Medium, 7/18/17 - AND1
By Chrissy Houlahan
In 1995, my husband and I traveled to Utah from the east coast for a family reunion. We learned about the pioneer stock that he came from — the hardship and covered wagon journeys that brought his family across the country to a new life and land. On the plane home with our one and three year old daughters, we discussed that the opportunity to be true pioneers was certainly less obvious now. Nonetheless, we challenged each other to find a way to be modern pioneers. The next weekend we were given the opportunity to be just that. We had the chance to join some friends of ours from college in the Philadelphia suburbs and build a small basketball t-shirt company. When I joined the company, I became the first woman on the management team, the first mom and the first non-basketball playing member of what became AND1 Basketball. I served as the COO for that company and helped scale the organization over the course of more than a decade from near start-up to more than $250M in global sales. At our peak, we were the number two basketball brand, only trailing Nike.
I am very proud of the hundreds of local jobs we created at AND1 in Paoli and of the many more jobs we created across the nation and world. But I am even prouder of the good jobs and corporate culture that I helped engender and foster over the course of that decade.
At AND1, we were 20- and 30-somethings with young families. We wanted to create a company that we would want to work at, and we wanted to create it for everyone. As the COO and first woman and mom in management, part of my responsibility was building and executing this culture. To that end, I worked to give every employee the respect and benefits that I wanted and expected. 100% of employees were provided healthcare (with at least 80% of health, dental, vision and disability costs paid). We gave extended maternity leave and a promise of a job upon return. We gave at least three weeks of vacation to all, regardless of title. We provided everyone 40 hours of community service to make the community a better place. Any employee with the company longer than a year received stock options. 5% of profits were allocated to philanthropic efforts in our communities, largely focused on educational efforts. Over the course of our run, that added up to more than $2,000,000 to local charities. We had a gym on-site, a mother’s nursing room, pets at work, kids at work, massages and yoga at work. Your car could be washed while you were at work, your dry cleaning picked up. This all was happening in the mid and late 90’s in suburban Philadelphia — long before these things became the fashion at more trendy workplaces. We did them at AND1 because they were the right thing to do. It made sense to treat people the way that you would want to be treated. It made for a great workplace, and it made AND1 more successful, more competitive, and more profitable. It was a win for everyone — for employees, management, shareholders, and the community.
Too many Americans are working longer hours while making less and struggling to make ends meet. It feels like more than ever before, we are putting enormous stresses on people and families. I do not believe it has to be that way. Business has the ability to change that paradigm and to behave responsibly on behalf of all of the various stakeholders. Good business practices do not have to be at the expense of profitability, and I saw that firsthand at AND1.
We need to build a 21st century economy where people can work hard and share in prosperity. We need to work to build an inclusive economy where businesses pay a living wage, equal work gets equal pay, and the workplace respects the dignity of employees.
At AND1, we proved that businesses can grow and be profitable while simultaneously benefiting employees, community and environment. I am proud of that record and I intend to bring that real world experience and perspective to Congress.