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The ‘lofty ambitions’ of the Scottish firm that wooed the world’s new giants

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Name:
Conor McKenna

What is your business called?
Go Swag

Where is it based?
Glasgow and serving businesses around the world 

What does it produce/do?
We create branded gifts for clients’ needs, be that employee gifts, event packs, or client gifting. We do so while managing all individual ordering, storage, and logistics wherever a company is operating around the world. All of this is rooted in cutting-edge technology and industry leading customer service. The key to it is creating seamless, consistent, inclusive experiences for employees – particularly during the onboarding process – that help organisations improve their productivity, services, and cultures.  

To whom does it sell?
We sell mainly to medium and large enterprise businesses with global workforces including Spotify, HelloFresh, Amazon, Burberry, and many more.    

How many employees

23 and counting. 

Why did you take the plunge?

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, so leaving my stable job to start a business felt inevitable. The decision wasn’t easy, especially since I had just achieved a personal milestone by buying a flat the previous Friday. By Monday, I had resigned from my reliable job, stepping into the unknown – a move that was as exhilarating as it was terrifying. However, the signs were clear: Go Swag was pioneering, light-years ahead of anything in the industry. There was a palpable need for change, and we were poised with the solution.

What were you doing before?

My co-founder Ben Greenock and I both worked in tech roles prior to founding Go Swag. Ben had a couple of side projects – including a successful Dragon’s Den pitch for a dating app from Moonpig.com entrepreneur Nick Jenkins in 2015 – but we were mainly working in senior design and research design roles prior to launching Go Swag.

What do you least enjoy?

That’s a tough question. Given we’ve grown so quickly recently and now have an internal finance team, I’ll admit that dealing with all of the finance of the business previously was definitely not something I enjoyed! I have a very keen interest in business finance in general, but the day-to-day was taking up too much of my time so I’m delighted to have Harry and the team to deal with this for us now.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

We have lofty ambitions and aren’t ashamed to admit it. We’re reinventing this category with our innovative software, best-in-class product offering and levels of service. We already work with many of the biggest brands in the world and our momentum is only increasing. Our goal is to become the global leader in this industry – which will soon be worth more than £110 billion.  

Some entrepreneurs talk about evolution rather than revolution – but our ambitions are very much in the latter. We’re out to have a transformative impact on the industry, and our clients, and it’s already started. 

What single thing would most help?

Put simply, capital. Money is essential for business growth — there’s no way around it; more capital typically fuels faster expansion. At Go Swag, from our bootstrapped beginnings we’ve meticulously developed robust, scalable unit economics to support sustainable, high growth. Now, injecting capital is like pouring fuel on an already raging fire.

What was your best moment?

When building a new business, one question that always plays on your mind is ‘how far is our reach’? I always fondly remember the first time we received an enquiry from somebody who told us that we’d been recommended to them by a friend, but it turned out that we didn’t even know that friend.

This was a breakthrough moment for us – it truly felt that we were starting to reach new heights when we’re part of a conversation between people we don’t even have connections with. It might seem small, but that moment was truly exciting!

What was your worst moment?

There have been plenty of learnings in the past few years building Go Swag. However, there was a particular occasion when we realised there had been a miscalculation (or perhaps we were mis-informed!) regarding delivery prices to a large number of employees who were receiving welcome packs. We were faced with a choice of deflecting the situation to the client and allowing them to deal with it, or taking matters into our own hands, taking a fair risk, and resolving it ourselves at our own expense. We went with our instincts and stuck to our business morals, resolved the issue, and the client was delighted. All ended well, but hearing that news initially was a very stressful day.

How do you relax?

I do feel it’s important to find balance, so I always enjoy taking time away when I can. I recently got married, so I’m certainly more relaxed now that the wedding planning is done! Besides work, I cherish spending time with my wife and our Labrador, as well as visiting my family. In my spare time I love to golf with colleagues and friends and taking the bike out for a few hours really helps.

 

 

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