Fifteen years ago, I started on a journey that has taken me beyond where I imagined. Driven by a desire to take control of my work life, to tackle new challenges, and to hopefully have some fun along the way, I founded a company that was then called “Ten 7 Interactive, LLC.” It started as a solo venture, just me in my basement in Richfield, Minnesota. A decade and a half later, TEN7 has team members across the country and amazing clients who rely on us every day to Make Things That Matter.
To mark this special moment, I wanted to take a look back and identify 15 mileposts that have guided TEN7 along our path.
- TEN7’s First Project In 2007, the first TEN7 client was the Basilica of Saint Mary. I created the website using Joomla!, and I can freely admit I was learning on the fly. Thankfully, it worked! And the lessons I learned shaped the future direction of the company.
- The First Drupal Site After some frustration with Joomla!, I wanted to try something different. I was hired to build a website for the Animal Humane Society and I opted for Drupal. I was drawn to the Drupal platform in part because of the functionality, but even more so because of the community. Drupal was welcoming. I loved the open source nature of it. I found a home that remains a foundation for TEN7 today.
- Becoming an Employer As projects started to come in, I realized I needed help. I first dipped my toes into becoming an “employer” in 2008, sharing a contract worker with another business. At first I was nervous about the idea of being responsible for another person’s income. I also have a perfectionist streak that made it difficult for me to hand work off to someone else. Still, I had no choice if I wanted to grow. It was a great decision, and being an employer has become one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
- Leaving the Basement In 2009, I finally had to leave the nest. I moved TEN7 to a shared office space in downtown Minneapolis. It was a small space with a small team, but there was something about having an office that, at the time, made it all feel like a big step forward. Ironically, a few years later we made a significant step in the opposite direction! (see milepost #10)
- Developing the TEN7 Brand As the business grew, it became more important to establish the TEN7 brand. On a whim, I reached out to legendary designer, Aaron Draplin at Draplin Design, to see if he’d help with our TEN7 logo. To my amazement, he said yes! (Read more about our work together here) The work we did not only established the look and feel for TEN7, it also changed the way I saw the company. I felt like we were establishing a foundation for a long term venture. The logo hasn’t changed since.
- Opening a Downtown Office Space As our team continued to grow, I decided to take a leap and buy office space in downtown Minneapolis. Designing the space, I drew upon lessons I learned from the Montessori School my kids attended. Everything was geared toward creativity and collaboration. There were no “offices.” We had twelve desks attached to one another, a kitchen, and a conference room. Everything was open and focused around letting people come together to produce great work.
- Supporting the Team
The more TEN7 grew, the more obvious it became that success comes from having a great team. I was lucky to have made some great hires and I realized the best way to help TEN7 thrive was to take good care of them.
I started rolling out benefits to our employees including:
- SimpleIRA plan with 3% matching
- Health insurance - first using a health care stipend and later offering Group health, dental and vision benefits (thank you Obama Care!)
- Life insurance
I am proud to be able to offer strong wages and benefits to the team, and I know the growth of the company is directly tied to the way we treat our employees. And of course, our Employee Handbook is open source
- Our First “Why” Statement Part of our growth as a company also involved a conscious effort to define what TEN7 stands for and how we approach our work. In 2015, we developed our first “Why” statement: "We believe that by working together we can accomplish incredible things.” We also defined our core values: Honesty, Mindfulness, Speaking plainly, Sharing While we have refined our mission and values since then, this initial work provided the foundation for our corporate culture.
- Offering Sabbaticals Understanding the value of retaining our talented team members, TEN7 started offering sabbaticals to long-term employees starting in 2016. After every four years of full-time employment, team members can take a four week paid sabbatical. It’s another benefit that I’ve been proud to offer and it has been embraced by the team.
- Becoming a Distributed Company In 2017, TEN7 took a step that proved to be ahead of its time. We sold our office space and became a fully distributed company. We did this in an intentional manner, taking time to adopt the tools and processes to respect different work styles while continuing to encourage collaboration and camaraderie. Suddenly our talent pool for hiring increased, and our employee satisfaction grew as well.
- Launching our Podcast As TEN7 has grown, we’ve worked to remain true to our values. Part of that requires us to be open and to share information and ideas with the world around us. In 2017 we launched a new channel to communicate with the world: “The TEN7 Podcast.” At first the podcast focused primarily on tech-related topics but over more than 130 episodes it has expanded to delve into a wide variety of issues and ideas. Today the podcast is called “ONE OF 8 BILLION” and we have been grateful to the many guests who have shared their unique and inspiring stories with us over the years.
- Going Green Living our values has required TEN7 to take stock of how we conduct ourselves as global citizens. That’s why in 2019 we started purchasing carbon offsets for every team member for both energy and water use. Our work in this area is continuing to this day as we work toward becoming a carbon neutral company. (More news on this in the near future!)
- Refining our Mission and Values In 2021, I decided the time had come to step back and take a fresh look at our company and how we want to define ourselves going forward. This required some deep introspection and a lot of important conversations. In the end, we settled on our new mission statement: Make Things That Matter, and we refined our values to guide us into the future.
- Creating a Leadership Team The other big change that has positioned us for future growth has been the establishment of our Leadership Team. I’ve been lucky to be able to promote from within and add new talent to create a structure that will help us focus on our mission.
- Our New Website Finally, in the wake of defining our new mission and values, we decided the time had come for a brand new TEN7 website. This was a total team effort! We started from scratch, looking at our strategy first and building our branding and content from that foundation. I’ve been overjoyed by the results, which have us well positioned for the future.
It’s an understatement to say the last 15 years have been a wild ride. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about what is important to me in work and life. Most of all, I’m proud to have built a business where I can employ amazing people and create a positive environment so we can do great things together.
I can’t wait to see what the next 15 years have in store!