‘I Told Them No Pajamas’

The rules of what can be worn to the office have changed.

Good morning!

Today’s highlights: Livestreaming continues to evolve. Could flexible policies for working parents help solve your labor shortage? And the White House reminds us that no company is safe from ransomware.


You’ve heard it before but it’s more true than ever—no company is safe from ransomware: “The White House has issued a rare open letter to companies calling on them to treat the threat of ransomware attacks with greater urgency, following back-to-back attacks by Russian hackers on key oil and food-processing companies. In a memo sent out Thursday morning, the National Security Council's top cyber official, Anne Neuberger, writes to corporate executives and business leaders that the private sector needs to better understand its critical role. ‘All organizations must recognize that no company is safe from being targeted by ransomware, regardless of size or location,’ Neuberger writes.”

  • “The White House is encouraging all companies to carry out recommendations it recently laid out in an executive order focused on cybersecurity, including updating systems and segmenting networks to isolate the operational parts of the networks.”

  • “The Biden administration also said this week it has launched a review of ransomware practices that include pressuring countries, such as Russia, to not harbor ransomware attacks, and to analyze cryptocurrency use by criminals.” READ MORE


Employers added 559,000 jobs in May: “Several factors are propelling a burst of economic activity. More Americans have become vaccinated against the coronavirus, and state and local governments have eased restrictions on businesses as Covid-19 cases have declined and as the federal government has relaxed its pandemic guidance. Those factors, along with federal pandemic aid, have prompted a pickup in spending, particularly at services businesses, which in turn is stoking labor demand.”

  • “Employment in April was still down by about eight million jobs compared with pre-pandemic levels, and nearly 10 million people were unemployed and potentially available to work.”

  • “Economists predict that the labor market won’t fully recover until next year despite signs of robust demand for workers.” READ MORE

As people head back to the office, the rules of what to wear have changed: “Mattress maker ViscoSoft is relaxing its dress code as employees return to its Charlotte, N.C. headquarters in June. Instead of the button-down shirts and slacks that were the norm before the pandemic, staffers can now wear joggers, leggings and sweatshirts. ‘I told them no pajamas,’ said Chief Executive Gabriel Dungan. After more than a year of working from home, millions of Americans are heading back to the office—and they need new clothes. That offers a rare opportunity to retailers, who are trying to anticipate what their customers will now want to wear to work. Many brands are scaling back their production of suits, adding more stretch to their pants and using new phrases such as ‘workleisure.’ They are turning out yoga pants that look like dress pants, T-shirts you can wear to work and a dressier version of cork-lined sandals dubbed the ‘Work Birk.’”

  • “As sales of work clothes surged at Banana Republic in recent weeks, the retailer didn’t promote the same pre-pandemic standard of blazers, skirts and suits. Instead it launched a new collection in April that pairs military shirts with dress slacks and hoodies with blazers. Chief brand officer Ana Andjelic calls it ‘hybrid dressing.’”

  • “Even Dockers, which helped spawn the concept of business casual, is adding more stretch to its classic chinos. ‘They look like khakis, but they feel more like sweatpants,’ said Nick Rendic, the brand’s global head of design.”

  • “Brooks Brothers CEO Ken Ohashi, who has been back in his New York City office since September, is trying to model this shift himself. He said he wears a sports jacket on Mondays, because he likes ‘to start the week in a semiformal mood.’”

  • “By later in the week, his outfit gets more relaxed, often consisting of a T-shirt, cardigan sweater and chinos.” READ MORE


Five startups are challenging Instagram and TikTok for the $6 billion livestream market: “During the pandemic, livestreaming helped store owners sell products virtually while their shops were closed. Now, as the U.S. economy reopens and restrictions are lifted, these business owners continue to reach new shoppers through online livestreams. Livestream shopping in the U.S. is estimated to become a $6 billion market this year and $25 billion by 2023, according to the research firm Coresight Research. Behind the trend's emergence in the U.S. stand five venture-backed companies that are challenging the dominant social-media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram to become the go-to host of livestream shopping.”

  • “Popshop Live stands out for its ability to form tight-knit communities around a store or seller. While some people use the app exclusively to shop, others log on to connect with people interested in the same things. The sellers Cindy Cortez and Vivian Nguyen met through Popshop Live and said the app's social nature has helped them build loyal customer followings.”

  • “Aaron Levant founded Ntwrk in 2018 around the idea of drop culture — the excitement of a new sneaker or streetwear release that generates a line around the block. The company blends that hype factor with entertainment through live-video events and exclusive products. Popular categories include sneakers, art, designer and customized apparel, and collectibles — like limited-edition Billie Eilish dolls that were unboxed by the singer herself.”

  • “Buywith takes influencer marketing to another level, allowing viewers to join influencers virtually as they shop their favorite brands. ... The platform is slightly different from others in its hybrid experience that mimics a FaceTime call. Hosts share their screens with viewers as they shop a brand's site while simultaneously broadcasting themselves on a smaller window in the corner. Viewers log into a livestream through a unique URL on the brand's site rather than a mobile app.” READ MORE


Restaurants and supermarkets are ready to expand—except they can’t find employees for the new locations: “Many food sellers are adding stores to capitalize on high consumer spending as Americans emerge from a year spent largely at home. But grocers and restaurants say they are struggling to hire all the workers they want for these stores. They are adding perks and bonuses to entice job seekers and in some cases delaying openings. Grocer Earth Fare said it is offering more jobs on the spot as it seeks to hire hundreds of people at five new stores in North Carolina, Ohio and elsewhere this year. Some supermarkets are adding referral and signing bonuses.”

  • “Carl Howard, CEO of Fazoli’s, a chain of nearly 220 Italian restaurants in 28 states, recently pushed back a Georgia opening by several weeks to find more staff. Job seekers are moving on to other employers if a job isn’t ready, he said.”

  • “Illinois-based Portillo’s Hot Dogs wants to add six restaurants to its 66-location chain this year. Portillo’s has boosted starting wages to at least $14 an hour in Arizona and $13 in Michigan and Florida, above the minimum wages in those states.”

  • “‘We can find good real estate, build beautiful buildings,’ he said. ‘The issue is if you can find people to join us.’” READ MORE

The founder of Latched Mama is setting a new standard for flexible work—and maybe offering a solution to the labor shortage: “In one corner of Melissa Wirt's warehouse, an employee prepared orders next to her daughter, who was attending virtual kindergarten. Meanwhile, an employee's spouse was learning the ropes so he could join the company while she acted as the primary caregiver. ‘We don't have an HR department, so everything really runs through me,’ said Wirt, the founder of breastfeeding clothing company Latched Mama. ‘Everybody was able to get whatever they needed during the pandemic.’ At a time when 10 million U.S. mothers with school-age children aren't actively working, Wirt has spent the last 15 months creating new policies and adjusting older ones for working parents to foster a supportive environment.”

  • “Wirt worked with each employee to find a solution for their specific need, which often included allowing parents to bring their children to work, encouraging flexible hours, and approving paid leave.” 

  • “Other times, if one employee was the primary caregiver and their spouse was out of work, Wirt found ways to get them on the company payroll. She tapped that person's expertise along with offering training sessions for newcomers.” READ MORE

Tulsa’s Black Wall Street Massacre is now a Harvard Business School case study: “After George Floyd’s killing last year, Harvard Business School Professor Mihir Desai says he channeled his thoughts and emotions the best way he knew how—by writing a case study. His aim was to design a classroom exercise that would give M.B.A. students a deeper understanding of the country’s racial scars and what role businesses might have in processing them, he says. He soon seized on a historical event he felt deserved more attention: the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, in which armed white mobs attacked Greenwood, a prosperous, albeit segregated Black neighborhood in the Oklahoma city that later came to be known as Black Wall Street. Over 24 hours, as many as 300 people were killed and more than 190 of the community’s businesses burned to the ground.”

  • “Prof. Desai’s case study, ‘The Tulsa Massacre and the Call for Reparations,’ asks students to explore ways to reckon with the attack’s financial fallout for its victims and their descendants.”

  • “He uses the Tulsa case as a launchpad to discuss the use of reparations to respond to the effects of slavery in the U.S. and its aftermath.”

  • “Students are also asked to consider the role of business in addressing racial-justice issues more broadly.” READ MORE



Every Friday, Gregg Stebben of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council and I offer our takes on the week’s most important stories for business owners and entrepreneurs. We post a new episode Fridays at noon. You can subscribe wherever you get podcasts or you can LISTEN HERE

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