“At our fulfillment centers, we ask our employees to ‘chip in’ for free lunches,” says Huang. “By that, I mean we ask them to adhere to our recycling practices, then use the money we get back to fund our free lunches for the warehouse teams. The more we recycle, the more budget there is for lunches.”
Boxed is a frugal company for multiple reasons. First of all, selling Oreo cookies and toilet paper in bulk is a business that operates at paper thin margins.
But also, Huang was raised in what he himself describes as a “working class” family. His mother supported a family of four with a minimum-wage job at a fast-food Chinese restaurant.
Boxed may be frugal, but the company is not cheap. The company spends big on its people.
Currently, the New York City-headquartered company has hundreds of employees all over the United States and offers some exceptional benefits. Chieh personally pays for employees’ children’s college tuition (with no limit on cost) and the company pays for life-changing events like weddings up to $20,000, depending on how long the employee has been with Boxed.
“I’m nothing without the people who help me run Boxed. I refuse to head a company that doesn’t help its employees with upward mobility.” -CEO @Astrochieh on why he covers education costs for the children of employees
The business has raised $160 million from investors, who generally want to push costs down to maximize profits. Huang justifies the money he spends on benefits to his investors by explaining that morale is high and turnover is low, he says.
“In a more esoteric sense, what I’ve told our shareholders is that, these folks aren’t just people who work at a company. These folks — whatever they do in the company — are actually the same people that are powering the shareholder returns for you and your fund for your company. And actually, by investing in these people and making them happy and being able to create a workplace where they want to stay for a long time, it’s actually is a long-term way of thinking about, How do I invest and make this company really big?” says Huang.
“At the end of the day, organizations, no matter how big or how small or how powerful or how weak are all about people. And if the people are unhappy and you’re not investing in them then you’re doing them and the company a disservice. So that’s the message that I give to our investors. Luckily I’m still employed.”
Also, it is the right thing to do, he says. He learned that long before he started Boxed.
“I know later on, when my mom was really working tough hours, her company took care of her when it was time for her to send me to college,” says Huang.