St. Louis, Missouri
When Mack Amini met his future wife, Jeanna, playing pool at a teen center in Oklahoma City, he had no idea how prophetic that night would be. Mack went on to build a successful business selling pool tables with her by his side as CFO. Founded in 1975, Amini’s is a family-owned specialty furniture store that sells a range of American-made products, including game room furnishings and lighting. “We don’t sell junk. We sell good, better, and best,” said Mack Amini’s son, Arash, CEO of Amini’s. “Our customers know that they’re coming here for quality.” Amini’s prided itself on catering to its local markets, but competing against mass-market online retailers was a challenge. To try and find its place among these larger competitors, the company launched a website called Gameroom Champ. It was surprised by how well it did. Encouraged by its success, Amini’s sought to maximize its e-commerce opportunities.
The company hired Dominic Acello, general manager and head strategist at a marketing agency, to help it focus on Aminis.com and bolster its digital marketing efforts. “Right now, 18% of our ad budget is currently spent through Google Ads,” said Acello. “It was less than 10% not even a year ago, and it’s likely going to get higher.” Amini’s runs targeted ads across Google’s Search and Display networks and uses Google Analytics to optimize its campaigns on the fly. The company recently implemented Google’s conversion tracking and saw a 40% increase in leads and a 620% increase in location requests from June to November. Amini’s also uses Google My Business to boost visibility on Google Search and Maps. “We get contacted every day by people interested in what we’re selling,” said Arash. “They are often excited to find out that we’re an established, local brick-and-mortar dealer who really knows our stuff.”
Amini’s currently serves more than 12,000 customers per year and employs 65 people across four locations in St. Louis, Kansas City, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City. The company has become part of the fabric of each community, contributing to various charitable organizations and donating furnishings and gift certificates whenever it can. “Every little bit that we can do to be there for people and to give to the community, it comes back to us tenfold,” said Arash. Moving forward, Amini’s hopes to achieve 10X revenue growth, but that doesn’t necessarily mean opening more stores. “With Google, the web, and the right partners, we won’t need to have a physical location in any other markets,” said Arash. “Aminis.com is our new store — and it’s for every market.”
Lange General Store
Lange General Store serves 30,000 customers annually
After a long career in finance, Alicia Rehmert was ready to retire. “That is, until boredom set in just six months later,” she recalls. While looking around for something fun to do, Alicia realized that her small community in the Ozark Mountains was underserved by the retail industry. “There weren’t a lot of places where you could just interact with people and have a fun experience while shopping,” she explains. “And the big-box stores that were around were all pretty generic; there was nothing unique about them!” In 2014, Alicia opened Lange General Store in historic downtown Steelville. The business is a restoration of a 20th-century general store that was founded by her husband’s great-grandfather, H.C. Lange. Like its predecessor, Lange General Store is “a literal brick-and-mortar building full of classic toys, nostalgic candy, over a hundred flavors of soda pop in bottles, home decor and linens, and a variety of other old-fashioned goods,” describes Alicia.
Lange General Store launched an e-commerce website in 2016 to share its local flavors beyond state borders. Using AdWords, Google’s advertising program, the business now services customers all across the U.S. and Canada. “About 70 percent of our online sales come through AdWords,” says Alicia. With 90 percent of the store’s advertising dollars going to digital, Alicia also uses Google Analytics to optimize their online performance. “I have a finance background, so I really pay attention to what the numbers say,” she explains. “And so far, our online investments have been worthwhile.”
Over the past year, Lange General Store has more than doubled their sales and number of customers. “We plan to double again, and then again,” Alicia shares. They ship their products to thousands of customers every year. With each order, they include a handwritten thank-you note, Tootsie Rolls, and Bit-O-Honey candy. “It’s how we share some of that old-fashioned service that we give folks who walk through our physical doors,” explains Alicia. For the Lange General Store team, these daily interactions with customers are “what we’re all about,” she adds. “Meeting people, learning their stories, providing a fun shopping experience, all while taking them a little bit back in time—that’s why we created this store.”
Saint Peters, Missouri
25% of Tulane’s Closet’s sales come from outside the U.S.
Stephanie Syberg had worked in veterinary medicine for 16 years and knew how much people and their dogs hated postsurgical plastic cones and e-collars. “I always had this idea I could come up with something more comfortable and convenient,” she says. So she invented Cover Me by Tui, an adjustable pet garment that resembles a dog onesie. After getting rave reviews from clients, family, and friends, Stephanie began manufacturing the garments in different styles, sizes, and colors and launched Tulane’s Closet in 2012. “My heartbeat was as fast as a beagle’s wagging tail!” she recalls. "It’s scary to start something on your own.” But with sales propelled by the Internet, the market responded with a big, affirmative “Woof!”
Tulane’s Closet sells their products to veterinary practices, retailers, and directly to consumers via their website. They rely on AdWords, Google’s advertising program, which currently drives 65 percent of their sales. “It helps me tremendously with getting the word out, not only in the U.S. but also to all of the different countries,” Stephanie says. “We’re now in seven countries, and a quarter of our sales come from outside the U.S., which is amazing for a company with only five people.” They also use Google Analytics daily to gain insight on their customers, web traffic, and “everything that we want to know.” And YouTube provides “a great way to show people how easy it is to use Cover Me by Tui’s built-in potty cover—you just roll up the potty cover like a burrito and snap it onto the chest area,” Stephanie describes. “The more we advertise, make videos on YouTube, and do everything that’s out there, the more we keep growing, growing, growing.”
Today, Tulane’s Closet has sold over 43,000 Cover Me by Tui garments. They have nearly doubled their revenue every year and expanded their operation from the basement to all of the top floors, taking over the entire building. “We’re literally moving up in the world,” Stephanie says. With three new products set to launch this year, Stephanie can’t help but marvel at how far they’ve come. “I still remember the first time somebody called us and said they saw a dog in Central Park wearing a Cover Me by Tui,” she says. “It’s amazing that, with what’s out there on the Internet and Google, if you have a product that you truly love, you really can start and grow a business. Anybody—everybody if they really wanted to, they can do it.”
Artificer Wood Works
High Ridge, Missouri
Artificer Wood Works has over 20,000 customers.
In 2011, Marc Stitzlein wanted to give some friends a unique wedding present. Unsatisfied with the options available, he took matters into his own hands and built a personalized wooden wine box. His friends loved it. He quickly saw a business opportunity and soon thereafter set up a workshop with Rich Norton, his business partner. “It has quickly grown into other products, based on our customers’ feedback and our own interest as designers. We have a passion for creating unique products,” Rich says. Artificer Wood Works’ products now include handsome wine boxes for all occasions, custom bottle openers, and a wooden passive amplifier for smartphones. These became popular with customers and corporate clients across the country, thanks in no small part to shrewd deployment of their attractive e-commerce website.
The founders have used AdWords, Google’s advertising program, from the start. “AdWords and Google Search in general had a big part in helping to bring awareness to our wedding and anniversary wine boxes,” Rich says. They also now use Google Shopping campaigns to promote their products, and 90 percent of their marketing budget goes to online advertising. The company relies on Gmail to communicate, Google Calendar to stay coordinated, and Google Analytics to judge the performance of their website. They also launched a YouTube channel to help keep customers informed and up-to-date.
Artificer Wood Works now has a 5,000-square-foot woodshop, where six employees handcraft each product. The co-founders work with an environmental non-profit organization to plant a tree for every product sold and so far have planted over 25,000 trees. “We realize that we all have a carbon footprint, and we want to do our best to minimize that,” Marc says. They also donate wood shavings to a nearby wildlife refuge as bedding and wood scraps to a local farmer who turns them into charcoal for filtering contaminants from soil. Meanwhile, the company continues to grow and develop new and clever products, blending their innovative spirit with the nostalgia of artisan craftsmanship. “The things we make become keepsakes that people are really going to cherish,” Rich says, “and that’s pretty cool.”