Tony & Chelsea Northrup
+1.44M YouTube subscribers
When Tony and Chelsea Northrup published their first digital book, How to Create Stunning Digital Photography, they didn’t expect that it’d be a #1 bestseller—or that they’d become full-time YouTube creators. But when they started creating educational videos to supplement the now 29 books they’ve published, they knew they needed a YouTube channel. And that’s where they’ve shared videos that combine helpful tips, tutorials, product reviews, and humor—amassing over 1.44 million subscribers along the way. And their subscriber community is exactly that: A true community. “When we hit our one-millionth subscriber, our community created a video about the effect we’d had on them. It meant so much,” says Chelsea. To keep their followers engaged, they turned to Google Trends and their YouTube Analytics to get a sense of what was working.
But when COVID-19 hit, Tony and Chelsea had to shift their focus—fast. Because more than half of their audience comes from small businesses, COVID-19 not only impacted Tony and Chelsea, but it also affected their subscribers. After an initial dip in views and book sales, their audience returned with an increased appetite for content: “More people are working from home and taking their businesses digital,” Tony explains. “As a result, every business has had to become more savvy with photography—and we’ve been there to support them.” To determine what content to produce, Tony and Chelsea still rely on their own instincts, combined with data from Google Analytics and Trends. But when it comes to editing their videos, they can no longer hand over a hard drive to a team member. “We rely entirely on remote video editing using Google Drive now,” Tony says. And though their workflows are changing, the relevance of their industry isn’t, which comes as a great relief to the pair. “There might be a shift in what people are interested in—photos or video—but businesses need both more than ever,” Chelsea says. “So we’ll just be keeping an eye on the relevant trends and shifting our focus accordingly.”
Sweet Equations serves around 5,000 customers annually
Sade Owoye is obsessed with sweets and has found joy baking and indulging in sugary treats since she was a young girl. One holiday, she was baking a cake for a family party and decided to top it with chocolate candies. Her family went crazy for the delicious dessert, and when her brother posted a photo on social media, it took off. When Sade started getting requests from strangers for her candy-covered cakes, she knew she had a business opportunity on her hands. In 2014, Sade started Sweet Equations, a specialty dessert business that sells cakes, cupcakes, and cookies made with fresh ingredients (and, of course, candy). Sweet Equations launched as an online and wholesale business and has since opened a retail location in Farmington, Connecticut. The web has been instrumental in helping Sade reach an audience of dessert lovers. “Digital is just so important,” she said. “It’s how a business survives in the 21st century.”
As Sweet Equations has grown, Sade has come to rely on a number of Google products. “We were born through the Google platform,” said Sade. “I’m a huge proponent of it.” After hearing local entrepreneurs talk about their success with Google Ads, Sade launched her own Google Ads campaign and saw immediate results. “Google Ads has been a game changer for our business,” she said. “Nothing has been as effective.” Sade and her team also use G Suite tools like Hangouts, Docs, and Drive to communicate efficiently. “When you’re trying to build a business with remote workers, the ability to share documents and send links has been so helpful. I can’t even imagine using anything else.”
Thanks to its digital efforts and new retail location, Sweet Equations has grown year-over-year revenue by six times since 2017. Sade plans to add more full-time employees in the coming months, including a specialist who can further expand the company’s online presence. “We’re looking to invest more money into Google Ads to really drive traffic to our store as well as our online website,” Sade says. Sweet Equations is currently an active member of the local Chamber of Commerce and is proud to align itself with multiple charitable causes. As her business continues to grow, Sade wants to be even more involved in her local community. “Our tagline is ‘Adding to the sweetness of life,’” says Sade. “We’re all about making the world a better place, and we like to do that through sweets.”
Rug Pad USA
Rug Pad USA manufactures padding used to keep area rugs in place. As their name suggests, all of their products are made in the U.S. “This gives us full control over what goes into them,” says Co-founder and CEO Will McDonald. “We use high-grade materials, such as 100 percent natural rubber, which not only grips better, but also lasts longer, stays plush, and doesn’t damage your floors.” Founded in 2013, Rug Pad USA began as a small operation working out of a vacant retail space. Will and his business partner, Karl Froehlich, spent nights personally cutting and shipping each order. They brought on their friends, Anthony Liso and John Drozdz, shortly thereafter, and together the four-person team grew the business to a 1,600-square-foot facility, then 8,000, and eventually to their current 220,000 square feet of warehouse space. Their business is “super niche and not glamorous,” describes Will, “and that’s why we like it.”
As a direct-to-consumer e-commerce business, Rug Pad USA invests heavily in their online presence. They are frequently the number one search result for “rug pads” on Google. The company also uses AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to reach customers nationwide who are looking for durable and sustainable rug pads. “AdWords lets us scale our business. Nearly 40 percent of our online sales come through it,” says Will. Beyond search and ads, the team uses Google Analytics and G Suite tools, such as Gmail, Docs, and Drive, to manage their day-to-day operations.
Rug Pad USA ships roughly 2,000 packages a day and over 700,000 a year. In the last two years alone, they have hired around 60 people, mostly manufacturing professionals, to keep up with demand. The company’s growth has been positive for the broader community as well. The 19th-century buildings they occupy in Ansonia and Bridgeport had been vacant for years prior to their opening. Being able to infuse the cities with a renewed sense of energy is an experience that Will can only describe as “incredible” and “very humbling.” And with plans for steady growth, he hopes to continue spurring excitement for years to come. “We’re always looking to grow, but we want to do it ethically and at a sustainable pace,” shares Will. “That being said, I think we have a shot at doubling within the next few years.”
New Haven, Connecticut
Junzi Kitchen serves innovative Northern Chinese cuisine, but its culture reaches far beyond the food. Founded in 2015 by Yale University graduate students who missed the flavors of their hometowns in Northern China, Junzi “uses food as a starting point to bring cultures together,” says Events and Communications Director Reed Immer. Co-founder Yong Zhao sees Junzi as a model for “how a foreign culture can share its true values through a business in modern society.” It’s a “platform for collaborative projects between local chefs, artists, and entrepreneurs,” Reed adds. Connecting with today’s culture is core to Junzi’s business model, and they’ve found the Internet to be an indispensable tool for reaching their audience.
In terms of foot traffic, Reed considers Google Search a basic necessity. Junzi stays on top of their search results with Google Analytics, which helps them optimize both the discoverability and functionality of their website. Google Analytics also reveals how their site is performing as a channel for storytelling. “Understanding how users move from our menu page to our about page, which tells the deeper brand story, helps us understand how visitors get curious about the story behind our food,” Reed explains. As for their block parties, summer cookouts, and other community-wide events, Junzi relies on G Suite tools to keep the planning process running smoothly. “Google Drive is where all of our collaborative work with chefs, artists, and advisors from around the world happens. Google tools allow us to measure and create the things that we want. Without them, this would all be a dream way off in the future,” Reed says.
More Junzi dreams will be realized on the heels of 500 percent annual revenue growth. Junzi Kitchen plans to open two more restaurants in New York City in 2017 and more than double their workforce. As they grow into the new locations, they hope to highlight the “special aspects of each neighborhood, while tying in Junzi’s larger story.” From New Haven to New York, they will continue to be “a platform that features the creative work and ideas of awesome people in the community.”
The Treehouse Internet Group
The Treehouse Internet Group began as the online marketing department for Basement Systems, Inc., generating sales leads for specialty home contractors across the country. The group renamed itself in 2010, and in 2013 began serving other, non-competing contractors outside their established dealer network. Employees enjoyed operating from what the website calls “the coolest work environment in Connecticut,” office space designed and built to look like a treehouse. “The workspace is not only unique, it’s a place that helps us attract the very best people to work here,” says Richard Fencil, Internet Marketing Director. It was also part of their rebranding as The Treehouse, distinct from their parent company.
The group uses a performance-based business model, meaning they only charge home-improvement contractors when they deliver qualified sales leads. Treehouse relies heavily on AdWords, Google’s advertising program, which produces about 40% of those leads. “AdWords gives us incredible control over that,” says Todd Hugo, Performance Director. They also see that their contractors use Google My Business, “a place for us to make sure that they are represented if somebody is searching locally,” Todd adds. Google Analytics helps them track the performance of contractors’ websites, particularly for mobile users. Treehouse employees use Google Drive and Google Sheets to collaborate and communicate internally.
The Treehouse now provides lead-generation services for seven dealer networks in the U.S. and Canada. Fifty to sixty percent of all the leads flowing through the contractor networks arrive via The Treehouse or their web program. They host two large dealer events every year, are the fastest-growing digital agency in Connecticut, and have been named one of the best places to work in the state. The group sees a healthy annual growth rate of about 20%. “But our main goal is always to drive our clients’ growth,” Richard says. “If they don't succeed, we don't succeed.”