The Future of Swag is Automated

by Laura Odegard 13 days ago in interview

How The Co-Founders of Swag.com Are Simplifying Your Swag Distribution Process

The Future of Swag is Automated

Swag.com was founded in early 2016 when co-founders Jeremy Parker and Josh Orbach noticed that the current swag market was filled with things that didn’t resonate with its current buyer- often times a twenty-something year old assigned with the task of purchasing branded items for their newly coveted position at a swanky company. Parker and Orbach recognized a few things about these young buyers that other promotional product companies didn’t: these buyers didn’t want to speak to anyone on the phone, they wanted a curated selection of only the best items, and they wanted to feel competent in ordering a product that was exclusive to them. Now, just 4 years after launch, Swag.com has grown to 35 employees and brings in $7m in sales.

Here's what founders Jeremy and Josh had to say about it:

What problem is your company trying to solve?

Swag.com is the best place for companies to buy quality promotional products that you'll actually want to keep.  We have streamlined the entire buying experience so that in a matter of seconds you can easily find what you are looking for, upload your logo, and checkout.  You can easily send your swag to your office or a specific location, or we can hold your swag inventory and you will be able to distribute it whenever you need to.

How did the idea for Swag come to fruition?

When I graduated college I started a promotional product division under MV Sport, a large company in the promotional product space.  I learned the ins and out of the promotional industry.  The buyer at the time was traditionally an older office manager, who placed orders through email back and forths, presentation decks, and catalogs.  Fast forward to now and the industry is still incredibly fragmented - still relying on these old ways of doing things.  But the buyer has changed.  The buyer is now a millennial, and they want to do things very differently.  Our goal was to create the perfect platform for today's buyers. 

What were the biggest hurdles you faced in Swag's first year?

Like any company starting out it's incredibly hard to get your first customers. We wanted to get major companies to use us from the start.  Our belief was that if we could have a row of recognizable logos of companies we have worked with, it will give other companies the confidence to want to work with us. So, Josh and I set out to get that social proof from day 1. We didn't want to take the traditional approach --  of starting small and work our way up. We wanted to start from the top. Our first customer was Facebook. We showed up at their office like a traveling salesman and sold them a few thousand dollars of T-shirts. Once we had an order from Facebook, we went to WeWork to make the pitch. When they asked us who else we work with, we said Facebook. They probably assumed we had 100s of other customers but no just Facebook. We repeated the process of showing up in person to make the sale. Each sale became easier.  Now we have over 4,000 customers who use our site seamlessly.

Can you share a recent client success that you're particularly proud of?

We recently did an order for UberEats. They had a big launch for their partnership with Sweetgreen and they needed to make thousands of water bottles in a very tight timeline. They needed the water bottles to be fully wrapped, and their print was 10 colors. Doing a full wrap print with that many colors is extremely time-consuming as we needed to allow each color to dry before printing the next color. We are obsessed with making sure everything we make is perfect quality. We are really proud of that one.    

What makes Swag unique against competitors?

We have the most automated user experience. Customers can order swag in a matter of seconds. We have developed our platform specifically for the business buyer in mind. When customers upload their logo our system detects the number of colors in their logo and the nearest Pantone match ensuring the print is perfect. We also recently launched Swag Inventory, our inventory management software where companies can now easily manage and distribute all of their swag from one central portal. Think of this as an online swag closet. We also launched Swag in a Box that allows HR Managers to easily create welcome kits of corporate branded products as part of onboarding new employees. Beyond all of the user experience improvements, we offer the best products available.  Our product team has been able to create relationships with brands that are not offered by any of our competitors.

What 3 words would you use to describe Swag's employee culture?

Fun, creative, community

What are your personal favorite pieces of Swag?

I love my Bellroy backpack, Asobu water bottle and Bella Hoodie.  I use them every day.   

What's the biggest swag faux pas you've encountered?

I think people who focus on finding the lowest price point, without taking into consideration the quality of the product is the biggest Swag no-no.  You want to make sure that what you buy is actually going to be used.  Poor quality swag not only will cost your company money as it will end up in the trash but it will also tarnish your brand, the complete opposite intention.  Focus on quality.  That's my biggest suggestion.

Tell us about Swag Swap- has the initiative been successful so far?

The program has been super successful. The idea is that companies have tons of unused swag in their office, so we want to encourage people and companies to give back. All they have to do is send us their old swag, we will donate it for them to a local charity in need and then we will issue them a promo code to use on our site.  We are starting to roll out donation boxes in different offices to help with the process.  

Where were you guys before starting Swag? Have you ever worked in a corporate setting or are you both natural-born entrepreneurs?

Co-Founders of Swag.com, Jeremy Parker and Josh Orbach

I have always been a lifelong entrepreneur. I graduated from Boston University, majoring in film production. When I was a junior in college my documentary won the Audience Award at the 2006 Vail Film Festival. I then went on to start a creative Promotional Division under MV Sport. I then started a company with my brother David and Jesse Itzler, Co-Founder of Marquis Jet, investor and partner in Zico Coconut Water, and owner of Atlanta Hawks. Our e-commerce platform that distributes unique promotion codes through social media influencers’ Facebook and Twitter posts was acquired by a publicly-traded company.

Josh worked at Deloitte as a Financial Auditor for many years. He also started a company Amuze.com that was acquired and spent some time buying and selling domain names.

We have a variety of interests and backgrounds that have made us the perfect team to tackle this old and fragmented swag industry.

Do you help companies with the design process in addition to production?

Most of our customers come to us with their ready-to-go designs. They simply upload their design and place their order, after their order is placed our design team creates for them a virtual production mockup to approve before we ever go into production.  So we can be sure it's exactly what they want before we start to print.  There are times that customers need our design help, and depending on the situation we will work with them and give them a helping hand.  We are also launching a partnership with 99 designs, where if you need a design, we will help match you with a super talented designer that will be able to help.

What's on deck for Swag in 2020?

Our goal this year is to continue to refine the platform. Make the swag buying experience even more automated and streamlined. We are adding tons of cool new brands to the site. Products that are super high quality that will help our customers stand out. We are also continuing to improve the Swag inventory and Swag in Box initiatives.   

interview
Laura Odegard
Laura Odegard
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Laura Odegard

Model. Foodie. Lover of life. Instagram.com/LauraOdegard

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