“Work-life balance” is a buzz phrase we’ve heard for years, but how many of us actually achieve it? Ishan Daya, co-founder of Crafty, says that the next generation of office dwellers want something else: work-life integration.


The smartest employers emphasize “the fluidity between life and work,” he says. “They want to create an environment where people feel comfortable because that’s where the greatest ideation happens.”

Ishan Daya, co-founder of Crafty (John Rosin/Technori)


The key feature of a comfy workspace, of course, is a well-stocked kitchen.


Chicago-based Crafty launched in 2016 with one simple, brilliant plan: put a kegerator in every office. They installed a free one for each client who signed on to pop for two kegs per month.


Clients loved it and asked for more. The company quickly grew out of a WeWork space, opened its own headquarters in the West Loop, and expanded to facilitate the other key food groups: coffee, LaCroix, and snacks. Today, they’re preparing to launch in San Francisco.


Here’s a taste of my conversation with Ishan about growing with clients, building culture, and living your values.


Talk to me a little bit about what Crafty is, and how you’ve grown.


Crafty is a food, beverage and events management service for corporate offices. We’re creating benefits for folks who operate food and beverage programs in offices: automating ordering, keeping inventory, stocking, and making sure that it’s all being managed in a really deliberate way.


We evolve a company’s food and beverage program as it evolves. Your program as a 50 person company should look different than the one you have as a 100, 200, or 500-person company. And the way it’s managed should also evolve. We’ve essentially created a system, a platform, and an operating model that adapts to growing companies.


We make sure our clients are always being competitive in what they’re offering, and that they don’t put a lot of effort into what they’re doing –– they’ve hired us as a managed service to run it for them.


Do you guys see yourself as being in the culture sphere?


We don’t think about food and beverage as culture. We think of it as a tool to augment culture. It’s an opportunity for us to be able to create connections within your office space. Culture is based on your values. It’s based on your people. We are here as a tool, as a resource, to be able to augment that, as an offering you’re giving to your company.


Let’s talk about the tech part. What’s the experience we’ll have once Technori has over 50 employees and we start working with Crafty? Walk me through it.


Let’s say you’re an office manager. Prior to working with Crafty, you were probably working with one company for alcohol services, another for coffee, another for snacks, beverages, produce. It’s pretty difficult to understand your budget –– what you’re spending on a per-person basis and how you’re managing that day to day.


It seems that you can win your employees over by providing them with food. But by the same token, you’ll lose every one of them because you don’t recycle or you don’t manage waste.


We’re helping companies make sure that they’re being positive contributors to the waste chain. We partner with a composting company to offer that service to clients. It’s something we believe in –– it goes to an earthworm farm south of Chicago, back into the circular economy.


We also track what’s wasted through inventory management: knowing, OK –– if you actually didn’t consume all of this, what were the reasons why? Next time we fulfill this product, let’s bring less so you won’t waste it.


We want to be good stewards of the economy, of the environment, to our employees ––  living our values.


You guys are opening an office in San Francisco. Other than the obvious, why there, versus other cities?


In about two months, we will be going live with our operations in San Francisco. The baseline reason is that we’ve had clients ask us to go out there.


We think about other markets too. We’ve been lucky enough to work with folks who have footprints across the US. If we have a client here with national headquarters in Boston, it makes the conversation a lot easier when  we’re thinking about another market.


You have a unique vantage point for what I think is the most challenging hiring time ever. What are some of the key takeaways you’ve learned about how to attract and retain talent?


We did a study with the Kellogg School of Business to understand the state of perks in the workplace. One of the key takeaways was once you offer something, you can’t take it back. The morale hit to your employees is huge. But the second thing is that it’s such a low-cost, value-add item in that really brings people together.


When you think about it, the cost of $5, $8, or $10 per person, per day, or whatever it is in your office space –– it’s not that much. And it’s also something that’s highly scalable. When we work with scaling companies, we sit down with their finance department and ask, what is the reporting structure you need, and what should you understand as you’re scaling your business? They can put this in as a line item projection in their costs. It’s a super projectable cost item. It’s not necessarily about the dollars, but the experience that they’re trying to build.