How Bellroy’s founders created one of Australia’s best places to work

Bellroy

Bellroy co-founders Lina Calabria and Andy Fallshaw. Source: supplied.

Melbourne-based accessories and bag brand Bellroy topped the small business category in this year’s Australia’s 50 Best Workplaces 2021.

Compiled by research institute Great Place to Work, the awards rank workplaces based on employee survey results that reveal how satisfied and engaged staff are.

Lina Calabria and Andy Fallshaw, co-founders of Bellroy, entered the awards to receive some feedback about how they could improve their workplace culture.

“It really didn’t cross our minds that we might come first,” Calabria tells SmartCompany.

Bellroy employs about 80 staff and designs and sells accessories and bags from their office, which is a converted chocolate factory located in Fitzroy.

The founders say they scored 100% in the majority of Great Place to Work’s survey questions, with a few scores between 97% to 98%.

The anonymous survey is sent directly to staff without the business’ input and includes questions about engagement, safety, workplace culture and integrity.

Calabria says she thinks Bellroy topped the small business category, which includes workplaces of 30 to 100 staff, because her and her co-founder have prioritised culture from the very beginning.

“The thing that we’re always trying to do is create a great place to work, and this is the first time we’ve used an external group to help us work that out,” she says.

To make Bellroy a great place to work, the co-founders encourage staff members who want to take on leadership roles to move forward in the company, while also encouraging those who don’t want direct reports to contribute to meeting the company’s goals in their own way.

Bellroy’s senior management team includes 13 employees and then the next level of management, the emerging leaders team, is made up of 10 staff.

“The award is really an endorsement that all those people who work in different parts of the business are doing a great job aligning the Bellroy’s goals with the people working on them,” Fallshaw says.

Founded in 2010, Bellroy began as an innovative wallet brand and quickly expanded to sell bags, accessories and tech accessories.

In 2012, Bellroy signed on to its first international retailer Huckberry before becoming a B Corporation in 2015.

The founders, who have a background in product design, have striven to create a values-led business that promotes sustainability by using materials made from recycled plastic, eco-tanned leather and plant-based fabric.

Fallshaw says it was “very heartening” to see in the survey results that Bellroy’s employees believe the business values integrity.

“We operate in a marketplace where there’s a lot of greenwashing and for us we really try to be a values-led organisation,” he says.

“To see that the staff can see we genuinely care about being a high-integrity organisation was very heartening.”

Australia’s Best Workplaces is a yearly competition that businesses across the country can enter to find out how their employee experience compares to that of other Australian businesses.

Samantha Huddle, general manager of Great Place to Work Australia and New Zealand, said the best companies are those that have clear values and offer staff support.

“The best [companies] care about their communities and their people,” Huddle said.

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