Five Minutes With: Dave Alwan of Echo Valley Meats
In October 2020, Echo Valley Meats, Inc., a Bartonville, Illinois, family-owned meat processing company and butcher shop, announced it was entering the promotional products industry, offering meats, cheeses, snacks and YETI products that clients can brand with their logo and custom messaging—and just in time for the 2020 holiday season. Company founder Dave Alwan, a third-generation farmer and cattleman, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank twice, first in 2013 and again in 2015, when he cut a deal with investor Mark Cuban. Alwan founded the business together with his wife, Dawn, in 1998, and today it includes a retail location, a catering business and a mail-order division, and offers products that include prime rib, steak, sausage, brisket, spiral-sliced ham, mixed nuts, spices and other items.
PPB spoke with Alwan to learn more about the company’s latest venture.
PPB What inspired you and Dawn to begin offering Echo Valley Meats products for use in promotions, including employee recognition, incentives and gifting?
Alwan Actually, Maui Jim inspired me. Peoria [Illinois] is the headquarters of Maui Jim, so I know quite a few people who work there. They are a large supplier of incentive merchandise and [they] told me I should look into those markets. It was a great idea.
PPB Tell us a bit about your background in the meat business.
Alwan I’m a third-generation farmer and cattleman and was raised in our family-owned meat business. We opened our first retail store in 1998. I purchased my first farm at the age of 23 to breed and raise Angus cattle. I also decided to learn from the “best” and traveled to Germany and Denmark for training in the art of making smoked hams and sausages, completing a three-year apprenticeship. With the help of my wife Dawn, we’ve grown Echo Valley from an “old-fashioned” retail meat market into a gourmet, mail-to-order business, offering employee recognition, corporate gifts and incentives.
PPB Can you share with us some of the creative ways that companies have used Echo Valley Meats-branded products in their projects and campaigns?
Alwan Our clients use the products to reward employees, customers and family/friends. A funeral home actually gives our hams to grieving families so they don’t have to cook one or two nights. We are also a key partner of YETI and are the only company who can drop-ship packages of meat, including steaks and filets, in YETI coolers. These gifts really make an impression.
PPB Echo Valley Meats saw a 600-percent increase in online sales after appearing on Shark Tank for the second time. How is the business keeping up with the major growth and demand?
Alwan That’s a great question, especially after the crazy year of 2020. We were fortunate last year to have a product people wanted. With everyone interested in shipping products to people’s homes, our drop-ship business was off the charts. To keep up with demand, we practice a managed growth strategy—I will never over-commit and under-deliver. I believe we are successful because of common sense judgment, hard work and leading by example, giving back to the community and, above all, finding passion and doing something we love.
PPB What’s next in store for Echo Valley Meats in 2021?
Alwan We are looking to grow our sales by working with some key promotional products distributors who understand food gifting. We are also expanding our YETI product line and offering that to more distributors as well. We can laser-engrave company brands on official YETI products as well as ship YETI products with our meats and treats. We are also looking at adding additional fulfillment and warehouse space to enable us to do more custom packaging and drop-shipping. Finally, we are planning to build a new freezer/refrigerator four times the size of what we have now. 2021 will be an exciting year for Echo Valley Meats.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.