Purpose At Work: How Timbuk2 Leverages Its Purpose to Drive Business and Community Growth

Companies built on purpose establish their brand story and strategy direction from the start. By following a core vision, purpose-built businesses have an easier time cultivating consumer advocacy, fostering community, and growing their company around something bigger than their brand or industry.

Photographer: Meg Roussos/Bloomberg

An excellent example of a brand founded on a purpose that’s stayed true to its roots through growth and development is Timbuk2. The San Francisco-based bag maker was started in 1989 by bike messenger, Rob Honeycutt who wanted to make the functional, utilitarian messenger bag accessible to all. At the time, messenger bags were available exclusively to bike messengers. This desire was the first and pure expression of the company’s purpose, urban progress, and ever since Rob built the first iconic Timbuk2 messenger bag in his garage, the company has grown its business, manufacturing facilities, retail footprint, and custom program, all while staying true to its core community of San Francisco.

Business leaders often find it difficult to hold true to their values in the face of expansion. Executives and brand managers must face challenging decisions about whether to maintain quality, responsibility, and sustainability or scale faster. Although it can be a struggle, businesses can maintain bottom line growth and core values. What’s more, consumers want to support brands that share their beliefs, which builds social capital and loyalty in the long term.

Timbuk2 is living proof that it’s possible to do good while expanding your business. Patti Cazzato, CEO of Timbuk2, has always made this a priority ever since she began to lead the brand in 2014. The company has always stressed the importance of staying true to the values of environmental stewardship, sustainable urban transport, personal expression, sustainability, responsibility and community that inspired that first bag years ago.

Here’s how Timbuk2 stays true to its founding vision while growing

Ensure corporate culture embodies brand ethos: While your external messaging is essential to your brand image, internal culture sets the foundation for your brand identity. To truly lead a purpose-driven company, you must ensure that your values are upheld in house at manufacturing facilities, headquarters, retail stores and company events.

From the start, Timbuk2 has valued locally made goods, sustainability and non-motorized transportation. To keep these values alive within the company, Timbuk2 creates all of their custom-made product in its 23,000 square foot manufacturing facility in San Francisco. What’s more, the company’s designers work on the same compound as the factory, which produces over 70,000 bags annually. Having both design and manufacturing at the same location makes innovation and prototyping easier. Plus, it nurtures a more inclusive corporate culture in which everyone is working together.

While San Francisco real estate is some of the most expensive in the country, keeping the manufacturing facilities in the bay area also reduces transportation costs and importation fees. What’s more, it helps cut shipping costs for their custom bags, which Timbuk2 delivers within 10 days or less. Additionally, employees can ride their bicycles and or take public transportation to work, to further reduce emissions.

Bicycle culture is also important for the Timbuk2 brand. To keep that culture alive through expansion, Timbuk2 makes sure that all their facilities and retail locations are located near a bike path and the company even hosts a free bike share program for both employees and customers. Another benefit of running the entire business in San Francisco is that team members have access to excellent networking and collaborative opportunities with other bay area businesses, creating fruitful business opportunities and authentic partnerships.

Rather than simply talking about them, Timbuk2’s entire business operation is set up to nurture its core values of sustainable metropolitan mobility, local community, innovation and individuality. By walking your talk you can uphold a position of transparency, authenticity and accountability.

Stay committed to quality: While saving pennies by reducing quality may increase profit margins in the short term, it only weakens your brand over time. Since the beginning, Timbuk2 has been committed to crafting durable, functional bags that suit the specific needs of every consumer. The proximity of design and manufacturing facilities ensure that every bag is up to the highest quality standards.

It’s impossible to make a bag that’s “perfect” for everyone. To maintain individual functionality for everyone’s needs, Timbuk2 launched its online customizer tool (the first of its kind) in 2000, empowering people from all over the globe to create their very own unique Timbuk2 bag, sewn in their San Francisco Factory. In addition to its custom program, Timbuk2 debuts a plethora of new products throughout the year to fit every urban commuter’s wants and needs. This includes collections for bike, work, travel for both men and women navigating the city terrain. What’s more, the bag maker guarantees the quality of its products with a lifetime warranty. It’s in the best interest of the brand and its customers to make products built to last.

Ultimately, by offering customizable products with a lifetime warranty Timbuk2 has built a reputation around durability and longevity. This reputation helps the brand’s bottomline via consumer goodwill, word of mouth advertising and repeat purchases.

Cultivate long lasting customer relationships: Your customers make your business work. What’s more repeat customers, on average, spend two thirds more than first-time buyers. Additionally, from a marketing perspective, it costs an average of over 5 times more to get a new customer to make a purchase than someone who’s already bought your products. For these reasons, it’s imperative to cultivate long term customer relationships.

Timbuk2 does a great job of inviting consumers to interact with its brand. In addition to offering its lifetime warranty, which is backed up by in house repairs, and its bikeshare program, Timbuk2 hosts a factory tour on the first Friday of each month. In the tour, consumers are invited to explore the factory first hand. By seeing the design processes, fabrics, sewing and more, consumers get to have a more hands on interaction with the brand. Plus, there’s beer on tap. It’s a celebration for both the employees and consumers.

Further, the urban bag brand’s Lifecycle program encourages consumers to bring their bags back in for repairs and alterations. Timbuk2 also hosts the Break Up With Your Bag initiative, which gives people who are ready to part with a bag the opportunity to donate it to others in need. By inviting consumers to participate in Timbuk2’s social good efforts the brand is making stronger relationships with its customers. The lesson here is that Timbuk2 is inviting its existing customers, as well as interested consumers, to build a relationship with the brand. This not only encourages and creates a community around the brand but also encourages repeat purchases.

Staying committed to your core purpose and founding vision is paramount to profitable growth. Timbuk2 is a prime example of a company that’s maintained its brand ethos while scaling its bottom line. Weaving purpose into corporate culture, committing to quality, and fostering long lasting customer relationships are excellent ways to scale both your impact and business growth.

For more information on Timbuk2, visit: https://www.timbuk2.com/about-us.

CEO We First Inc, author NYT's bestseller We First, strategic corporate consultant and trainer, father, Australian, optimist.