When Laura Modi, 36, and Sarah Hardy, 42, came together to form organic formula company Bobbie in 2019, they had two babies and two toddlers between them. “It wasn’t young people working 20 hours a day in someone’s basement,” Hardy says. “Bobbie’s very roots compelled us to create an environment in which working parents can succeed.”
As Airbnb alumni trained in the hustle culture, they knew they wanted to build their business for rapid growth. They also intended to dodge the fate of companies they had seen grow too quickly, only to backtrack and reformulate their culture. “This experience informs everything we do, from how we recruit to how we present ourselves as leaders,” says Hardy. “What advantages do we enjoy? What are the advantages ? Both founders have worked hard to answer these questions while creating a diverse and inclusive culture. Hiring consumed half of their working hours in 2021 as they grew Bobbie from 10 employees to 46 in 16 states. Of the current 55 employees, 91% are women and 70% are parents.
Bobbie’s benefits signal a pro-parenting culture and are constantly evolving. During a show of hands zoom in March, Modi and Hardy announced job security of up to a full year of parental leave, in addition to 16 weeks paid for all new parents. “I got emotional,” says Jennifer Kelly, a mom who is Bobbie’s product management manager in Las Vegas. “Knowing that you have this support and sweeping grace when you don’t know what your birth experience will be like means the world.”
Perks like Bobbie’s don’t come cheap, but investors seem to approve. Bobbie recently raised $50 million, for a total of $72 million in funding. (Competition in the $2.1 billion U.S. formula market is fierce, and another organic formula newcomer, ByHeart, raised $90 million last year.) in revenue, versus a forecast of $4 million.
All of this flourished from a culture underpinned by a management philosophy with core values that feel like course offerings at an exclusive self-help retreat: Feeding the tension; don’t assume; deliver ounce by ounce; be radical. Employees also seem driven by Bobbie’s mission to “shake the stigma on how we choose to feed our babies”, which will evolve with the launch of a philanthropic arm over the next year.
For Modi, there is no mismatch between the grace and flexibility that Bobbie’s managers show their employees and the company’s rapid growth goals. She is convinced that it was the parents – in all their tension – who prepared the company to evolve. “There’s nothing like the fire of a bunch of moms under pressure and doing a million things,” says Modi, who has given birth to two children herself since founding Bobbie. “The level of efficiency is at its highest in this company.”
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Excerpt from the May/June 2022 issue of Inc. Magazine