It’s that time of year again. The dreaded yearly performance review is upon us, so it only seems fair if I am required to rate myself as CEO. 2014 was a year of rapid growth and significant change at S’well, so this is the perfect opportunity to take a moment to reflect before jumping into 2015.
Keeping up with the growth
Our staff at S’well grew five times its size and sales grew over 400% in 2014. With so much growth, I knew it was time for change. So, I decided to move our team out of our adorable, but small, brownstone in Union Square in New York City to a 7,000 square foot space in the heart of the Flatiron District. While we desperately needed to move to expand the business, the timing couldn’t have been worse — at the height of our busiest season, just weeks before holiday orders startedpouring in. Adding to the displacement during our office move, we also moved our warehouse, upgraded our fulfillment software and launched a new website all within the same week.
Despite the commotion, we managed to settle into our new home just in time for holiday orders, the new warehouse exceeded shipping expectations and the new website greatly improved the online shopping experience for our customers. It may have been overly ambitious to do all three things at once, but in the end, taking these steps paid off.
Last year, S’well made the transformation from a scrappy start-up to a real company. Even with this change, I was able to add structure while still keeping things fun. In addition to traditional benefits, I launched an employee handbook unique to S’well (includes a “plastic bottle free” workplace pledge) new policies such as Bagel Mondays (with birthday cake flavored cream cheese), weekly Friday happy hours, and provided gym memberships for all employees. These benefits help create a workplace where employees can see that management is working to foster an environment where they can build a long-term career.
We have also expanded our partnership opportunities to allow employees to participate in activities outside of the office. Staffers have participated in everything from a visit to the White House to celebrate our collaboration with DrinkUp, VIP and backstage access to New York Fashion Week, to team days with charity partners such as 826 NYC at the Super Hero Supply store. Regardless of our size and structure, one of my goals as we grow is to maintain those extracurricular activities that still reflect our mission.
Baby steps into the spotlight
During the first few years of leading S’well, a majority of my time and energy was spent behind the scenes. I was happy to be running a high-growth company while still working in the trenches of the day-to-day business operations. However, I quickly realized the value of building a public reputation for myself and the company. And so, somewhat reluctantly, I’ve taken small steps toward the spotlight and I am learning to be comfortable as the public face of S’well.
Most recently, I was honored to be featured on Fortune’s 40 under 40 list and chosen by Ernst & Young as a member of the 2014 class of “Winning Women” leading high growth companies. These experiences have taken me outside of my comfort zone.
Well, here we are — while I have much to look forward to in 2015, I still have plenty of work ahead of me. So, with any luck, you’ll be seeing more of me out there in the year ahead!