Founders of KIND and S’well Adapt to a COVID-19 World While Helping First Responders

Entrepreneurs behind KIND Snacks and S'well Bottle share tips and stories for adjusting to remote work while helping first responders

Dan Lubetzky & Sarah Kauss

You have heard it ad nauseam and it is worth stating again: We are all in this together. This includes the innovative entrepreneurs who continue to shape the way we do business. Just like the rest of us they are living through this accidental social experiment and doing what they can to get us to the other side. I had the opportunity to connect with two such entrepreneurs to hear how they are adjusting to remote life and chipping in to support our first responders.     

Adjusting to Remote Work

By now most companies with the capability to go remote have done so. And as many of us can attest, it has been an adjustment. However, that adjustment hasn’t necessarily been all bad. In some cases, leaders and teams have discovered that working in physical isolation has actually increased team socialization.        

Sarah Kauss, Founder of S’well (the maker of the famed S’well bottle), explained: “In times like these, my instinct is to bring my team closer together — physically — so that we can feel the support of the entire organization more fully and respond faster.” Her instinct is something that has been felt by many of us, particularly when it comes to our families. Unfortunately, one of the unique features of this crisis is that we can’t come together physically like we normally would. Yet, as any great entrepreneur she found a way to turn this challenge into an opportunity.

Kauss and her team now use video for nearly every call: “Even those super early morning calls before I have a full face of make-up,” she explains. “Being real with each other is more important than ever,” she adds. As a result, she is enjoying deeper connections with her team members and she is even seeing positive impacts on her relationships with those outside of the S’well family. Kauss shared that she has been able to develop faster and deeper connections with business partners because: “You are seeing inside someone’s home, their taste in art, books, their kids/pets…” Whether intended or not, an interesting aspect of video is that the experience can give you a unique glimpse into the personal side of an individual beyond just the work aspect of their lives.

Daniel Lubetzky, Founder of KIND has also gone to video. Even though the challenges of working in isolation have been tough, he has been surprised at how fulfilling it is to see the faces of his team on video. “Even if I wish I could see my team in person, at least seeing their faces fills me up with some level of human connection,” he explained. 

He also noted how blown away he has been by the level of productivity he has seen from his team all while: “Juggling the new normal that we’ve all found ourselves in.” Lubetzky notes the reality is that: “We have team members who are home-schooling their kids who have had to construct new work schedules on the fly; but they are channeling their passion and entrepreneurial vigor by getting creative about how to get things done,” which is certainly not easy as anyone with children can attest. 

Supporting Our Frontline

Adjusting to this remote environment is one of the many aspects of dealing with this new COVID-19 world. The sad reality is that the virus has taken such a physical toll on the population, particularly those on the front lines. Kauss and Lubetzky have both been very active in supporting those first responders who have been admirably fighting this pandemic.     

Kauss and her team at S’well have continuously developed and supported programs that build on their commitment to minimize single-use plastic consumption. “Our For The Frontlines program is a testament to S’well’s purpose and our desire to bring joy and hydration to those helping us get through this challenging time,” explained Kauss. As part of the For The Frontlines program S’well is donating $250,000 worth of bottles to front line responders keeping them hydrated while reducing the impact plastic bottles would have during such a time of high demand.      

No stranger to helping those in need, Lubetzky and his team quickly went to work on planning for how to best help with the efforts to combat the coronavirus. “When the virus began to take a hold in New York City, we wanted to do our small part to take action but were stymied by certain roadblocks. For example, we did not have a list of hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, fire stations, National Guard camps, or other at-need institutions to readily tap into, explained Lubetzky.” In response Lubetzky and his team launched Frontline Impact Project to help enterprises directly connect with a database of more than 6,000 frontline institutions to supply them with critical resources like food, housing, transportation, and self-care. The platform is open to all interested companies, non-profits, and civic institutions and we encourage more enterprises to get involved.

As devastating as COVID-19 has been, the American spirit of entrepreneurialism is alive and well. As Kauss put it: “I feel like we’re more connected and more communicative than ever. Even though we are apart, the output of what we’re being able to deliver from all facets of the business seems amplified with creativity and efficiency.” A great byproduct of a difficult time.

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