Sam Swartz, co-founder of Minnesota-based men’s grooming Duke Cannon Supply Company, talks about his company’s efforts to deal with lost sales, support first responders and not sound tone-deaf during the COVID19 crisis.
About Duke Cannon
Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Duke Cannon Supply Company makes a variety of high-quality grooming products for men, including THICK Liquid Shower Soap, big-ass bar soap and Bloody Knuckles hand repair balm.
In their own words:
Duke Cannon’s purpose is simple: to make superior-quality grooming goods that meet the high standards of hard-working men. Our products are tested by soldiers, not boy bands. And they’re made in a little place we like to call the United States of America.
Duke Cannon’s products are inspired by military heritage, and the company partners with active duty military who are stationed at Camp Ripley.
Co-founder Sam Swartz was kind to take time out of his day to explain how Duke Cannon is coping with the COVID19 crisis.
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Use code MODERNFELLOWS to receive 10% off at Duke Cannon. The company is also offering free shipping with a $20 spend.
It’s a big hit, but we will get through this.
Sam began by observing that, “in short, this will be a big hit to our business, but we’re still grateful to be operating, and we will get through this.”
Duke Cannon Supply Co. sells its products through a number of independent and specialty retailers, many of whom have been ordered closed.
Without those retail sales, Sam said his business will experience a significant volume dip in Q2 against what they had projected prior to the crisis.
Shifting resources and messaging
In response, Duke Cannon has shifted more resources to focus on channels like its website and to its food and drug customers who remain open.
Sam said that,
Our hope is that the volume from those channels will help us remain in a decent position until business returns to normal.
Sam also notes that, “from a messaging standpoint, it’s been anything but business as usual.”
The company revamped all of its paid and social messaging to ensure that they don’t appear insensitive or tone deaf.
“Sure, we sell products like soap, but we don’t want to over-sell it or appear to be profiteering from an awful situation,” Sam told me.
Download these WWII-inspired COVID19 PSAs now.
If anything, he noted, the company is “selling” less, and is trying to offer positive and relevant content instead.
The best examples of this strategy are the fantastic PSA posters that grace Duke Cannon’s homepage, and which are available to download via a dedicated landing page.
Inspired by WWII-era proagranda posters, the posters don’t sell product; instead they celebrate good habits and heroic people with slogans like “flatten the curve, stay at home,” “buy take out,” and “truckers keep America trucking.”
Supporting first responders
Like a number of other good citizens, Duke Cannon is helping to support those on the front lines of this crisis.
(For other examples of companies stepping up, see how Ministry of Supply is making 3D-printed facemasks for Boston Medical Center in their hometown, and explore how innovative brands are coming together to give back to their communities.)
Sam told me that, “working with one of our manufacturing partners, Duke Cannon was able to purchase 10,000 units of hand sanitizer.”
Half of those are going directly to the postal carriers of the U.S. Postal Service in our hometown of Minneapolis, a direct response to an urgent request by the postmaster there.
Read more about the U.S. Postal Service’s plight amid COVID19.
Another batch will be sent to firefighters with the FDNY and Detroit Fire Department.
And Sam is enclosing another 1,000 units free with Duke Cannon’s consumer orders.
The company is placing a note in each of those packages asking the recipient to put the sanitizer in their mail boxes for their postal carrier if they don’t have an immediate for it.
Duke Cannon is also working to send soap and Bloody Knuckles Hand Repair Balm to nurses, doctors, first responders, truckers, and others on the front lines.
(I feel like I buried the lede here, because this is an important and innovative way to help.)
Support small and independent businesses like Duke Cannon Supply Company
You can purchase Duke Cannon products via its website, which remains open, along with its warehouse in Michigan, which has been deemed essential due to the many businesses that warehouse supports.
Duke Cannon’s products are also available at Amazon.com.
Sam notes that, when you buy from Duke Cannon products, you’re supporting small business, but you’re also supporting those in need.
Every year, the company donates 5% of net profits to causes that benefit veterans and active duty military.
This quarter, they have shifted their focus to support those on the front lines of the coronavirus epidemic, working with charities including Operation Gratitude.
If you’ve never tried the brand, Sam suggests starting with these bestsellers:
For more ideas to support small and independent businesses during this crisis, try shopping these Work from Home sales, explore more than 60 innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age, or check out some of my favorite companies.
You can also check out a range of innovative brands who are producing non-medical face masks for personal use.
Photo credits: All photos courtesy Duke Cannon Supply Company.
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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