January 12, 2018 Trailblazing a unique path to success

Julie Haar's family

Thanks to the vision and commitment of her family and the support of a well-regarded former Fisher faculty member, two-time Ohio State graduate Julie Rafeedie Haar  (BS ’97, MBA ’01) has been able to blend her two areas of study, architecture and business, to build a successful agency.

What did graduating from Ohio State mean to you?

I am a second-generation American, a first-generation college student and the first woman in my family to leave home for college. Graduating from Ohio State meant a great deal to me and to my family because education was one of the biggest reasons why my parents had decided to move to America from the Middle East. They wanted to make sure we had the very best education available to us. I am grateful to my parents for their vision and commitment.

I fell in love with Ohio State the moment I first visited. I loved the spirit of the place and the family away from home that it gave me.

I'm honored to be a two-time graduate. I earned my BS in Architecture from the College of Engineering in 1997 and my MBA from Fisher in 2001.

Tell us about some of your recent accomplishments.

I started a promotional products distributorship in 2006. It was a one woman show until 2016. Now, my husband Dan (who also graduated from Ohio State with a Master’s degree in Architecture in 1999) and I lead Proforma Strategic Promotions, a full-service promotional marketing agency. We are currently a team of four in Columbus with a team of 140 in Cleveland and a team of 40 in Tampa. We have acquired three promotional products distributorships in the span of 12 months. We've grown over 1200 percent in six years. Our revenue numbers put us in the top 1 percent of our $29 billion industry.

In the summer of 2017, we were honored by The Advertising Specialty Institute in Counselor, the industry's premiere magazine, as part of their Hot List - "a recognition of the promo industry’s top movers and shakers.” Every year, the list is comprised of the industry’s rising stars. As they put it, “a brave, bold group that’s trailblazing a unique path to success.” It's exciting for us.

How has Fisher prepared you or made a difference in your career?

Both my architecture and MBA degrees have given me significant and relevant skill sets to help in our success at Proforma Strategic Promotions. My trained eye for design as well as my branding and marketing experiences gives me a unique and intuitive perspective on what works best for each client's projects.

Do you have a favorite business faculty member?

Although she's no longer at Fisher, marketing professor Neeli Bendapudi was my favorite. I felt like a bit of an outsider going into the full-time MBA program with my background in design. Professor Bendapudi taught me much about services marketing, which opened my eyes as to how I could blend my two worlds in a genuine and authentic way. Our business is primarily B2B, and because of Neeli, I'm very aware of how we handle the customer experience from ideation to execution.