This month, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Metzgar, National Sales Manager at Sylvamo. He shared his career trajectory, explained his deep ties to the Hammermill® brand and community, and his support for City of Hope, a nonprofit National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.
About Jeff Metzgar
From Erie, Pennsylvania, Jeff Metzgar has had the Hammermill brand in his life from the start. Metzgar started his career with Hammermill working at the Erie paper mill, and as a junior at Boston College, Metzgar self-manufactured and ultimately filled a sales internship position. His internship quickly snowballed into a lifelong career with explosive growth, taking him from warehouse worker to managing director, and, today, National Sales Manager at Sylvamo.
What led you to your role at Sylvamo?
I actually got my start in the paper mill. I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, where the world headquarters for Hammermill was at the time. I had an uncle that worked in the Hammermill paper mill, and every holiday he would boast about how I'd be lucky to work for this company someday.
Sadly, he passed away almost 20 years ago, but I made a vow to him that I would sell more Hammermill paper than anybody else. That was my promise to him. And I lived up to those expectations, we sold billions of dollars worth of paper over the time.
What has your career trajectory been since getting your start at the paper mill?
I worked a swing shift my first year then worked a graveyard shift my second year. I worked primarily in the warehouse, and then in the finishing room. And it was tough work. But when I was working in the mill, I noticed my friends were starting to get internships in accounting, engineering, etc., but there weren’t any internships for sales & marketing.
So, before my junior year in college, I went to the head of human resources at the time, and I pitched him.
I said, “Hey, you have great internships here, but you don’t have anything for sales & marketing. I'm a business administration major and I’d love to bring that experience here.”
He said, ”I’ll tell you what. We'll create this job, and we’ll give you the first interview. If it works out, we’ll hire you, and you can be an intern.”
I did the whole process, and the National Sales Manager took a liking to me. He said “you have an internship when you come back.”
And you have a lot of personal ties to Hammermill.
When you work in a mill town, things can feel pretty isolated. But we had a great community thanks to the people that worked at the mill. I have a lot of ties to the Hammermill community.
When Earnst and Otto Behrend founded Hammermill Paper Company back in 1898, they were coming from Germany, and they had offices in Krakow, Poland at the time. My grandmother was a waitress of Polish descent, and my grandfather was German. Talk about coming full circle. When I was a kid, my grandmother would tell me stories about Earnst and Otto Behrand, and how they would come in every day for a soup and sandwich, and she said they were great tippers. She passed away at 98, still talking about how she was connected to the founders of Hammermill Paper Company.
I also played basketball back in the day, and we played our high school games at Gannon University—at the Hammermill Center.
Everything seemed to connect to this Hammermill brand. It's been part of the lifeblood of my life and career. It’s formed a strong relationship with the brand.
Who or what has empowered you to succeed throughout your career?
I have been very fortunate. Not only did I have mentors within the company I started with, but I also had Tom Stemberg, the founder of Staples, as a mentor.
Tom was an incredible guy. I think I learned more from Tom Stemberg in business than I did from business school. I always called him the Steve Jobs of the office supply world.
He knew the power of the Hammermill brand. So we did a great job convincing Staples that Hammermill would be a great play for the national brand.
He unfortunately passed away from gastric cancer. That really fostered a strong personal relationship with City of Hope, a nonprofit National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. They’re a leader in cancer treatment and truly offer world-class care.
Speaking of City of Hope, can you tell us a bit about your involvement there?
I love the City of Hope. We chose it as our philanthropic arm of support about 40 years ago. Each year we raise anywhere between $14 to $15 million plus for the hospital. So we're one of the leading fundraisers for the hospital, which has been beautiful.
You get energized by people who want to make a difference. And that’s what City of Hope is all about.
I'm glad to be supportive of it, and love that I get to go to the charity events, participate in fundraising, and spread the word about what they do there. It’s been great.
City of Hope really shows you what people are capable of when they rally around a great cause. It’s amazing.
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