A Chat With October’s Profile, Peter Cobb, co-founder/senior vice president, eBags
CS: Is there anything done at eBags to keep a light and fun environment for employees?
PC: It’s definitely a casual, work hard, play hard atmosphere. There’s things like a softball team and a soccer team, and we try and do beer Fridays, company picnics. Once in a while we’ll have dog Fridays, where dogs can come in; you just sign up and bring your dog in.
Yesterday was a great example, where we had somebody that just joined the company as a handbag merchandiser, and a message went around, “Come meet the new handbag merchandiser at this Irish pub across the street.” That type of thing. And the nice thing was that there were people from operations there, people from Web design there, merchandising, marketing. It’s really fascinating. When you go from zero to 130 people, it’s pretty easy to lose that small company, intimate feel. So you really do need to pay attention to the culture of the company, and communication is a big part of that.
CS: Have you had any mentors or been a mentor to anyone during your career in the catalog/multichannel industry?
PC: I really haven’t, and I try to because I have more experience than I care to share. It’s adding up fast. The great thing at eBags is that I think we give young people an opportunity. There’s a group of us that mentor some of the newer, younger people, where this is maybe their first or second or third job and they’re still in their 20s. It’s such a fascinating area that’s moving quickly.
One of the things that we always tell new people coming in is a.) don’t be afraid to fail; if you’re not failing some of the time, then you’re not pushing hard enough and b.) no one has ever done what we’re doing before; there is no playbook to follow. There’s no textbook you can get from a business school that says, “Here’s how you build the world’s best bag Web site.”
It’s a lot of hard work and intuition and testing and curiosity, picking up nuggets from other areas, seeing something that you like. I mentioned it on YouTube, seeing the way that this whole video management system works on YouTube and saying, “Well, why can’t we do that on eBags?” No one’s ever done it before, you can’t even buy it off the shelf. Let’s build something. Those are the types of things that we try and instill in the eBaggers.