Baton Rouge, Louisiana
In 1998, Mike and Ladina Hackley opened a storefront in Baton Rouge devoted to America’s beloved pastimes of grilling and barbequing. From the start, business at the Grill Store and More boomed, and the Hackleys soon observed two trends: an indulgent obsession with barbequing and grilling, and a brand new sales channel, the internet. In 2000, they expanded their offerings to include premiere outdoor kitchens, and took the Grill Store online as BBQGuys.com. "We are very data-driven. It fuels our business,” says VP of eCommerce and Analytics Jason Stutes. His savvy adoption of digital marketing gave BBQGuys a spot on Inc. 500’s list of fastest-growing companies for 12 straight years. Jason began using Google Ads and Google Analytics in 2005, and BBQGuys.com swiftly became a top destination for barbeque and grilling aficionados. By 2019, most of the business had moved online, and although the BBQGuys maintained a physical store, their main facilities were an 110,000-square-foot warehouse and a headquarters with 70 customer service reps. The same location houses a production studio for their YouTube channel, where employees demonstrate how to chargrill oysters and barbeque Korean short ribs for hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
In March 2020, as the world closed down due to COVID-19, BBQGuys went on a hiring spree to support a sharp uptick in sales. “While stuck at home, people started doing more outdoor grilling,” says Jason. With employees working from home, the company scrambled to continue making their popular YouTube videos from employee backyards and answer customer support calls from home offices. They created tutorials for their Business Profile on Google on everything from gas grilling tricks to DIY home-smoking hacks. Their Business Profile was an invaluable resource for keeping customers up to date about stock outages due to the pandemic. Today, 94 percent of their business comes through Google. “For 20 years now, Google has been there for us," Jason says.
Louisiana Crawfish Company
In 1985, David McGraw purchased a small piece of land in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and started raising crawfish to support his family. But what started as a relatively small operation transformed when a friend asked David if he could ship the delicacy to the East Coast. David saw an opportunity to grow his business, and he began shipping crawfish to markets and restaurants all over. When Louisiana Crawfish Company launched its first website in 1998, David also started to market to consumers directly. “E-commerce was a whole other world that allowed us to reach individual consumers, which is the majority of our customer base at this point,” said Avery Smith, David’s daughter and the company’s CEO. “The impact of having a website and being able to reach people all across the globe is immeasurable, and it has to do with our growth,” she continued. Today, the company is set to take that growth even further with the launch of a new website and a budget devoted almost entirely to digital advertising and optimization.
Google products help the business spread the word about the crawfish and other specialty Louisiana food products it sells. “We use Google Analytics to track clicks and conversions so we can make better decisions about our advertising dollars. We also use the G-Suite tools to manage internal communications and YouTube to share our company philosophy and how we do things,” said Avery. Those YouTube videos are also featured on the updated Louisiana Crawfish Company website. “It’s important for us to stay on top of the times and keep up with the technology available to us,” said Avery.
Today, David’s little crawfish are bringing in big business, led in part by Google Ads, which directly contributed to more than $2.1 million in sales last year. What started as a small family-run farm in rural Louisiana is now the top crawfish distributor in the state. The company’s staff of 45 serves around 40,000 customers each year all across the country, and the company has plans to further expand its business internationally. “In addition to the U.S., we ship to Canada and Puerto Rico. We’ve also done test shipments to South Korea and Colombia. We’re looking to expand into more international shipping,” said Avery. “And Google will play a big role in what we’re able to do in the future.” Reflecting on her journey, Avery said, “Being a part of a company my father built and continuing to grow it for future generations is incredible.”
New Orleans, Louisiana
There’s something special about cork. It’s waterproof, lightweight, and one of the most renewable materials on Earth. Amanda Dailey realized this on her trip to Portugal in 2012. When she returned to New Orleans, she began making a line of high-quality cork products ranging from shoes, to handbags, to dog collars. “The material just reaches out and grabs you,” Amanda says. “It’s completely fascinating.” Together with her business partner, Julie Araujo, she founded Queork to share her fascination with like-minded shoppers. The two started out selling their cork products online and later opened their first retail store in the French Quarter in 2013.
Queork has always used the Internet to attract customers. They use AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to make sure visitors planning a trip to New Orleans also consider a trip to their storefront. “We want to get people into our stores,” Amanda explains, noting that AdWords campaigns have helped double sales in some of their locations. Their Google My Business listings make it easy for shoppers to find store hours, directions, and reviews. And Google Analytics helps them optimize their website to keep online customers flowing smoothly from welcome to checkout. Their favorite tool, however, may be YouTube. “People want to see the making of our products,” Amanda says. “So we give them that with our YouTube videos.”
With 60 percent annual growth, business shows no signs of slowing down for Queork. Today the company has several stores throughout the South and an e-commerce website that ships items to customers across the U.S. and Canada. They manufacture a majority of their products less than ten minutes from their French Quarter store, and partner with local youth empowerment programs to provide job opportunities to young adults who are looking to learn new skills in design and manufacturing. “These people are very artistic and talented,” says Amanda. “Being able to employ them while also helping them develop skills that they are proud of—skills that they can use for the rest of their lives—is probably the best thing we’ve ever done.”
Triumph Krav Maga
New Orleans, Louisiana
Moving to New Orleans in 2009 to pursue a healthier lifestyle, Vinay Chary dove right into instructing students in the self-defense discipline Krav Maga at a local martial arts studio. “This is a place people can come to triumph over whatever is holding them back in their lives,” Vinay says. After working as an instructor, he became part owner of the business in 2011, bought out his former partner a few years later, rebranded as Triumph Krav Maga, and has been teaching hard-working Louisianians pride, confidence, and self-defense his own way ever since.
The business gradually grew from a single-discipline academy with two employees to a full-service self-defense studio and gym, offering yoga classes, a functional fitness program called the Monkey Bar Gym, and nutritional instruction. The Internet powered this transformation for Vinay. “It's the most important part—75 percent of our business comes from the Internet,” he explains. Vinay uses AdWords, Google's advertising program, to build awareness of Triumph and attract customers more effectively than other avenues of marketing. With a return of four dollars for every ad dollar spent, AdWords now drives nearly 40 percent of their sales. Google Analytics also gives Vinay a 360-degree view of his web traffic so he can make the most of his marketing budget, while G Suite tools Gmail and Docs enable his team to collaborate efficiently and work at the scale of a much larger business. "It's phenomenal. Google plays an integral role in our competitive edge," says Vinay.
From just 50 the first year, Triumph has now impacted the lives of over 3,000 students in Louisiana. Their 7,000-square-foot facility offers 75 classes each week, and Triumph plans to hire 10 more people to staff a new gym in Metairie. The 15 percent annual growth they enjoy is just the product of passion. For Vinay, the best part is giving people back control of their own lives. "Along with empowering our students, we volunteer our time to provide training for the Sexual Assault Response Team, the Family Justice Center, the New Orleans Mission, at-risk teens, and local law enforcement agencies. It's amazing to see the improvement in their quality of life,” he says. That's a small business success story that really packs a punch.
Kaleidoscope Hair Products
New Orleans, Louisiana
Kaleidoscope Hair Products is a prime example of what happens when a great invention is set loose on the Internet. In 2013, Jesseca Dupart invested her life savings to develop a hair product that would stand out from the competition. Her creation is a full hair care line, with products that restore hair follicles and work on any hair type. “Whether someone has thinning hair, a bad weave, a chemical burn, or anything like that,” Jesseca explains, “Kaleidoscope products can rejuvenate hair growth again.” Since their launch in 2014, the business “has grown in ways I never, ever could have predicted,” Jesseca describes. “We went from selling no products to having a full warehouse, exponential growth, and distributors all around the world.”
Before launching her website, Jesseca had been operating out of her hair salon, but “there’s only so much you can do in a day,” she says. “With e-commerce, there’s no limit.” Leveraging digital marketing tools like AdWords, Google’s advertising program, and Google Shopping campaigns to advertise on Google Search and YouTube, Kaleidoscope shows no signs of slowing down. “Within six months, I was selling overseas, and I’ve never even been overseas. With the Internet and Google tools, you can now touch so many more people. It’s opened so many doors.” Today, 90 percent of Kaleidoscope’s marketing budget is dedicated to digital. Jesseca relies on Google Analytics to maximize the effectiveness of her website, improve customers’ online experience, and “get the most out of that investment.”
In 2016, Kaleidoscope reached over 43,000 customers and doubled their revenue from the previous year. Jesseca attributes much of that success to both her strong digital presence and unique brand strategy, which uses comedy and lightheartedness to uplift her audience. “When people struggle with hair loss, it’s not a funny thing, but I try to bring fun to it, make it more commonly talked about instead of something to be ashamed of.” Inspiring people to be true to who they are is Jesseca’s favorite aspect of Kaleidoscope, and she hopes that future growth will mean getting to share that with even more people. “I would love to have a business that’s substantial enough to employ more people, maybe send a group of children to college, and give inspiration to others. I always say that if I could do it, anybody could do it.”