As WWII came to an end, an enterprising family in Iowa began to use the steel and aluminum no longer needed for the war effort to make aluminum-handled kitchen knives. Nearly 75 years later, Rada Cutlery is still family-owned and American-made–selling quality, affordable knives and kitchenware. But you won’t find Rada products in big-box stores. “Our products are primarily sold through thousands of school, church, and civic fundraising groups,” explains Dan Kielman, VP of Sales & Advertising. “Fundraising has been integral from the start,” adds Andrea Ramker, VP of Business Development, “but individuals soon discovered our products and began selling them at flea markets, fairs, and eventually online.” The company also sells to independent retailers and direct-to-consumer.
Whitfield's Lawn & Garden
Des Moines, Iowa
Randy Whitfield always had a passion for gardening, and in 2002 he finally turned his passion into his business. “Starting a business with my wife, Catherine, that supported four kids was a risk, but I live and breathe landscape, it’s a part of me,” he says. Randy went door to door with homemade business cards, and soon news about his green thumb and work ethic spread through Des Moines; Whitfield’s Lawn & Garden flourished. Randy began taking on larger contracts, and his family pitched in. “Around 2005, with help from my eldest child, Randy II, we hit a sweet spot. That’s when I knew we’d make it,” says Randy. In 2015, Randy’s son, Catum, joined the business after graduating from college and digitally transformed it. “I built a website, started using Google Ads and a Business Profile on Google, then got Dad off his flip phone and onto a smartphone,” says Catum. Since then, revenue has doubled, as has their staff. By 2019, Randy employed three generations of Whitfields.
When the pandemic hit, and Des Moines went inside and online, Whitfield’s Lawn & Garden became busier as those working from home noticed the states of their lawns. A Google search took them to Whitfield’s Lawn & Garden’s Business Profile on Google which featured rave customer reviews and Catum’s Google Ads also appeared in searches.“We had to keep hiring to keep up,” says RaeLynn, Randy’s daughter. Catum introduced Google Workspace, setting up Gmail, Calendar, Drive, and even Google Maps to keep employees and clients connected, organized, and safe. Revenue for 2020 is up 50 percent from 2019, and RaeLynn projects a similar increase for 2021. Randy intends to expand their snow-removal business using Google Ads, which already attracts 65 percent of their current clients. The phone rings off the hook, with 75 percent of their daily calls coming via Google. To keep up with demand, Catum plans to make the company’s office operations 100-percent digital in 2021. “We’re so grateful for the support and tools that Google has provided us,” he says.
BLK & Bold Specialty Beverages
Des Moines, Iowa
Rod Johnson and Pernell Cezar grew up on the same street in Gary, Indiana. Through the years, the friends mused about starting a business that would make a social impact. In June 2018, they left their corporate careers and made their dream a reality, founding BLK & Bold Specialty Beverages in Des Moines, Iowa—sharing space with a brewery. They sold fair-trade specialty coffees and teas from their e-commerce website, donating 5 percent of profits to community organizations and initiatives for at-risk youth. “Our market strategy was focused on retail distribution and allowed anyone to participate in this social impact model,” Rod says. Their Google Ads campaigns helped customers discover their products and learn about their mission. In January 2020, they expanded into the wholesale market, becoming the first Black-owned nationally distributed coffee company. Their products can now be found in Target, Whole Foods, and other stores coast to coast.
Despite the pandemic, interest in BLK & Bold has risen. “There’s been a renewed energy around social justice and people wanting to protest and support with their dollars at home,” Pernell says. “Our website [sales] took off…until we didn't have any more product to give.” Business increased by 1,600 percent in just one year. In July 2020, the company moved into their own roastery space, increasing staff from four to 14 employees. Their YouTube videos help educate consumers about their specialty coffees and brand values, while their Business Profile on Google features many positive reviews that highlight their commitment to customer service and allows them to identify their business as Black-owned. “Along the journey, we've learned how to use different Google products and turn them on as we hit those mile markers of discovery,” Pernell says. Going forward, they hope to bring their beverages and their support for at-risk youth to more communities. “Consumers can find diversity in a quality cup of coffee that they enjoy,” Pernell says. “As we continue to scale and publicize what we stand for, we also have a chance to diversify the product assortment in the future.”
Colony Pumpkin Patch
North Liberty, Iowa
40 people at the peak of the season
Wife-and-husband duo Katie and Dean Colony knew their family-owned, fourth-generation farm needed to shake things up to continue thriving. In 2005, Katie and Dean decided to transform their traditional farm into Colony Pumpkin Patch, focusing on creating family-friendly activities that everyone can enjoy during the summer and fall. Looking to attract more visitors, Katie quickly realized that going digital was the key to getting noticed by tourists and locals alike. “I knew from the beginning that we needed to go digital because people get their information online, so I made a website,” Katie said. Soon after, Rob Miller, a marketing specialist, joined the team to help grow the business’ online presence with budget-friendly, easy-to-use products.
To boost awareness for Colony Pumpkin Patch and ensure people can easily find it on Google Search and Maps, the team uses Google My Business. “Increasing our visibility on Maps is especially important for us because farms are not easy things to just stumble upon,” Miller said. Katie stirs up more interest for Colony Pumpkin Patch by showcasing event photos on the business listing and using it to update potential visitors in real time. “It’s great to be able to quickly and easily update our hours on Google when we have bad weather,” Katie said. Colony Pumpkin Patch also uses Google Ads to reach potential visitors and ensure the farm stands out in a competitive seasonal market.
Today, about 70% of the business’ ad spend goes to digital. The team has generated thousands of online impressions since using Google tools, and they are passionate about paying their success forward. “Our family has been in this community for many years, so we want to continue to support it as it grows by helping families make memories,” Katie said. The duo is offering donations to nonprofit organizations and other worthy causes. The Colony Pumpkin Patch team hopes to become a year-round business in the future. “One of our biggest goals is expanding into other seasons, including the spring, summer, and holiday season,” Katie said. “Google is going to play a huge role in how we stay organized and getting the word out as we bring our ideas to life.”
For years, Tim Guenther worked as a manufacturer’s rep, traveling and selling building materials around the Midwest. When he grew tired of life on the road, he decided to start a company of his own. In 2005, Tim launched Clickstop, a multi-brand manufacturer and retailer. He began with a single brand, U.S. Cargo Control, selling cargo control, lifting, and moving supplies. Over the years, the company grew to include nine other brands across various industries. “We now sell everything from ratchet straps, to organization supplies, to building products,” Tim explains. “By focusing on specialty categories, we can supply underserved consumers with what they want when they need it.”
Clickstop has been using AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to market their products since day one. “It drives a significant amount of our overall traffic,” says Tim. “About 60 percent of our web traffic comes through AdWords.” The company also uses Google Analytics to better understand how changes to their websites and ad campaigns impact their online performance. “Over 90 percent of our marketing budget goes to digital, so these insights are very important,” Tim adds. Most of their brands have their own YouTube channel to provide customers with helpful content, such as how-to videos and product reviews. Through their brand, Leverage, they empower other area businesses to succeed online as well. They offer clients a full suite of digital marketing services, applying their expertise in AdWords and other engagement tactics, with results proven by their success at Clickstop.
Today, Clickstop serves thousands of customers throughout the U.S. They have grown from three employees to 165 over the past decade, and have completed an expansion of their 135,000-square-foot facility. The company has grown by 132 percent over the last five years and expects to earn about $50 million in revenue this year. For Tim, however, Clickstop’s greatest growth goes beyond the numbers. “We started as an e-commerce retailer, but we’ve become a lot more than that,” he explains. “Clickstop has become an entrepreneurial environment where employees are empowered to be the best they can be. Seeing individuals take their careers and lives to places where they didn’t think they could go, and having Clickstop be a big part of their journey—that’s the most rewarding thing. That’s what gets me out of bed every day.”
Anyone with toddlers and pets knows the challenges of keeping them safe and away from restricted areas. So when Marc Pichik bought a puppy, he needed something to keep the curious canine contained. "I wanted something sleek and compact, unlike traditional baby gates that are clumsy, in the way, and don't look good," he says. When Internet searches didn't turn up what Marc was looking for, he decided to invent a prototype. "I just kept moving the idea along and eventually got a patent and trademarked the name Retract-A-Gate." His safety gates come in different sizes, mount on stairways and doorways, and retract like window shades when not in use. Marc launched his business, Smart Retract, in 2002, selling his Retract-A-Gates to stores in Iowa. "But then I realized the great potential of selling online," he says. "I had an unusual solution to a common problem."
Marc started using AdWords, Google's advertising program, in 2006. Since then, it has been a critical tool for reaching customers searching for safety gates. “When customers look for safety gates, they often expect something big and bulky. They don’t know about our small and sleek products,” says Marc. “AdWords gives us the online exposure that we need to get the word out there. And in our early days, it was either we were on AdWords or we sold nothing.” AdWords now accounts for about 80 percent of Smart Retract’s advertising and 30 percent of their sales. Marc also relies on Google Analytics to keep pace with digital trends and see which marketing campaigns are working best. Google Webmaster Tools help him monitor performance issues on his e-commerce website. And his YouTube videos show customers how to mount and use the gates.
In 2010, Marc moved his growing operation into a facility near the Mississippi River, where the company now manufactures 100 percent of their products. They ship all over the world, sell wholesale, and continue to grow 20 percent year-over-year. "Without AdWords and the other Google tools, this would have been a much more difficult road," Marc says. "We wouldn't have grown as quickly as we have. The impact is significant."
the Write Place
The Write Place has 300+ clients nationwide
The Write Place began 20 years ago and provides writing and editing services plus graphic design for corporations, small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals. The company formed a book division in 2007 to help authors publish fiction, memoirs, cookbooks, history, poetry, and more. “We invest in our relationships with our clients and authors,” says Lexie Thomas, Manager and Graphic Designer. “Building an understanding of each client’s industry or project results in messages and products that speak to the desired audience.” The Write Place’s website is the focal point for serving their clients, both regionally and across the country.
The Write Place uses AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to help reach potential customers. “It was easy to look at how our campaign was doing, use common sense to tweak it, and see the results quickly,” Lexie says. “It was just really fun to see that happening. And it’s super affordable, which is really important for a small business.” They turn to Google Analytics when creating new client websites or revising outdated sites. “We've always been able to dig into Analytics and present pretty much any data the clients are looking for,” Lexie says. “Those stats help guide the information-design phase of a website project.” Staff rely on Google Apps for Work, especially Gmail and Google Calendar, for communicating with clients and one another.
Staying connected from anywhere is particularly important for this ever-evolving company, as the Write Place team includes four people across two locations. They have published over 50 books, and about three-fourths of inquiries from authors come through the company website. Print-on-demand technology has helped to expand the book business, and the website includes an online bookstore. Writing and graphic services have expanded to include account management, marketing, and planning. The company also sponsors a book-publishing contest every other year. Based on their experience with AdWords, the Write Place plans to use the program to do more promotion of its services in the future.