Category Archives: National Pen In the News

Employee Spotlight for National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Pen prides itself on obtaining and developing top level talent to help grow our company, compete in the promotional products industry and most of all, serve you, the customer the best way we can. 

It starts with investing in people who are not only smart but embrace overcoming obstacles and solving problems.  And with an ever-evolving customer base of diverse backgrounds, it’s important that National Pen’s employees reflects and meets their customer’s diverse backgrounds to better serve the marketplace.  According to, “each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” National Pen would like to highlight some of the superstar employees we have of Hispanic and Latino descent.

This month, our spotlight shines brightly on Ricardo Villalobos and Estela Haney.

Both Estela and Ricardo have a wealth of knowledge and sharing with anyone who shows an interest in what they do, is an example of how pleasant they are to work with. Ricardo enjoys the challenges of finding engineering solutions while Estela prides herself on finding winning products. But both truly embrace the opportunity to impact the super competitive promotional products industry for our customers!

First up, Ricardo! Who are you and what do you do?

ricardo-villalobosMy name is Ricardo Villalobos and I’ve been with National Pen for 12 years. Currently, I hold the title of Product Engineering and Quality Assurance Manager. I started back in 2004 after graduating from college at Tecnologico de Los Mochis, where I started as an “Assistant Engineer.” After 7 months, I became an “Engineer” and in 2007 I became “Quality Assurance Supervisor.” In 2008, I accepted a position in National Pen’s San Diego office as “Product Engineer” and since 2015 I’ve held dual titles and responsibilities as “Product Engineer and Quality Assurance Manager.”

Wow, Ricardo! Needless to say, you’ve climbed the ranks. Who would you say was your greatest influence for your career?

Both my Father and Mother. They taught me to always be honest, humble, a man of honor and always be committed to helping others. They led by example and showed me some very important life lessons I hold with me every day.

In your position, you’ve been able to come up with some creative and effective ways to save National Pen money in an effort to pass the savings onto customers needing affordable promotional products for their small businesses. What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments?

There were two projects I helped implement that I’m most proud of. Switching from bubble wrap to plastic trays for mailing samples saved the company an estimated $250,000 in the first year. I also helped initiate a more efficient New Product Introduction process. This process allowed National Pen to increase the amount of new products launched from 100 to 400 with the same resources, ensuring customers had access to the newest products in the market.

Those are some great things you’ve done. What about personal accomplishments you are proud of?

Marrying my wife, after having 3 kids together was one of the best days of my life. At our wedding in 2011, all 600 people from my hometown showed up to support us. In addition, I volunteer in the community and church as part of the music and choir group, leading Catholic retreats and Bible study classes.

I can tell you’re a man of strong character and big goals. What are your professional goals?

I envision myself in a position of leadership and work every day to align myself with those goals. There’s plenty left for me to learn from my team and the people I work with. When the time is right, I aim to prove myself just as strong of a leader from the ones who took a chance and taught me.

When asking Ricardo what he might say to other young Latino professionals who are looking for advice. His reply…

“Believe in yourself, your strengths and don’t be afraid to shine.”  Well, we believe in you Ricardo and we’re happy you are here to share your talent.

Next up is the wonderful Estela Haney.  Who are you and what do you do?


Estela’s radiates positive energy!

My Name is Estela Haney and I’m the Product Merchandising Manager for National Pen. I source and develop new products globally for National Pen. I’ve been with the company since 2008 helping to grow all product categories National Pen offers, and I now focus on sourcing our core products of writing instruments.

And how did you get your start in this Industry?

Well, I graduated from San Diego State University with my International BA degree in 2000 but you can definitely say sourcing is in my blood. I learned the ropes from my Father and his company in the textile industry where I started traveling globally at the young age of 19. After about 10 years there, I left his company and went to gain more diverse experience sourcing hardline accessories for another global manufacturer.

Sounds like you had a great mentor to guide you. Would you say your Father was your greatest influence?

Yes, definitely! He was a genius and truly amazing. I saw that especially when I got to work for him those 10 years and how his employees respected him. He is my hero and gave me his gift of being loyal to people, trusting in team goals and treating the people I work with like a family business and I truly cherish those gifts.

What are some of your proudest achievements at National Pen?

When I started in 2008, I was eager to help prove myself to my team. While exploring for a new product that would impact the company, my manager and I came across the LAK – LED Flashlight Key Chain. It fit everything on the technical side of what we were looking for while also providing uniqueness. The true test would be how our customers would respond to it. They loved it and it became a great example of winning products we supplied to the promotional products industry. It continues to perform well and I always enjoy reading reviews about how it helps small business owners successfully promote their business.

That’s awesome. And when you’re not at work, what would we find Estela doing?

My husband and I absolutely love taking our son Evan to Balboa Park. It’s just a wonderful place to enjoy some family time and show our son new and interesting things. It helps with my perspective and allows me to balance the analytical requirements of my position with my creative side.

You’re clearly respected by your peers and have some really rich experiences. What do you envision for yourself?

As much as I know, I still believe I come to work understanding I still have more to learn. My manager, Gregg Kornfeld SVP of Merchandising, has a ton of knowledge and I’m just trying to do my best to absorb as much as I can. I focus every day on finding the next winning product for my customers. I’m really open to a lot of different avenues. I would love to reach a level of Director where I could build a team focused on certain channels and the bigger picture of sourcing promotional products. And I even would like to run my own company that would provide solutions to companies needing assistance in global sourcing. The possibilities are endless and I’m glad I’m surrounded by a great team to help me grow.

I asked Estela that same question I always end with. Based off your personal and professional experience, what would you say to a young professional starting off in the industry? She answered with the same grace she brings with her to National Pen every day.

“Don’t stop training yourself, whether it’s taking professional courses, classes or while working with others. Don’t think you know it all because the truth is, we don’t.  Be a sponge and learn from the people around you. It’s amazing how much you can grow when you give people a chance to teach and listen.”

National Women’s Equality Day at National Pen

Today, the Country honors the anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting Women the “Right to Vote” on August 26, 1920.  

Here at National Pen on National Women’s Equality Day, we would like to celebrate 4 amazing Women who influence and grow our company in various positive ways.  Each and every one has achieved some exciting accomplishments in their career and have been very gracious to share some insight on how their career has developed from the beginning and a piece of advice for the new generation of Women Leaders.

Melissa NaravalMelissa Naraval – V.P., Ecommerce

5.5 Years with National Pen 
General Responsibilities: Manages National Pen’s Web Marketing Efforts

Is there a woman who influenced you throughout your life and career?  My Mom!  From a very young age I saw how hard she worked and it set a great example for me.  It’s something I still hold onto  today.

Your 1st 3 jobs ever?  “I was a Hostess at a restaurant, then a Retail associate at Dress Barn and third was Office Intern at an Investment Firm.”

What is the most important lesson you learned from that time you still use today? “Definitely, interaction skills.  Especially when I was a hostess, working with people in various departments and how to communicate with them is something I still utilize today.”

What’s a message you would say to young women starting out today?  “I tell my daughter all the time, to work hard.  The World today offers numerous opportunities and possibilities, SEIZE them!”

Sandy Costanzo.jpgSandy Costanzo – Director Human Resources

8 Years with National Pen 
General Responsibilities: Oversee Human Resources support for North America.

Is there a woman who influenced you throughout your life and career?  “I would say there were a few mentor(s) at the start of my current career.  I was offered a great opportunity to start a new career in human resources and the women I worked with taught me so much about the profession I feel have instilled the foundation of what I am today.”

Your 1st 3 jobs ever?  Specialized Toys Retail Sales, then Administrative Assistant and third, a Corporate Accountant.

What is the most important lesson you learned from that time you still use today?  “Work hard and be a good listener!”

What’s a message you would say to young women starting out today?   “Be the one to make a change, only you can make a difference.”


kellie jonasKellie Jonas – Director of Customer Retention – North America

21 Years with National Pen 
General Responsibilities: Growing National Pens customer base through direct mail and e-mail strategy

Is there a woman who influenced you throughout your life and career?  “Amazingly enough, Bonnie Shimrat!  When I walked through the doors here, I saw she was V.P. of Retail at the time.  I knew then, there would be an opportunity for growth here so I tried to model myself after her based on her strong work ethic, positive energy, and daily professionalism.”

Your 1st 3 jobs ever?  “I joke I’ve been doing direct mailing my whole career but yes, kind of.  I delivered flyers for Sunny Crest Dairy in Orange County as a kid while on my roller skates.  After that, I worked at a Fast Food restaurant called 3 brothers and third as a Gas Station attendant at Texico.”

Any lessons learned from that time you still use today?  “Show up no matter what and integrity matters.”

What’s a message you would say to young women starting out today?  “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve.”


Bonnie ShimratBonnie Shimrat – Executive V.P. – Retail

35 Years with National Pen 
General Responsibilities: Responsible for Retail Sales Growth and Development

Is there a woman who influenced you throughout your life and career?  Actually, it was both my parents.  My Mom was ‘one of a kind’ for her generation as she was a private pilot in the 60’s.  She really showed me how to grab life by the horns every day.  After she passed away, my Dad continued to encourage me that I could do anything.  It gave me the ability to never see gender as an obstacle I couldn’t overcome.

Your 1st 3 jobs ever?  I started early at the age of 13 when I became a waitress at a fish fry restaurant.  I eventually moved on to waitress, and be a helping hand, at the Local Swim Club.  After, I always loved to cheer and became a cheer instructor at the local YMCA helping the community’s youth.

Any lessons learned from that time you still use today?  “When I became a cheer instructor, it was the first time I experienced an ‘Entrepreneurship lifestyle’. Getting people to sign up, encouraging retention and making it a positive experience for everyone, from the kid’s participating, to the YMCA that let me teach there. I definitely learned the basic fundamentals of Sales and cultivating relationships to create “win-win” opportunities for key stakeholders.”

What’s a message you would say to young women starting out today?  “Get clarity of your goals so you can know what you want.  After that, work hard towards your goals every day.  And finally, understand that there will be times you will need help, so surround yourself with a strong team and know how to work with them in order for everyone to ‘Win with You.”

National Pen continues to celebrate the successes and hard work of all the women who continue to promote our core values, every day at every level in our company globally.

National Pen featured in Retail Touch Points

National Pen CEO and President, Dave Thompson, was interviewed by Retail Touch Points on the company’s decision to implement a new e-Commerce platform and the effect it has had on business.

“What has surprised us most is that we thought our new e-Commerce customers would be more transactional than loyal. But we’ve found that retention is higher than normal; average annual spend is outside normal; and we’re attracting a new, different type of customer.”

Read here.

National Pen featured in Entrepreneur Magazine

National Pen President and CEO, Dave Thompson, contributed a piece to Entrepreneur Magazine regarding how to expand your custom’s lifetime value.

Thompson states that the lifetime value of a client can be determined by something as simple as what month they actually become a patron. When they become a patron determines whether or not the company has the opportunity to capture sales in the off-season, when these patrons would not normally make purchases. Even though this concept sounds simple, most companies do not follow it as frequently because they get caught up in the factor of the cost-per-customer acquisition that may be higher during the off-season. The main point of Thompson’s article is that going the extra mile and spending a little bit more in the short-term to acquire customer purchases in the off-season is what yields a greater lifetime customer value.

Read here.

Target Marketing Features National Pen CEO

dave thompson featured in target marketing magWe are thrilled to announce that National Pens CEO, Dave Thompson, contributed a piece that was featured in the Target Marketing daily newsletter. Using his expertise in running a business, he offers advice on how to target small businesses. Find out how data and personalization can help you target the majority of businesses, while remaining profitable, including these three tips:

  1. The Ability to Treat Each Client as the Only One
  2. The Understanding of Each Client’s Specific Behavioral Patterns
  3. The Capacity to Be Personable

Interesting in knowing more about using data nad personalization to your business’s advantage? Read the full article and detailed tips in Target Marketing here:

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