Canadian companies are rising to the challenging circumstances that COVID-19 has posed. In this new series, we discover how these inspiring leaders are helping their community, customers and employees during this monumental crisis. We learn about how they’ve adapted to remote work, and how they predict the future of office occupancy will look like for their business.
Our second episode is with the CEO of Sampler, Marie Chevrier
Tell us a little bit a bit about Sampler
Sampler helps consumer packaged goods companies – brands like L’Oreal, Kraft Heinz or Procter & Gamble. We help them distribution to consumers homes and by leveraging the power of the digital channels.
In our forward feature with Sampler last year, you said that Canadian entrepreneurs are thinking bigger than ever. That’s so evident in the community’s response to the pandemic. A lot of Canadian companies are really stepping up and using their strengths and their connections to help. One of the amazing things that I’ve seen you do is create this list of local brands. Tell us about this idea.
To be honest, I was sitting on my couch, like all of us, watching Netflix on a Sunday and I was trying to get a delivery from Instacart and it wasn’t working. With so much demand for delivery right now, I couldn’t get a slot. I was racking my brain trying to think about the brands that I could be buying direct. I started writing a list of the 10 or so brands I wanted to buy from that I knew were Toronto-based brands, that I felt really compelled to support. As we know those small businesses are dealing with a lot of challenges throughout this time, so it was something I was just doing for myself. I decided to share it on LinkedIn in case it was helpful to anyone else. Very quickly, the community came together and started replying with names of friends that they thought should be highlighted as well. Eventually, we’ve actually reached now 126 consumer packaged companies that are all from Toronto and producing amazing products here and selling direct
That’s a really cool initiative. I think that snowballed the next initiative that you have launched called #ComeTogetherTO. Can you tell us a little bit more about that one?
Both of these initiatives happened in parallel and we decided to put it under one when heading so both could bring awareness to each other. The second came about when our operations manager Brian came to me with an opportunity where a fabric company would like to donate fabrics to Sampler so that we can send kits to our audience in order for them to create masks. What Sampler does is send samples to consumers homes, but instead of doing samples this time, we’re going to be sending the materials required to make masks. We’re sending 2,000 boxes that will allow Toronto-based consumers that have sewing machines to create a total of 20,000 masks. They either share these with their close family and friends or they can donate them to a local courier called Envoi. Their drivers are exposed to risk, bringing deliveries to us so Envoi can pick up the masks and then redistribute them to secondary workers including their own. Overall, the initiatives have just been such an overwhelming experience for us. We’re just so humbled that all these organizations are coming together. It’s so beautiful to see people, or ‘Samplers’ as we call them, being so excited about the creation of masks.
I saw on LinkedIn that there are lots of different brands contributing to this initiative. Can you tell us a bit more about those?
Procter & Gamble is donating laundry pods in order for the producers of these masks to be able to clean them before donating them. We’re so thankful for that! We also work with an amazing fulfilment and printing company who are local in the GTA. They are going to be donating some of the printing materials and supporting the delivery of those boxes. The final one is Envoi. As far as the brand initiative, (again 126 brands!), everything from Snack Conscious that does these amazing snack bombs, La-Dee-da which is a great gourmet sauce company, the amazing team at Knixwear – these are all companies that are based out of Toronto and creating amazing products and really deserve our support right now
I know you guys have a really cool company culture and now that we are a few weeks into working from home, what kind of initiatives have you put in place to keep the connection the support system and the energy?
We already had a pretty remote culture. Sampler always had an optional one day a week work from home day. That really has helped us because everyone has a work station already figured out. At first, the transition to work from home was more seamless then we would have thought. However, the one thing that we found is that we’re all very social individuals. We’re all huge connectors so we miss each other a lot. I think we missed the social part of working in an office and so very quickly we look to ensure that we introduce social time. Every Monday we have a meditation on Zoom or on Instagram live – we alternate. If other companies want to join us, every second week on Samplers Instagram we have a live meditation. We also have a weekly lunch where we’ve bought lunch for the team a couple of times. We do a 4:30 check-in every day. We realized that some of us are at home working really late hours or dealing with people in our surroundings, potential health issues or stress, some people are alone. I think it’s really important to ensure everyone knows they have a time everybody can connect.
Do you think when we start to get back to some sense of normal, that the way you work in your office will change? From what you’ve learned over the last few weeks how will you re-evaluate what the future of the Sampler working culture is going to look like?
This had definitely shown us that we are able to work remote. I think it has inspired us to be even more flexible in our work-from-home policy and showcase more flexibility in other ways. For example, the team members that have kids – we now have a glimpse of what it’s like to have to run to work and juggle all those things. As a leader, but also as a fellow team member, it’s been a very humbling experience. We’ve all been welcomed into each other’s lives and realities. This experience is going to underpin the initiatives that we want to implement moving forward.
It sounds like you are going to take a lot of positive learnings from this?
I saw someone tweet this yesterday and it really made me think; They said “I am embarrassed that I spent so much ink on job postings talking about my free snacks and my free lunches when I could be talking about things like flexibility and understanding”. It’s so true – I think that in moments like these, all of us will realize that you those aren’t the things that matter. The things that do matter are the connection, understanding and flexibility that we can give people.
Finally, I want to put the call out there to the CBRE Forward community: How can people help you with these initiatives that you’re putting together?
The mask initiative is currently still recruiting consumers who have sewing machines. If you do, you can go to sampler.io and you can register through our regular registration. You’ll be asked questions that will help us confirm that you’re a good candidate for the program. If you want to shop local, go to https://sampler.io/blog/trending/cometogetherto to find a list of all of the brands that you can shop. They’re all offering amazing discounts – some as much as 50%. It feels amazing to support local!