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Meet the Atlanta founder with the most “swag” in town

by Maija Ehlinger

John Howard has the goods to back up the superlative of being the founder with the ‘most swagger’ in the Metro Atlanta area. 

He started Slingshot after years as a designer and after building up the creative software development firm Black Airplane. Company swag bags were a necessary part of life for his growing business and a good way to connect with current and potential customers. But managing swag orders was an exhausting additional task for him and his team. 

Slingshot looks to change the narrative around company swag by managing the entire process from creation to shipping. That is important for startups and large firms alike who are looking to get their logo out into the world and better connect with customers. 

Slingshot manages the design, manufacturing, vendor relationships, storage, shipping, and customer service surrounding swag. The team works closely with companies to ideate and create the best swag options with the goal of taking care of the logistics and behind-the-scenes work after that. The team often works with local vendors to bring a new swag order to life. 

Early users of Slingshot include New Story Charity, an organization tackling global homelessness.  Now the swag startup has signed an impressive list of customers — including household names like Adobe — and shipped to 88 countries last year, according to Howard. 

 

What makes good swag these days? 

Sure, we all have a collection of t-shirts, koozies, or pens picked up at various tech conferences over the years. But quality swag, Howard explained to Hypepotamus, can be a differentiator for customer experience or retention efforts. 

Even in a remote or hybrid world, there are a lot of reasons for business owners to love swag. “[Companies] enjoy the idea of giving away swag to someone. They love the smile it puts on their faces and the brand recognition it brings. But you are competing with someone’s closet space,” Howard said. “What makes good swag really gets into the artistry of it…you don’t want to add another piece of trash to their closet or cabinet or drawers. Give them something that they actually want to wear or have.” 

It isn’t about turning people into a billboard for the company, Howard added. Rather, it is all about presenting the ethos of your company to a wider audience. 

The Slingshot team

While t-shirts and laptop stickers are still popular items, Howard said Slingshot has helped companies bring some pretty innovative swag items to life recently, including custom cereal boxes, influencer boxes, and hoodies that have become staple wardrobe items for clients. 

They even helped the software giant Adobe go viral on Twitter with a recent swag campaign. 

Beyond just creating handout swag options, Slingshot also manages the logistics around shipping items should that be a better touchpoint for companies. 

The team, based out of Acworth, Georgia, includes four full-time employees and several contractors. The company is bootstrapped to date and fully embraces the “lean startup mentality,” Howard said.

“We’re a B2B2C company, which is great because Atlanta is a big B2B town. But the cool thing about Atlanta to me is that even though it’s heavily b2b, everything [here] needs to be a little cooler, a little further away from corporate America. And I think Atlanta is a melting pot of all these cool people coming together. It’s a great place to build something like Slingshot specifically.”

 

 

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