Alpacas of Montana
They say good things come in threes. And it was three very clear signs that led husband-and-wife team James and Sarah Budd to switch careers and open an Alpaca farm and textile manufacturing company. More than a decade ago, James was working in surgery and Sarah in manufacturing. They wanted to launch their own business, and then a single day changed everything. First, James saw a flyer advertising an alpaca farm. Later that afternoon, he stumbled across an article about how lucrative alpaca farming could be. That evening, James’ sister mailed the Budds information about an open house at a nearby alpaca farm. The signs were too much to ignore, and the Budds decided to start Alpacas of Montana. They’ve been raising and selling alpacas ever since. The business grew to include multiple brick-and-mortar locations, but after seeing success online, they decided to switch and go 100% digital.
At first, they struggled to create a successful marketing strategy. That’s when they turned to Google. “Our product sells well, but it has to be in front of the right people. The wonderful thing about Google Ads is we can see what, where, when, how much, and how often people are searching,” said James. In addition to Google Ads, the Budds use Google Analytics to keep track of their target markets and where to expand. “With Google Analytics I can see exactly where our budget is going and if it needs to be redirected. I can turn off blanket advertising and spend money on specific advertising instead,” Sarah emphasized.
Last year, Alpacas of Montana served nearly 10,000 first-time customers alone. With Google Ads, the company saw a 318% return on investment in January 2018 (well over its 250% goal). “Google contributes to about 32% of our sales, which is essential,” said Sarah. “I don’t think we would be in business without this combination of tools from Google.” Despite its impressive growth, the company remains connected to its local community and is making strides to provide jobs in the area. “A select variety of our products are handmade in Bozeman by families who knit for us,” said James. “We’re also working closely with the Crow Indian Reservation to set up our product lines there and create jobs.” In the future, the Budds will continue to expand international sales and aim to produce bolts of alpaca fabric for their designers to utilize. “We’re really excited about this next phase of our growth and how Google is going to fit in,” said James. “There’s no way we could run our company or promote our products without Google.”
The most beautiful thing about Montana may be the scenery, but Montana Silversmiths’ jewelry sure gives it a run for its money. Founded in 1973, Montana Silversmiths established itself as the premier supplier of championship belt buckles for Western competitions such as rodeos and bull riding. The company quickly expanded its product lines to include jewelry and custom awards, the majority of which are designed and manufactured right in Montana. “We started as a little mom-and-pop shop,” CEO Steve Muellner says proudly. “We’re now the largest manufacturer of Western jewelry in America.” From saddle trims to earrings, Montana Silversmiths brings the shine of the West to customers everywhere.
Montana Silversmiths counts on the power of the Internet to share their precious handiwork beyond the Beartooth Mountains. They use AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to reach customers all across North America who are looking to buy Western or silver jewelry. They trust Google Analytics to track which products are performing best and which areas of their e-commerce website could be improved. “If only all parts of my business were as measurable as the things I do with Google,” Steve says, “it would be terrific!” Their Google My Business listings share store locations, hours, and directions with local shoppers, keeping foot traffic coming through their doors. And their digital storefront entices and engages visitors with an alluring taste of Western style.
There’s no tarnish on Montana Silversmiths’ future. They operate four brick-and-mortar retail stores, including two in Montana. Their custom-made products are available in over 3,500 stores across North America, and their e-commerce website fulfills 36,500 online orders each year. Born from humble beginnings, Montana Silversmiths now enjoys steady double-digit annual sales growth. But for Steve, the most valuable jewel of all is preserving the glory of his Old West community for the next generation. “We want to continue to celebrate the West for as long as we can,” he says. “I watch the new people join us at Montana Silversmiths and then eventually shift from being the students to the teachers. Those are the moments that make me never want to retire.”
The Natural Baby Company
When Kim Ormsby was pregnant with her second child, she realized how difficult it was to shop for organic baby products. “There was no physical place to buy cloth diapers or wooden toys, and even online stores were pretty nonexistent,” she recalls. Kim launched The Natural Baby Company out of her home on Earth Day 2003 to fill this need for eco-friendly parenting goods. “From there, we just grew,” she remarks. “We went from packing orders in my kitchen to moving into a warehouse.” Today, the company has a robust online store, runs a storefront in Bozeman, wholesales to over 300 retailers worldwide, and manufactures their own cloth diaper line called GroVia. And now as a mother of seven, Kim continues to only sell products she can personally vouch for. “If I can’t speak to the quality and usefulness of the product, we don’t carry it.”
From the beginning, Kim has used the Internet to connect with like-minded parents. “The web is pretty much where all of our growth is happening,” she says. The company earns most of their revenue via online sales, which has averaged 32 percent annual growth over the past three years. They use AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to attract customers around the world to their virtual storefront. Google Analytics helps them optimize their online marketing campaigns. And through YouTube, they share product demonstrations and reviews with a global audience. Overall, they’ve found Google tools to be, as Kim describes, “extremely beneficial to our e-commerce operation,” and e-commerce is a boon for their customers. “New parents aren’t dragging their kids out to shop. If they’re home rocking the baby to sleep, they’d rather shop online.”
The Natural Baby Company has grown to be more than just a store. “We’re a resource within the community,” Kim explains. They offer car seat certification at their Bozeman location to make sure parents know how to safely secure their babies. They donate cloth diapers to families who can’t afford them through their GroVia Gives program. They also lead fundraising efforts for those in their community, either locally or online, who are in need of support. And as they continue to grow, Kim hopes to provide even more services and programs that contribute to families. For her, it is and will always be about “being a part of everyone’s parenting journey.”
Gabe Silverman always had an entrepreneur's spirit, especially when it came to the new digital frontier. At just 16, he started a business designing websites out of his parents' bedroom. “The Internet was just starting to become a thing people had, so I started making web pages for different companies around town,” he says. But as word got around that Gabe and his newly founded business, Gecko Designs, were doing top-quality work, the Missoula native saw his small business dream take off. “Now we have clients from around the country. We're doing really well, and it’s exciting.” More than two decades later, Gecko Designs is showing the world why Missoula is one of the best addresses on the web.
Gabe uses a variety of Google tools to connect with clients and run the business. AdWords, Google’s advertising program, drives potential leads to their website. Google Apps for Work allows for easy collaboration within the company. YouTube hosts their dynamic and engaging informational videos. Gabe especially makes the most of the insights he gains from Google Analytics. “Without Analytics, you're flying blind. We see where our traffic is coming from, what people are searching for, and how much time they spend on the site. That data is absolutely critical.” And their Google My Business listing helps them to make a great first impression by showcasing reviews from clients.
Today, Gecko Designs averages about 20% annual growth, with no signs of slowing down. What matters most to Gabe, though, is helping to create his own budding Silicon Valley in Montana. “We are bringing out-of-state money into our local economy, which is really important,” he says. “This business started a mile down the road when I was in high school and now we have a staff of ten in a downtown building we own. That’s pretty cool.”