Nôs Casa Café
Ana Maria Fidalgo came to Boston in the 1980s, seeking medical care for her mother, who, along with her father, came from West Africa’s Cape Verde islands. Ana Maria settled in the Roxbury neighborhood, opening a family-run grocery store. When she and a friend who also loves to cook noticed an empty storefront, “We thought, ‘Let’s take this place and find jobs for unemployed women in the neighborhood who know how to cook Cape Verdean cuisine,’” Ana recalls. In 2010, she opened Nôs Casa Café, hiring four local women, with son Joshua Fidalgo, dean of a local STEM academy, helping after work. The café specializes in classic Cape Verdean dishes such as cachupa, a stew of corn, lima beans, sweet potato, and fish or meat. “Our food is fresh, accessible, and affordable,” Joshua says. Their Business Profile on Google brought in customers beyond the local area, and glowing reviews began rolling in. They gave back to their community, donating meals to families in need and senior citizens, and partnering with nonprofits fighting insecurity.
When COVID-19 forced restaurants to close in March 2020, the future looked uncertain. The business received a Paycheck Protection Program loan to continue paying their five employees, and a PPE grant to buy gloves and other supplies. They reopened two months later with fewer tables, operating at 60-percent capacity. They updated their Business Profile on Google with new service options such as “curbside pickup” and “no-contact delivery,” added photos to attract more takeout and delivery business, and enabled Google Pay mobile-ordering apps. Google Analytics revealed what whetted customers’ appetites, with one photo of an array of dishes garnering nearly 100,000 views. “Even through challenging times, with the support of the community and our customers—and with Google products and resources—we’re in a good place,” Joshua says. “We’re true to our mission. We're hopeful.”
When Manasi Gangan was on maternity leave with her son, she experienced what so many parents of newborn children do: sleep deprivation. “I realized how difficult it gets to maintain your sanity when you’re lacking sleep,” said Manasi. “I wanted to solve the problem because I felt it firsthand.” Manasi noticed her son only slept in her arms or when she rested her hand on his chest. One night she replaced her hand with a small stuffed toy, and to her amazement, he remained asleep. “I started adding things around his body to mimic my embrace,” said Manasi. After months of research and testing, Manasi unveiled Nested Bean’s Zen Swaddle, the world’s first gently-weighted swaddle for infants, in 2013. Starting out as a B2B company, Nested Bean soon decided to sell to consumers directly. “Because of the middle man, it became extremely hard for us to tell our own story,” said Manasi. “We had to find a way to educate our customers ourselves.”
In 2016, Nested Bean gutted its existing e-commerce platform and started exploring Google solutions like YouTube, Google Ads, and the Google Marketing Platform. With the help of the YouTube team, Manasi created the company’s first educational video. “We started using it on YouTube and social media and saw awareness really grow,” said Manasi. Today, Google Ads is responsible for more than 30% of the company’s total revenue, contributing to its impressive 3X year-over-year growth since 2016. Nested Bean also uses Google Optimize and Analytics to run A/B tests and make continuous improvements to its campaigns. “Google Analytics is pivotal to improving the performance of our ads and in turn our business,” said Manasi.
Having served more than 500,000 customers, Nested Bean has evolved from one unique product to a full sleep and wellness brand for infants, including resources and advice for families around the world. “Google tools will continue to play a huge role in growing our brand awareness,” Manasi said. That awareness has created new possibilities like a social media group that Nested Bean moderates where new parents can share their sleep challenges and offer support. Nested Bean also donates its products to hospitals where they are often used for babies affected by exposure to drugs in the womb. Manasi sees the future of Nested Bean as a consumer technology company and hopes to cross the $100 million revenue mark within five years. “Nested Bean has become bigger than one person” she said. “It’s so gratifying to see the impact that you can create.”
Caregiving has always played a central role in Helen Adeosun’s life. Her immigrant parents worked as caregivers, and she supported herself through graduate school by doing the same. While in grad school, one of Helen’s professors posed a question: If you had the opportunity to create a company or program that would impact 1 billion people, what would it be? “The answer for me was figuring out ways to educate and certify people so they can get higher paying caregiving jobs,” said Helen.
That was the impetus for CareAcademy, an educational platform that provides expert-developed online training for senior home care professionals. “It takes quite a bit to turn an insight or vision into a company,” said Helen, who began shopping the concept around in 2015. To help get CareAcademy off the ground, Google for Startups invited her to attend a two-week long program for female entrepreneurs and to pitch investors on-stage at Google Demo Day. There, Helen raised $1.6 million in funding, which she used to hire most of the CareAcademy team. “We had a ton of exposure — and a little bit of wind beneath our wings after we got some cash coming through the door,” she said. From there, Helen and her team began selling CareAcademy to employers, who in turn use it to upskill their caregivers.
Today, CareAcademy uses a number of Google tools to monitor and optimize its online presence. Helen uses Google Analytics and Google Search Console to keep an eye on keywords that are driving web traffic and Google Ads to reach people using them. “Anything that allows us to see how folks are engaging with the pages — what they’re clicking on, if they’re viewing, how long they’re viewing — is absolutely key,” she said. Helen and her team of 12 also use G Suite apps like Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and Drive to stay connected. “G Suite helps us manage our business,” said Helen. “I don’t know what we’d do without our G Suite account — the life of CareAcademy is encoded in Google Docs.”
CareAcademy has trained 35,000 caregivers in the last three years. CareAcademy hopes to up that number to 500,000 in the future. “We wouldn’t be where we are without Google. The success we’ve had inspires us to keep pushing,” said Helen. A mission-oriented company, CareAcademy focuses on creating opportunities specifically for women of color and immigrants by working with groups that support them. “Our classes provide the ability for folks from those groups to access jobs,” said Helen. “In order to keep the doors open, we have to maintain that mission as a company.”
Blank Label makes custom clothing for men of all body types and sizes. “We believe everyone should feel confident in the clothes they wear,” says CEO Fan Bi. “It’s frustrating to be uncomfortable, so our goal is to provide a personal, custom fit to every client we see.” Launched in 2009 as an e-commerce brand, Blank Label now has six locations around the U.S., with more on the way. Their repertoire has grown from dress shirts to the full professional wardrobe, including suits, chinos, top coats, and more. And the company is determined to become a household name in the world of custom tailoring. “Custom has existed for a long time, but there’s still no category-defining brand for it. We hope to be the ones to build that,” Fan shares.
While their brick-and-mortar business has taken off in recent years, Fan intends to keep the company planted in its digital roots. “Digital brings a lot more accuracy to the way we make decisions,” he says, noting that 85 percent of their overall marketing budget goes to online advertising. From the beginning, AdWords, Google’s advertising program, has played a key role in the business. “AdWords has helped us reach the customer who needs us, who is searching for the exact thing we deliver,” Fan explains. Google Analytics provides crucial conversion data to back up their marketing decisions, and Google My Business helps them make the most of their online presence, providing an avenue for customer feedback and reviews. The company also uses Gmail and other G Suite tools to keep their internal and external communications efficient. “Google and the whole ecosystem is very much top of mind for us,” Fan adds.
Over the years, Blank Label has served tens of thousands of clients, many of whom become return customers and refer family and friends. With consistent double-digit annual growth, they are working toward dozens of more locations, all while staying close to the communities they’re already a part of. “We are active participants in the local charity scene wherever we have store locations. It’s important to us that we be engaged with our communities,” Fan shares. Throughout the company’s growth, Fan has appreciated the opportunity to build a business that has a meaningful impact on people’s lives. “We have clients who, before coming into our store, have never been able to find comfort in what they wear. Being able to help them really makes it all worth it,” he says.
Wicked Good Cupcakes
Tracey Noonan and her daughter, Dani, began taking cake-decorating classes in 2010 as a fun way to spend time together. They had a knack for the craft and, after sharing some of their work online, received inquiries from consumers interested in their baked goods. Recognizing a business opportunity, the mother-daughter team opened Wicked Good Cupcakes in 2011, baking and shipping decorative cupcakes to customers nationwide. To keep their products fresh and safe during delivery, they packed them in distinctive mason jars—an idea that “got a tremendously positive response,” says Chief Operating Officer Scott Noonan. “It really took off from there.” Wicked Good Cupcakes tallied $375,000 in sales in their first full year and $1.8 million the following year after appearing on national television. “We gained thousands of customers by being on television, but then we had to figure out a way to keep them coming back,” Scott adds.
As a self-confessed “data junkie,” Scott knew that technology would be key to sustaining momentum and growing the family business. “We really wanted to understand our customers and figure out how we could make things easier for them,” he says. To this end, they’ve extensively used Google Analytics to inform their business decisions and enhance their online shopping experience. “I’m really proud of the metrics we’ve been able to achieve through these efforts,” shares Scott, noting that their conversion rate is about three times the industry average. Wicked Good Cupcakes also uses AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to drive traffic to their website. “It’s been a big part of our growth in terms of new customer acquisition,” he adds. And G Suite tools, such as Gmail, Docs, and Drive, help streamline their internal operations, from processing orders to task management.
Wicked Good Cupcakes ships half a million products a year to customers all over the country. They continue to grow at a double-digit rate annually and earned $4.5 million in revenue last year. They have also expanded their business to cater to corporate clients. For the Noonan family, however, retaining a personal touch amidst rapid growth is imperative. “As we get bigger and bigger, it’s easy to forget how important one individual cupcake jar can be to somebody,” Scott says. “But we never want to forget that. We want to continue being a company that people believe in. We want to be able to service our customers the best we can and produce the same high-quality products that we’ve been making for the past six years. That’s our goal as we continue to grow—to never forget our customers.”