12 Days of PR Bliss: Shopi-fantastic

Written by: Hayley Robateau


Not too long ago, I saw a young man walking downtown with a t-shirt that said, “I don’t work at Shopify… yet.” I chuckled at its simplicity, and asked the man if he got the job. He said no, but he wasn’t going to rule anything out, and the shirt was also too nice not to wear. This unassuming t-shirt is an example of how Shopify cares for its people; even if they aren’t guaranteed employees, they’re guaranteed a free t-shirt from their hiring parties and a good reputation.

Shopify is a privately owned Ottawa-based company that gives online stores an easy-to-use platform to sell their goods.  It has a serious resume of business innovation, as well as employee and customer satisfaction. If you don’t know about them, here are some quick reasons why you should:

  • Shopify powers over 65,000 online stores globally;
  • Over $2 billion dollars in sales have been made through these stores;
  • It is the 3rd fastest growing company in Canada (as of November 13th, 2013);
  • It employs a skilled team of 275 employees in Ottawa;
  • Its employment strategy involves cocktail parties and homemade video submissions; and
  • Shopify’s office has a slide between its floors.

Yes, mentioning the slide was necessary.

I got some insider information on one of the world’s fastest-growing ecommerce platforms from Mark Hayes, who is the head of Public Relations and Communications at Shopify and also a writer with a pretty impressive resume.

Has Shopify been involved in any philanthropic efforts within the community? 

Shopify donated $100,000 to the Accumen, a global non-profit that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of poverty. Its aim is to help build financially sustainable organizations that deliver affordable goods and services that improve the lives of the poor. Shopify also participates in Movember and we hold many technology and startup related events in our office to foster community development, networking and recruitment. We also actively participate in events that help to encourage software development and coding in specific demographics like children and women.

 Tell me about the life story of Shopify. How has it grown from its inception to now? 

Shopify started back in 2006 when the founders decided that they wanted to start selling snowboards — but frustration with available web design tools led them to create their own software. They soon realized that selling snowboards may be a good idea but selling the software behind the online store was a great idea. In the beginning we were in bootstrapping mode and focused on building a great product that helped merchants launch an ecommerce website. Now in 2013, after we’ve doubled in revenue, customer acquisition and employees year over year for the past four years, we’re looking to move from being just an ecommerce play to a commerce company that allows anyone to easily sell online, in-store and everywhere in between. With the launch of Shopify POS in August and Shopify Mobile, we’re helping merchants seamlessly integrate offline and online. Consumers now want choice and retailers need to be able to provide that and we’re looking to assist in these efforts.

 What are some public relations campaigns that Shopify has organized to push the company forward? 

Recruitment is a big priority within Shopify and one of our most successful PR stunts had to deal with just that. When news broke that IBM was laying-off staff in Ottawa, we set up a recruiting booth right outside IBM’s offices. We had multiple people coming out to say “thanks for doing this, I was laid off today” and it was received really well. Local media took notice of our stunt and it actually generated a lot of coverage. We also have ongoing global PR campaigns to position Shopify as thought leaders in the retail industry. This includes working with journalists from tier 1 US magazines, newspapers, blogs, television and radio outlets.

 What is the best part about working for Shopify? 

Definitely the culture. Aside from the perks like catered lunches, a cleaning allowance, gym memberships, etc.; it really all boils down to what we expect from our employees and how we help them succeed and develop within their careers. Here are the five tenants on how to become a Shopify hero that truly exemplifies our culture:

  • Ship fast – done is better than perfect.
  • Have high standards.
  • Act like an owner – do things, tell people.
  • Fail gracefully – ask for forgiveness not permission.
  • Be resourceful - the “How to draw an owl” is the best example for this. Step one is draw two circles. Step two is to draw the rest of the owl.

 Shopify is a young company that marches to the beat of its own drum, which makes it a breeding ground for young talent. People should take note of not only the innovative moves that Shopify is making, but also the new perspective they take on business and human resources.  

I don’t work for Shopify yet either, but I sure want to!

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