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Texas family business finds help with generational transition connecting in South Dakota

Posted in ,   |  November 28, 2023

How does a Texas-based family business connect with resources available in South Dakota as it transitions to a new generation?

It’s all about relationships.

SYOXSA is a leading distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases, along with welding supplies and safety products for the Southwest region of the United States. It was founded by German Trejo in 1987, originally in Juarez, Mexico, where three years later he became an authorized distributor for AIRGAS Inc.

“Juarez is one of the first manufacturing hubs that was available in Mexico where the government allowed U.S. corporations and later was open to any business,” he said. “I was in a good moment at the right time as U.S. companies were coming into Juarez to open manufacturing facilities and were looking for gas distributors.”

After growing in Mexico for more than a decade, German Trejo expanded to El Paso, Texas, with Borderland Welding Supply Inc. in 1999 and became a member of the IWDC, or Independent Welding Distributors Cooperative. The business sold the operations in Mexico in 2010 and has focused on developing the U.S. operation at the plant in Texas.

In addition to expanding the business, including multiple new facilities in both countries over the past few decades, German Trejo and his son, Esteban, became involved in their broader industry. Through the IWDC, German served on a key committee and is joining the board of directors, and Esteban serves on the marketing committee and is active in a next-generation group.

That’s what led SYOXSA to connect with the South Dakota-based Prairie Family Business Association.

“Knowing we can’t do it all, it has been great to partner with Prairie Family Business Association,” said Frank Kasnick, president and CEO of the Independent Welding Distributors Cooperative.

“They bring the education and support necessary to navigate generational leadership and ownership transition that occurs in a thriving independent. Here at IWDC, ‘Independent’ is first; ‘Welding Distributors Cooperative’ follows!”

Fellow IWDC and Prairie Family Business Association members A-OX Welding Supply coordinated a presentation featuring executive director Stephanie Larscheid for industry members a few years ago.

“The impact of PFBA on our family has been substantial. Experiencing the benefits firsthand, we’re passionate about sharing these advantages with others in our industry,” said Trenton Elliott, chief technology officer/business development for A-OX Welding Supply, which is based in Sioux Falls.

“The majority of IWDC members are multigeneration family-owned businesses. For them, engaging with the Prairie Family Business Association and crafting a robust succession plan ensures the torch can be passed seamlessly and supports sustaining the independence and unique identity of IWDC.”

When German Trejo heard about the resources available through Prairie Family Business Association, “it came to my mind that this is something we need,” he said. “This was an entity that could help us learn how to develop the family business. I already was thinking one of my goals was to make a very good transfer of my business to the second generation and then provide Esteban with all the tools and knowledge available for a good foundation.”

Esteban Trejo began working for the family business about five years ago after working for a different company in the industry and being mentored in Seattle. He then worked outside the industry for two years.

“I almost always knew I was going to give the family business a shot, but after working for two larger corporations, I saw the opportunity to build and work for our family, which has been very rewarding,” he said. “My dad and the people we grew up with have always instilled the entrepreneurial spirit in all of us.”

German serves as president of the 22-person company, and Esteban serves as general manager.

One of their first experiences with the Prairie Family Business Association was a live case study, where outside experts and advisers gauged the family business’ situation today and made recommendations going forward.

“That was very helpful,” German said. “In my case, you’re trying to establish principles and rules for the business, and I think that meeting helped bring our family together, including my two daughters who work outside the business. It’s a learning process, and I’m enjoying it and working on establishing goals for next year.”

For the Prairie Family Business Association, “partnering to bring programming and resources to the IWDC has been a great way for us to expand our reach,” Larscheid said.

“Most IWDC members are family-owned, and some are employee-owned. It’s been so rewarding to connect families like the Trejos with resources they can use and we can provide. We’re looking forward to helping them get to know family businesses in South Dakota and beyond as they continue to connect with our programming.”

The Trejos also have participated virtually in webinars and the association’s annual conference.

“The access to the many advisers and programs are most beneficial,” Esteban said. “We found our PEO (professional employer organization) through the Prairie Family Business Association, and now we are able to offer retirement plans, health insurance and other benefits to our employees, which will help reduce turnover and improve the quality of candidates we receive.”

They’re hoping to join the conference in person next year.

“I would say that joining the Prairie Family Business is of great value,” Esteban added. “You get access to several resources ‘all-in-one’ that you would not have otherwise. And you get to hear and learn from other family businesses’ stories who are going through or have gone through something similar.”

His father agreed.

“It’s clear Prairie Family Business has been doing this for a while and has a good, growing team,” German said. “I’m definitely planning to meet in person next year because when you interact with similar entrepreneurs, with similar issues, you can establish connections and other sources of knowledge that can really help you keep learning and keep making good decisions for the future.”

If you are interested in learning more about connecting with the resources of Prairie Family Business Association, send an email to assistant director Peter Hauck at

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