Creating Community with SGFCO

SGFCO’s Gen Z and Millennial-geared outings give young 417-landers a community and sense of belonging. But can they keep young talent from leaving Springfield for greener pastures?

By Colin Shea Denniston

Jan 2023

Owners Jacob and Jesse
Photo by Leah StiefermannJacob Scowden and Jesse Tyler, co-owners of SGFCO share how they work to provide a community for young 417-landers. Purchase Photo

Springfield’s retention challenges are nothing new. And while it’s widely acknowledged among many city and business leaders, there doesn’t seem to be an agreed solution for how best to address it. So, with a relatively low cost of living, proximity to nature, and a booming job market, why haven’t we solved the Rubik’s Cube puzzle that is Springfield’s retention issue? 

If you ask Jacob Scowden and Jesse Tyler, co-owners of the local lifestyle company SGFCO, they’d say the solution to the problem starts at a micro level rather than a macro one. “What we say works for retention is people feeling seen, known [and] having a community,” Tyler says. “I think companies kind of make a mistake of assuming that people care about their mission, or their company at large, and then try to rally everybody around that.” Tyler suggests business leaders spend more time making sure their young employees feel recognized and valued on an individual level rather than, as he says, “‘Look how purposeful and awesome our company is.’”

And for their part, Tyler and Scowden are using SGFCO’s popularity and platform to build a sense of community and belonging for 20- and 30-something 417-landers. “The brand started with this idea of celebrating the parts of Springfield that we loved and felt empowered by,” says Tyler. But as time went on and the brand grew, it felt disingenuous to the duo if they weren’t actively supporting community building and inviting others into the circle. 

“We started doing these outings that were free or low-cost,” Tyler says. “We needed to have physical expression saying, ‘This is why we’re here; this is what we love about the place.’” Those activities include outings to Springfield Cardinals games, an ice cream social cycling club, movie nights at The Moxie and their fast-growing kickball games. 

“We created two fictional Springfield teams,” Scowden says. “The Springfield Cobras based off the [1953] cobra scare and then the Route Sixty-Sixers.” And while the jerseys can be purchased through SGFCO, whoever shows up to a kickball event is given a jersey—and a team—for the night. “If a stranger comes, the last thing we want is for them to feel like they’re watching a group of friends have fun without them,” Tyler says. “For that night they’re like, ‘these are my friends too,’ because we are.”