How did an Amazon guru convince a General Mills exec to join his startup? Hint: it involves a Slack channel dedicated to cats. When co-CEO Joe Ens first joined AJ Patel and the HighKey team, he was shocked to find not only a delicious cookie but a hungry team of millennials taking over the better-for-you space.
“The key to our success is having the right people in the right seats,” says Patel. “I’m always looking for people with a high emotional IQ. Experience and skills obviously play a part, too, but the intangibles are equally important.”
As the HighKey team continues to grow — jumping from 3 to over 50 employees in the first two years — its focus on culture hasn’t changed. From cooking classes with a personal chef at AJ’s house to an open-bar holiday party, this is a team that knows how to have a good time. Now that things are remote, regular social events have been held via Zoom and have included expert-led meditation sessions, morning yoga classes, a masked singing competition, Scattergories, and group chats dedicated to everyone’s furry friends. These social meetings have been especially helpful for employees who joined the team as quarantine started and have helped make them feel like part of the family.
“It’s weird to think I’ve never met most of these people in person because it feels like we’re all really close,” says Social Coordinator Jessica Walters.
While each event focuses on a fun game or activity, the leadership team always makes time to open the floor for the true purpose — to check-in and give everyone the space to reach out, ask questions, and feel heard.
For the young team at HighKey, becoming the No. 1 cookie on Amazon is just the beginning. HighKey is now available at thousands of stores nationwide. The team has ambitious goals to continue growing its retail presence with its proven, digital incubator method — validating the proposition online and then taking the category by storm.
The recruiting team is often referred to as Unicorn Hunters because they’re not just looking for someone passionate and talented in their respective field. Team members know that “if it’s to be, it’s up to me” and they don’t shy away from the “move fast and break things” mentality. They take risks, make mistakes, and challenge the status quo.
“Being part of a company where ‘challenging the status quo’ is what we do, means no matter what anybody suggests — nobody’s feelings get hurt, nobody is upset, everybody is on board and you feel like you’re constantly making progress,” says Creative Manager Ashley Crane.
This growth mindset requires that everyone stay on their toes and continue to grow personally and professionally. Each year, all employees (including AJ) are required to participate in 360-degree, bi-annual reviews, as well as, a career-mapping exercise to ensure that everyone is reaching their full potential and receiving support along the way. With a flexible structure that can adapt to individual goals, career mapping isn’t limited to a person’s existing role. Each member of the team is encouraged to evolve and follow their interests wherever that may lead.
HighKey is currently on the hunt for their newest additions to fill leadership roles as Chief Sales Officer and Chief Marketing Officer.