Smashing Boxes is driven by a set of principles that have shaped our business from day one. These principles have always been at the core of our culture. We define those principles as:
Throughout a whirlwind year of exciting work, national expansion, and immense cultural growth, we continually found ourselves returning to these principles. They proved to be true and integral in guiding how we make decisions. As we reflect on the last year – our culture, our work, our community – we return again to these principles:
We believe quality and teamwork are of utmost importance.
With a growing team and the opening of a new office in New Orleans (more on that in a sec), it was important to take time this year to define what it means to be a leader in our company. Leadership at Smashing Boxes means being accountable to each other. To encourage this, we’re working hard to inform and empower directors and team leads to guide their departments and teams as if they were their own mini SB. We all make things happen here.
Early in the year, we arranged our office into pods. Pods integrate people from different disciplines so that we’re constantly challenging each other to see problems or opportunities from different perspectives. By sitting next to each other, our teams are able to communicate more efficiently and deliver at a higher velocity. Working with the same people on the same projects creates greater team and project stability. Not to mention some healthy pod vs pod competition. Below are the brand marks for Dragonpod and Fighting Artichokes designed by our very own Meredith Schomburg.
Focusing on quality and teamwork has led to some amazing product launches in 2015:
Everyone has an inner designer. That’s the premise behind WeaveUp, a tool built to disrupt mass manufacturing in the fabric industry. The team took the product to a beta launch in April of 2015, and the site has been actively growing based on feedback from initial users ever since.
Winner of a 2015 W3 Award and Communicator Award, EmployUs helps companies win the war for top talent by rewarding connectors with bonuses when their referrals get hired. Thanks to the iOS app launched early this year, EmployUs has been able to secure funding for future iterations of the product and win the competitive NC Idea grant. Plus, it was a lot of fun to make! Sign up to get the app here.
Designed to keep social media social, Throw is a collaborative photo app for friends and family. Developed and designed for iOS, Throw hit the app store this fall, and made all of the Android users in the office a tad jealous. Download it on the iTunes store here.
The Moogfest site is up and the lineup has been announced! You’ll see most of our office at the festival in Durham this May. I’m very proud of our team. They deserve many high fives and some hearty knucks for their incredible work on this project. And thanks to Moog for the sweet Christmas gifts that prompted this:
Just a couple of months ago, we delivered an MVP of GiiG, a co-created iOS/web interviewing platform that is shaking up how young professionals apply to jobs. The app allows job seekers to post video resumes. It also facilitates video interviews, enabling recruiters to assess cultural fit early on. Client Brandon King will be using the MVP to pitch investors and has already sent it out to 2,000 users for feedback!
As an entrepreneur, I’m a firm believer in that saying: “Don’t stop growing to solve problems, solve problems while you grow.” In 2015 we made quality and teamwork our highest priorities. These efforts have culminated in our first major regional expansion into New Orleans.
When I visited NOLA in the Spring to speak at New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week (NOEW), I was struck by a like-mindedness with the local entrepreneurs and technologists. There’s a community-wide spirit of commitment that’s truly inspiring. Our ambition as a company is to shape the future of technology in New Orleans. As of writing this article, we’ve hired five people for our New Orleans office and two of our Durham members will be relocating down to The Big Easy within the next couple of months. With the office officially opening in just a few days – on January 18th – the adventure has begun and we could not be more excited about what’s in store down there.
We believe people matter.
We put this principle to practice this year with the start of task forces – self-organized teams with a specific policy- or process-based goal. Problems, processes and policy aren’t a top-down deal at SB. Our culture is open and real. When an opportunity to improve our workflow or environment presents itself, our people come together to make it happen.
This past year, the Work From Home (WFH) Task Force formalized our WFH policy. Thanks to them, our people can enjoy productive workdays at home. Our Events Task Force organized a canned food competition that resulted in over 12,000 pounds of food donated to the Food Bank of CENC.
Durham is no stranger to eco-friendliness. And now, neither are we. The Tree Huggers Task Force helped our office go green with recycling, composting, and reusable flatware.
The Apprenticeship Task Force saw an opportunity to help bridge the gap between learning to code and the nuances of programming as a professional. The group formed an intensive 12-week program where apprentices learn advanced programming concepts by working one-on-one with our experienced developers. In a few weeks we’ll welcome our third round of apprentices to Smashing Boxes. Hope they enjoyed their holiday reading.
The leadership team also formed its own informal task force to take a look at our benefits and areas where we could improve them. The result: we increased vacation time for everyone, bumped up our maternity and paternity leave. We also jumpstarted a professional growth program. Each employee is allotted $2000 annually to use for continuing education and to attend conferences. We want to help all of our people achieve their professional goals. And we will.
Our team outside the Raleigh Convention Center at All Things Open just before Brandon Mathis’ talk on getting involved in the open source community.
And if all of this isn’t enough to prove how much our people matter, then read about the epic road trip to bring home one of our developers from Silicon Valley.
We believe in the entrepreneurial spirit.
As if to remind of our entrepreneurial roots, 2015 was an anniversary year for us. Our fifth to be exact. So we celebrated with the kind of birthday party a five-year-old would want – field day! We also had some non-five-year-old things, like great beer and barbecue 🙂
Smashing Boxes is a place where people have the freedom to be creative, think differently, push limits, and dream big. In October of this year, we were awarded a major distinction by Entrepreneur Magazine that had us singing throughout the holiday season.
Awards are great, but putting these principles into practice is what really pays dividends. We encourage people to think like entrepreneurs. There’s no better place to apply that entrepreneurial mindset than Labs, a weekly window of time during which our people are encouraged to explore, experiment and have fun.
Our biggest release from Labs this year was CRNT – a project originally conceived by SB alumniand lifelong surfer, Raleigh Felton. Featured in the iTunes App store, Mashable, and Wareable, CRNT uses modern technology to solve an age old problem for surfers: how to find the best waves. When it gets a little warmer, check it out here: http://crntapp.com/
Or how about a laser harp string with a branded chip for its brain? Another cool labs project.
We wouldn’t be Smashing Boxes if we didn’t have at least one Labs project that revolved around beer. Using a voting algorithm and a raspberry pi controller connected to a flow sensor, Tapp tracks and monitors our office intake, supply, and queue…of beer. And displays it all on a super sleek interface. Big shoutout to our friends at Porticos, Device Solutions, and BrightWolf for their help on this project.
Of course, Labs isn’t the only way we stretch our entrepreneurial muscles. Smashing Boxes is a community oriented company. We regularly host meetups in our space. We sponsor events. We extend our expertise and energy wherever it’s needed. Just for fun, here are some of the many great things that happened this year, by the numbers…
As we approach 2016, we’ve got a solid foundation and some hard won lessons to build on. Thinking about the adventures we’ve got ahead of us keeps me up at night. In the best way possible. I’m inspired by the people I’m proud to call my team, and truly excited to help the clients we’ve yet to meet. Because 2015 was awesome, but NEXT MATTERS MOST.
Final, final thought: Thank you to our clients, partners, the Durham community, and all of the wonderful people who make up Smashing Boxes. It is because of you that we are here today. Keep up with us in 2016 on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.