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Workers in tech hubs like San Francisco and New York are familiar with the Allbirds craze of the mid-to-late 2010s, when you couldn’t walk down the street or step into an elevator without seeing the monochromatic merino wool sneakers on the feet of seemingly everyone you met. If they don’t seem as ubiquitous now, that’s likely because they’ve become so commonplace we take them for granted.
Forbes Japan via Allbirds
Allbirds’ growth would indicate that’s probably the case. After launching on the heels of a $120,000 Kickstarter campaign that took place in 2014, the company is now worth a reported $1.7 billion and preparing for a fall 2021 IPO.
Co-founder and CEO Joey Zwillinger has been there since 2015, when he teamed up with New Zealander Tim Brown to create and roll out the “world’s most comfortable shoe,” created from sustainable merino wool.
Five years since its launch, Allbirds has expanded its product offerings beyond the classic Wool Runners to include waterproof sneakers, slip-ons and clothing, and Zwillinger has taken on a large role in shaping the growth of Allbirds. Below, read how his morning routine, favorite business book and daily habits make him a better leader.
Image Credit: Allbirds
Entrepreneur: Do you have a set morning routine?
Joey Zwillinger: I don’t set an alarm. My 4-year-old wakes me up and we have a quick snuggle. I then make cappuccinos for my wife and me, lunch for the kids and head off to work.
What’s your favorite business book?
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It’s not specifically about business, per se, but if you understand the book’s message of self-determination you’ll have a much better shot of accomplishing anything you set your mind to.
Favorite business podcast, TV show, movie or influencer?
While it might not seem overtly business-related at first glance, Before the Flood is an important piece of work on the climate crisis, created by the incredible director Fisher Stevens and producer Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s an investor in Allbirds. The private sector has an important role to play in reversing climate change, and continuing to educate myself on the realities of a warmer planet helps to reinforce and focus the mission behind Allbirds.
Do you have any daily habits that make you a better leader?
When I get home from work, I take a full break. I focus 100% on my family and then shift back to work when needed. This is often my most creative and productive time, and I think understanding my personal rhythm and focusing on being present on only what I am doing at that moment is important. It helps me be a good business leader and good family member.
How much sleep do you get? Do you wish you got more?
I get eight hours, usually with a middle-of-the night interlude or two that I’m trying to rid myself of. I read the newspaper on my phone when I can’t sleep at night, which is an admittedly horrible habit, but I am very up to speed on current events as a result.
Image Credit: Allbirds
What’s your work setup like? Do you work from an office? From home?
In our San Francisco HQ office, I work on a small desk in an open layout across from my co-founder Tim Brown, surrounded by the rest of our executive team. I walk around our office a lot when I don’t have scheduled meetings.
When we moved to full work from home due to Covid, I built a triple bunk bed for my kids and took over a bedroom as an office. We made it work, but it’s definitely not my favorite, and I’m not as productive, given I can’t meet with people on an ad hoc basis.
Do you have a work “uniform,” or something you gravitate towards when you have a big meeting?
When I’m getting dressed for work, I think about the audiences I’ll be interacting with before I start the day and seek to wear something that shows appropriate deference and respect to the audience, while also expressing my personality and keeping in mind the impact of the items on the planet. I, of course, always wear Allbirds, and lately I’ve been loving our Wool Pipers — they’re polished and formal enough, but not stuffy.