What does making the world’s most comfortable shoe have to do with saving the world?
Quite a lot apparently, according to Allbirds co-founder and co-CEO, Joey Zwillinger.
Recently I had the chance to sit down with Joey for an episode of Radically Personal, a podcast by Gladly where we talk to leaders of today’s most innovative and inspiring brands about how their brands got their start, and their approach to customer experience.
And it was fascinating and frankly inspiring to learn about the big, audacious idea Joey and his co-founder Tim Brown had when they started Allbirds. According to Joey, the drive to start Allbirds had very little to do with shoes, and a lot to do with changing the world.
For Joey and his co-founder Tim, the journey towards making shoes didn’t start with a deep passion for sneakers, or a studied analysis of the market which revealed an underserved demand for a hip new shoe. Instead, it started with the idea that it was possible to run a business that would actually be good for the environment, and spur real, lasting change in the industry.
It was about the idea that climate change is the problem of our generation. If we don't solve it, it's an existential question of whether we survive as a species
That ideal is encapsulated in Allbirds’ mission statement: to do better things in a better way. And further evidenced by the unique, eco-friendly materials the brand uses in its manufacturing, from castor oil, to sugarcane, to most recently, t-shirts made from discarded crab shells.
The fact that two relative neophytes to the shoe industry—Joey, with his background in biochemical engineering and co-founder Tim, an ex-professional soccer player—have been able to achieve such success is testament to the fact that you don’t have to have years of knowledge and experience in an industry to succeed; what you need is a passion and belief in something bigger than you.
As big as their mission is, Joey knows that their altruistic vision alone wouldn’t be enough to build an enduring, successful business—instead, it comes down to creating high-quality products that customers would want to buy, and most importantly, building lifelong relationships with their customers that keep them coming back.
We talked about some unique ways they’re innovating around the customer experience to make that happen, from the careful attention they put into re-creating the in-store experience online, to building custom seats that make it easier for customers to try on shoes.
It’s clear that the Allbirds team are on a mission to change the world, not just in respect to our stewardship of the environment, but how we think about the retail and customer experience too.
Joey, we wish you and your incredible team all the best in your journey.
Be sure to listen in to the full episode where we talk about all this and a lot more, including Joey’s letter to a certain Mr Bezos
And while you’re at it, subscribe to Radically Personal on Apple, Spotify or Google Podcasts so you’ll be amongst the first to get your hands on our special bonus episode with Joey, where we delve into his thoughts and advice on entrepreneurship, the tension between sustainability and building a business, and a shoe company iterating like a software company.
As always, thanks for reading and do let me know what you think, and what you’d like to hear more of.