We sat down with TCC’s CEO Scott Moorehead, along with Culture of Good co-founder Ryan McCarty, to discuss the origins of TCC’s backpack giveaway, and what this annual event means to each of them personally.
Editor’s Note: This transcript has been adapted for a better reading experience.
Tell us the story of how the backpack giveaway came to be.
Ryan: Four years ago, we started the backpack giveaway at TCC. That’s when I brought the backpack idea to you, Scott. I thought this, “Hey, this is something that every employee can do on a local level. We just have to figure out how to scale it in a bigger way.” Because before that, with my own organization, I had only given away 1,000 backpacks. But I remember coming to you and saying, “let’s go for, like, 30,000 backpacks this year.” And do you remember what you said?
Scott: Yeah. Well that’s my M.O. I always make everything bigger somehow. And immediately, I was like, “just double it.” So we went for 60,000 backpacks. And that was a big step for us. And on top of it, you had already been doing the backpack giveaway in Marion, Indiana, for Heavens knows how many years.
R: Almost a decade at that point.
S: But you always had to beg for backpacks. And you got them for free for your giveaway. And then all of sudden, we had to buy them. And I remember thinking to myself, “How’s he going to go buy 60,000 backpacks? I don’t even know how to do that.”
R: And I didn’t know how to do that either. I started getting in touch with every backpack manufacturer that I could get in touch with. And I hit every major roadblock along the way. I think I searched on Google “pre-stuffed backpacks”. We found this company that was able to do it, and I felt like I won the lottery.
S: We looked at all the local communities; what was easy, and how we could make an impact. And just all the pieces and parts fell into place. There wasn’t a lot of science behind it. We didn’t consult, you know, outside vendors on what we should do, and have an entire process. And it just worked because it was hyper-local, and it was community-based —
R: Yeah, we were able to meet the need locally.
S: And we were able to carry it really easy.
Why is the backpack giveaway so important to TCC?
S: I’ve been at all the backpack giveaways. And I’ve seen the smiles, I’ve seen the tears, I’ve seen the hugs. And I’ve seen the appreciation, not in just the children getting the backpack, but the parents, and the guardians, and the employees, and everybody involved. It’s become fun. And we’ve always wanted it to be fun.
R: Yeah, something to look forward to every year.
S: Yeah, it meets our mission of trying to be the biggest small company on the planet. It’s something that a small company would do - support their local community.
R: It continues to be something that I think has a relevance because the employees say it does. It becomes something the employees look forward to every year. Of course, they look at our other efforts that we do in our community. But people say, “you’ve just lucked out if you’re working at TCC when the backpack giveaway is happening.” And when we have new hires come into the company, they say, “wait till July, because the backpack giveaway is just going to blow your mind.”
S: It’s one of those moments in time that moves the Culture of Good and the Virtuous Circle of Success from people’s brains to their hearts. And once it’s down in here, it’s all good, man. And the cool part, is we’ve finally had somebody else notice, outside of us, how cool the giveaway was. We’ve now had somebody else pick up where we started, and they’re doing their own backpack giveaway. So not only are we going to give away 135,000 backpacks, but there is another company, that is our peer—doing the same thing we do—that’s going to give away another 100,000 backpacks.
R: That’s 235,000 smiles, you know?
S: Way more than 235,000 smiles.
What do you hope people take away from the backpack giveaway?
R: When I think about someone coming to the backpack giveaway - whether they’re an employee, a customer, someone in the community - I want them to feel and have a sense that TCC isn’t just another organization, it’s an organism. It’s alive, it’s breathing, it’s human. We have people that care in every store and wherever we do business. We’re there to also do good, you know. People really do care in business. It’s not something that’s just a side program we’ve kind of tacked onto our business to say, “oh we also do good.” This is just ingrained in who we are.
Those are the moments that we’re talking about. That moment when you hand the backpack to that child.
And that kid - that’s the one I ultimately want to feel something.
The employees, of course, are going to feel something, the parents are going to feel it. But that kid that puts on a brand new backpack knows that they were worth something that day, and they’re valued, and that we’re believing that they’re going to have a great school year.
Those are the kinds of emotions and feelings that we’re trying to evoke in people. We’re more than just another store in their community.
S: Yeah, it’s an emotional transaction when you come to [the backpack giveaway. You’ll see] what we embody as our mission. It’s not by any means our greatest sales day. But [the backpack recipients] understand that without them, none of this happens. It’s the customers that have a piece of the circle that connects the everything.
This is not an event that means that we’re charging them anymore, or we’re asking them to do anything else than to come in and get great service. If they can understand that, just by supporting this company that chooses to do great things, more great things will happen. And by doing that, then the community gets to clearly see [the good we do], because nobody is asked to buy anything.
The only thing that those kids are asked to do is go rock school out. Seriously.
[This message is] visible. You see it. It’s clear as day. And that’s important for us, because that’s who we are.
Here’s a more in-depth blog article about this year’s backpack giveaway, which includes the date, time, and locations of the event. And as Ryan and Scott mentioned, the back to school event is not the only COG event on the TCC calendar. Read more about the Culture of Good and how you can get involved, and watch all three videos of the interview with Ryan and Scott.