HR & Culture
 min read

Podcast Feature: How Swagup Is Refreshing Swag 😎

Podcast Feature: How Swagup Is Refreshing Swag 😎
April 29, 2020

In this article

Tune into this episode to hear SwagUp CMO Helen Rankin chat with Tim Stodz on his weekly podcast, TimStodz FM. Tim and Helen got to talking through D-Rock, Gary Vaynerchuk’s videographer. Join us as we go behind the scenes about the power of grit and hustle, a belief in no excuses, and how all that came together to scale a fresh idea in a stale industry. If you’re interested in the future of swag and achieving high-powered growth, this episode’s for you. Let’s go #tothemoon!

💡 the big ideas:

  • Why a scrappy upbringing is a competitive advantage and the power of mindset
  • How taking a customer-centric approach is key to growing rapidly
  • Our mission to be the go to brand in an industry every business deals with
  • Why we won’t work with vendors or companies that don’t care about the end product
  • How investing in a swag system saves you time, miscommunication, and money

Tim Stodz is an entrepreneur focused on showing people how to build online businesses, personal brands, and different streams of income. His message? Invest in yourself. Each week he discusses on his podcast TimStodz FM new ideas and tactics to help you succeed in business, relationships and life.

🎁 extras:

🚀 get started:

Keep reading for a sneak preview of everything discussed in this podcast episode!

From humble origins, a belief in no excuses

SwagUp Chief Marketing Officer Helen Rankin learned the value of grit and hustle from a young age. She was raised by a single mother from Mexico who barely spoke any English coming into the country — but Mama Rankin didn’t let that be an excuse to raising her family.

“My mom was a very positive force and a very positive female person in my life. As I’ve grown up as an adult, I just go back to those experiences,” Helen says, “And I, still to this day, don’t know how she did it. [...] There were times we didn’t have money for food. We didn’t have money to heat the house. And we lived in Philadelphia at the time. [...] Every summer, we would chop wood so that we would have enough wood to actually put in the fireplace and heat the whole house.”

With her mother as a role-model, Helen developed a mindset for resilience in the face of adversity. “Just seeing my mom raising her kids and doing it alone, it literally gives me zero excuses in life. And I always go back to that because I’ve seen her struggle. I’ve seen people be really rude to her because she doesn’t speak English. And she did everything on her own.”

“Anything that happens now I’m like, well, I speak English. I’m healthy. I have a good support system,” says Helen, “I have zero excuses.” 

“If you’re healthy and you’re willing, you can do it. You can create a different future for yourself. It’s all in your mindset.”

The SwagUp difference: simplicity, trust, thoughtfulness

Today, Helen brings that mindset to SwagUp’s mission of revolutionizing an archaic business model in the overlooked industry of swag. At SwagUp, our team believes in a set of core principles set forth by our founders, one of which immediately caught podcast host Tim Stodz’s eye: simplicity. 

“As a web marketer, I love your website,” Tim says, “So subtle and so simple.” SwagUp’s emphasis on simplicity goes far beyond the homepage and into the actual swag selection process itself. “We have a curated catalog that’s just high-end quality stuff. Our site doesn’t have thousands of stuff that’s going to break. That’s not what we stand for,” Helen says. For anyone who’s ever wanted to send gift boxes to clients, employees, customers (or even students!), this simplicity is a much needed breath of fresh air. But SwagUp doesn’t just solve the question of what swag — it also solves the question of how.

This was a pain point SwagUp discovered from a fanatic belief in a customer-centric approach. “[When companies] go down to actually execute it, it’s like, where am I going to store all this stuff? How am I going to ship it? How am I going to get people’s addresses? Who is going to assemble it?” Helen says, “So we’ve solved for all of those pain points that come with creating swag into a campaign. We not only help you pick out those items [but] then we’ll help you with all of it from the design, from creating it into an actual experience and taking care of everything that requires to make that experience happen.”

“We’re your chief swag officer for your company. We take care of everything from curating it to taking care of all the headaches,” Helen says. “So we handle all of the logistics and kind of make it as easy as possible in our platform. And we allow for multiple teams to actually collaborate on swag projects, and that helps bring the cost down. A lot of companies don’t realize that by having marketing order swag from one company, HR order swag from another company, and some office manager orders it from another company, you end up having a couple problems: one, in cost, because you’re paying setups multiple times for each one, but aside from that, time and brand consistency.”

“I’ve seen so many companies that buy swag and they’re like, “Well, we don’t use it because it doesn’t match the logo in our office. The company doesn’t want to refund us.” And that's such a shitty experience. Why not have one platform that everyone in your company can use? You can warehouse everything. Multiple teams can pull inventory. You know what you have. It’s not in some storage office. And now, with everyone working from home, people are trying to store it in their homes and they’re like, “Our kids are getting into this. I can’t have all of our swag materials in my house. It’s just not ideal.”

“I’ve seen so many companies that buy swag and they’re like, “Well, we don’t use it because it doesn’t match the logo in our office. The company doesn’t want to refund us.” And that's such a shitty experience. Why not have one platform that everyone in your company can use?”

- Helen Rankin, SwagUp CMO

SwagUp is simple by design. Keeping things simple in an overcrowded industry was an easy and obvious choice to make. Where we take things to the next level is by accepting nothing less than quality. But as Tim says, “That’s what really sucks when you order swag. It never actually comes in perfectly.” So how do we do it? 

“Hire people that are thoughtful just off the bat,” Helen says, “Anyone that’s buying swag I feel comes from a very caring personality. It’s a thoughtful way to do anything. It’s a thoughtful way to do marketing. It’s a thoughtful way to do sales. It’s a thoughtful way to onboard someone. It’s just a thoughtful experience. So everyone we have on our team comes from that mindset of really caring about what they do.”

They say you know you’ve made a decision with impact when you run into objections. But for our team, trust has always come before profit and the decision to only deliver the best is one we stand by. “Sometimes we're probably too picky that we've actually had vendors tell us that they don't want to work with us because they said we're unrealistic. And that's fine. Because I don't want to work with companies or vendors that don't care about their end product,” Helen says.

“We understand that our gifting and our swag that we're offering, it's not just swag that you're putting on a conference table and there are thousands of them. You're sending it to one person. And if there's a nick or a scratch or some type of inconsistency, it's going to be louder and more noticeable because it's curated in a gift and it's only going to one person. So we want to make sure that everything kind of lands the right way. If you're investing X amount of money in it, it has to be perfect all the way through. [...] We see so much of it that we're probably more OCD than our clients would be about the swag because we want to make sure they're having a really great experience and that it becomes a viral thing for them.”

Pivoting into a swag management platform for the modern workplace

“We’ve completely pivoted from being an agency,” Helen says. “One of the reasons why I came on board was to make that shift into a technology company. [Since then] the technology has grown and we’re releasing more and more features every week, refining and perfecting. And now we’re starting to integrate with sales platforms and with design platforms and creating partnerships with really big agencies. If you want a really custom-like brand experience, you can do that through our platform. So we’re really thinking outside the box and it’s kind of expanding.”

“One of the reasons why I came on board was to make that shift into a technology company. [...] We're getting to the point where swag is probably the least interesting thing we do.”

-Helen Rankin, SwagUp CMO

The SwagUp mission goes beyond swag to answer questions like, how do we create really great experiences, whether it’s internally or with clients? At this point Helen is incredibly familiar with stories like, “Oh my god, I was building this all by myself,” and “I would have to bribe coworkers to come and stuff 1000 totes,” or “We used to lie to the interns that this is the start of marketing. You have to bear the grind of ordering swag and putting it together.” 

Those days are over. Helen says, “We do that for you, and we don’t charge for assembly. It’s part of working with us. Same with our platform. [W]e don’t charge for a platform either, because we feel like it's a compliment to swag and it’s a tool that’s needed.”

If you haven’t invested in setting up a swag process before, here’s a secret: it’s easier than you think. Swag is the last thing you need to be stressed about - so don’t stress about it! Whether it’s employee care packages, virtual event redeem pages, or company swag shops, SwagUp has your back (connect with a Swag Expert to learn more). To hear more about how Helen and SwagUp have embraced the chaos of growing an impactful business to help you, check out the rest of this podcast at

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