Eric Salzwedel is a graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services & Leadership. Throughout college he sold Cutco, was a 2x Branch Manager, and became a District Manager after graduating. Eric’s passion for giving to others dates back to his childhood days and played a major role in his time with Cutco/Vector, where he was honored with the prestigious Marty Domitrovich Triple Crown of Service Award. He stepped away from Vector to pursue his desire to work in the non-profit sector. His passion for helping others and giving back is evident from his charity events and volunteer work on a local, state, national, and international level. He is now the owner of Intentional Purpose Consulting, which works with companies, organizations, and individuals on their charitable giving and community outreach.
Q&A WITH ERIC SALZWEDEL
Q: I know your engagement in community service predates your time with Cutco. Tell us about that.
- It goes back way to grade school. I remember doing Jump Rope for a Heart, which raised money for the American Heart Association. I was giving that donation envelope to my parents to take to work and get the money.
- I went from that to helping support a nursing home across the street from my school. I got a chance and experience to working with the elderly population which was amazing.
- It was truly in my senior year at high school when I saw a poster about volunteering for a camp for those with muscular dystrophy. I didn’t know what it was and had never dealt with anyone in a wheelchair before. I was the only one in my school to sign up and volunteer at this MDA campaign. It literally changed my life and perspective on so many things.
Q: Tell us a little bit about that. What you did and how it changed your perspective?
- Going to this camp was literally the best week of the year. I was paired with a child who had muscular dystrophy and did everything with them. From playing games, playing sports, computer games, feeding, everything.
- I needed to make sure they had the best time of their life that week. I remember the last day of the camp, the kids were being picked by their parents. I was called to give a hug to Bella. She wanted a hug from me before I left. Giving that hug really shifted my paradigm and the impact I’d made with the kids.
- That again impacted my life and I realized I truly was making a difference.
Q: This was shortly before you started with Cutco?
- Yes, then after my first semester at college, I actually received a letter in the mail to work with Cutco.
Q: You went in and met Kevin Hanna. Tell us about that.
- I met the godfather.
- When I got the letter, I decided to call, set up an interview and I drove over to Madison.
- I got interviewed by Kevin Hanna and offered the opportunity to work for Cutco.
- It was an absolutely amazing experience.
Q: What lessons stand out from your experiences selling Cutco?
- The importance of goal-setting and planning.
- Being a better person in all areas of life.
- My wife and I, over the years, have gotten away to think about the next year to plan how we’re going to grow in different areas of our lives. Spiritually, financially, in relationships. What we do professionally. That all started with Cutco and learning some of the things that have impacted me ever since.
- Part of that too is the importance of relationships. Personal, professional.
- How you treat people, how you talk to others, inspire and make an impact in someone’s life.
- Knowing what you say or do is going to stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Q: How did this spirit of philanthropy and community service play a role in your Cutco business?
- I remember when I was an Assistant Manager, my manager Chris Nicoud and other Assistant Managers, we sat down and listed out our goals. We wrote down all of the goals we wanted to accomplish in life.
- I remember after we did that, we sat back and wrote the top 3 things we wanted to accomplish next year. The first one for me was getting in shape. The second thing was to volunteer in another country. The third goal was to start my own fundraiser.
- I ended up starting a fundraiser that spring to raise money for kids with muscular dystrophy because I knew I was going to be a Branch Manager.
- At that time, I was also a Big Brother for Big Brothers, Big Sisters in college and they had a fundraiser for bowling. I was a big bowler. I started my own bowler fund, dragged 20 of my college friends and told them, “you’ve to pay $20 each. We raised $932.
- Flash forward to 12 years later, this event is still put on and has raised over $150,000 for kids with muscular dystrophy.
- That spring break, while my friends were going out to party and have fun, I was the only one from the state of Wisconsin to sign up to volunteer in Guatemala.
- I also remember Cutco launching the red shears to help benefit and support the American Heart Association. I ended up being one of the top sellers. I started getting in this philanthropic mindset.
Q: Tell us more about how philanthropy has been a part of your business.
- As a branch, I dabbled in collecting canned food for the local food pantry
- As a DM, I had a giving wall.
- Before moving to my district territory, I sat down and wrote about how do I make this community I’m going to better because I’m here, because there’s going to be a Cutco office here?
- During training, I remember I’d ask my reps to bring food and clothing to donate if they could.
Q: You were also part of the Angel Wings project in Haiti?
- I had a chance to go down there three times.
- That was incredible including in 2017 when we had the grand opening.
Q: So you ultimately left Vector to pursue an opportunity in the non-profit sector?
- I felt in my heart my passion was in the non-profit sector. Being in the frontlines of helping people in need. I started working with adults that had mental disabilities.
- Because of my past experience, particularly in Cutco, I became the Marketing Director for a very small non-profit in the Madison, Wisconsin area. It helped first responders to comfort children in crisis.
Q: How do you feel being in a field that’s based on giving has affected your world view?
- I’ve put myself in a position which would be uncomfortable for most.
- It’s so important when we do change our view of the world, it changes our perspective.
- It’s changed my personality and my character.
- Ultimately, I’ve always said I want this world to be a better place because I’m here.
- Everyday, what can I do to make it better?
- There’s no better feeling than to give to those in need.
Q: In 2019, you founded Do Good Wisconsin. Can you tell us a little bit about this?
- I started Do Good Wisconsin because what I do, 9 or 10 other people could do.
- But also, at the same time, I know 9 out of 10 stories on the news are actually good news, feel good news.
Q: How did you support your community during the pandemic?
- When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I thought man! I think this is an opportunity to do something good.
- A good friend of mine donated his skillset in woodworking and built a beautiful and big pantry for our new house.
- We then created a free food pantry and let the community know about it through social media outlets. It was just a phenomenal response that we got.
- We purchased a handful of food initially and then told people if they wanted to donate, they’d do it on our porch. We’d then bring it in, sanitize it, check the expiry dates and make sure it isn’t opened.
- From March 23rd to the end of last year, we had over 7,000 lbs of food come through our pantry. We’re a community of less than 4,000 people. So it’s kind of amazing.
- And then there was the Venmo Challenge. I was on Linkedin and saw a gentleman in Milwaukee that was doing something called the Venmo Challenge. The idea was simple. I’m going to eat out and want to give a large tip to servers.
- I decided to put in up on my social media, so people could donate through Venmo. Long story short, we did it 39 times in 5 months. We tipped a total of $13,000 to servers.
Q: What could you suggest how people can adopt more of this spirit of generosity in their lives?
- If you want your seratonin to go up (that happy drug), help others, give back.
- Go give to someone who’s in need. Not only will it impact your life, their life, but also other people who happen to be watching.
Q: Your new business is called Intentional Purpose Consulting. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
- I’ve experienced working with a lot of businesses. What I’ve being doing is asking businesses to give back. I realized there is a kind of need there to some extent.
- I started Intentional Purpose Consulting to work with businesses, organizations and individuals. To help them with their charitable efforts and community outreach.
Q: As you look into your own future, what are you most excited about?
- I’m excited to see my son continue to grow.
- I’m excited to see my wife’s business grow.
- I’m excited to see more people give back and help others in their communities.
- I’m excited to see people do their own Venmo Challenges in their communities.
- I’m excited to see more good happen in communities than bad.
- I’m excited to work with businesses and individuals with their charitable giving.
- I’m also excited a little bit to come out of retirement from Cutco.
- What a great human being this guy is right here!
- Being part of an MDA camp supporting kids with muscular dystrophy, Eric said, built a passion in his life.
- I just want everyone listening to think about how you can do something that puts you in a position to feel that feeling of contributing to others at a deep level where you really connect.
- Maybe it’s community service trip you might take or being actively involved with a certain non-profit.
- I love the 5 ways of giving your money, donations, time, things you have, skills you can teach others and share with others or just being an advocate for causes, spreading the word.
- I loved the idea of making philanthropy a part of your business and the ways Eric did that through fundraisers, people on his team and having a giving wall in his office.
Show Notes for this episode provided by Brian Njenga.
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