Building on a Blank Slate , or Why it has taken 4 years to lay the foundation.

  We are in the midst of signing an intent-to-lease document for new office space in Maple Ridge, BC (we will share photos as soon as we finalize). We are also trying to secure new office space in Bangladesh. Both buildings are needed to provide room to breathe for the growing teams on either side of the world.

 We had a tour earlier in the week for the space that we were looking at here, this time bringing along our in-house creative team who have been sketching concepts to turn the relatively open floor plan into a cool, funky office space that is a physical manifestation of our Company Values as much as it is a space for work to be done.

Stepping back from the scene at hand while touring the building, I heard Joe say to  our most recent UI/UX hire (Jenna) who was seeing the space for the first time, that this new location was a great ‘Blank Slate’ from which to apply his vision for the space. At the same time I had heard Chris repeat something to our potential landlord that we have said countless times over the past 4+ years in that, “We want to build something of real and lasting value.”

When Chris and I first signed the lease to move into our existing offices in Maple Ridge 4 years ago, it too was a ‘Blank Slate’, approximately 1700sq feet office that previously housed an architectural practice. We made it as cool and funky as we could, operating within the budget and fiscal realities of running a startup. Core features were whiteboard paint on the walls, rustic-looking wood laminate flooring, and a few $10 kites from Costco that added splashes of color and helped hammer home one of our founding principles that was encapsulated in the Hawaiian Proverb we had scribbled onto the wall, “Don’t ignore the small things — the kite flies because of its tail.

Our existing office has served our purposes well over the years, allowing brands to be built and the business to grow. However, I think the greatest thing that came out of this space was a feeling that Chris and I had upon signing that initial lease and getting the keys. It was proof that we were building something, a tangible asset in a world of digital.

While we both would classify ourselves as technologists having worked for tech companies for more than 15 years, neither Chris nor I are programmers, and in the early days while our first hires were busy coding to the product specs that we had created, there was little that we could do… physically do that was. Yes, we were building a company via partnerships, corporate structure, and getting our sales and marketing engine running, but the coding element was different. What we were doing was laying the foundation, placing the bricks. The developers were building the building.

Thus, when we got our new office space that sunny April day 4 years ago, we had a chance to build something: with our hands, with our sweat, and with a whole lot of coffee. I put down the floors, Chris summoned his inner painter and coated the walls. We built a physical space that we were proud of and was more than capable of sheltering and growing our team of Lefties.

A lot of people we spoke to—including we think our development team, our families, and our investors—wondered why we were investing our precious time and energy in getting this space ready with physically demanding work when we were already working 60+ hours per week. When it came down to it, it was not because we were being frugal, it was because we felt that we needed to build something. The building was our blank slate.

In art, the ‘Blank Slate’ or Tabla Rasa really was about starting from a point where the mind was not yet affected by experiences or impressions. Starting completely from scratch and that empty canvas…

But that is not us anymore. Yes, YO! represents a great new innovation and opportunity for us. As a new brand, it is a startup in its own right. And yes the new physical office spaces we are looking at are new canvasses for us to paint, use, and express our values, vision, and the world around us. But it is not a blank slate.

 This new space will have 4.5 years of history behind it. It will already have a foundation and a culture. We no longer need the physical manifestation to represent that which we are creating. We have a team of people, we have war stories, we are part of the community, we have had successes and failures… heck, two of our early employees are now married to each other and now have a baby. I guess what I am trying to say is this… if that isn’t proof that we have already built something of real and lasting value, I don’t know what is.