Customer Stories

Pivoting for good: A conversation with Timbuk2

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From nonprofits on the front lines of research, testing, and disaster response to businesses that are pivoting for good, companies around the world have rallied in light of the recent pandemic. 

One such company is Timbuk2, a San Francisco-based maker of quality bags, located right down the street from Asana’s headquarters. Timbuk2 is well known for their messenger bags, and, more recently, for their collaboration with NBC Sports Bay Area to produce 50,000 masks for essential workers, Messengers 2 Masks. We sat down for a Q&A with Michelle Nadeau, Head of Marketing at Timbuk2, to learn more about Timbuk2’s Messengers 2 Masks initiative and how Asana has helped the Timbuk2 team stay connected during this time. Here’s what she had to say: 

Q: As a retail company, how has the team had to adjust the business as a result of the shelter in place order and impacts of the current pandemic? 

A: We decided to temporarily close our stores before the shelter in place ordinances were put into effect, for the safety of our customers and our employees. Once San Francisco implemented official shelter in place orders, we also closed our HQ and our San Francisco factory. We had to re-learn how to use our website—you don’t often ask the question, “How do you turn off parts of the site?”. 

While certain parts of the business were operational, we started to brainstorm what else we could do, and what unique advantages we had at Timbuk2. Having a factory in San Francisco’s Mission District allowed us to quickly shift from making messenger bags to making masks for our local community.   

Q: What impact have these changes had on the way teams at Timbuk2 work and stay connected? 

A: If you’re not doing Zoom happy hours with your entire team, are they really your team? While we are all working from home, we want to make sure that everyone at Timbuk2 has some semblance of work-life balance. In “real life,” we’d grab a beer after work, so having a chance to connect with our teams in a virtual social setting has been awesome. 

Q: How did your “messengers to masks” initiative and partnership with NBC Sports Bay Area come about? 

A: One of our core values at Timbuk2 is to give a damn about the world around us. When it came time to determine how we could support our local community in fighting this pandemic, shifting our San Francisco manufacturing from messengers to masks and bandanas was a no-brainer. We knew we could take on the production in our San Francisco factory, and NBC Sports Bay Area was the perfect partner to provide us with the materials we needed. 

The connection between Timbuk2 and NBC Sports Bay Area was completely organic. They reached out to us, and by the end of the day, we’d aligned on the partnership. It’s been an honor to work with such world-class organizations, and we are proud to support our frontline workers.

Q: What has been the most rewarding and challenging part of pivoting to focus on creating masks for your San Francisco community? 

A: Getting our hands dirty (figuratively, of course–we’re very clean over here!) and creating something that is so tangibly supporting the fight against COVID-19 in our community has been extremely rewarding. As a company, we’ve all rallied behind the initiative, posting on personal social media channels about the progress, and volunteering to help. While we’ve been physically apart, we’ve been more connected than ever.

Our community has really stepped up. People have been calling from all over, to donate t-shirts or just cheer us on. Speaking with recipients of the face masks has been so rewarding as well. It’s amazing to know that these face coverings are going to those in need and feel that immediate impact. 

The most challenging thing: we wish we could do more. The demand for these face coverings is extremely high, even in the Bay Area alone. We’ve received an overwhelming amount of requests from equally deserving organizations for mask donations. All of the work put into manufacturing these masks is on a volunteer basis from our Timbuk2 team. We’re small but mighty, doing everything we can to make as many masks as possible while ensuring the safety of our dedicated employees. 

Q: You mentioned that you’ll be offering these non-medical grade masks for sale, can you tell us more about this?

A: It quickly became clear to us that our loyal Timbuk2 fans were excited about getting their own mask from us. Although our priority at the beginning of this initiative was fulfilling the high demand for masks in our local community, we are excited to say they are officially available for purchase here

Q: How has your team been using Asana throughout all of this? 

A: Asana is ingrained into how we operate within and across teams at Timbuk2, but these past three months have definitely amplified that. We use Asana to outline our initiatives and to brief our teams on the assets needed at each step. It’s been a great tool for keeping us efficient and accountable while also being respectful of everyone’s time and schedules. 

We’ve had a big learning curve with working from home, but status updates in Asana have enabled us to move efficiently and made the transition as smooth as possible. Asana has helped our teams shift dynamically in a time when initiatives were changing on a daily basis. 

Q: In light of all the changes your team has navigated already, how are you thinking about what’s next for Timbuk2? 

A: It’s in our nature to be fearless in the face of great unknowns. Innovation, quality, and creativity are at the forefront of every project we cultivate at Timbuk2, and truthfully our team comes up with more awesome ideas on any given day than we have time to execute. As we move forward as a brand, we know the needs of our customers will continue to change as we navigate this new reality. Making and selling masks isn’t core to our business, but we are looking to adapt and serve our customers and their needs. As always, their needs will come first. 

Do anything—from anywhere—with Asana

We’re thankful to customers like Timbuk2 who are rallying together around their mission and their community during this crisis. So long as teams are supporting people in need, we’ll be there to help them collaborate, connect, and coordinate work from anywhere. Learn more about how Asana can help your team connect and work remotely, and get started for free today. 

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