Join Kyle as he speaks with the founder of Swag.com, Jeremy Parker. Jeremy is a serial entrepreneur. Currently, he is the Co-Founder/CEO of Swag.com, top eCommerce platform for purchasing promo materials people actually want to keep. Swag is innovating distribution and branding by making their own apparel and storing orders for customers. Swag.com did $365k in business year one, $1.1M year two, $7M in sales year three and $10M this year. They're #218 on Inc.com's top 500 and have grown 2000% over three years. Through swag, Jeremy has worked with Netflix, TechCrunch, Amazon, Google, Spotify. Jeremy has a passion for creating happy connected teams. He believes that swag is a great way to show employees the ultimate thank you and appreciation.
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I always try to tell my team and everybody, when we launch something, don't be upset if it doesn't work out, because it never works out from day one never. But you can learn from it and you can see our customers engage with it and react to it. And ultimately, if we're passionate and we're diligent and we want to make it work, we're ultimately going to figure out the right thing to build.Kyle Roed:
This is the rebel HR podcast, the podcast where we talk to human resources, innovators, about innovation in the world of HR. If you are a people leader, or you're looking for a new way to think about how to help others be successful. This is the podcast for you. Rebel on HR rebels. All right, revolutes. our listeners extremely excited for our guests today. a serial entrepreneur Jeremy Parker is with us. He is the co founder and CEO of swag.com coolest.com name ever. It's a top ecommerce platform for purchasing promotional materials that people actually want to keep. And don't ask me about the time that I ordered those key chains did not go well. So we could use all the help we can get an HR, right Jeremy. Of course. Everyone's a little bit of Jeremy's got an exceptional resume behind him. He's named one of Crain's New York, 40, under 40, class of 2020, passionate about infusing consciousness into how we consume and connect. And really excited to talk about culture and recognition and all the ways that cool swag can help you organization. Welcome to the show. Jeremy, thanks so much for having me. Absolutely. Well, I'm excited to first of all, I'm just excited to meet somebody with such an entrepreneurial spirit. And you know, just excited to kind of learn a little bit about your story. So why don't you just kind of tell us what got you interested in swagJeremy Parker:
was a long story, I'll try to make it brief. I wouldn't say I was actually a documentary filmmaker in college. So I went to Boston University. And actually, when I went to bu, I never really want to be a filmmaker. I was more of a branding guy. I was just really interested in learning how to tell stories. And when I went through the curriculum, and I looked at marketing, which I thought I wanted to pursue, and filmmaking, they were pretty much the exact same thing, except for filmmaking, I will learn how to tell stories through video. And this is the early onset of YouTube. And I thought that that would probably be very valuable. So I really went deep into filmmaking. When I was 19 years old, or so I won the Vale Film Festival, the Audience Award at this big film festival. Now, remember, thank you remember, the next day I was in this kind of, quote, unquote, celebrity or filmmaker, brunch, half the room where these only celebrities that you've heard of, and half the room were these more struggling artists. And I did like an internal gut check. I asked myself, number one, my dad good. And number two, I really love it. Sorry, I gotta get out of here. But you're in a great learning experience. And when I graduated college, my entire background was filmmaking I no experience whatsoever in business. And I thought, you know what, let me figure out what I'm actually good at. So I started a T shirt company, I thought it would be relatively easy, but also at the same time, which I was wrong about. But also the time I will learn the ins and the outs of manufacturing and production, how to build an e commerce site and how to do PR and marketing and all the different aspects of business. And when we launched this high end t shirt company called tees and tats, horrible name, but the high end apparel. And what happened is we launched that in 2007. This was right around the time that the recession hit right before the recession. So all these stores that were selling to one vendor, and we had this somewhat gimmicky of a model for basically, for every 100 points, the Dow dropped, we would give them a discount on their t shirt price. So they could, you know, feel a little better about purchasing, you know, high end goods. And this story ultimately got picked up by Mark Cuban. And his blog blog Maverick. And I wrote about this that got seen by Adam Hughes, and it got seen, ultimately led me to meet the CEO of a really large promotional product company. So honestly, I had no experience in the promotional product industry. I didn't know what swipe was whatsoever when I was going through college, but I met the CEO of this really global company. And we really hit it off. And ultimately, after a couple of months of you know, having lunches with him and going to the office and becoming friends with him, frankly, he said, Jeremy, I want you to start a business under my label, whatever you want to do, I will support it. We had that kind of relationship at that point. And I started a company called vote for art, which is basically a design competition, where we had like a website and like Purdue University or university of maryland and Oregon State would say, create the best, you know, reimagine our school logo. And the winning design would sell you know, on the T shirts and apparel at the bookstore at the basketball stadium to try to make collegiate apparel cooler again. And during this kind of three year period when I was running this division under this bigger company called Nv sports. I just fell in love with it I fell in love the swag I fell in love with honestly how poorly he was being run. The industry was so broken so old, so fragmented, every sale was done through catalogs through presentation decks through back and forth emails. It didn't really make sense to me but the time the buyer was emotional buyer and when I realized is, fast forward 10 years or so, when I'm starting swiped calm, the buyer changed. And that was kind of the big aha moment is that the industry is just getting bigger and bigger. But the buyer is completely different than it used to be. So why don't we build a platform that's really focused on today's buyer and giving them the right experience? Interesting.Kyle Roed:
So filmmaker, Mark Cuban, that's a way cooler origin story than mine, but kudos to you for you know, exceptional business results. And, you know, I was checking out the websites just cool. So I like it a lot. I think. I don't know why. But HR tends to be the kind of the catch all department for, for things like this, right? And I would tell you, from my standpoint, I am not a fashionista. I don't necessarily know what's cool, or what my employees are actually going to like. And so how do you kind of make sure you're on trend? Or you've got like the right, like offering that, like my employee would actually want to have?Jeremy Parker:
That's a great question. And that's, that is a challenge. And it's really trying to find and curate the best of what's out there. Now, when the business started, it was me, my co founder, Josh, and we'd go and meet suppliers and call of different brands. And frankly, we liked, and we were the demo, you know, we figure that when we start the business, I was 30 years old. And we were analyzing who the current buyer of swag is, is the office managers, the HR managers, the marketing teams, all these different divisions within the company by swag. And they really are like these millennial buyers. So I was trying to find products and source products that I personally would like. And I would think that other companies like that's how it started. And as we've gotten bigger, now we're six years into the business is becoming more, you know, data centric, and really trying to analyze what products sell well, products don't sell, how do we find similar types of products that we feel like our customers will like, our system automatically updates and changes based on, you know, people's likes, and people's purchasing, you know, buying power, and all these different things that we kind of are shifting it. But at the end of the day, everything on our site is fully curated. And that's kind of one of the biggest things that we decided from day one, we didn't want to be a platform where people say, Hey, I'm looking for mugs, and then being shown 1000 different mugs, because it makes it impossible to make a decision, you're paralyzed because you don't know what's good. And you ultimately end up stuff that ends up in the trash, costing your company money and tarnishing your brand. So we decided from the very beginning, let's say Here are the top 20 products in each category, the top 20 mugs and top 20 notebooks, 20 t shirts, and really make it easy. So as you said, you don't have to overthink it, you just know that everything on swag calm is really quality. And you can feel confident. That'sKyle Roed:
Yeah, that's funny. You mentioned that I and I'm in my office right now. And as I look over, I got at least two or three boxes full of just junk. I mean, it's like it's like, nobody wants it. We can't give it away to our employees. So what do we do with it, I take it to a college career fair. And I just like it's like the T shirt can I'm just like throwing it at people like you're Take this. And then you walk out of the career fair, you see all the trash all the stuff in the trash.Jeremy Parker:
And that's exactly when we used to go to all these different trade shows. And we realized the same thing like I would be getting bags and stuff. And I realized maybe one of every 10 things I actually got was actually we like to keep it and then what's the point of the nine other things it's not good for the environment ends up in the trash costing company money tarnishing brand. So our feeling is let's just focus on the highest quality stuff doesn't have to be expensive, but really just quality stuff. So we could still offer pens and notebooks and mugs. And they're relatively inexpensive items. But just let's just make sure it's the best version of those things. So people get it. They're really proud. They're proud to show it off. They're happy. I also kind of thought when we were starting businesses that every kind of marketing medium that people are engaged with, is everyone's trying to avoid at all costs, right? You watch TV commercials, and everyone's trained at this point to fast forward through commercials. Or you're looking at a magazine in the foot through the ads, or you're browsing Internet, and you have like the ad blockers and pretty sure everyone has ad blocker set up to avoid ads at all costs. But if you give somebody something of really high quality, they say thank you, it really is a such a powerful marketing channel, if done right. But if it's done right, it has the complete opposite effect. So really try to focus on equality above everything.Kyle Roed:
Yeah, I'll give you you know, here's an anecdotal evidence of the right swag working. And I'll use the same career fair example. So it's where we try to like get rid of the junky swag we don't want or that our employees don't want. It's also a strategic advantage if you've got the really good stuff, and one such career fair happened to be golf balls and fishing lures, like nice products like pro v1 golf balls, the rappeler fishing lures, like stuff people actually wanted with our logo on it. We literally had a line of people that wanted to talk to us because we had the cool stuff and it like it literally it filtered through the auditorium. And everybody that was predisposed to like golf or fishing was standing in our booth, you know, and it was like, wow, this worked really well. And for you know, we're a small company, we're not target or one of these big names or Google. We got to win anyway we can you know, having the right type of offering or for me it's really a kind of a strategic marketing advantage. from human resources, it works.Jeremy Parker:
It definitely works. And even just internally, like that's like external, getting people interested, but even internally of creating that company culture now if you're giving everybody in your team a T shirt that they're not they're going to wear once. They kind of throw away teachers, and what's the point, you want people to feel proud of it, you want people to wear it, you know, all the time you want people, like when you're walking down the street, and if you see somebody wearing your favorite sports team, you have like an instant connection to that person, you'll know the person's name, you'll know their background, you'll know anything about them. But you feel that kind of camaraderie. And I think it's the same thing with businesses. Like if people are wearing the same things, or using the same products that were in that it's all it builds this kind of camaraderie and culture of togetherness, they are all working towards the same goal. And if it's quality, they'll use it. And if it's not, they won't use it. So for the extra little bit, even 10%, more 5% more, sometimes it can even be cheaper, just focusing on the quality products really makes all the difference.Kyle Roed:
I love me, I love t shirts and hats for that exact reason. You're like a walking billboard. Right? I mean, it's and you're Yeah, I think the sports team analogy. So it's so right, that you may not know that person really well. But if they're wearing that shirt, you're in the family, right? It's so critical. And I'm curious if you've seen an increase in that type of sale, because companies are looking for that connectivity while working from home or changing working environments.Jeremy Parker:
Yeah, for sure. Last year was one of those years where it was so unpredictable, I think for everybody. But specifically in our industry. Now they quoted our industry is down over 20 to 30%. Last year versus the previous year, it was a really bad year for swag. Our specific business swag.com, we actually grew over 100% last year. So why did we grow over 100% where the whole industry was down over 20 30%. And by the way, we had many months, which we were down even more, March, April, and may we went from like 800,000 a month to 350. Just in half. But we know this and we made this allow us to pivot and really focus on what today's no buyer needs. Is that how'd you get swag in the hands of people when they're remote? If everyone is so disconnected, no one's in the office? How do you build tools to allow them to send swag to one address or 2000 different addresses at once. Or if you don't know the recipients address, how do we allow them to build us a giveaway landing page that says, hey, select your T shirt size, select your address, this speaks to our system so we can help you distribute. So really making it so robust for the work from home culture. And people really, they needed it, they just didn't have a way to do it. And that was a really that that's kind of sentiment, every HR manager, it wasn't that they want to buy swag, they knew the power of swag and how much they really needed it. They just didn't have a service and a solution that would allow them to actually engage with the remote team and keep that culture together. So we built that culture, we built that platform. And now we have 5000 companies using our platform to allow people to distribute swag remotely. And it's only going being bigger and bigger. Because the more you're remote, the more culture is so much more important. So no, we're going all in on this.Kyle Roed:
Oh, you hit on one of those things. I guarantee you that HR people listening to this right now are thinking, sending stuff remotely and like trying to manage like I got this. I got a spreadsheet with hundreds of employees and a hundreds of addresses. And I you know, if I order this giant box of T shirts, now I got to put these things in the mail. So your system actually allows them to kind of Select the product pay for the product, and then that Yep, sumur the actual recipient gets that or the Upload File and then it gets sent to them. Or how does that all the above, we made it really simple. So our site was built as a ecommerce site. So you can buy swag in a matter of seconds, you find the product, you upload your logo, our system detects how many colors are in your logo and the nearest Pantone match. So we make sure we're printing in a Walmart, red versus tinkles red, right, it'sJeremy Parker:
important to get the right colors, you mark it up, he checked out and during the checkout process, there's two options, you can either say I want to send this ultimate address to my one location to my office to my home, or you could click a button that says hold my swag in inventory and distribute as needed. So this is basically you click a button and now instead of printing those 1000 teachers and sending it to their office, which you know within the office right now, there's 1000 t shirts, we send it to our fulfillment center for warehousing distribution. Think of this as like your online swipe closet, so they can easily manage all of their inventory in real time when you're ever running low in stock, send them smart notifications to restock. And then what they could do is they can send swag in three different ways they can send it to one address. So let's say you have 1000 t shirts and notebooks and pens. You can multi select and say I know I want one t shirt large a pen and a notebook send to Jennifer my team and just send it out. Or let's say you have a list of 1000 different people's address. You upload the CSV file we calculate the shipping costs in real time. Once you pay for shipping, we could ship it worldwide so you could ship it to the 1000 different addresses at once. And let's say you're a marketing person and you have all these people's email address and you don't know where they live. You don't know what t shirt size they are. Or you're an HR manager who just onboarding 50 new hires and you've no idea what t shirt size they are you never even met them didn't even know really where they live. In a matter of seconds you could create a giveaway landing upload your logo, your colors blast as a link, Jennifer and the team will click on the link, she'll say Oh, select three of the five products for the five products and input your address like a T shirt size, it speaks to our system and we can distribute it. So we made this platform insanely robust. And with the great thing is the platform is free to use for everybody. It's like an extension of a conversation. So just as easy is to buy swag in bulk. Now you can manage your swag from one central portal.Kyle Roed:
Got it? Got it? Well, I know you said you didn't go to school for marketing, but you're doing a pretty good job right now, as far as I'm concerned. I know, it's interesting, but I think you mean you're talking about the entire point of being entrepreneur, right, there's a need out there. And you're finding a solution. And I would tell you, if you know, from my standpoint, the need in my mind is trying to go virtual and remote and trying to manage that trying to retain connectivity of culture, as well as you know, kind of finding a solution for I think we're all going to see in the continued future, which is much more flexibility in the workplace, this hybrid approach. And for those companies that will stay fully remote, the ability to hire people anywhere, but build culture anywhere as well. It's easy to hire someone anywhere, it's really hard to build culture. Unless you're intentional about building that culture everywhere. And, you know, I look at this, as you know, this is a potential solution for something along those lines. So you did company store kind of platforms as well, do you build that out? Or are you more just kind of the engine for distribution of like to think of ourselves as kind of like your internal swag closet. SoJeremy Parker:
we don't at this stage in the future we might do is allow people to sell stuff, right having like a public facing store products where they can sell. But really how we're trying to build our site is just like your internal swag closet. So you can invite 20 people on your team, you can give different people permission settings. So think of it like a Google Doc. But I could have Jennifer Peter and Samantha, they're able to distribute swag from the inventory closet. And Jonathan, he can't, he's only able to add swag to inventory classes. So you could say that by permission settings approval flows, we also made it really easy for companies to create multiple different swag clauses for free. So they can have a swag closet for only their marketing team. Or you get a swag class for only your HR team or your sales team or the London office in New York office. So you could break it down by department location, permission, approval flows, all these different things to really make it work for your company. So that's kind of how we envisioned it. And obviously, as we grow, we're a relatively young business. We're in our sixth year, we're constantly trying to think of different ways to streamline the experience, like one of the things we're launching right now is a swag API that could plug into different HR solutions, right? So imagine somebody's birthday, you want to go into our platform to send it to Jennifer, because it's his birthday, you have all of your employees birthdays, just an all the CRM or like the justworks. And the gusto is and all these different HR ERP solutions, it automatically knows is Jennifer's birthday. So it triggers notification to our site, and we ship it out, or the one year anniversary, the five year anniversary, or all these different reasons why people want swag, you kind of set it and forget it, if you will. And that's really what we're building. But the only way you can really do that is if we have the platform really strong and allowing people to easily buy it. So the fact that we have easy commerce, click a button holding the inventory. The next phase is how you distribute that inventory automatically.Kyle Roed:
Interesting. Yeah, I like easy. And I like automated systemization speaks to the heart of me. So yeah, that's really interesting. And I already wrote a note we got to investigate this week, we're looking at new hire onboarding processes, and more like, you know, one of the questions literally, I just got an email the other day, one of the questions was, do do we do a welcome package? Right, you know, and so if there's Yeah, if you tie it right into an 80, S, or a hrs, and then it just auto every time you hit hire, just goes boop, you know, it sends it to that person, and they get a bespoke package of whatever, set director wherever they want to set, you know, yeah.Jeremy Parker:
We're also doing some other stuff. And this is, tell us you, we haven't actually built this out. But this something that's in the works, is, you're right, we just hired the person who's gonna be leading our logistics department, he's not even based in New York, probably come to the office once a month, right. So we are trying to build out this remote workforce. And luckily, we have a business that could handle that. And we've been all remote for the last year and a half. And not everyone's so lucky. But we feel lucky that we're able to do this, we hire everybody around the world. But when we onboard the new hire, and we send the swag box, we want to make it even more personal. So like what we're doing right now is we're actually going to be printing or giving the option to customers. So let's imagine you're building a swag box for a new hire. You could pick all the products you want, we have a whole add on section which you could pick other non branded products like chocolate, you know, cupcakes and candies or whatever it is like non brands and stuff that had nothing to do with swag was more of a gift like to really accentuate the box and make it feel more premium. But also you could do is you could print a QR code on the inside of the box. And what can happen is when the person opens up and says Welcome to the team. Whenever you print on the inside of the box, you can full control, they scan it and it pops open the video of you that you're onboarding them in a really human way, like, thanks so much for joining the team, like anything that we could do especially a remote to go above and beyond and make that person feel special from day one really sets the tone, right? We've experienced ourselves like hiring people remote, if you don't do those things, if they just feel lost, they don't feel connected, and you want them from day one to feel super connected to what you're doing.Kyle Roed:
Right 100%. And now a word from our sponsors. When Molly Patrick and I tried to figure out how to start on podcast, we didn't know where to start. Thankfully, we found buzzsprout buzzsprout makes it super easy for us to upload our episodes, track our listeners, and get listed on all the major podcast networks. Today's a great day to start your own podcast, I know that you're one of our listeners. So you've definitely got something to say. Whether you're looking for a new marketing channel, have a message you want to share with the world. Or just think it would be fun to have your own talk show. podcasting is an easy, inexpensive and fun way to expand your reach online. buzzsprout is hands down the easiest and best way to launch, promote and track your podcast. Your show can be online and listed in all the major podcast directories within minutes of finishing your recording. podcasting isn't that hard when you have the right partner, and the team it buzzsprout is passionate about helping you succeed, join over 100,000 podcasters already using buzzsprout to get their message out to the world. And now for listeners of rebel HR, you can get a $20 amazon gift card sent to you from buzzsprout by clicking in the link in the show notes. Thanks for listening, I wanted to ask about maybe a little bit more internal to your organization. So obviously, last year was a really tumultuous year, you know, you're looking at industry numbers that are cutting numbers in half, you know, and I'm sure that you kind of had to go into survivability mode. But it sounds like you know, it sounds like you were able to weather that storm, and also find a way to really thrive in that environment. So as you were going through that massive disruption to your, your organization, how did you align your team? How did you really take a look at Okay, how do we weather this storm and come up better on the other side?Jeremy Parker:
Yeah, that's a great question. You know, I think for us, our perspective was we be insanely transparent with everybody. We can't treat our employees, our co workers, our teammates, like they don't know what's going on. It's like, once in a lifetime, once in many lifetimes situations where it was very clear what's going on, you know, January, February, were more than double the previous january, february of the previous year, March, we were looking to break a million for the first time ever. So February 150,000, and then March, all the trade shows gets canceled, which is like that's the season for buying trade shows March and April. And our sales dropped from 850 supposed to be million now drops 350,000. It's very clear to the whole team, what's going on. April doesn't get much better. It's 350. Again, right. So at this point, we want to make sure that we keep our team intact, because we know how powerful Our team is we do a good day our we hired them for a reason. And we know that we are going to be as if we could keep moving and keep throwing things against the wall. Not everything that we've tested worked, right, we initially started off selling brand new face masks. And he told me in 2016, when I started the business, that we'd be selling branded basement, I would think you're nuts. But that's we had to do. And we honestly we felt like it was not only a way to kind of plug the gap. But also as a way to give back you know, every 100 face masks that were bought on our site, we donate 10 to people in need. So we don't in last year over 5000 face masks, all of our suppliers. Were making t shirts and sweatshirts repurpose their facilities to make mess. So we were in this kind of sweet spot that we knew HR managers, office managers wanting to engage with their employees want to make their employees feel safe. But how are they going to do that? What are they thinking about doing? So we offer face masks and that? Listen, we didn't do great. We didn't 350,000 in April. But we did 350,000 April, it could have been down to zero, most companies were doing nothing. So it was something. And then when we made the shift to pivot, and really focused on this distribution platform. And by the way, we built this distribution platform starting in 2017. So it wasn't like a reactionary thing, Oh, we got to do this remote. We saw the writing on the wall. Not that it was gonna be everyone working from home. But we saw in 2017, a lot more of our customers were working from home. So we started to build out this platform. And frankly, that's the only reason why we had it available. This platform took two years to build the resin like built in the month and that's why no one else could was able to do it because we were really ahead of the times, we started to really position our site and change our hope we redesigned our whole homepage redesign everything on our site to tell the story of work from home, engage with your employees create this culture. And in November we did over 3.4 million. So think of that from April 350,000 to November six, seven months later, 3.4 million for that very month. No 3 million in q3 two ohms. 9 million in q4 did over 15 million last year in sales. So it was really Really that quick pivot and that focus, and who are buyers, where are the pain points. And along the way, we just very transparent with our employees and telling them and making them understand what we're doing what we're trying and that they shouldn't feel nervous about their jobs, I think just giving them the confidence that there's nothing to be nervous about right now we're gonna we're gonna make it work. And luckily, we were able to get through it. Yeah,Kyle Roed:
I tried to block that part of the of the year last year out of my memory, but it keeps coming. I mean, just keeping people aligned. And keeping them focused was a really big challenge, I'm sure you experienced,Jeremy Parker:
extremely challenging, means even extra, because I was living in New York City at the time, which remember, that was the heart of the pandemic, my wife was four months pregnant at the time, as a first baby. So we were terrified of how COVID effects pregnancy or COVID effects, but no information was out there. So we moved in with my parents in New Jersey. So you know, having a baby living my parents, no more office had to try to explain the business and figure, so it was just a lot of moving parts. But thank God, things worked out. And things are looking better and better as we go. And obviously, it didn't come with the lack of challenges, you know, our whole supply chain, the whole whole supply side of the business was severely impacted. When cut when our suppliers told us that things would be delivered by December 15, it was delivered by December 25. customers don't want to be having things delayed by 10 days. The kidding we do fully custom swipe boxes, usually takes four days to kick things during December was impossible to even hire people because people are terrified of working in a fulfillment center. So things are taking a lot longer. So we had to do a lot of different things. And by the way, when a customer buys from us, they don't care that this whole industry supply chain is down. They don't care that people are scared to package things up. If they don't get their stuff on time, they're upset with you. So we have to go above and beyond do everything. So there was a lot of moving parts, a lot of things. But I think it may just make our team a lot stronger and realize that we can really accomplish anythingKyle Roed:
100% I don't know if your experience is similar to mine. But for me, it reminds me of the stories of you know, people who go into battle together, and you get battle tested as a team, right. And then you come out on the other side, and then the connectedness, if it's done right. And you know that that kind of that resounding success really connects that team but I do want to step back, and I think you made a really important point. So you were living with your parents, and you had a pregnant spouse during the pandemic and lockdown so you also individually. Yeah, that's a lot. I I feel you my wife was also pregnant during quarantines. Oh, congratulations. Yeah. Thank you. So and congratulations to you on your your first on your first job. But yeah, it was IVF. So when we signed that, that IVF document we did not necessarily know. Yeah, we were gonna be going through a pandemic. very unexpected. Yeah. But hey, we're here to tell the tale. So thank you for that. So what really, you know, really interesting stuff. And a really great story, I think, as it relates to your team and your approach, and, you know, the testament to the hard work of, of, you know, maintaining a business during such a challenging time. So, as you look forward, and you, you know, kind of forecast out at some of the trends that you're seeing as it relates to employee rewards and recognition. What do you see on the horizon for for your organization and this type of approach? Yes,Jeremy Parker:
so for us this year has been really great. So far, you know, we're more than double this time last year, even if you counted in pro 350. If we thought it was gonna be a million, like we did over 2 million in April already. So we're six times really, if you look back last year, but things are really trending up, and especially what you say with recognition and culture, bolding, people are really understanding the value and importance and I can't claim to know what it's going to be like in the future. Is it going to be everyone's back into the office and return back to normal? Is it gonna be all remote? Like it has been this last year? Was it gonna be this hybrid version, I assume there will be different businesses require different things and most businesses will fall out into that kind of hybrid model. Like I know, for us, we're trying to figure it out, a lot of our employees moved out of the city. So to get them to drive two hours each way. It's just not feasible. It's not possible. You know, but maybe we just have like a hub office where people just go into the office when they want to or once a week or once a month, and we do more of like outside the office kind of cultural building events which we're doing. We've had a barbecue with our team, everyone the area who wants to come we're having a big event where people are actually flying in for we're renting out this like hotel area overlooking the water and everyone's gonna be working 9am in the morning, a full day's work on this really ever got like a barbecue and like dinner and drinks and I think just going above and beyond to build that culture and get people to see face to face. To me. There's a lot of our jobs and a lot of our employees who make You don't need to be face to face right there operations managers, they're dealing with orders or dealing with suppliers. But then there's some divisions that 100% need to be in person, like the marketing team, like maybe not everything. But marketing definitely is a lot more creativity to have, right? When you're in a whiteboard, and you're drawing it out and don't know how it's gonna look, I know for a fact that our platform handles both right, it can handle somebody who's buying swag in bulk and sending it to their office, or it can send swag to 1000s different addresses at once. So wherever the world kind of goes, we're going to kind of adapt and shift it and figure out what the right balances.Kyle Roed:
Yeah. You made an interesting comment there. And I, you know, I think it's, it's obviously it's a hot topic right now, but it's, you know, trying to quantify or figure out, okay, who actually needs to be in person? What's the actual impact of that? You know, depending on where you get, um, you know, the statistics vary widely. But, you know, I've heard anywhere from 30% to 50% reduction in productivity for like high collaboration, roles, creative roles, you know, those types of roles. Are you seeing that, like you mentioned, marketing, specifically, are you seeing some struggles there? Yeah, IJeremy Parker:
think it listed or my team is amazing. And marketing, I would do an unbelievable job. But you could see like, my brand, I always put like the marketing cap on, I feel like I'm a marketer, by nature, by heart, what I actually love to do. And it's challenging you ever, you're staring at the screen for an hour, you're trying to think things through, and it just gets exhausting. And it's just, so I like to set up more in person meetings in the marketing team, I feel like there's a lot more that can be accomplished once we do that. And I think everyone's on board. But we have some people on our team, like customer success, that deal with customers, and even collaborating with their team, really, I mean, definitely, once a week, they have a big meeting, they want to, you know, sync up and make sure everyone's on the same page. But it's not as required as like more of a marketing or creative thirds of the market. But anything really super creative. I think one person is is definitely going to be needed.Kyle Roed:
Yeah. I tend to agree with you, I think, you know, and especially for those individuals, who are, you know, verbal processors. And that's just how their brain works. And they talk through things. And that's how the ideas come. And that's where the, that's kind of where the magic happens, right? That's where you take a good idea that you think is a good idea, and you smash it against the wall and somebody blows it up, you're like, Oh, wait, no, okay, this and, you know, I just think that's such a part of the creative process, I have yet to use a tool that has allowed me to do that, um, you know, that same type of thing. And then I don't know about you, but I just like being in an office and being around other people, I'm just like, IJeremy Parker:
personally love it, I love it, I try to go to the office, even though I'm just being my co founder, go, yeah, it's nice to have the house, it's nice to break up the day, you know, I'm living in the suburbs now. And to go from my bedroom, to my office, it's just, there's no break up, I feel like I need like a path or like a goal or a focus. And honestly, what we're trying to think about there also, you know, a lot of the features that we build don't always work out, some really work out, work out and take off. And some just don't, and we learn from it, you know, we never kind of think of a feature as like a failure. It's always kind of a learning experience. But we analyzing, you know, how people buy swag, typically. And typically people buy swag, they're all hold around the computer, and they're choosing the products together. So we're working on kind of collaborative tools where people can maybe log into somebody else's account on their team, or they could share account and somebody could add a notebook and their personal wearable, and they can look at the same kind of cart at the same time, and delete certain products or any products and really build their carts together. Because if this kind of work from home stays, and they're not able to always meet in person, well, how do we make the buying of swag even easier for people who are working remotely,Kyle Roed:
I think that's a great point. And if I just I think about like the decision tree, and I'm usually the guy like, I'm not picking the product, I'm just like saying, you know, thumbs up, thumbs down whatever looks good, or I trust you just do whatever. But that is a really collaborative process. And a lot of times, there's people with really strong opinions, that if we leave them out of it, if we don't get them up front, and we don't get their opinion up front, then we get this box of swagger. They're like, what the hell is this? Why did you talk to me?Jeremy Parker:
Even just designer, it's like, you know, the office manager is your manager likes to pick the products, but then the designer needs to go in. So short account where people can just add everything that they liked, the designer can maybe add this feedback, the boss can add this feedback, they could fill, move things and add new thing. Exactly right. And then the designer could come in at the last step and upload the designs, but the designers not the one who's actually checking out and maybe it's another person who's on the finance team who has a credit card who they log into the same account and they checkout. So there's all these different parts of the order. So how do you make this work in a work from home environment? So we're trying to think about these kinds of things and build the right product for today's buyer. buyer is very different than last year's buyer which is very different than five years ago as buyer so things do change and the world changes so we're just trying to have our finger on the pulse. Sure.Kyle Roed:
And then you can also blacklist the people that have made bad decisions in the past. Right I've got I've got Couple of those on staff, like you're not allowed to pick anymore this stuff. It's like, but it was cheap. Well, yeah. So that's what it is. Oh, that's good stuff. And, you know, I completely understand the desire to get to the office, especially when you have a newborn at home and you're trying to stay focused, right? I get that. Well, you know, I think if there's any takeaway from you know, your story in your organization story, if and if you're kind of thinking about, okay, you know, what do I take away from this? I think it's such a great example of being nimble and flexible. And approaching the world, from a mindset of, you know, this isn't a failure. This is just something we're going to learn from. And I would argue that that mindset is why you were able to be successful last year, because you tried it two years ago. And you know, what, if last year didn't happen, maybe it wasn't as successful. But you had the platform? Because you were thinking differently, right? And that's kind of what we're all about here. Right?Jeremy Parker:
Yeah, you have to think differently. And different thinking doesn't mean it's right thinking, but it will ultimately, and we always try to tell my team and everybody, when we launch something, don't be upset if it doesn't work out, because it never works out from day one. Never. But you can learn from it. And you can see our customers engage with it and react to it. And ultimately, if we're passionate, and we're diligent, and we want to make it work, we're ultimately going to figure out the right thing to build. So it's never a loss. If you look like we launched this box feature to allow people to build these fully custom branded boxes on their site, without having to talk to somebody on the phone without having to look through a presentation deck. Just find the products, find the notebook, upload your logo, a mug, upload your logo, t shirt, upload your logo, mock it up, and then bundle everything together as a box listing, add some add ons, add a custom note card, a crinkle paper, this took us six different versions to get it to where it is today. Now today, you're able to buy unlimited number of boxes at the same time, I could buy one box as notebook in the pin, another box that has a mogan war ball, I could have a box that has female apparel, men's apparel, I could have, I could customize it. However I wanted, I could pick between three different styles of boxes. Every single thing is automated. And we've never figured that out unless we launched the first version. Now six versions later, it's at a place where people are checking out without having to talk to anybody, which is exactly what we wanted. So I think you got to put yourself out there learn and keep adapting and try to try to always think ahead.Kyle Roed:
Absolutely. And I think especially, you know, for our listeners, and for us in HR, a lot of times we design policies, we design procedures, we want to get it right 100% of the time, we don't want to have to go change and revise policies. But the truth is, in the real world, you're going to get it wrong, something's gonna be wrong. You have to start somewhere. And then you have to kind of iterate and improve. And that's the only way that you're actually going to find something that works. So yeah, with very well. Well, Jeremy, we are running up on the end of our time together, but absolutely wonderful conversation. But we're going to shift gears and we're going to go into the rebel HR flash round. All right, so question number one. What is your favorite people book?Jeremy Parker:
People book is that like HR related book,Kyle Roed:
anything related to people that you find inspiration?Jeremy Parker:
Okay, well, I used to work with a guy named Jesse Itzler. And Justin is a world famous entrepreneur, I started the business with him. He started Marquis jet private jet company, he started Zico, coconut water and sold Coca Cola. He's wildly successful. He's actually one of the owners of the Atlanta Hawks right now, basketball team,Kyle Roed:
mildly successful.Jeremy Parker:
He wrote a book called Living with the seal that I think is important for everybody it's not related to HR whatsoever is not really related to business is more of just like a human story. Basically, he realized that he was in a rut in life, even though he's obviously wildly successful, his kind of run is what I aspire to be in a rush. But like, in his mind, he wanted to push his limits and be even better. And he hired a navy seal. Or he invited a Navy SEAL into his house to live with him for 30 days. And he had to do it ever the Navy SEAL told them to do. And he really kind of changed his perspective on what he's able to accomplish, you know, really kind of figure out like what you match, like he tells a story in the first chapter of the book, where the Navy SEAL came in and said, How many pushups Can you do and you try to do a couple he did, like seven or eight knows the max. And the guy said, Navy SEAL said, I'm not leaving this gym until you do 100. And 100 to him was like, it's impossible can't do it. And he did one at a time, it might take him two hours, and he was able to show himself, he was able to do something they never thought he could possibly do. And it changed his perspective, because now his baseline was a lot higher than when he thought. So it's kind of just training your brain to think that what you really believe you're able to accomplish is really probably 40% of what you're really able to accomplish. And you keep having to push yourself. I think she's a funny story. And I know Well, those rapid fire questions but living with the seal, Jessie slow, check it out.Kyle Roed:
I love it. I love it. You know, eliminating those kind of those self limiting beliefs. It's like the four minute mile that nobody thinks can be done until it's done. And then a lot of people can do it, right. Yeah, exactly. All right. Question number To Who should we be listening to?Jeremy Parker:
Who should be listening to tribe called Quest's? Probably that we think but like music, listen to some good music relax a little bit. Nothing's that serious.Kyle Roed:
I love it. I love it. Now I'm with you. I do a lot of no surprise. I do a lot of podcasts listening, and most of its business related. And that was kind of that was like my diversion during quarantine. But just recently, I kind of hit a wall. I'm like, I can't listen to another inspirational business focus podcast. I just got to turn on the radio and just Yep, zone out. Exactly. It's been good. All right, last question. How can our listeners connect with you?Jeremy Parker:
Obviously, check out our site swag comm that's s wag.com. You can reach out to me for interested in learning more or needing help Jeremy at swag calm. And yeah, we would love to work with you or help you out and really help you build the company culture, and really show your employees that you care. And I think it's really more important than ever right now to have that connection. We know we're here. They'llKyle Roed:
love it. We'll have all the information in the show notes as well as additional information to connect with Jeremy connect with Jeremy as well after the show. So thank you so much. Jeremy has been absolutely wonderful conversation. Keep up the good work and I'm checking out swag calm as we speak. Thank you so much, Carl. Great to be here. Thanks. All right. That does it for the rebel HR podcast. big thank you to our guests. Follow us on Facebook at rebel HR podcast, Twitter, at rebel HR guy, or see our website at rebel human resources.com. The views and opinions expressed by rebel HR podcast are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any of the organizations that we represent. No animals were harmed during the filming of this podcast baby