The Van Trump Report

Ag Companies Are Hanging Tough

As many of you know, our family started a company last year called AgSwag. During this Coronavirus debacle, we’ve been on a ton of calls with several top Ag CEOs and business leaders about ways they’re pivoting and shifting to win the battle against the virus. Interestingly, they’re also wanting our input and guidance to help them better bridge the chasm. At first, I really didn’t understand their vision, but now I see their logic… I’ve included some simple thoughts and a few basics below. I hope this makes you think about your own business or farm operation.

I Called the Wrong Shot Initially with Corona: When we first started to learn about the coronavirus shutdowns we had a family meeting and it was my suggestion to put the AgSwag business on the back-burner. Let me further explain the business model so you can better understand my logic. Just remember my move was wrong in regard to industry reaction with Coronavirus in play.  

Why We Chose this Industry? 
I had a friend who was the CEO of Payless lumber yards, who later became the CEO of a company in Kansas City called “American Identity.” Soon after becoming CEO at American Identity, he sold the company for several billion to Staples in 2007. American Identity was one of the largest distributors of corporate branded merchandise i.e. “swag.” I should note, many of their largest clients were in the agriculture space. I realize selling hats, sweatshirts, and custom Carhartt’s might not be very sexy, but it’s a huge market with massive potential, especially if you can provide unequaled customer service as well as some help with creativity. I knew we had the contacts in the ag space to get in the door and I knew we could provide the “service,” so the only thing I was really uncertain about was the “creativity.” That’s when I turned my focus to hiring and starting my own graphic design and marketing team. Now, we’ve added the “creativity” and are now able to help businesses and farm families create cool new logos and graphics for their businesses, swag, or special events.  

Who are some of our current clients? 
In our first few months, we are already working with teams inside Cargill, CGB, Crop Risk Services, Benson Hill, Lathrop GPM, and many more including several family-owned farms and livestock operations. 

Why the name AgSwag? 
For you old folks like myself, the kids like to call all of the hats, shirts, or gear you might give workers on the farm or inside your company “Swag.” Swag also includes corporate gifts or gear you might give potential clients or customers. As a family and a company we wanted to exclusively focus our attention on helping farmers, ranchers, and agricultural businesses, hence the name “Ag” + “Swag” = AgSwag.

Where I called the wrong shot with the onset of Corona is that I didn’t think business owners or CEO’s would be thinking about buying gear, or as the kids would say “swag,” for their employees and/or gifts for their clients. Wow… was I wrong!

Instead, swag orders are continuing to flow in from both new and existing accounts. Last week alone we had orders for polos, 1/4 zips, hats, button-up shirts, knife sets, and new logo designs for companies that are pivoting. Below are some things we’ve learned and seen happening from several of the best and brightest inside the ag industry. I hope this helps provide you with some strategy and insight you can implement yourself.

All of a Sudden the Right Online Attire Can Pay Big Dividends: Some CEOs are saying with more employees working from remote locations they want them to still feel apart of the team, so they’re sending them sweatshirts, hats, t-shirts, socks, journals, etc including the company logo. Most all of them are starting to have a Zoom meeting with the entire team wearing the company hat or shirt. I would have never guessed, but I suspect it does add a little more “team” feel even though nobody is together. Another thing to keep in mind is people with their company logo on the bigger calls  I’ve been on are getting a lot of free publicity as they talk in these virtual meetings. I’m hearing a lot of, “Hey, I see you’re with *so and so company.* What do you think about this and what are you seeing on your front?” In addition, Millennials are posting these video conferences on social media like wildfire. It seems like having your employees in the right online attire can now go a lot further than you may think.  

Gifting is Gaining Huge Response: 
We are also having business owners and CEO’s send out cool gifts and swag to their best clients. They’re saying with people just sitting at home and everything slowed down the “gift” is being viewed as something really special. Normally, everybody is racing around, and while appreciative of the gift, during this period of time it’s landing with even greater significance. 

Leveraging Incentives: Since we aren’t interacting with each other as much due to working from home, some CEO’s are telling us it’s harder to motivate and incentivize employees. Some who have called in are now creating “company dollars” to incentivize employees and sales staff to meet certain goals. For example, consecutively showing up to video conferences on time, boosting social media engagement, sharing new ideas, etc. Basically things that can help improve the overall business, but might not have direct identifiable monetary gains. So, giving out these “company dollars” allowing employees to purchase really cool company swag or gifts is a win-win!
Farmer Campaigns: 
Being deemed as an “essential business” keeps the farmers rolling. We’ve seen many trends floating around social media lately thanking health care workers for their services, but one thing we’ve noticed is there aren’t many out there thanking the farmer for producing the food to feed everyone. One thing many businesses can do right now is to take the time to send all their clients who are currently farming a note to tell them thank you along with a gift to show their appreciation. With commodity prices being so low right now, this is a tough time for everyone out there including our farmers who are working hard every day. We remind our team daily, without their hard work and trust in us… we probably wouldn’t be in business right now. We’re also hearing from family farm owners who are wanting a new logo or more “green” look for their operation. We continue to help more farm families each day design a better and more fresh- looking brand to improve going direct to end-users. We’re also helping with cool ideas and gear to give the farm employees! In addition, we’re also hearing from a few farmers who want to send their landowners a unique gift to say thank you.

Our team at AgSwag will continue to pass along any new ideas and strategies that we see taking place. I know many of you already have relationships where you purchase your “swag.” We understand and respect that relationship. If they happen to drop the ball or you’re looking for a fresh new perspective or idea we’re here to help! While Kansas City is currently shut down and we’re forced to work remotely at the moment. If we can be of any help or guidance please contact our Product Specialist Todd Loechler @ 816-206-2331 or via e-mail In addition, if you’d like more new swag or cool gifting ideas sent directly to your inbox simply Click HERE and we will add you to our list.

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