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Meet 11 Austin companies that rank among the nation's best of 2021
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After an especially turbulent year for working professionals, some workplaces went above and beyond to keep their employees happy when it seemed like the world was ending. As it turns out, Austin has a lot of great places to work.

Inc.'s annual Best Workplaces list highlighted 11 Austin-based companies, more than any other city in Texas, as employee-driven. Out of 429 companies Inc. awarded across the U.S., here are the "2021 Best Workplaces" in Austin.


9Gauge Partners

Marking seven consecutive years being honored on the list, management consulting firm 9Gauge Partners once again made the list for its dedication to employees. Once the pandemic hit, 9Gauge continued to hold weekly interactive video calls to foster connections and still holds employee interviews every two-to-six months to gauge satisfaction. 9Gauge says they put employees "first in every business decision."

AgileAssets

Austin-based SaaS, or software as a service, provider AgileAssets sees diversity as one of its biggest strengths and boasts a team brought together from 20 countries, 12 languages and five continents. The company was recognized with an "Enduring Impact" award for its progressive policies on healthcare, including maternity and paternity leave for new parents, and in-house self-care classes so employees can learn skills to be their most zen selves.

AlertMedia

Proving that "Happier, healthier employees are a bedrock" of success, AlertMedia used the pandemic to rethink what company culture should mean. On top of trying to keep employees connected through frequent Zoom meetings when working from home, AlertMedia incentivized staff to take breaks for mental and physical health. The company also tried to pay it forward to the community in a hard time, donating "time and treasure" to local businesses.

Decent

Decent is not only providing "affordable" health insurance plans to small Texas businesses, they also try to go above and beyond to keep employees happy, healthy and well-traveled. On each employee's first anniversary at the company, they receive a $1,500 travel voucher and a poster with notes of love from all their fellow employees. They show they care about employees—even finding housing for those without power during the winter storm.

Fourlane

As a completely remote company, Fourlane strives to keep employees connected even when they are apart. The company claims to operate on core values of open communication and transparency, with a goal to "create a culture where everyone feels heard and valued." To accomplish that, Fourlane holds frequent open-agenda meetings led by employees and recognizes exceptional work with awards throughout the year.

Made In Cookware

Mutual respect is the name of the game at Made In Cookware, which says it shares a belief that "that we should be able to share a meal with anyone we work with, even after a hard day," and that includes everyone they work with. That belief has led to the creation of the Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Fund, which supports hospitality workers, and honors employees with peer-nominated spotlight awards.

Mighty Citizen

Embracing the new hybrid of office and work-from-home, employees, marketing and digital communications organization Mighty Citizen says it is transparent by involving staff in setting quarterly goals and not hiding anything on the business end. With extensive benefits and paid parental leave, the company claims to keep employees at the front of decision-making.

OJO Labs

Using artificial intelligence to connect people to their dream homes, OJO Labs says they put people first and hire employees who are mindful about the current social sphere. OJO is helping the community bridge the inequality gap by helping first-time Black and Latino homebuyers but it is helping employees by regularly revisiting company policies to maintain flexibility and extending breaks for employees during a hard year.

Ontic

Protective intelligence software company Ontic tried to make the transition to the new normal by giving employees a stipend to perfect their home offices, hand-delivering home care packages and hosting virtual activities that came as close to the real thing as possible.

Q1 Media

Digital media sales and services company Q1 Media is all about working hard and playing harder. For employees, hard work means bonuses, celebrations, happy hours (virtual for now) and trips to Vegas once it is safe. As Q1 says, "We put our people first, and the rest follows."

The Zebra

Not only does The Zebra love its employees, it also loves their furry friends. In addition to the five-month paid parental leave, $100 per month wellness stipend, unlimited PTO and employee-led resource groups, the independent insurance-comparison site offered employees a $300 stipend to welcome a new adoptable friend into their homes early on in the pandemic.

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‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”

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