Growing up on the Gila River Indian Community, Ramona Button was taught to appreciate the desert’s bounty by her Akimel O’odham mother, a traditional healer, and her Tohono O’odham father, who farmed a 10-acre allotment. Ramona and her husband, Terry, started farming in 1974; Ramona Farms has since grown to 4,000 acres. While crops like alfalfa sustain the business, the indigenous tepary bean is the heart of their venture. The Akimel O’odham had cultivated their ancestral lands for centuries, but more recent dams diverted water, threatening traditional crops like the tepary bean with extinction. Using seeds her father had saved, Ramona set out to reestablish the crop within her local community. “We wanted to go online to support expanding our market presence,” Ramona says. Google Ads and reviews on their Business Profile attracted visitors to the farm, and by 2011 they were selling beans and heirloom grains online.
The bean’s value goes beyond its traditional link to the land and community—it’s higher in protein than other beans and has a lower glycemic index that’s better for diabetics. Ramona, whose first career was nursing, saw her community affected by health issues associated with poor-nutrition and remembers thinking, “What we need is good food.” The bean is also drought-tolerant, so Arizona’s dry climate won’t hurt the crop. The bean’s increasing popularity means that Ramona Farms now services over 50 restaurants as well as national grocers. The company ships nationwide five days a week. But the best part is close to home: Ramona loves sharing her knowledge of traditional crops with our local school-based cultural programs: “It gives them something to be proud of,” she says. “It’s wonderful to show them how important their people are to the development of Arizona.”
Espinoza Boot Maker
Espinoza Boot Maker produces 300 pairs of handmade boots annually
David Espinoza opened Espinoza Boot Maker in 1990, but his passion for boots began more than 50 years earlier at a boot shop near his high school. Each day, David would walk past the boot shop and the stockyards, a major hub for ranching activity in Phoenix. He admired the cowboy boots and wanted to know how to make them. After learning the trade from the bootmaker, David opened his own shop and got to work. “I wanted to have a place where I could meet customers and make my product. I started making boots one pair at a time for each individual customer,” said David. Getting those customers, though, proved to be a bit of a challenge because David’s unique custom boot designs are more expensive than boots available at big-name stores. When the business strengthened its digital presence, David finally saw tangible results. “The website we have now has been a very effective tool. I can see what products the customers are responding to and how customers are responding to the marketing we’re doing” he said.
David teamed up with Neil Rosekrans, a web designer and digital marketer, to build Espinoza Boot Maker’s new site and implement tools like Google Analytics. “We started with Google Analytics to get a good understanding of where the site traffic comes from. The month we launched the website was the highest revenue month in the business’s 27 year history,” said Neil. Espinoza Boot Maker also credits its growth to Google Maps and Google My Business. “Getting on Google Maps and Google My Business has really helped people find the location of our shop and contact us. Every month we see more people viewing our photos and calling or requesting directions to the shop,” said Neil.
Today, about 40% of David’s custom requests come from Google Ads. David and Neil’s work with YouTube in the last year has also led to higher sales. “One of the reasons behind our improved metrics is YouTube. Bootmaking is an art that can be much more appreciated when the customer understands how the product is made and the attention to detail that we put into our craft,” said David. “If we didn’t pursue this method of marketing, we wouldn’t have as much business as we have now.” From daydreaming about cowboy boots to making them himself, David is proud to call himself a small business owner: “I always encourage people to start their own small business because that’s the best way to financial and personal freedom.”
Tuft & Needle
In 2012, software developers Daehee Park and JT Marino each chipped in $3,000 to found an online mattress company. In starting the business, the longtime college friends hoped to fundamentally change a market hampered by “a lot of information asymmetry and fake markups,” says Head of Public Relations Brooke Medansky. “They had a terrible mattress shopping experience, so they took their developer's mindset and created a new process where customers could feel like they’re making good and informed decisions.” Tuft & Needle is the culmination of their work. They sell high-quality foam mattresses, made in America, directly to consumers. And true to their values of honesty and transparency, there are no hidden fees or gimmicks in the shopping experience—“just an amplified platform for customers to give real feedback,” says Brooke.
Tuft & Needle has been promoting their mattresses via AdWords, Google’s advertising program, since the very beginning. “Because we’re a bootstrapped company, we have to be very smart with our marketing and focus on things that work,” explains Brooke. Over 20 percent of their sales come through AdWords, and with a four-to-one return on investment, the team is “doubling down on it to grow even more.” Tuft & Needle also produces YouTube videos that cover everything from unboxing tutorials to FAQs. “We use video to give customers the information they need at every point of the purchasing process,” Brooke adds. And with digital insights from Google Analytics, they can “make sure ad campaigns are effective and take the business to the next level.”
About a million people today sleep on Tuft & Needle mattresses. The company has expanded their offerings to pillows, bed frames, mattresses protectors, and sheets. They began selling online in Canada in 2017 and now operate three showrooms in the Greater Phoenix area and Seattle. From revenues of just $1 million during their first full year, annual sales currently top $170 million. Tuft & Needle and their employees are also involved in charitable work around the country, and the company donates thousands of mattress to a network of nonprofits every year. “We believe that everyone deserves a good night’s sleep,” Brooke says. “Sleep is very important, and we’re proud to be able to positively impact the lives of so many people in Phoenix and beyond.”
Bottle Breacher has 35 employees
In 2011, U.S. Navy SEAL Eli Crane obtained a bottle opener made of inactive .50 caliber ammunition from his brother serving in the Marines overseas. Eli took it, painted it black, and added his unit’s insignia. His platoon loved it. Realizing the potential business opportunity, the entrepreneur-at-heart and his wife, Jen, enlisted other military personnel to help get Bottle Breacher up and running. They handcrafted unique .50 caliber bottle openers out of their garage and later showcased their products on national television in 2014. “From there, everything just blew up,” Jen describes. A flood of online interest crashed the company’s website, but it wasn’t anything that a trained Navy SEAL couldn’t handle.
Eli left the Navy after 13 years and relocated his family to Tucson to focus on Bottle Breacher. The company moved into new quarters, expanded their product line to include other accessories and apparel, and quickly adopted AdWords, Google’s advertising program. “We knew that we were growing and that was the next step. Google is such a powerhouse, and it’s how we reach customers we normally wouldn’t,” Jen says. They also use Google Analytics to measure web traffic, hone marketing campaigns, and identify prime shopping times. “We run a really tight ship here, so we constantly check Analytics to see if we’re putting the right amount of time into the right places,” explains Jen. “You can’t be successful unless you understand the numbers.”
Every month, Bottle Breacher sells their products to thousands of customers worldwide. And the broader community has benefitted from their success. “Growth for us isn’t just about increasing sales. It’s about being able to reinvest our earnings to help veterans and active duty military personnel,” explains Jen. “It’s also about bringing more of our manufacturing in-house.” Today, they’re doing both. Bottle Breacher manufactures almost all of their products in the U.S., most of which is done in their own Tucson facility. They hire as many veterans as they can because, as Jen describes, “veterans are the hardest working people we know.” They also support numerous non-profits—over 200 in 2016 alone, many of which are veteran or first responder organizations. The company has come a long way since their early days in the garage. But amidst all their growth, they’ve remained true to their mission and their roots. “If a Navy SEAL doesn’t like it, we don’t sell it,” Jen says.
Wings for Warriors
Wings for Warriors has helped 1,500 wounded warriors & military families
U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Anthony “Doc” Ameen was serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2008 when he stepped on an IED while running to help an injured Marine. The explosion cost him his lower left leg and badly injured his right. A church raised $25,000 for what they called “Wings for Anthony” to help his parents fly to his bedside for a total of 32 surgeries. In 2010, Anthony founded Wings for Warriors, a non-profit organization to offer similar help for other injured service members and their families. “Being a wounded warrior myself, and after initially being denied my healthcare and financial benefits, I knew what kind of care I was supposed to get,” Anthony says. “I took a blend of everyone's challenges and turned it into one organization.”
The non-profit provides tools, insights, and resources for wounded veterans as they go through recovery and transition, plus travel expenses for families to be by their sides and healthcare and financial counseling. Anthony has used a variety of Google products to build his organization. Google Voice allows him to be reachable, but also to hide his personal phone number and manage the influx of calls he receives. Gmail helps to keep him organized and able to access email from anywhere. And in 2014 Wings for Warriors received a Google Ad Grant, coincidentally, on Veterans Day. The resulting campaigns in AdWords, Google’s advertising program, “literally put us all over the map,” he says. “It has allowed us to now help veterans and their families all across the United States.” He adds, “If it wasn’t for the AdWords campaigns, I’d just be staying afloat. It’s made this so much easier for me.”
AdWords also helps to connect Wings for Warriors with potential donors and volunteers. The organization now has 600 active volunteers, and interest continues to grow nationwide. “More cities, hospitals, sponsors, and VA clinics are getting involved with Wings for Warriors,” he says. “And because our AdWords campaign is successful, we're able to further our relationships with our volunteers.” For example, a Florida high school senior raised $3,700 for the organization, and her school is now continuing her work. “A Google search is how she found us, which is pretty cool.”