How Mailchimp's Headquarters Fuels Creativity

The online marketing company encourages its employees to think way, way outside the box.
How Mailchimp's Headquarters Fuels Creativity
Image credit: Adam Friedberg
Magazine Contributor
Associate Editor
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This story appears in the October 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Mailchimp wants its employees to think creatively -- and the company will do just about anything to get its staffers’ minds to open. The online marketing company hosts weekly innovation labs, design studios, and brainstorming sessions. Once a month, a brand-wide “coffee hour” invites employees to explore new ways of thinking via a speaker series that’s featured everyone from rapper Big Boi to a 74-time Jeopardy! champ. As a result of all this, departments have learned to embrace unexpected paths to creativity -- and the company has grown rapidly, cracking $600 million in annual revenue. Here’s some of what’s happening at its Atlanta headquarters.

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Lauren Schuman Senior director of product insights and growth

“Every Tuesday we do innovation labs, where we brainstorm ways to solve customer problems. We put ourselves in other people’s shoes and wear many hats -- a user hat, a devil’s advocate hat, a psychologist hat -- and they’re literal hats: crazy, glittery, paper top hats we ordered off a party website. It’s an interactive way to problem-solve.”

Samantha Vaughn / Employee events coordinator

“I started the week of our annual kickoff party, and the theme was prom. The dance floor looked like a gym, our mascot in the center and bleachers lining the sides. People dressed up like prom kings or queens. I was on the dance floor, looking around, and I saw a bunch of executives. That was my first real glimpse of Mailchimp: Wow, these people have fun.”

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Sarita Alami / Production lead of Mailchimp Presents  

“You never know when a good idea is going to strike, and on my team, we find that shared experience amplifies that. For our last team-building activity, we sat together for an oil painting done in a classical style. Now we just have to figure out where to hang it.”

Dan Kurzius Cofounder and chief customer officer 

“I was in Chicago a couple of months ago with a customer who makes these beautiful shoes out of Turkish rugs. Our shopping cart connectivity didn’t work with the way she had her commerce platform configured, so I took a picture of her struggling with that roadblock. I try to capture those emotional moments to help our teams see things from the customer’s perspective.” 

Josh Penny / Corporate citizenship manager 

“We run Mailchimp Community College with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. A group of employees spends eight weeks learning about Atlanta, then gives $200,000 in grants to local nonprofits. It’s incredible to see employees wrestle with complicated issues, think through how to be helpful, and then act.”

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Lauren Sibille / People systems analyst

“I got into this industry as an HR coordinator, so I did the admin side of things -- background checks, the interview process, employee life cycle maintenance. I came from a small but formal company, so what I really loved about joining Mailchimp is the lack of formality. I can just walk up to someone and have a brainstorming session.”

Iris Nevins / Software engineer

“We just built a tool that allows emails to be triggered based off events that happen in our application. Let’s say you’re a Mailchimp client and a customer just purchased an item for the fourth time. Now you can automatically email ‘Congrats on making your fourth purchase,’ and offer a discount.”

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Image Credit: Adam Friedberg

 

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