grovemade.com • Portland, OR • Opened in 2009
Founded by Ken Tomita
Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
In 2008 and 2009, the smartphone was just beginning to catch on as the next big thing in mobile technology, specifically with Apple's iPhone. We were big fans of the iPhone and believed very strongly that there would be a demand for a case composed of natural materials, that people would desire the contrast of metal and plastic with bamboo or wood. Even though there were cases out there that were accented with natural materials, no one was putting it front and center. We couldn't find anyone to get on board with our vision, so we decided to just go for it ourselves. For the first four years we were in business, we manufactured 100% of our products in-house. In the past two years, we've begun to expand beyond the case, which has led to us partnering with a few manufacturers we trust and know can pull off our designs. Right now, 75% of our products are made in-house, 24% are made domestically (here in Oregon and next door in California), and 1% of our stuff is made internationally, with the mechanical parts of our watches being sourced from China.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
One of the biggest sources of our very first sales was through tech blogs (like Gawker) who were fans of what we were doing with natural materials and featured us on their sites. We also took to social media to spread the news of our fledgling company, and, same as today, by good old fashioned word of mouth from our awesome customers.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
We use Shopify as our base and we've custom built a number of tools to optimize that experience in order to streamline our specific needs. We love the Shopify mobile app for all of those times that we're not at the shop. We constantly check our business dashboard and it's easy to read real-time metrics is great. We handle all of our shipping and fulfillment internally using Endicia.
100% of our sales are done via our direct-to-consumer sales model, so most our traffic is derived from people searching the web for makers like us. Our newsletters reach more than 50,000 subscribers, and they're a reliable way to generate interest in our existing product line, as well our brand new products. We also make sure that we're active on social media. We're also fortunate to be featured and referred on blogs and other publications both in print and online.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
There isn't a magic formula for success. You've got to be flexible and be ready to pivot. You've got to expect the unexpected. You can have the best designs, the most cutting-edge technology, all of the bells and whistles, and still end up out of business. We've learned that the most important thing of all is to put the team first. Invest in them and treat them right. It's more than just making stuff, at least at Grovemade. We're not just coworkers, we're friends. We're here for each other for the long haul. That closeness shows, at our shop and in our products. And as far as the brass tacks go, welcome help, seek it out. Start out using template-based applications like Shopify, as well as other available apps, and as you bigger, look into customizing your systems.