In 2012, Ryan Hanna was no fan of the gym–but as a U.S. Army Reserve officer, he needed to stay fit. So, he taught himself to code and built an exercise app that would offer a more engaging workout. With Ryan donning a green-screen suit and his wife recording the accompanying voice-overs under a duvet, they made the first videos, and Sworkit was born. The app allows users to customize exercise type, length, and instructor's voice. Its soaring popularity led Nexercise co-founders Gregory Coleman and Benjamin Young to buy Sworkit in 2014 and team up with Ryan to expand the app. "Sworkit is different. We can tweak and customize everything. It offers kids' and older adult workouts. And we're getting into injury recovery and chronic conditions," says Gregory. Today, the Bethesda-based company, which is veteran- and Black-led, offers the app in 13 languages, supports businesses with "company fitness challenges," and is used in 15,000+ schools worldwide.
+750 annual customers
Shallon Thomas and Sherika Wynter understand that opportunity lies at the intersection of style and function. Frustrated by a lack of well-engineered, insulated lunch bags that also boasted some personality, the research and development partners founded T|W Tote in 2018. The international press quickly took notice of the world-class products this Maryland-based business was making. “When we were contacted by GQ Britain, I knew we had something here,” Sherika says. From the beginning, T|W Tote has leaned on digital tools to reach customers all over the world. Google Analytics helps them fine-tune their product strategy by identifying who is shopping with them and what they’re searching for, and their Business Profile on Google lets them share their unique story, with attributes like “identifies as Black-owned” and “LGBTQ friendly” that humanize their business in a way that the big-box retailers can’t match.
With the onset of COVID-19, T|W Tote needed to quickly shift gears. Fortunately, Sherika is used to engineering smart solutions. “We knew we had to find another way to get sales, to break into new markets,” she says. After Google Analytics revealed that a large corporate customer had found them by searching for promotional gifts, T|W Tote saw an opportunity to pivot to B2B sales and jumped at it. In addition to their B2C business, T|W Tote now offers promotional fulfilment, corporate gifting, and VIP white-labelling services to vineyards, real estate companies, and more. “Without Google, we would have never known these markets existed,” Sherika says. Today, more than half of T|W Tote’s business comes through Google channels, and they are designing a new line of accessories to sell alongside their stylish lunch totes. Wherever opportunity goes, Sherika and Shallon will be there, innovating in its wake. Adds Sherika, “Google has been great for opening up doors for small businesses. You just have to be creative and see what works.”
Dragon Scale Flooring
In 2015, Andrew Weiss, a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, started Dragon Scale Flooring in Laurel, Maryland. Using his background in chemistry, Andrew began installing epoxy floors with a team of experienced professionals. As the business picked up steam, more customers, general contractors, and even large retail companies started reaching out for work. ”Within a few years, the business transformed from just an epoxy company to a full-service flooring company that services the entire East Coast,” Andrew said. At first, Andrew relied just on word of mouth and his company’s unique name to pique people’s interest, but he knew he needed to do more to drive brand awareness in a competitive market. “When starting, the name of the game is obviously brand recognition,” said Andrew. “In this day and age, though, you also have to do some sort of digital marketing because the second you aren’t there, your customer won’t find you.”
Andrew uses Google Ads to reach potential customers who are searching for Dragon Scale Flooring or the services his company offers. “I started using Google Ads myself, then, as my company grew, I hired a marketing team to manage it,” he said. Andrew also uses Google My Business to further boost visibility on Google Search and Maps as well as G Suite tools like Gmail, Calendar, and Drive to communicate and collaborate with his team. “Everything is tied together,” said Andrew. “G Suite makes it easy for my customers and my employees in the field to stay connected.”
With the help of Google Ads, Dragon Scale Flooring has seen steady year-over-year revenue growth, becoming a multi-million-dollar company in 2018. Andrew says that 100% of his marketing budget goes toward digital advertising, which leads to 60-70 requests for work per day. The company tries to pay it forward by donating money to local organizations and doing free flooring jobs for military facilities. Andrew also hopes to raise money to buy a van to provide transportation for homeless veterans in the area. “I don’t work a day in my life,” said Andrew. “I love what I do, I love helping the community, and I love working with my employees.” In the future, Andrew wants to see Dragon Scale Flooring become a franchise with offices across the country — or even the world. “With Google, I can connect my company seamlessly,” he said.
The Bow Tie Club
Kirk Hinckley believed that bow tie lovers deserved better. While working for a national men’s clothier, Kirk saw firsthand that bow ties were either overpriced, low-quality, or tossed into a single display drawer as an afterthought. Deciding to do something different, he and his wife, graphic designer Corinne Hsu, founded The Bow Tie Club in 1994. “People who wear bow ties want to be a little different,” Kirk says. The couple used their knowledge of the industry to create a mail-order business offering high-quality, fairly priced bow ties, all manufactured in Maryland. They brought The Bow Tie Club online in 1996 and now feature over 500 of their own designs available in a multitude of shapes and sizes.
As an early adopter of the web, The Bow Tie Club has very much grown alongside the Internet. For years, Kirk and Corinne advertised their products on printed media. “Now it’s the exact opposite,” Kirk notes. “It’s 90 percent to digital; 10 percent to print.” The Bow Tie Club uses AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to reach fashion aficionados all over the world. About 20 percent of their sales come from overseas, and “AdWords is an integral part of the international business,” says Kirk. “When people click on a Google ad, they’re looking for something—they’re ready to buy. The reach and purchase intent are what make AdWords so powerful compared with other media tools.” The company also uses insights from Google Analytics to optimize their online presence. “It’s hugely important for understanding what the customer wants, refining our product, and creating a better shopping experience,” he adds.
For Kirk and Corinne, the bow tie is more than just a fashion piece; it’s a way to connect with new people. “You have no idea how many great conversations I’ve had that started with the words, ‘I love your bow tie!’” explains Kirk. “Our bow ties not only look good, they help you stand out.” And stand out, they do. Even former President Barack Obama has taken notice, sporting one of their bow ties to his 2012 inaugural balls. “That’s probably the pinnacle of my career,” Kirk muses. With thousands of customers around the world, The Bow Tie Club today is a global community of fashion-forward individuals. “There’s a reason why we named it The Bow Tie Club,” Kirk shares. “It was always meant to be a community for people who want to be a little different. And now, with the web, bow tie lovers from anywhere can be a part of that community.”
Chesapeake Fine Food Group
Owings Mills, Maryland
43 employees during peak season.
Nothing says “home” like authentic old-fashioned cooking. Chesapeake Fine Food Group welcomes visitors from across the country home to Maryland by delivering prepared gourmet goods with a taste of the Chesapeake Bay directly to their doors. “Our business is national, but we're located in Maryland,” Vice President Kate Glenn says proudly. Founded in 1997, Chesapeake offers three different catalogs of local delicacies on their online storefront, whipping up everything from crab cakes to Beef Wellington.
Chesapeake uses modern tools to promote their old-fashioned appeal. “We’re a small to mid-sized company competing against multi-billion-dollar corporations,” Kate explains, “so it’s really important for us to strengthen our web presence and differentiate our products.” With AdWords, Google's advertising program, they’re able to do both, attracting the right customers in a crowded market. “We differentiate ourselves from other food retailers by marketing our products to folks who are specifically looking for prepared entrées that arrive ready to go,” she says. They also use Google Analytics to measure their web traffic and better understand their customers' demands, which range widely depending on regional palates. And with a newly redesigned website and growing team of online marketers, the company is becoming increasingly more digital. “We know the web is where growth will be in the future, and every year we see more and more of our total sales being dedicated to online sales,” Kate adds.
From their mail-order beginnings, Chesapeake has grown into a major online culinary player. In 2016, they shared a taste of Maryland with over 130,000 customers, and more than half of their orders came from the web. They continue to grow 20 percent annually and spread that economic wealth among the farmers and growers around them. “We love to give business to folks in our own backyard,” Kate says. With 120 vendors across the country, Chesapeake is cooking up good news all over America, too. “People are excited to grow with us, and we're excited to grow with them.”
PointClickSwitch has been experiencing 125% annual growth
When they founded PointClickSwitch in 2010, Phil Croskey and his partners Jason Schwartzberg and Paul Clary had one goal: give the people of Maryland an easy way to shop for third-party energy providers. “We provide a marketplace for customers who are looking for a way to reduce their utility bills,” Phil says. From their Baltimore headquarters, they sought to educate and empower citizens who never even knew they had a choice. Phil understood that to get the word out about PointClickSwitch, they needed the power of the Internet.
PointClickSwitch uses AdWords, Google's advertising program, to raise awareness of their service. “AdWords has really helped us get that message out,” Phil says. Location targeting in AdWords allows them to target the specific geographic areas where their service is available and makes it easy to target new areas as they expand. They supplement AdWords with YouTube videos to instruct and inform their audience, and they use Google Apps for Work to collaborate and innovate from anywhere. PointClickSwitch also relies on Google Analytics to pinpoint where their website traffic is coming from and how to get the most from their advertising budget. “The data that's provided to us in Google Analytics is huge,” Phil says. “It's key to us.”
Today, PointClickSwitch is providing information and options to more customers than ever. “Eighty-five percent of customers we come across do not understand their utility bill. We’re changing that,” Phil says. They have five full-time employees with plans to hire more, and will soon be operating in nearly a dozen states. “Watching this business that we've built grow is one of the great joys of my life,” Phil says. With over 80% of their traffic coming from the Internet, PointClickSwitch will be able to continue helping citizens from all over the country save money. “It helps us reach our customers, bottom line,” he says. In an industry where knowledge is power, that means everything.