At a time when face-to-face communication has become a rarity in nearly every business, the mission of Text Request has never felt more urgent.
"We've had very interesting conversations with customers across industries," says Kenneth Burke, director of marketing for the company, which helps its customers use texting to communicate. "For many, this situation has heightened the need for what we offer."
As the coronavirus crisis worsened, shuttering local restaurants and forcing small businesses to move to a carryout-only model, Text Request launched a free platform to help local entrepreneurs weather the changes.
"In these trying times, we feel obligated to help our fellow local businesses do whatever they can to stay up and running," says Brian Elrod, Text Request co-founder and CEO. "Curbside pickup and delivery are new business models for many restaurants, and with so many Chattanoogans stepping up to support them with an influx of orders, some are struggling to manage increased demand. Text Request was built to support such needs, and we're happy to lend our product to these restaurateurs and their teams."
The Text Request team spent weeks working from home to protect the health and safety of employees, but the entrepreneurial spirit at the heart of the company has kept it thriving through a time of nearly unimaginable challenges, Burke says.
"We're having Zoom calls and celebrating all the small victories (new accounts, upgrades, not being sick, a pet doing something fun) through Slack," he says. "The situation has made me love the company more."
Married co-founders and serial entrepreneurs Brian and Jamey Elrod launched the business five years ago, bringing in Rob Reagan as a partner to lead the build and launch of the technology behind Text Request. The three have developed a workplace culture that emphasizes experimentation and autonomy.
"We give them the end goal and they figure out how to get us there," Brian Elrod says of the team.
That means there's a lot of room to suggest and try new ideas, and a lot of space for people who are driven to create and problem-solve, Reagan says.
* Founded: 2015
* Employees: 20
* Why this is a Best Place to Work: We have a culture where people really enjoy spending time with each other, whether it’s on a work project or just for fun. We’re creating an incredible business, and having a good time doing it.
* Online: textrequest.com
"Autonomy and creative control mean a lot to us," he says. "We're idea-driven. The best ideas win."
It's also a warm, informal environment with strong bonds, the founders say. Working from home doesn't present any technical challenges, but it does cramp the routines of a team that has an all-hands meeting every Monday, goes to lunch together every Friday, and enjoys quarterly outings to everything from bowling to axe-throwing.
"We have a plan for everyone working from home," Brian Elrod says. "We're all so connected, but we definitely like being together."