
Templin and Hutter also volunteer in the local community. Templin is on the Board of the Hinsdale South Boosters Club, selling advertising for the student directory. She also coordinates the e-script program, which returns to a percentage of the money spent by program members in local stores.
Hutco is eager to help local businesses and organizations with their marketing.
“The whole object of promotional advertising is to keep that top-of-mind awareness with your customers,” Hutter said. “Whether you need shirts or canned hams, we’re able to do it.”