The same week Pullman-based College Hill Custom Threads celebrated its 10-year anniversary, its founder announced he plans on stepping away from his CEO position.
Tony Poston wrote in a blog post Wednesday that current Vice President Jen Gangwish will replace him as CEO starting Jan. 1.
“She’s going to be the one calling the shots and I fully trust her to do that,” Poston told the Daily News on Friday.
Poston will remain with the company in an advisory role for the foreseeable future.
College Hill was born in a one-bedroom apartment above The Cougar Cottage on April 29, 2011. It sells custom clothing and accessories for businesses and organizations, with a particular focus on designing items for college campuses. Its products have reached more than 400 colleges.
The company was named one of Inc. Magazine’s 5,000 fastest growing private companies in the nation. In 2017, it was one of 15 finalists competing for Forbes’ Main Street Awards. It has offices in Pullman and Seattle, and employees working remotely around the country.
Poston wrote in his blog post that he made his decision after reflecting on the past decade while at a recent Costa Rica retreat with other entrepreneurs from around the world.
Poston wrote that he used to measure the success of his company based on how much revenue is earned and how fast it grew.
His perspective has since changed, however, and he focused more on what College Hill has already accomplished as a small business.
He said Friday that he believes its most “impactful” achievement is creating jobs for its employees, many of whom have developed careers from their time with the company.
“The things that I’m most proud of are all related to the relationships I’ve built with my staff,” he said.
No longer concerned that “we aren’t a $100 million company,” Poston said this clarity helped him decide to step away from his CEO role. Additionally, Poston said, he knew Gangwish was the right person to replace him.
Poston said he has known Gangwish since they were both students at Washington State University. He asked her to join College Hill and she quickly advanced from sales into a management role. She also values relationships with people as much as he does, Poston said.
“She’s taught me more than I ever could have taught her,” he said.
Gangwish, who has been with the company for nine years, said she is appreciative of the opportunity.
“I know I have some big shoes to fill,” she said.
Gangwish said her plans for the company include staying involved in the local community while helping College Hill become a household name nationally.
Poston also said he wants to remain involved in the community. He already serves on several Pullman boards, including the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, Pullman Regional Hospital Foundation and the WSU Foundation.
Poston wants to focus more of his time on volunteering, particularly when it comes to bringing events back to Pullman after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
He expressed gratitude toward the community for supporting College Hill and allowing it to grow into the company it is now.
Poston said College Hill is currently seeking a bigger location in Pullman, as it is outgrowing its Professional Mall Boulevard office location.
Poston made it clear his company will not leave the place where it all started.
“Our roots are here and we have no intention on ever leaving Pullman,” Poston said.
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