When exploring the Latvian startup scene, there are plenty of powerful companies, both up-and-coming and experienced, to keep on the radar. Among them, considered one of Latvia’s fastest-growing startup, is Printful.
Printful started out as a small business designing and printing inspiring quotes. Since the company’s launch in 2012, Printful has transformed into a global drop-shipping and print-on-demand service with a 500+ person team across the USA and Europe.
Printful has also created the appearance of an enticing and contemporary work environment, but you know what they say – don’t judge a book by its cover. So I decided that in order to understand what it’s really like to work at Printful, I would spend one day in their office in Riga.
Here’s how it went down:
Baltic’s very own Silicon Valley
I arrive at the office around 9:30. Although I could show up until 11:00, and no one would bat an eye – because of the flexible work schedule.
Sunny content marketer Giedre welcomes me and takes me on a quick tour around the building. From first glance, Printful appears every bit the modern office and as close to the Baltics’ own version of Silicon Valley as it could get. It’s no wonder though, because Printful is a part of the Draugiem Group incubator, a holding company which brings together social media and technology ideas and businesses.
Giedre explains that Printful is one of the many companies under the protecting wings of the Draugiem Group, and it has been expanding very rapidly in recent years. Therefore Printful now resides over a whole floor and another separate wing of the Draugiem campus, sharing not only the modern office space but several cool perks of the Draugiem Group – free lunch on the premises and a gym membership, for example.
I cannot help but notice the interior of the buildings. It’s designed in a way that feels quite cosy, yet makes you want to get things done – minimalistic, with plenty of inspirational posters decorating the walls. The office is filled with colourful items of clothing and accessories, as can be expected from a company that prints t-shirts, canvases, mugs, hats, and more. And there’s lots of greenery and plants, too, dividing up the space between coworkers and making the open offices feel more lively, yet more private.
But does the outer appearance reflect what’s inside? I’m soon to find out.
Cats, cakes, and international vibes
I try to infiltrate the workflow at Printful as imperceptibly as possible. I attend a meeting on digitization, a brainstorming session where we briefly talk about cats as a means of marketing. I assist a video shoot for a promotional video and I’m even invited to a small birthday celebration for one of the co-workers with coffee and homemade birthday cake. It tastes absolutely delicious.
The day turns out quite versatile, and I slowly get the hunch that that’s encouraged here at Printful. My co-workers move around, switching their desks from a sitting to standing position, moving from their desk space to meeting rooms, solitary sofas or the kitchen area – wherever they can get their creative juices flowing. Content writer Ilze who sits across from me explains it’s possible to work from Printful’s other offices – the fulfilment centre on the other side of the city and the Cesis office, located in a small town some 90 km outside of Riga.
However, the workflow is not the same for everybody. The people in customer support mostly work from home and have different shifts, some working on Saturdays or Sundays until midnight. Although I do appreciate the flexibility of remote work and diverse working hours, I can’t help but think it would only be fair if customer support also had the chance of tasty free meals, coffee, and an abundance of healthy snacks at the Printful office.
And yet there’s something else that stands out throughout the whole of my visit at Printful – the constant mix of the Latvian and English language. Sure, you need English if you want to communicate with your international colleagues like Giedre from Lithuania or Ana from Spain. But the funny thing – and I notice this almost every time I interact with someone that day – is that Latvian employees oftentimes switch to English when speaking to other Latvians. It was not unusual to hear someone start a sentence in Latvian, then switch to English, and then back to Latvian again – or use a catchy English phrase to describe what they mean better.
I do enjoy this phenomenon though, and I find it becoming to the international vibes at Printful. After all, it is a global company with offices in California, North Carolina, a brand new fulfilment centre in Mexico and customers all over the world. So practising your English every chance you get seems only reasonable, if not practical.
A company needs its culture
Eventually, I get to meet the top dog – Davis Siksnans, the CEO of Printful. During our meeting, we talk about his own schedule which includes juggling international meetings and managing a team that’s spread out over two continents. This means there’s lots of business travel. ‘I visit each of Printful’s offices throughout the year, which means I’m away from home for 2-3 months of the year,’ Davis explains.
Then he mentions something that sticks in my mind. ‘Whenever a new employee arrives at Printful, we try to establish a bond by telling the story of the company’s history,’ Davis says. ‘Unfortunately, I don’t get to talk to everyone personally on a daily basis, but this way it helps them feel a part of Printful as a whole.’
A sense of belonging is something that, in my mind, is crucial in building a company that lasts. After spending one day at Printful, I get the sense they’re on the right track of doing so.
I see it reflected in Printful’s 5th-year anniversary art piece with each employees’ time capsule of wishes for their future selves. It’s reflected in the many team building activities, like the grand ball around Christmas time, the yearly boat ride together with the other Draugiem Group companies and smaller get-togethers, including the upcoming YouTube video night the marketing team has planned.
So what is it really like to work for Printful? It’s like their Spotify playlist, which includes everything from 50 Cent to classical music, Radiohead and Massive Attack. It’s diverse, challenging, and fun.
About the Author
Kristine Spure is a content creator for Truesix.co, TV producer, and music manager. When she’s not pondering another article idea, Kristine is slaying the keys with her band or out on a search for the next best ASMR video.