Bradford's Ashleigh Eldridge, owner of Needham Promotions promotional products, was recently recognized for her outstanding achievements in her industry, with her Master Advertising Specialist (MAS) certification from the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI).
Eldridge has been working in the promotional product industry for the past decade, taking over her step-father's business Needham Promotions in 2015.
The MAS certification is awarded to professionals in the promotional products industry who have gone through specific educational requirements while demonstrating commitment and excellence to the profession.
There are only 35 individuals in Canada who have achieved this award.
In order to qualify, applicants must go through vigorous training and educational seminars, which typically takes anywhere from three to five years to complete. But thanks to all the extra downtime due to COVID, Eldridge was able to complete the mandatory educational programs in just three weeks.
When COVID hit, it gave her time to focus on her certification.
"When the world shut down, so did Ashleigh," she laughed. "I watched so much Netflix, I read so many books, it was such a treat to just sit there and do nothing."
Six weeks into the pandemic, she got bored and decided to work on the MAS designation.
"It became my full-time job, and I just sat at my computer," she said, going through 80-100 seminars.
"I aced it all and got my MAS," she said. "Within my industry, it is an honour and it is highly recognized."
Needham Promotions started in 1993 by David Needham. In 2015, he passed the business on to his step-daughter, Eldridge.
It was always assumed Eldridge would one day join the family business, but she never wanted to feel like it was "handed" to her, she wanted to earn it herself.
She went to York University and worked two different jobs after graduation to gain experience in the industry before joining the business in 2010.
At Needham, she started off in sales and quickly worked her way up to management.
Since purchasing the company in 2015, Eldridge says she has simplified the way the company conducts business.
For example, instead of working with 50 suppliers, she has trimmed it down to 20, which has maximized the company's profits as well as cut down on internal processes, maximizing her time to work on other client projects.
She does about 60 percent of the sales for the company and in order to do so has honed her networking skills, joining various business associations and groups in town.
She credits the BNI: Bradford Chapter, which she has been a part of for 10 years for a lot of her success.
"BNI really helped me establish roots in Bradford, and not only did it get me business but I met a lot of my closest circle of girlfriends through networking," she said.
She sits on the board for the group, and in the past was part of other organizations like the Bradford Board of Trade and SWAN networking groups in executive-level roles.
She is currently volunteering with the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce and acting as a judge for their awards ceremony this year. She also volunteered with the organization DeafBlind for three years.
"I want what I'm doing to matter and make an impact," she said.
Eldridge had been working nearly 80 hours per week keeping up with her business and volunteering when she became very ill in 2016.
"My body just rebelled and I got very sick," she said.
Eldridge had to undergo two surgeries within 12 months which forced her to slow down and take a step back from her commitments.
Now she is only committed to the BNI group and won Member of the Year for 2019 and 2020.
One of her proudest accomplishments was from two years ago when Needham Promotions reached $1 million in sales.
She said COVID has impacted her business but is confident they will be able to bounce back.
"I am not afraid," she said.
Eldridge won the Young Professional of the Year Award from the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce in October 2020, and is a member of the BNI Business Elite Bradford networking group, and won Member of the Year last year.