Hammer Down River Excursions
White Bird, Idaho
Few Idahoans know the Salmon River better than Homer Brown. A native of White Bird, Homer grew up fishing on the river before joining the Army in 1999. After Homer completed his service in 2001, he returned to White Bird to make a living doing what he loves: guiding fishing trips on the river. Homer earned his captain’s license and led tours for a local guiding business for eight years. In August 2017, he decided to use his experience to start Hammer Down River Excursions and show people how to fish the Salmon River like locals. After securing financing, Homer faced an even bigger challenge: attracting customers. In a town of just 91 residents, he knew the business needed to get online to be noticed. “It’s tough as a new business to figure out a marketing strategy,” Homer said. “There’s a lot of folks who want to go on fishing trips, but they can’t find us if they don’t know about us.”
Homer wasn’t sure where to start. After attempting to build the site himself, one of Homer’s customers recommended a small business support organization in Boise to help Homer launch a website where customers could easily book excursions. The company also helped him use Google Ads to drive more traffic to the site and set up a free Business Profile on Google that featured contact information, excursion photos, and customer reviews. Internally, Homer uses Gmail and Google Drive for document sharing and communications, and Google Calendar helps coordinate his guides’ schedules. Currently, 70% of the company’s advertising budget is devoted to digital. “I look at the Google products as a complete toolbox for my business.” Homer said.
Last year, Hammer Down River Excursions served nearly 1,000 customers. The business’ rapid growth has allowed Homer to start offering tours of Hell’s Canyon, a popular region that he expects to double or triple his bookings. “Hell’s Canyon is more well-known than Salmon River, so advertising in that market and getting to the top of those search results is going to really boost our business.” Supporting his hometown of White Bird is both a personal and professional endeavor for Homer. “We’re nestled down in a canyon with a big bridge that goes over town,” he said. “Watching the cars go by, I think if we can attract just 1% of those people, it would really change the town and transform the economy.” To that end, Homer’s five-year plan for the business includes building lodging on site, adding another boat to his fleet, and offering a wider variety of activities. “As we offer more, I know Google’s going to be integral to our success.”
Container and Packaging
Jim McCauley began selling industrial containers in Eagle in 1971. From farmers to physicists, if the hard-working people of Idaho needed their products saved, stored, or shipped, they trusted Jim. After helping to grow the business for years, he purchased the company from his partner in 1987 and renamed it Container & Packaging Supply. Over 30 years later, the family-owned business now provides packing and logistical solutions to thousands of customers around the world. “Our real goal is helping ideas come to life,” explains Director of Marketing David Jenson. “We handle the container sourcing, packaging, and logistics, so that companies can focus on what matters most: making their business happen.”
Because of Jim’s willingness to embrace new technology, his son Jeff McCauley launched Container and Packaging’s first e-commerce website in 2002. They began using AdWords, Google’s advertising program, shortly thereafter to drive traffic to the new site. “We were immediately surprised by the number of orders and the geographic diversity of our new customers,” Jim recalls. At the time, Container and Packaging had most of their salespeople on the road, serving customers in Idaho, Montana, and Utah. “We had assumed that it wasn’t feasible to do business with customers more than a few hundred miles away from our warehouse,” he adds. Container and Packaging has since grown well beyond the Mountain States. Today they have satisfied customers in all 50 states and over 70 countries worldwide.
Container and Packaging now serves thousands of clients every year. They own and operate two fulfillment centers in Salt Lake City and Louisville, and they feature over 2,200 varieties of products. For the ownership team, however, the company’s greatest growth goes beyond the numbers. “We have an opportunity to go after something more meaningful than increased revenue and profits; we have a chance to build a community,” Jeff shares. “That’s why our greatest goal is to help individuals within our company develop into their best selves. We believe that stronger individuals make strong families, and strong families build stronger communities.”
Alpaca Direct, LLC
For Jim and Kelley Hobart and their two children, nothing is more important than a close-knit family and community. When their daughter asked if they could raise alpacas on their ranch in 2005, they discovered the many unique benefits of alpaca wool and were amazed. They opened Alpaca Direct in Hayden and a companion online store to share the joys of the durable, eco-friendly yarn and fiber with knitting and apparel enthusiasts all over the world. “Whether you’re visiting our store or shopping from afar, we want you to feel like you’re a part of what we're creating up here in North Idaho,” says Kelley.
Alpaca Direct uses the Internet to weave together a robust modern business. They rely on AdWords, Google's advertising program, to reach customers overseas and build international awareness of their brand. “Our products are especially popular in cold-weather climates. Geolocation helps with attracting these likely buyers,” Jim says. They also use Google Analytics to improve their marketing campaigns. Together, the Google tools power Alpaca Direct’s growth. “We use Analytics to identify niche markets that are going to be interested in our products and then AdWords to expand our presence into those markets,” Jim explains. G Suite tools give them the logistical muscle to compete with larger companies—they do budgeting with Google Sheets, communicate with Gmail, and plan staffing with Google Calendar. YouTube allows them to share knitting techniques and product reviews with a global audience. And Google Hangouts enables enthusiasts from afar to participate in their weekly knitting group at the Hayden store. “There are a lot of people all over the world who don’t have a local yarn shop. We want to become their local yarn shop even though we’re all the way here in Idaho. With Google tools, we can do that, and they can be part of our community,” Kelley says.
Today, Alpaca Direct has proudly served over 100,000 customers in 30 countries. They enjoy a double-digit annual growth rate, with 92 percent of their sales coming from the web. They especially love sharing a bit of Idaho warmth with outsiders. “We get hundreds of visitors vacationing here and walking through our doors. We want all of them to leave with a rich, special connection with us and our products,” Kelley says.
Telaya Wine Co.
Garden City, Idaho
Telaya Wine Co. produced 3,500 cases of wine in 2015
Veterinarian Carrie Sullivan and her husband, Earl, a biochemist, wanted to put family first and simplify their busy, high-pressure lives. They decided to open a winery while vacationing in Mexico. “We applied what we already knew to something different,” Carrie says. “It's all biochemistry, just applied in different ways.” Telaya Wine Co. produced 50 cases for their first vintage in 2008. They aged the wine for two years before selling to the public. “We’re very focused on offering a quality product, great customer service, and hospitality,” Carrie says. “We love giving tours and teaching about wine. We really want people to feel like this is their second home.”
In 2010, Telaya began crafting a strong online presence and using a variety of Google tools. Since launching their website, they’ve been using Google Analytics to see where visitors are coming from and to refine their site content. “Being a small business, we wear many different hats. And we have a small staff, so we don’t have someone to just focus on our website. Google Analytics does that for us,” Carrie says. Google My Business helps customers plan a trip to Telaya by making it easy to find store hours, photos, reviews, and directions. According to Carrie, “Google Maps has helped us quite a bit. Garden City is in a more industrial part of Boise, so the ability to find us through Maps has been significant.” A YouTube video embedded on the homepage gives everyone a close-up look at the business, which includes a wine club and online store. “The Internet and Google Search allow you to build your business much quicker than you could without it,” Carrie says.
After sharing a facility with other small wineries for several years, Telaya opened a new building of their own in February 2016. They now have six employees, and expect eventually to increase production to 5,000 cases annually. “That's where we want to stop,” Carrie says, “because we want to maintain a very high-quality, handcrafted product.” Their goal is to build a strong Idaho brand for their business, now situated along the Boise River in Garden City. “We're all trying very hard to build something that our family can be proud of,” Carrie adds. “It's exactly what we hoped for.”