People-Driven Success Story

Philz Finds Pandemic Benefits Solutions

Philz Coffee is a San Francisco-based coffee company that specializes in hand-crafted coffee – personalized to each guest, one cup at a time. With over 50 retail locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Philz has been voted one of the best coffee shops in the U.S. by Delish, and one of the coolest in the U.S. by Zagat/Huffington Post.




Years as a

Sequoia client


Average engagement in

Sequoia HRX per week

When cities began locking down at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and businesses were forced to close their doors, Philz – like many other businesses – was faced with critical decisions. With a mission of Bettering Days, it was critical for Philz to support its team members while being fiscally responsible during a pandemic.

As a company, Philz’s people-driven values revolve around being kind and authentic and enabling team members to live their best life. Cassandra Colten, Benefits Manager for Philz wanted to make sure the company was not only being compliant, but generous and transparent so team members could make the best decisions about their benefits during an unprecedented time.

Cassandra turned to Sequoia’s Client Service Manager, Kate Campbell to help find the answers to these questions.

Designing solutions together

The teams at Philz and Sequoia have been in partnership for over five years, working to create a benefits strategy for a fast-growing and progressive small business. At a time of crisis, it was natural to seek advice from their Sequoia team. Together, they crafted a strategy that was in line with a people-driven approach and mindful of unpredictable business levels during the pandemic.

Philz also worked with Sequoia to navigate the ever-changing legislation that went into effect during the pandemic. As a small business, Philz relied on Sequoia’s Compliance team to better understand the legislation and how to take action. During a health crisis, it was critical that Philz knew how to best respond and support team members during the many changes that impacted their benefits.

During an incredibly challenging time – and with a benefits team of only one – Sequoia’s partnership and expertise was key to the team.

We are a really lean team and no one on our team had that kind of experience. Having an expert come in and help us design that was amazing.

Building a benefits plan that fits each stage

Philz has been in a high-growth mode, with over 39 stores opening in the past five years. With that growth, the commitment to be a values-based, people-driven company has never wavered. Philz has worked closely with its team at Sequoia to make sure they are offering the right plan at the various stages of the company’s growth.

Cassandra worked with Joanna Castillo, Director of Client Compliance for Sequoia, to come up with the right formula for eligibility and whiteboarding different solutions. The final solution felt fair and was compliant with the Affordable Care Act and satisfied carriers.

“Joanna helped us build the framework from the ground up and helped us negotiate the overall rollout process including the employee communication,” said Cassandra. “We are a really lean team and no one on our team had that kind of experience. Having an expert come in and help us design that was amazing.”

This communication doesn’t just happen around big benefits changes or open enrollment, Cassandra added.

“We have a standing bi-weekly call with Sequoia,” said Cassandra. “So, if anything comes up, we can talk about it.”

In addition, Sequoia’s monthly compliance newsletter and the calendar built into HRX, which is updated each year, helps Cassandra stay on top of deadlines for necessary communications, filings, and other reporting.

Using these tools, she said, and attending Sequoia’s webinars has made managing compliance a lot easier, eliminating hours spent on research and presenting new requirements in an accessible need-to-know fashion.

“It really feels like a safety net,” Cassandra added. “They have had great resources and sound advice, and for us that has been such a great help.”

Meet the Client

Cassandra Colten
Benefits Partner, Philz Coffee

Sequoia Delivers

Sequoia supports Philz’s mission by delivering the following key services and products:

Philz relies on Sequoia guidance and
technology to create the best employee experience

Sequoia HRX

Sequoia HRX is a solution that combines data-derived intelligence with Sequoia’s expert guidance. It delivers the proactive decision-making power HR leaders need to tie their people investment to better business outcomes.

Compliance Services

The amount of information you need to be aware of as an employer, and the tasks required to stay in compliance, can quickly overwhelm your HR team. That’s where Sequoia steps in. We’ve got your back with the compliance expertise and visibility you need to limit your exposure and proactively keep your people programs on track.

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