Forget about Ping-Pong tables, free meals, and weekly happy hours. Boxed, an e-commerce platform that sells bulk groceries and household products at wholesale prices, is now paying for all full-time employees' weddings.
Here's the back story. Marcel Graham, a 26-year-old Boxed employee who works at one of the company's fulfillment centers in New Jersey, was racing against time. Graham's mother is gravely ill and he wanted to get married to his fiancée ASAP so his mother could participate in the ceremony.
Graham worked seven days a week, two shifts a day, to save his money. But the math suddenly wasn't adding up--he wasn't making enough to pay for his mother's medical bills and save for the wedding. At his work station earlier this month, Graham couldn't hold it in any longer and broke down.
Chieh Huang, CEO and cofounder of Boxed, which is valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, decided to do something.
"F--- it, I'm gonna do the right thing and change this man's life," Huang tells Inc. over the phone from Japan. "We got his fiancée to come in and surprised him; it was water works all around. This is the stuff I enjoy, doing good."
Huang said Boxed is paying for Graham's wedding and then will reimburse any full-time employee for their wedding up to $20,000.
"We don't do free meals, we don't do $10,000 happy hours, we're lean all around," Huang says. "We don't have extravagant salaries, but we focus on a few fringe benefits."
HR has made a formal wedding request program and Huang says it seems like six other employees will be tying the note soon. Out of 125 employees, he says probably 10 percent will get married.
"It's not like we're providing $25,000 in annual benefits for each employee; this is very targeted," he says. "Culture is so important to us and if I can help an employee in a bad situation, it benefits the culture and benefits the entire company."
Zaw Thet, founding partner of Signia Venture Capital, is a Boxed investor and board member and says the entire board supports the initiative.
"Chieh cares about the bigger purpose of the world besides making money," Thet says. "There is no accident that there has been almost zero turnover in full-time employees."
Thet says when he first invested in Boxed's seed round, he had one piece of pithy advice:
"I told him once I invested, don't f-up the culture," Thet says. "The founders created a 10-person team that was tight-knit and had a 'we're all in this together,' scrappy and hungry culture that overly-rewards people when they do good things. And he's kept that as Boxed scaled to over 100 employees."
Thet also said that this move to pay for employee weddings is "typical Chieh," saying that the CEO has fostered a culture that supports its employees.
"A Ping-Pong table doesn't add to the culture and Silicon Valley is cutting back from its peak of insanity," Thet says. "These are targeted benefits, which might only affect 10 percent of the employees. This is for us to provide a way for our employees to start their own families."
This is not Huang's first tango with unique benefits.
Last year, after opening a fulfillment center in Atlanta, Huang noticed that only three employees out of 20 had a car. He started to think about how he could help his employees. Huang, who grew up poor in Baltimore, decided the best way to help his employees' and their families was to pay for their kids' college educations. But instead of making it a formal benefit, Huang decided to pay for any employee's kid's tuition out of his own salary.
"I wanted to go beyond putting dinner on the table," he says. "If we have brilliant kids who cannot go to college because they can't afford it, then they will be stuck in certain situations and then they won't afford college for their kids. I wanted to end the cycle."
Huang, who sold his first company, a mobile gaming platform, to Zynga for million of dollars, says he lives a relatively anonymous lifestyle compared to his means. Instead of keeping his wealth squirreled away, he wants to make sure his employees and company feel supported, valued and can live a life.
Besides tuition and weddings, Huang says his employees' salaries are moderate. Boxed also offers unlimited maternity and paternity paid leave.
"Money is there to put food on the table and make sure your family is cared for," he says. "Anything beyond that can be argued as extraneous. We're all in this together. It doesn't matter who you are at the company, we try to take care of you."