Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Jason McCarthy is a decorated combat veteran who served overseas in the Special Forces from 2006 to 2008. While visiting his wife, a Foreign Service Officer working in the war-torn city of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Jason assembled a “go-bag” for her to keep in her truck. “In the Special Forces, when you go out on a mission, you put extra supplies and gear in the trunk of your Humvee in case your vehicle gets disabled and you have to fight,” he said. “So I made her a bag filled with medical supplies, radios, and other things that were adapted to her lifestyle on the Ivory Coast.” When his wife’s colleagues began requesting bags of their own, Jason thought he might have a business opportunity on his hands. With no previous business or product training, Jason turned to YouTube to learn more about how to design backpacks from online tutorials. From there, he created the GR1, a bag designed for use anywhere — in Baghdad or New York City. Jason officially launched GORUCK in 2010, but he wasn’t sure how he was going to sell his products online. Once Jason realized the high costs of producing his first rucks, he knew that going digital was the difference between “life and death,” and he turned to the internet.
Once online, GORUCK partnered with a marketing agency to use YouTube and Google Ads to speak directly with consumers and share its brand message. “Google Ads generates 11% of our web traffic and roughly 15% of our sales revenue,” said Jason, who cites an $11 return for every dollar spent on the platform. Today, Jason’s team uses Google Analytics to keep an eye on their campaigns and Google Optimize 360 to run A/B tests and make adjustments on the fly. They also use Google Trends and Google Correlate to help them find search patterns in real time. GORUCK also relies on Google organizationally, using G Suite to communicate and stay organized. “We just find it better for collaboration,” Jason said.
Google Ads has helped GORUCK serve more than 55,000 customers to date and will continue to be a pillar of its marketing efforts moving forward. “I think it’s telling that our customers are making more than one transaction per customer,” said Jason. The company has grown both in size — it now has 30 employees — and in impact. It hosts hundreds of events each year to help people get out and engage with the world. That includes its hallmark team endurance event, the GORUCK Challenge. “Technology is great, but we view it as a means to get people more active and involved in their communities,” concluded Jason.
Rope Lace Supply
Rope Lace Supply sells to over 120 countries around the world
As university freshmen, Eric Delgado and Victoria Weiss were making extra cash buying and selling collectible sneakers. But finding limited-edition kicks before other resellers was difficult, so the self-proclaimed "sneakerheads" shifted gears. "Sneaker accessories are very popular, and we realized that no one was doing just shoelaces," Eric recalls. The couple found a supplier to fulfill a small order of colored shoelaces. "To our surprise, we sold out of 600 pairs in two weeks," he says. In 2014, while still undergraduates, Eric and Victoria launched Rope Lace Supply. They ran their fledgling online business out of their dorm rooms and racked up $250,000 in sales their first year. After graduation, the pair turned their passion into full-time careers. Now they offer 150 different styles of shoelaces and sell to over 120 countries around the world.
Rope Lace Supply caters to a niche audience of sneaker aficionados looking to customize their shoes. To reach fellow sneakerheads in the U.S. and around the world, Eric and Victoria use AdWords, Google’s advertising program. “It helps us find just the right customer—people who want to buy shoelaces in different colors, styles, and materials,” says Eric. Google Analytics equips the entrepreneurs with the insights to grow their business. “With Analytics, we can better understand our customer base,” Eric explains, “which in turn helps us identify new opportunities and informs the kinds of shoelaces we design.” The duo also uses G Suite tools, such as Gmail, Docs, and Drive, to run an efficient and nimble operation.
With sales growing at a double-digit rate every year, Eric and Victoria have their eyes set on new horizons. “We want to expand into wholesale markets and start licensing products for sports teams, colleges, and universities,” Eric shares. “We’re always looking for new and cool ways for people to customize their gear.” To other entrepreneurs who hope to follow in their footsteps, Eric stresses the importance of taking action. “You don’t need a life-changing invention to start a successful business. With what’s out there on the Internet, if you have something that you’re passionate about—even shoelaces—you really can grow a business. You just have to start.”
Everything For Your Party
Southwest Ranches, Florida
As a single parent, Gladys Hurtado worked several jobs throughout her son’s childhood to ensure that they always had a secure income. One of those jobs was as a manager at a banquet hall. When her son graduated from college, she took a risk and turned her 14 years of event-coordination experience into Everything For Your Party, which she owns and operates herself. At the end of 2014, she threw her first party and reinvested the earnings to “plant the seed for 2015,” she says. Her business has since grown from that single event to nearly 70 recurring clients.
Being able to scale quickly was the result of Gladys’ business savvy and clever implementation of AdWords, Google’s advertising program. With a sizeable inventory of event supplies like chairs, tables, and glassware, she realized that she could rent out equipment and extend her services beyond the usual full-blown event production. She started promoting “party rental” on AdWords and unlocked tremendous growth. “AdWords not only helped me find more customers for the event-production side of my business, it created a whole new revenue stream through party rentals,” she explains. “My profits pretty much doubled.” Gladys continues to see huge returns on AdWords. “For every dollar I put in, I get about four dollars back,” she says, which is why she dedicates nearly all of her marketing budget to the digital platform. While the full-scale events still tend to have a higher price tag than the rentals, she realized, “I don’t get as tired renting 500 chairs as I do throwing a 250-person party.” Discovering this opportunity has enabled Gladys to transform Everything For Your Party into a more scaleable business.
Whether providing the chairs or an end-to-end experience, Gladys is most gratified by her satisfied customers, many of whom refer her to their friends and family. Gladys is a native Spanish speaker, and part of her expansion has meant more business in English. While this has been a challenge, she refuses to shy away from the opportunities with English-speaking customers. “I’m getting a lot better with each conversation,” she says. In the meantime, she uses Google Translate to ensure that she and her English-speaking clients are on the same page. “I’ve been able to provide great customer service regardless of the language.”
When Stuart Compton, the founder and president of AutoCustoms, decided to turn his lifelong passion for automobiles into a career, he knew two things: He wanted to start his own business, and he wanted to keep it in his hometown. “My wife grew up in Ocala, and I've been here almost half my life. It's a great, great place to raise a family,” he says. The third thing he knew was that he would need to use the Internet to be innovative as an automotive aftermarket retailer. Since opening AutoCustoms in 2005, delivering everything from running boards to truck bed covers, Stuart has leveraged the power of the digital economy to grow his business into a career for not just himself, but for his employees.
Stuart years ago researched how AdWords, Google's advertising program, could turn a small start-up's advertising budget into big results. Nothing has changed since. “We really look for a big return for any Google program that we’re using,” he says. He attributes 70% of their 2015 sales to AdWords. AutoCustoms expects to hit triple-digit growth in coming years thanks in part to Google tools. In addition to AdWords, AutoCustoms also creates YouTube videos to inform customers and build brand awareness. Google Apps for Work’s suite of workflow tools like Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Sheets helps to keep the company running and everyone connected, which is particularly important because they plan to add an additional 40-50 employees by the end of 2016.
Stuart measures his true success not by sales, but by the prosperity he helps bring to his Florida town. “We are able to create jobs, good jobs—fun and fulfilling jobs. It is gratifying and rewarding,” he says. “’Exciting' is an understatement for what the community's response has been to keeping the talent pool in Ocala.” Google is helping AutoCustoms continue to be a shining example of what’s possible, from anywhere. “The world is a big place, but with Google and these tools, you can reach them.”