Peninsula Party Rentals
Palo Alto, California
Husband-and-wife duo Feliciano “Chano” Zavala and Ines Zavala worked together at a San Francisco party rental company for 10 years before having twins altered the course of their careers. Wanting to provide for their growing family, the Zavalas were determined to start their own business, so, in 2005 they used their life savings to found Peninsula Party Rentals. The couple rented tables and chairs out of their garage for three years and steadily grew until they were able to move to a more commercial location. But when the economic recession hit in 2008, Chano knew that location alone would not be enough — if they wanted to stay in business, they needed to get online. “I had a meeting with my wife and said, ‘You know what, we can’t let this happen. This is our business, our livelihood,’” said Chano. “So we created a website.”
With its site, Peninsula Party Rentals was able to keep its business going during those uncertain times. This encouraged the Zavalas to explore running Google Ads, a cost-efficient alternative to traditional advertising. “We slowly started figuring out that it was bringing us more money than newspapers and the Yellow Pages,” said Chano. “The return on investment was a lot bigger.” Today, 100% of the company’s marketing budget goes toward digital. The Zavalas also use free tools like Google My Business to provide potential clients with the most up-to-date information about their business on Google Search and Maps. “Clients can now have all the information at their fingertips, and if they want to come to our site and place an order or contact the company, it’s just right there,” said Chano.
Peninsula Party Rentals currently employs 12 people and serves an average of 300 customers per month. Since advertising with Google, sales have increased 25% year over year. “Google Ads is bringing in enough clients to max our inventory capacity,” said Chano. Committed to paying their success forward, the Zavalas offer discounts to schools and nonprofit organizations and sponsor youth baseball teams all over the Bay Area. The Zavalas soon hope to open more Peninsula Party Rentals locations across northern California. They’ve achieved their goal of providing for their family and a whole lot more. “We’ve been growing at a very steady pace,” said Chano. “Within five years, we’ll probably be in a position where we can either get investors or have our own locations in different cities.”
Walker & Company Brands
Palo Alto, California
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Tristan Walker didn't like what he saw. “I was tired of having to go to the 'ethnic beauty' aisle and feeling like a second-class citizen,” he says. In 2013, Tristan founded Walker & Company, a family of brands designed to offer people of color a wide range of high-quality health and beauty products. “I saw an amazing opportunity to build a very special consumer package goods company that would redefine this industry,” Tristan explains, “so I leveraged everything I knew about starting a business and technology to build it from the ground up.” He opened a small online storefront and began selling his products directly to customers. His flagship brand is Bevel, an end-to-end shaving system focused on reducing razor bumps and shave irritation.
Walker & Company has evolved from a simple e-commerce outfit to a sophisticated digital marketing brand, thanks in large part to their strategic employment of the web and Google tools. “Google makes it incredibly easy to start a program and scale quickly,” Tristan remarks. They use YouTube videos to build awareness and share customer stories about the community-focused brand. “It's a powerful way to introduce new people to the company and educate them about it.” They also use AdWords, Google's advertising program, to drive web traffic and sales. Google Analytics gives them the in-depth insight to fine-tune their marketing and make the most of their advertising budget, while G Suite tools Gmail, Docs, and Drive give them the logistical muscle of a much larger company. “It allows us as a team to be very nimble and agile,” Tristan explains.
While Walker & Company only sells domestically, their Bevel products can now be found in 14 countries via secondary markets, a powerful indicator of demand. They plan to roll out their second brand this year, with 300 percent annual growth fueling their entrepreneurial fire. But like many great American success stories, Walker & Company's mission was never just about revenue. “We get letters from single moms, who now have a way to teach their sons how to shave,” Tristan shares. He also cofounded Code 2040, a non-profit organization that advocates for black and Hispanic engineers in the workplace. Building a game-changing company from scratch while championing inclusion—that's American beauty.
Eravant (SAGE Millimeter, Inc.)
When her parents first asked if she wanted to join the family business, Wendy Shu was hesitant. “I had grown up around the technology and didn’t really feel like it was for me,” she explains. Founded in 2011, SAGE Millimeter designs and manufactures high-frequency electronic components and subassemblies, which are used by numerous companies to create cutting-edge technology. “We help them push towards 5G wireless and the Internet of Things,” says Wendy. It’s an active market that increasingly requires SAGE to generate leads among a young, digitally savvy audience. Wendy, now Director of Business and Legal Affairs, is leading that charge.
SAGE made a strategic decision to make better use of the web by improving their digital presence and redesigning their website to add e-commerce capabilities. They turned to AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to get the word out about their business. “We knew we needed to go to AdWords if we wanted our website to be a big part of our marketing strategy,” Wendy says. “We now rely on it to attract customers who are new to our technology.” The company uses Google Analytics to optimize their website and improve customers’ online experience. “A key part of our branding strategy is to make it easy for our customers to shop,” she adds. G Suite tools, including Docs, Drive, and Hangouts, keep their growing team collaborative and nimble.
Since 2016, SAGE has nearly doubled in both revenue and staff. They ship their products all over the world—nearly half of their business comes from international markets. And they serve customers across various industries, from leaders in aerospace and R&D to companies like Google. “As a small business, it’s amazing to participate in a business ecosystem alongside such innovators,” Wendy says. Today, Wendy is more than happy with her decision to join the family operation. “I may not be a scientist or an engineer, but I’m working to move technology forward and make a unique contribution to the broader tech community. And that’s very fulfilling.”
San Francisco, California
PUBLIC Bikes launched in 2010 to design, manufacture, and sell a collection of elegant city bikes for everyday transportation. “Over the years, we’ve expanded our main product line to include kids’ bikes, city road bikes, and even electric bikes to address different customer riding needs,” says Dan Nguyen-Tan, Founding Executive and Chief Operating Officer. “Our mission is not just to encourage more people to bike, but to support efforts that make our cities and neighborhoods more livable and friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists. We’re big proponents of good urban and public space design that prioritizes people, not just cars.” The company’s unofficial motto is “Ride a bike. Smile more.” As Dan says, “When people ask us why they should bike again or more often, the answer is really simple. ‘You’ll smile more. You’ll be happier. You’ll feel like a kid again.’ Who doesn’t want to feel that way?”
The company primarily sells online, but also operates retail stores in Santa Monica, Seattle, and San Francisco, and sells through a network of national bike shop dealers. A strong web presence is vitally important to support all of PUBLIC’s sales channels. They began using AdWords, Google’s advertising program, soon after the company began. “It’s important for us to constantly get in front of new customers,” Dan says. “One of the best ways to reach new customers is through AdWords.” Google products now represent the majority of PUBLIC’s digital marketing. Google represents almost 48% of PUBLIC’s online traffic, and 53% of the company’s online revenue comes from using Google products. The company also relies on Google Shopping, and constantly uses Google Analytics to track and monitor traffic, conversions, and performance. “We’re a scrappy, entrepreneurial team with a limited marketing budget. We can’t afford to waste dollars, so everything we consistently spend money on, like AdWords, we do so because we are seeing results,” Dan says.
PUBLIC continues to grow sales each year. “The best part of our business is that the rewards are visible to us every day through the customers we see riding our bikes, whether in person or through social media,” Dan says. “On a beautiful weekend day riding through Golden Gate Park, or on my weekday commute, I’ll see dozens of our customers all riding their PUBLIC bikes. It makes our team feel good that our products enrich people’s lives and how they experience their world.”