Founded by Ted and Connie Ning, Friendship Bridge began by providing medical education and supplies to impoverished populations in Vietnam in 1990. In 1998 it shifted its focus to helping indigenous women in Guatemala by offering small loans and education sessions to female entrepreneurs. The loans and education sessions create opportunities for impoverished women to build better lives for themselves, care for their children, and support local communities. As a grassroots nonprofit, Friendship Bridge depends on volunteers to help fundraise and build awareness. To find them, the team relies heavily on digital platforms where they can share their story, field donations, and recruit more people. “We’re really focused on bringing in more young people, and digital is how you reach them,” said Kyra Coates, U.S. marketing coordinator at Friendship Bridge. “It’s a tricky landscape because there’s a lot of noise out there.”
To cut through the clutter and reach more potential supporters with its message, Friendship Bridge uses Google Ads. The organization received a Google Ad Grant in 2015 and ramped up its campaign efforts in 2017. Kyra uses Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to monitor and optimize the organization’s search campaigns. With employees in both the U.S. and Guatemala, the team also relies on G Suite to effectively communicate internationally. “It allows us to share files easily and get things to one another quickly,” said Kyra.
By increasing its digital efforts, Friendship Bridge has been able to maintain a steady flow of the interns and volunteers who are so critical to its mission. The organization currently serves over 30,000 women per year in Guatemala and will continue expanding to reach more of them. “We’re making long-term changes in Guatemala,” said Kyra, “and, for us, the core of that will always be empowered women.” Over the course of the next three years, the organization plans to transition its pilot programs to permanent programs and will be relying more and more on Google tools to spread its message. “The digital platform has been rewarding in terms of getting information out,” said Kyra. “The web helps us really dial it in and find the people that we need to speak to.”
In 2007, Koel Thomae, an Australian expatriate who had been living in Colorado, was back in Queensland visiting her family. While cycling home from the beach community of Noosa, she stopped and bought a clear tub of something creamy and delicious. It was passionfruit yoghurt, and upon tasting it, Koel realized that it was too good to stay hidden in the Land Down Under. She licensed the recipe from its creator and set out to start her own yoghurt company back in Colorado. After spotting a local farm’s flyer for home milk delivery service, Koel cold-called fourth-generation farmer, Rob Graves. Together, they founded noosa yoghurt in 2010, initially selling their products at farmers' markets throughout the state.
For noosa yoghurt, online marketing has always been the preferred way for reaching customers. They use YouTube and AdWords, Google's advertising program, to “effectively reach a highly targeted audience of people who are interested in super-premium, delicious-tasting yoghurt," says Vice President of Marketing Christine Dahm. And Google Analytics helps them better understand their customers’ online behavior while keeping marketing spend on a budget. “These Google tools allow smaller companies like us to be really targeted and efficient with our dollars,” Christine adds. “That just isn’t possible with other forms of marketing like television, which reaches so many people who have little to no intention of buying our product.”
With mouth-watering flavors like caramel-chocolate-pecan, strawberry-rhubarb, and blackberry-serrano, noosa’s products can now be found in stores nationwide. They have tripled their business since 2014 and nearly quadrupled their workforce to keep up with demand. In fact, of the 250 people they employ, over 180 are making the yoghurt. The company is also committed to their local community in Northern Colorado. In addition to supporting school fundraisers and conservation efforts, noosa sources all of their milk and honey from a network of farmers within 40 miles of their facility. “Being self-manufactured in Colorado is an important element of what we do,” Christine explains. “We want to make the best-tasting yoghurt in the finest way possible. It’s our mission to make a product that, when someone eats it, they say, ‘Wow. Are you sure that’s yoghurt?’”
For business co-founders Jae and Katy Lee, success is in the bag—and on the Internet. The husband-and-wife team started RuMe (short for "reuse me") on Earth Day 2010, marketing one medium-sized reusable shopping bag. "We wanted to bring a little fashion to the checkout line," Jae says. "We wanted to create a product, a line, and a brand that was about function and style, incorporating sustainability into an on-the-go lifestyle." The business started as a brick-and-mortar operation, but the Lees soon found that showcasing their brand online let them test new products faster, rather than waiting months between trade shows. "With online sales, the speed at which we can test and design concepts and target different consumers is far better than any other channel," Jae says. "With Google tools, we can come up with a product concept on Monday and have it in the market on Friday."
RuMe has expanded their designs and product lines to include customizable totes, travel bags, and accessories such as luggage tags. Jae credits AdWords, Google's advertising program, for making this accelerated growth possible. In particular, Google Shopping campaigns help consumers find their fashionable, eco-friendly designs. RuMe also uses Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Drive to power the back office and keep staff, including salespeople, connected on the fly. "Google has helped us bootstrap ourselves over the hump from being a two-person startup to a 70-employee company that markets through multiple channels," says President Dan Frailey. Google Analytics provides a constant stream of information that tells RuMe which marketing concepts and tactics are working and which need to be bagged.
In addition to marketing products on their own e-commerce website, the company sells wholesale and through major retailers. They're now expanding into corporate sales and Asian markets. "We've grown about 500 percent in the last few years," Jae says. "Ultimately, the online channel is our highway to rapid growth."
Sword & Plough
90% of Sword & Plough’s sales are made online
Sisters Betsy Núñez and Emily Núñez Cavness grew up in a military family, and Emily is now an active-duty officer in the U.S. Army. In 2013, they founded Sword & Plough, which uses surplus military materials to make tote bags, handbags, backpacks, and other accessories. The company supports various veteran-owned businesses and donates 10% of the profits to veteran-focused organizations. They have relied on the Internet, and Google products, from the very beginning to bring their business to life.
With Emily deployed in Afghanistan, and the rest of the team working remotely from Boston, New York, and Denver, they used Google Apps for Work to stay connected and build their company. Emily recalls, “One of our most memorable magic moments happened on April 15, 2013, when Sword & Plough launched on Kickstarter. We had four of our team members and our parents crowded around the laptop to press Launch. And we did a Google Hangout with our creative director, Haik Kavookjian, so that we could all be together for the momentous occasion. Within two hours of pressing the Launch button, we hit our goal of $20,000! And by the end of the campaign, we raised over $312,000!” Products like Gmail, Google Sheets, and Google Hangouts continue to help this distributed team run the business. One time, a meeting held on a Google Hangout was interrupted when Emily’s base came under mortar attack. “She's thousands of miles away in a remote, war-stricken region, and still able to communicate with her sister and co-founder to provide leadership for this business on the side,” Haik says. “It's pretty incredible.” And as the orders continue to pour in via their website, they monitor their sales and site traffic using Google Analytics.
Sword & Plough now has five employees and they subcontract their manufacturing and design to support veterans working in other companies. The sisters have also begun partnering with other brands, and may expand into physical stores around the country. “Google products have really helped us communicate and grow in ways that otherwise would not have been achievable for a startup, especially one started and being run so remotely,” Haik says.