At Million Dollar Baby Co., Care Defines Its Culture — And Products
Throughout the 10 years Senior Design Manager Matthew Grayson has worked at eco-conscious children’s furnishing company Million Dollar Baby Co., he’s seen its commitment to employees continually evolve. To him, the company’s emphasis on putting one’s home life first is exemplified from the top down.
“There’s a universal attitude that people should prioritize their personal lives, which is demonstrated by our CEO, making it universally accepted,” Grayson said.
Stephanie Welke, a consumer support senior coordinator, agrees. Prior to the pandemic, she relocated to Canada for her husband’s PhD program, forcing her to resign from her original position at Million Dollar Baby Co. Yet she made sure to remain on good terms with the team for a reason.
When her family had the opportunity to move back to the Los Angeles area, Welke quickly emailed her former manager to inquire about open roles. “There was a position available on the consumer support team,” she said. “It felt like I was meant to come back.”
This feeling of belonging is one of the many reasons why Welke has been continually drawn to the company. In fact, she considers this focus on togetherness a main driver of ongoing progress and opportunities for development.
“It’s created an open culture in which people can have hard conversations,” Welke said. “There are ample chances to learn, and we always acknowledge that we’re on the same team at the end of the day.”
While a focus on transparency certainly plays a role in building a supportive environment, it’s far from the only way in which the company empowers its people. As a co-leader of the diversity, inclusion and equity committee, also known as “DIEC,” Assistant Sales Manager Tracy Wells spearheads the organization’s efforts to create a sense of community, whether that involves hosting guest speakers to honor different heritages or bridging the divide between the company’s office and warehouse employees.
She said the organization’s current dedication to increasing diversity is a precursor of what’s to come. “We have a lot of autonomy to focus on inclusion, which makes us excited to do even more in the future,” Wells said.
For Welke, Grayson and Wells, there are countless elements that make Million Dollar Baby Co. an exceptional place to work, grow and guide innovation. The three employees explain how the company prioritizes the well-being of its employees and customers while safeguarding the future of our planet.
How does the company’s benefits package reflect its commitment to supporting families?
Welke: The company’s benefits package has evolved significantly over the last several years. This change has resulted from intentional conversations between our leadership team and employees. In fact, a lunchtime conversation between several team members and our CEO led to a revised parental leave policy. Additionally, the company has become increasingly considerate of people’s unique life circumstances. Some team members have to pick up kids from daycare in the middle of the day or log on to work later, all of which is entirely acceptable. It’s been a blessing to have a more flexible in-office work schedule, as this encourages everyone to perform their best work.
SUPPORT AT EVERY STAGE
Wells: Every employee is given a yearly travel reimbursement, which can be put toward domestic ($500) or international travel ($1,000). This reflects the company’s focus on family by ensuring everyone takes time for themselves and their loved ones. Every employee is asked to create a PowerPoint presentation about their experience, which also gives us the chance to learn new things about each other.
How does DIEC encourage education surrounding diversity and drive ongoing efforts to cultivate inclusion?
Wells: When DIEC was formed in 2020, the company felt an overwhelming need to address systematic inequality outside of the workplace. Initially, the committee was founded to acknowledge and break barriers for disadvantaged people and their communities; to ensure diversity and inclusion in our people and perspectives; and ensure access to the same opportunities for all. Our aim is to build diversity, inclusion and equity into our hiring, education, community involvement and marketing practices. Since the committee’s inception, we’ve hosted more than 15 speakers who have addressed our office and warehouse communities in both English and Spanish, covering topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement, anti-Asian hate and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
We’ve also onboarded diverse recruitment platform Mathison, which has enabled us to track our progress and create an inclusive hiring roadmap. DIEC also compelled the company to make our benefits package the same for both in-office and warehouse employees. We’ve been mindful of the natural division between our team members and have tried to create camaraderie to unite these communities. We’ve also made an effort to acknowledge cultural heritage months, including Black History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Women’s History Month, whether that’s through a happy hour or virtual event. For instance, to celebrate AAPI Month, we created a large campaign, which highlighted our standing as an AAPI-owned company, which is something we’re really proud of. Since 2020, we’ve done a lot to move ourselves forward, show that we care and empower each other. The majority of our employees are from underrepresented groups, yet we still recognize that there’s room for improvement.
“Our core values lay the groundwork for everything we do and serve as our guiding light during the decision-making process,” Wells said. According to her, these values foster a culture of learning and growth, compelling employees to push themselves — and each other — to be the best version of themselves.
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK
- “Treat your team like family.”
- “Make an impact, drive results.”
- “Deliver a ‘wow’ customer experience every time.”
- “Strive for continuous improvement and learning.”
- “Cultivate quality conversations.”
Describe how the team prioritizes sustainability throughout the product development and distribution process.
Grayson: Throughout the time I’ve worked at the company, we’ve always used New Zealand pine, which is a sustainably-farmed, fast-growing tree that doesn’t require clearcutting. Lately, we’ve moved toward Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood, which pertains to wood that is responsibly harvested. Each of our brands uses FSC-certified eucalyptus wood, and a lot of our packaging now includes FSC-certified cardboard. Additionally, we’re in the process of piloting programs to remove Styrofoam from our packaging. Wood furniture is very heavy and easily damaged, and if an item becomes blemished, the whole piece will potentially be discarded, forcing us to send an entirely new one. That means sustainable packaging must be as strong as Styrofoam. For this reason, we launched a program with our best-selling baby brand in an effort to remove Styrofoam from the packaging and replace it with a paper mold, which is compostable and biodegradable.
From a logistics perspective, we have offset our carbon footprint through two different avenues. We’ve partnered with CarbonFund.org and One Tree Planted. Through carbon offsetting, we’re balancing the CO2 emitted during the shipping process with a positive environmental impact that absorbs the same amount of carbon emission. Over the past 12 months, we’ve offset over 20,000 tons of CO2 and planted over 4,000 trees in an effort to reduce our impact.
AVENUES FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
- Training sessions on project management, managers best practices, and on tools such as Asana, Advanced Excel and Microsoft Power BI
- Spotlight Series offers associates an opportunity to work one-on-one with COO on a presentation topic of their choosing and get coaching on content development and presentation skills
- Vistage management training
- Guest Speaker series on personal financial wellness, mental health and wellness, and DIEC
- CEO-hosted quarterly book club
- Go1 educational courses
- Weekly one-on-ones with managers
- Level expectations and team-specific growth tracks on Lattice
- 360 reviews for peers and managers every 6 months
- Growth and career plan conversation with managers every 6 months
What are you most excited to accomplish with your team over the next year?
Wells: Our community has changed significantly since we’ve been back in the office. We’ve hired a lot of people since transitioning back to the office, and we really see each new person as adding something rather than assimilating. I’m looking forward to seeing what our community will look like a year from now, regarding how we support each other and what our office will look like. We have happy hours every Wednesday, and the company makes sure to utilize our outdoor space, which is a beautiful area filled with tables and olive trees. It gives employees a space to feel comfortable and spend time in a different setting.
Grayson: Seeing some of our recent innovations, like our foam-free packaging, get out into the real world is really exciting. We’ve also got some projects in the works around non-toxicity across several product categories, which will be hugely impactful.
Additionally, we have a couple of new designers on our team, and I’m eager to see their new designs hit the market later this year. Seeing one’s designs out in the world is a major milestone for a new designer. It makes you feel cemented in your role, and it’s exciting to see those products sell.
Welke: I love our value, “Deliver a ‘wow’ customer experience every time,” which is an area we’ve been striving to improve over the last two years. I’m excited to see where these efforts go, especially given the growth of our CS department. We also have more opportunities to make connections cross-functionally and bring in extra training for managers to more fully understand CS, which includes our customer, their issues and feedback, what they love and what they need.
I’m eager to see so many changes, from making improvements to our return policy to resolving issues related to shipping costs. Every employee has a touchpoint with our customers, whether or not they recognize it. I can’t wait to see the company grow in its understanding of consumers and make enhancements to impress them.