When Springfield lifestyle brand SGFCO LLC’s co-founders Jesse Tyler and Jacob Scowden decided to collaborate with a local company to make a candle, they landed on a frozen treat.
“Pineapple Whip was the obvious choice,” Tyler says. “It feels on-brand.”
As it turns out, they made the right choice. The candle sold out on the first day – March 27 – and sales show no signs of slowing down as production continues. The way the partnership between the two businesses began characterizes the heartbeat behind the SGFCO brand: connection and community in Springfield. Pineapple Whip co-owner Zach Fortner says he first met Tyler at a Convoy of Hope volunteer night.
“Like everyone in Springfield normally does,” Fortner says, “we kept bumping into each other.”
Tyler first mentioned the idea to Fortner about six months ago. After some trial and error to decide on the scent that best matched the frozen pineapple delight, the product made its debut. Word spread quickly, as Fortner says some Pineapple Whip staff members already had their hands on the product before he even got a chance to tell them about it.
The collaboration brought in another Springfield organization: Ozark Greenways Inc. A portion of every candle sale is donated to the nonprofit dedicated to creating a network of local trails for recreation.
Why not Springfield?
Scowden says he was getting his hair cut at Hudson Hawk Barber & Shop in 2016 when the idea for SGFCO first came about. He noticed the business was selling Kansas City hats that simply said “KC.”
“I thought, ‘Why are people in Springfield wearing a hat that says ‘KC’?” he recalls.
Scowden and Tyler set out to change that. They officially launched SGFCO in 2018 with one hat and two T-shirts. Their endearing tagline of choice: “This place is as good as any.”
Tyler says the tagline captures the spirit of the company. The pair didn’t want to simply sell merchandise to tourists or idealize Springfield. SGFCO is by Springfield residents, for Springfield residents, he says.
“It’s just a nice place to live,” Tyler says.
Scowden says getting the company’s message out in a clear way has been one of the challenges in running SGFCO. Many people associate the brand with similar local companies, but SGFCO’s down-to-earth message is distinct – more of a “tongue-in-cheek joke,” he says.
The co-owners work at a branding studio called All True started by Tyler in 2017, so branding is not a foreign concept to either of them. Tyler says their roles with SGFCO give them the flexibility they need to be able to work on their side hustle.
Tyler and Scowden’s background in the branding business means taking on the goal of branding Springfield comes naturally. They hope to collaborate with more local brands, citing popular cashew chicken restaurants or the iconic miniature golf course, Fun Acre, as ideas. Scowden says they essentially want to offer design and marketing to local companies that might not seek to create merchandise on their own.
More than apparel
SGFCO’s merchandise lineup includes hats, T-shirts, keychains and photo books. Declining to disclose annual revenues, Tyler says it’s difficult to track which of these have been the most successful, as the products are typically made in small batches that are gone for good after they sell out.
The products, however, are just the means to an end. They say the business is more about cultivating community in Springfield than selling merchandise.
As far as making money goes, Tyler says, “We don’t really ask much of SGFCO.”
The goal, then, is to further connect the Springfield community. One recent example is selling Springfield Cardinals tickets at cost on the SGFCO website. Tyler says the idea is simply to gather members of the brand’s audience for a fun hangout.
Scowden says similar ideas include creating a building for creatives to work together in, a downtown music festival and, of course, an SGFCO storefront. Whatever they decide to do next, they hope to help others feel the same sense of community they have found in Springfield.
“This is not just clothing,” Scowden says. “This is a feeling.”