Leila Kashani, Founder at Alleyoop, on Co-Creation and Culture
What was the driving force behind starting your brand? Was there a specific event, or series of events, that catalyzed the launch?
I was busy and always on-the-go. One time, in particular, I shaved just one underarm and didn’t realize it until I was in a meeting. When I did realize, we laughed about it, but that was the beginning of my mission to create products for women who just don’t have enough time. The first product was the all-in-one razor. When I realized people loved it and wanted more, I created Alleyoop. I was determined to create a brand that finally kept up with our generation of women — a brand that took away the pressures of feeling like we needed to keep up and instead kept up with us. We have less time and more to do than ever before, so Alleyoop is driven to create overachieving products for overachieving women. The brand is all about helping you score in whatever it is that matters to you.
The brand didn’t happen on its own. I used the database of 10k purchasers of the razor and invited hundreds of them into a group to give me daily feedback, insight, opinions, and ideas. They helped create what you see today. I call these amazing women our co-creators.
I notice you hold many titles — Founder, CEO and most intriguingly, Director of Fun. It seems as though culture is very important to you. How would you describe your company culture, and what are your tips to achieving such a culture?
I am so proud to say we have an amazing culture. There are several things I think contribute to that.
One thing we do is making the decision to hire as a team. We let two to five employees from different departments interview any potential candidate, even if they won’t be working directly with them. That way the whole team feels like part of the decision. We ask everyone to ask themselves, “Would you enjoy working with this person?” “Do they fit within our cultural values?” etc.
Second, we value good, passionate and authentic people. We pick people for who they are on the inside. Personality first, skillset second.
Finally, If there is an elephant in the room, we address it. As a previous employee, I remember how hard it was to be in the dark about things. It would send shock waves into the culture when unexpected changes would happen. At Alleyoop, we try to have open conversations about things and address them as much as we can.
Alleyoop seems to be unique in that you run your own warehouse. What value do you see in this approach?
Cost, Speed & Awareness.
It was more cost-effective for us to bring it in-house. In the first few years of starting a business, you’re growing and not always sure at what speed. For us, it felt safer to not pay for storage, pay for changes or pay for testing systems until we figure out what works.
Speed is important so you can make quick changes. If we decide to try something new, rush something out to a new retailer or press outlet, delay a shipment, etc., we don’t have a middleman. Things move much faster when your warehouse is in your control and your fulfillment team’s sole focus is your brand.
Lastly, learning as much as you can in order to scale is key in the earlier stages. We want to be able to test new promotions, packaging, inserts, etc. We also need to see how inventory is arriving — from the quality to the presentation. We wanted to truly understand how the customer’s journey was from all touchpoints. At a distribution center, you’re in someone else’s space, and you only get as much information as they think is relevant to share.
What are the three tools/platforms you can’t live without for your business? Is there is anything you wish you had started using sooner?
Slack — Everyone probably says that, but I’m still so grateful at how much my inbox traffic has decreased because of it.
Smartsheets — It really helps us do a better job at managing timelines. Since we have so many moving parts and different factories, this has really helped us keep things on schedule and pass things off accordingly.
Yesware — This plugin has helped me send out emails in the future so I’m not the crazy person emailing at 2 am. I also use it to set reminders to follow up on emails with set rules like if someone doesn’t reply within a certain amount of days, remind me to follow up.