Mary Neaf is the founder, owner, and president of Florida State Distributors, a family-owned business specializing in top-of-the-line souvenir products. Their facility, located in Orlando, Florida, has been serving theme parks, zoos, aquariums, museums, casinos, and national parks worldwide for over 43 years. Mary's journey began in California, where she grew up with her six siblings and parents. Eventually, she moved to Hawaii, where she met her late husband, Art Neaf. At that time, Mary was working in ticketing and operations for an airline, while Art pursued a career in construction. Both Mary and Art sought to embark on a new venture in life.
When they came across Art's college friend, who had achieved success in the souvenir keychain business, they were captivated by the idea. Inspired by this encounter, they knew they wanted to pursue a similar path and decided to move to Las Vegas to enter the promotional product industry. However, after nine months in Las Vegas, they realized that it wasn't the ideal location to fulfill their vision.
Subsequently, they made a significant decision and chose Orlando, Florida, renowned as a tourist capital, as their new destination. Here, they launched their business with their first product: a custom name keychain. Since then, Florida State Distributors has flourished and established itself as a reputable supplier of high-quality souvenir products worldwide.
Back then, marketing was significantly different, especially for a small business. Mary and Art's unwavering dedication to their craft, exceptional service skills, and quick turnaround times enabled them to penetrate the tourism market. Their passion and door-to-door sales strategy allowed them to engage with top organizations, leading to the organic spread of their products and services to businesses across the state, country, and eventually worldwide.
Throughout the growth of her business, Mary incorporated her passion for family, eventually bringing all her siblings and parents into the business. Their sense of family extended beyond blood ties; everyone Mary hired became part of the close-knit family within the company. This approach included providing teaching and growth opportunities. About 22 years ago, Mary took a remarkable step by bringing on 12 students from various parts of the world to learn from her, grow professionally, and contribute innovative ideas.
With the growing success of her business, Mary strategically expanded to open branches in Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong, aiming to access different markets and facilitate exports with utmost efficiency. Mary set an exemplary standard for her team by building a service-oriented model and consistently going above and beyond for each client. What Mary expected from her team, she also sought from those she conducted business with.
However, in 2020, when COVID-19 struck, she encountered an unexpected challenge with the big bank she had been working with for over a decade. Despite feeling that she had a strong relationship with the bank, as soon as the pandemic hit and the bank's focus shifted, she faced communication obstacles and a lack of response. Expressing her concern and frustration to a longtime associate, Guy Michel, proved to be instrumental in finding a solution. Guy, as Senior Vice President and Relationship Manager, introduced Mary to the Bank of Central Florida. With Guy's assistance, Mary navigated through these challenging times. He explained, "Mary and I worked together to solve the problem by refinancing and replacing their line of credit at a large regional bank and by providing equipment and vehicle financing to allow them to meet the anticipated demand for their products as the U.S. recovered from COVID."
Mary found a much deeper relationship with the Bank of Central Florida than she had at her previous bank. In larger banks, it was easy to get lost, but dealing with a community bank was easier during the pandemic as they provided a more personalized service, with an actual person – like Guy – to talk to, fostering a deeper connection.
Guy's service was exceptional, something they couldn't have received from a bigger bank. Mary expressed, 'He was here for us, and I feel like he became a part of our team, unlike the experience in other banks. With Guy, we were no longer just an entity, but we had a genuine relationship.'
This strong connection was mutual; Guy spoke about Mary with enthusiasm, saying, “The wonderful thing about Mary is that she always has a smile and time to sit and discuss both FSD and life in general. I eagerly look forward to every call or email I receive from Mary because she's a very special client." Mary's relationship with the Bank of Central Florida has proven to be highly beneficial, providing her with a more personalized banking experience. The streamlined decision-making process allows for faster loan approvals, eliminating the need to go through multiple authorizations when seeking funds for a purchase. Additionally, the bank's prompt responsiveness enables quick and transparent answers to her financial inquiries and concerns.
One particular product that impressed Mary was the Bank of Central Florida's Positive Pay Treasury Management service. It allows her to meticulously track each payment and grant authorization before any wire transactions are processed. This level of security and control over her finances instills confidence in knowing where her money is being directed.
In her business ventures and growth, Mary finds great value in the creative aspect of her company. Thanks to their exceptional artists, Florida State Distributors can effectively capture the essence of Orlando through their souvenir products. The business also offers her unique opportunities to travel to various locations across the United States, including national parks, enabling her to provide in-person service whenever possible.
Mary's dedication to her craft, coupled with her strong business relationships and willingness to embrace creativity and travel, has been key to her success in the souvenir industry. Through determination, adaptability, and strategic partnerships, Mary Neaf continues to drive her business forward, achieving remarkable success in the souvenir industry while maintaining a strong sense of family and service-oriented values.
For more information on Florida State Distributers, visit them online at: http://www.flstatedist.com/
For more information about business banking and relationships, check out some of our business banking practices at: https://www.bankofcentralflorida.com/Business/Checking