Brad Hicks, Owner of Xpo Press & Founder of the EZ-Guides - 1/7/2022

Several weeks after the infamous month of September 2001 my career path took a topsy-turvy turn. Just before Christmas that year, I was fired from my corporate data/telecom job for which I was a sales manager. The next month, I started Xpo Press and incorporated it in Colorado on February 1, 2002. Looking back, as hard and as humbling as it was to be fired for not meeting sales quotas for a billion-dollar company — and as much as we loved the pay — Xpo Press has been a far richer, more meaningful, and rewarding path. My Lord, has it really been twenty years?


Xpo Press changed the direction of my life, Nancy, my former wife’s life, my three children’s lives, and even the passions of my grandkids. I can honestly say, Xpo Press has made all our lives better and far more interesting. Nancy was able to start her own jewelry-making business and discover an artisan’s talent that she didn’t know she had. My two daughters, now in their thirties, both love rocks and minerals and have them prominently displayed throughout their homes. My two grandsons, because of attending gem and mineral shows with me, both have their own rock and fossil collections, ask for books to learn more about them, and have proudly showed them off to their classmates during show-and-tell time. 

And how can I measure the wealth that I’ve earned by operating a business that has allowed the flexibility of schedule for me to be able to attend all my children’s sports events, choir concerts, award ceremonies, parent-teacher meetings or grandparents days at their schools, one-on-one coffees, breakfasts, lunches, and relaxing, relationship-enriching vacations all over the world?


Since 1981, which was my second year in college, I’ve worked in the publishing world — whether as a writer/editor, a graphic designer, on the ad sales side of things, or as founder and publisher of new publications. I was an editor of the newspaper at the first college I attended, and I founded and published the school newspaper at my second college. I helped found a small community newspaper in 1986. I worked in print advertising sales after I was married in 1987. And in 1992, I started a publishing company — Paradox Publishing, LLC — further honing publishing skills that would serve me well to this day, and, career-wise, enjoying some of the funnest and most rewarding years of my life ... even though the pay sucked.


During the Paradox Publishing years, I was able to come up with the concept that is now what I do full-time with Xpo Press but couldn’t fully develop before the company finally folded in 2000. (Hence, my two-year foray into data/telecom sales.) The concept and business model was and is: To layout, design, print, and ship a FREE, cool-looking show guide for tradeshows, expos, or conventions in exchange for the event owners/promoters sharing with me their vendor lists to whom I could sell ads and keep the ad-sales revenue. It didn’t take long to get customers.


The first few years in business, Xpo Press published show guides for myriad interesting groups: Christian ministry conventions, classic car shows, artist associations, real estate associations, holiday gift shows, winter sports apparel tradeshows, home school conferences, book festivals, bridal fairs ... Lord knows, I’d take on any kind of show at least once to see if it could be profitable!


In Spring 2002, I got a phone call from an odd little non-profit organization in Denver that, when I solicited them a couple months prior, I had secretly hoped they wouldn’t call me back, because I honestly thought there was no money to be made in the constituencies that this organization supported — rockhounds, rock collectors, and stone peddlers. The organization was the Denver Gem & Mineral Society and they operated one of the oldest gem and mineral shows in the world.


I agreed to meet with the show manager, Carol Smith, still leery of doing a show guide for their 2002 Denver Gem & Mineral Show that was coming up in September. After that meeting with this cheerful, progressive-thinking, and smart lady, I agreed to give it a shot with only about three months to publish their guide and sell enough ads to do it. Carol sent me the DGMS vendor list right away, and off we went into the wide, wide world of colorful, sparkly — oh-my-gosh expensive — rocks!


I had no idea what I was getting us into and, as it turns out, a few years later, Xpo Press would be providing our publishing and advertising services exclusively to shows and vendors of gems, minerals, fossils, and jewelry.


The 2002 DGMS guide was a success. Plenty of gem, mineral, and fossil dealers were truly needful of advertising. And that year I learned that there were eight or nine other shows going on in Denver at the same time in September. So, the next year, 2003, I started an additional show guide in Denver — the first all-city, gem and mineral showcase “EZ-Guide” — and the promoters of each of those Denver gem, mineral, fossil, and jewelry shows provided me their vendor lists. The Denver EZ-Guide continues to be published to this day, and it paved our way to Tucson.


In 2003, Marty Zinn, who at that time operated and promoted Martin Zinn Expos — the finest, most important mineral and fossil shows in the world — invited me to lunch and asked if I would consider publishing Xpo Press guides for each of his mineral and fossil shows in Denver, Tucson (where he had four shows), West Springfield, Mass., Costa Mesa, Calif., and a short-lived show in Georgia. I accepted and was well on my way to learning the ins and outs, the camaraderie, the politics, the passion, and the marketing needs of this rock-y gem, mineral, and fossil show world. For twenty years now, I’ve been in an advanced, hands-on school of learning geology, paleontology, mineral identification, mining geography, and lapidary arts. I enjoy immensely talking the talk with my gem show advertiser-friends.


It was through Marty and the advertisers in the guides we published for his MZE shows that I learned about the shows in Tucson, and in 2004 I experienced the Tucson gem and mineral spectacle for the first time. I was in awe, bedazzled by the enormity of the citywide event, and I also doubted that an EZ-Guide would fly in Tucson since there was already a show guide in Tucson that was the size of a Sears-Roebuck catalog. But many of our advertisers in Denver and in the MZE guides had been encouraging me to publish a show guide in Tucson, as the incumbent guide’s ad rates were too exorbitant for many vendors and dealers at the Tucson shows. In those days, only the higher-end gem, mineral, and jewelry dealers could afford to have a strong presence in the show guide. So, we gave it a shot and published the first Tucson EZ-Guide in 2005, selling ads for half the rate of the incumbent guide ... and we’ve published it every year since, except last year due to the Covid pandemic.


We’re thrilled to be publishing this 2022 edition of the Tucson EZ-Guide! It’s the 17th Tucson edition, and it feels like we didn’t skip a beat after not publishing it in 2021. Nearly all our advertisers from 2020 are back in the book and several new ones. Many of these shows and vendors have been trusting Xpo Press with their Tucson advertising for ten — and a handful for over 15 — years!


I’d like to extend a very warm Thank You to these long-standing advertisers and contributors, most who’ve become good friends. The following persons have either advertised, influenced, or been involved with Xpo Press every year for over ten years. Lots of others who are not mentioned were also faithful advertisers for many years — Thank You as well for contributing to Xpo Press’s moving forward. I hope we contributed to your success — we certainly tried our best.


So, my heartfelt gratefulness goes out to our longest-standing EZ-Guide and online advertisers (in alpha order by company) whom Xpo Press has been able to count on every year for over ten straight years ...


Dan & Linda at Baker Custom Designs • John at Best Bead Shows • Raj at CGM Findings • William at Crystal Tones • Dennis & Hamid at Desert Gardens in Quartzsite • Gloria & Don at Donald K. Olsen Enterprises • Christine & Tom at Enchanted Designs • Nader at Enter the Earth • Lowell & Heather at Eons Expos (22nd Street/Tucson, Denver, and NJ Shows) • Felicia, Candy & Leo at G&LW • Casey at Garan-Beadagio (Colors of the Stone and To Bead True Blue) •  P.L. at GIGM • Ricky at Good Luck Jewelry • Japh & Becky at Japheth Boyce Fossils • Lynda & Gwyn at Jeanne’s Rock Shop • Asherah, Danny & Jim at JG&M Expos • Frank at JK Stone • Yelena & Vitaliy at JOGS • John & Dave at John Dyer Designs • Raj at Kamal Trading Co. • Johnny at Korite • Karen at Lowcountry Geologic • Noro & Tiana at Madagascar Import SEAM • Miles at Miles of Alaska • Smoky, Sunny & Jim at Miner’s Co-op Rock Show • Tom at MP Products • Claude at Moldavite/TW Designs • Kendal at Moussa Minerals • Jane, Bill & Brook at PaleoTools • Joe at Pinnacle 5 Minerals • Wolter, Marcie & Maury at Pueblo Gem & Mineral Show • Dev at Purity, Inc. • Lynn at Rapa River • Janet & Steve at Rock Warehouse • Adam & Alanna at Sahara Overland and Mineral & Fossil Marketplace • J.T. at • Oxana & Andrei at Skyline Minerals • Arne & Melany at Starborn Creations • Keith at Tanita Corp. • Mike & Shari at Top Gem Minerals • James & Lisa at United States Pearl Co. • Victor at Vicjon Enterprises • Dave at Westward Look Mineral Show • and Jim at Village Originals and AS-Shows (Kino/Tucson and Denver Expo) and before him, Al Sargent (whose “AS” in AS-Shows is the abbreviation for his first and last names) at Tucson Electric Park.


A special acknowledgment to Geoff Notkin and the Morrison sisters, Suzanne and Lisa, Tucson locals whose many contributions since 2005 have given the Tucson EZ-Guide a hometown Tucsonan flavor and gem, mineral, and meteorite expertise and credibility. I’m looking forward to working with you guys more in the days and years ahead!


Still and forever grateful to my friends Marty Zinn and Regina Aumente who, when they were so excellently operating MZE, introduced me to this eclectic world of sparkly rocks. And Carol Smith of DGMS way back — and who I haven’t seen since 2002-03 — wherever you are, Thank You for calling me and convincing me that gems, minerals, fossils, and rocks could make for truly fun, interesting, useful, and profitable marketing opportunities.


Finally, and certainly not least, Xpo Press’s success is mostly due to my staff of faithful, competent, and kind people. Both Susan Branson, my bookkeeper, and Debbie Lewis, my — I don’t know ... my always organized and reliable, do-it-all person — have been on this ride with me for 18 and 14 years, respectively. Tammy Hemingway’s magic touch as our graphic designer has colored and enhanced the EZ-Guide pages for the past five years, and she was our graphic designer for a few years in the early 2000s when Xpo Press first started. Mike O’Shea’s been our skillful webmaster for going on seven years and is most responsible for growing the Xpo Press website into the most visited gem-show site in the online world. Helen Serras Herman, our staff writer, gives the EZ-Guides a world-class gemologist’s credibility in everything she writes, and she’s been churning out articles for us for eight years. The smart young entrepreneur, James Neff, has more than competently distributed the Tucson EZ-Guide to the 40+ Tucson shows, TIA, and restaurants and hotels each year for, gosh, I don’t know, around ten years. Rachel Ford, a show operator and mineral dealer herself, is the newcomer as Xpo Press’s social media director, and what a godsend she is, as Xpo Press had no social media presence since 2019. We hope to keep Rachel on board for a good long time. Love, honor, and unspeakable appreciation for this bevy of talented friends.


Two last shout-outs. Thank you, Nancy Shideler Hicks, for the many years of contributing excellence to so many aspects of Xpo Press. And Robyn Hawk, who wrote many articles for the EZ-Guides and kept our social media active and interesting from 2013 until her passing in 2019, Thank You, dear lady. You’re still fondly remembered not only by me and the Xpo Press staff but by thousands in the gem, mineral, and jewelry show cosmos who adored you and benefited by your commitment and knowledge of everything gem and mineral. Your laugh still lingers in my ear, and your warm friendship will never be taken for granted.


Here’s to a great 2022 Tucson Showcase ya’ll! We all deserve a great one after two years of pandemic purgatory. Keep reading the EZ-Guides, visiting, our Facebook and Instagram pages (both at GemShowInsider), and using Xpo Press’s Tucson Gem Show mobile app, and we’ll keep doing our best to make your gem show experience better and EZ-er every year through the media we create.


God’s rich blessings to you and Happy 20th to Xpo Press!