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Brit Morin had heard that the key to happiness was to find a way to make your hobby your career. However, a rapid rise to Silicon Valley success left her with little time for hobbies.

After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, Morin accepted a job at Apple and moved to San Francisco. After her stint at Apple, she transitioned to a product marketing position with Google. Half a decade spent immersed in the tech industry’s start-up culture was enough for Morin to catch the start-up bug herself, so she took a six-month break to explore the possibility of launching her own tech company.

During this sabbatical, Morin found time — for the first time in her adult life — to reconnect with creative passions that had taken a back seat as she focused on career advancement: cooking, art and making crafts. Eventually, the business plan for Brit + Co (www.brit.co), an online craft-centric community for women and girls, began to emerge as a way to leverage both her professional background in tech and her passion for creativity.

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Outside the Brit + Co Make Shop, located next door to the company's offices in San Francisco's Union Square neighbourhood, the courtyard is festooned with meticulously curated succulents.

“I’m really interested in how to connect technology and creativity together, specifically to inspire and enable women to feel like they can be more creative”, said Morin. “A lot of women of the millennial generation grew up with technology, but without a lot of the creative skills that their mums had grown up with.”

One part inspiration resource (à la Pinterest) and one part commerce site (think Etsy), Brit + Co provides a one-stop resource where more established makers can find an audience and do-it-yourself enthusiasts can find a steady stream of recipes, craft project ideas and tutorials.

The company’s impressive growth – between 300 and 400 per cent annually since launching in 2011 – prompted The Los Angeles Times to dub Morin “the Martha Stewart of Silicon Valley”, but Brit + Co started out like any other scrappy start-up.

“It was just me at first”, Morin said, “working out of my apartment. Then one person came on board, and then an engineer came on board, and by the time we were four people, we moved into an office”.

That office, a live/work loft space, provided a fully equipped kitchen for working out recipes and had a homey feel, which worked well for photography. It was a great fit, but once the staff reached 15, the company had outgrown the space.

Brit + Co moved into its current office in San Francisco’s Union Square District in 2013. Fittingly enough, the building was the original home of the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design. Although Morin didn’t learn that fact until after Brit + Co had moved in, she and her staff find the building’s history inspiring. “I think that’s good creative karma”, Morin said.

Creativity is the corporate culture at Brit + Co. The 60-person team is comprised of designers, engineers and marketers on the technology side; writers, videographers and photographers on the content side; and buyers, merchandisers and customer support on the commerce side.

“It’s a very diverse group”, Morin said, “but there is a theme of creativity across the company. At any time, there is someone making something here, whether it’s at a craft table or in the kitchen, or our engineers who are coding applications. There is creativity happening everywhere in the office”.

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The addition of a retail space in an adjacent building provides another way for Brit + Co to share its culture of creativity with the local community in San Francisco. Originally envisioned as a pop-up shop for the 2013 holiday season, the retail concept (called the Make Shop) was so successful that it’s become a permanent feature of the Brit + Co headquarters. With its whirring 3D printers and large craft tables, the Make Shop embodies Brit + Co’s culture of creativity, but the team workspaces next door are just as inspired.
 

Adjacent to the Brit + Co offices is the Make Shop, a retail and community space where customers can attend workshops or purchase DIY “Brit Kits” or creative products by innovative makers.

Much of the office décor, from the framed quotes on the walls to the colourful paper lanterns strung overhead, was designed and created by Brit + Co staff. “It’s kind of like a living collage of everything that we’ve done over the last few years together”, Morin said.

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“There is creativity happening everywhere in the office,” says Brit Morin, whom The Los Angeles Times has called “The Martha Stewart of Silicon Valley”.

The current Brit + Co space was just beginning to take shape in 2013 when Kelsy O’Brien, a Herman Miller Small and Medium Business Sales Representative based in San Francisco, read a tweet from Brit, who was seeking inspiration for the company’s future office. O’Brien replied to the tweet and a week later, Brit + Co’s head of operations sent her a direct message. A visit to Herman Miller’s San Francisco showroom was planned.

On the showroom tour, O’Brien demonstrated a number of Herman Miller work chairs. The Brit + Co team gravitated toward Sayl, an Yves Béhar design inspired by San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The chair’s broad material offering provides an opportunity to add a dash of colour to a space: a definite plus for this particular project. However, it was Herman Miller’s reputation for personalised comfort and advanced ergonomics that led Brit + Co to purchase Sayl Chairs for all of its employees.

“Ergonomics are so important to us because our people are obviously sitting so much during the day”, Morin said. “So Herman Miller was the go-to brand for us.”

Photo credit: Mark Mahaney

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