Havana Carolina Restaurant & Bar
Concord, North Carolina
In 2015, Idael Pérez Maldonado and his wife, Dania Ochoa Hernández, brought their family to the U.S. from Cuba in hopes of opening a restaurant. That dream became a reality in September 2017, when they purchased the Havana Carolina Restaurant & Bar in historic downtown Concord, North Carolina. Tragically, just weeks later Idael was killed in an auto accident. Determined to keep their father’s dream alive, his children Emmanuel “Manny” Pérez Ochoa and Ana Pérez Ochoa joined forces with their mother to start the business. “We put a lot of love into this place,” Manny recalls. “It's not just the food or drinks. It's the space and the energy that we have created that will make everybody feel at home.” Havana Carolina brings Cuban cuisine, music, and flair to the region, with a devoted local following. Their Business Profile on Google has helped spread the word, with hours, directions, menus, photos of featured dishes, and more than 1,000 customer reviews. Now, Manny says, visitors from as far away as Virginia and Georgia stop by when they’re passing through.
Those loyal customers have helped the business survive the pandemic. Ana updated their Business Profile on Google to show dine-in and takeout options, including online ordering, curbside pickup, and contactless delivery. Google Workspace products, including Google Sheets, help them manage schedules and run the back office. A Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan helped them retain all 15 employees, whom Dania says are like family. “We’ve been through really tough times,” Manny says. “But we are family, so we say ‘we’ve got to do this together.’ We update our Business Profile on Google, our YouTube videos, and our social media to get the word out: We’re still here.” In 2021, the family plans to open an upscale eatery in Charlotte named El Puro Cuban Restaurant, honoring Idael’s legacy. “We love to see the smiles on our customers’ faces when they taste the food,” Dania says. Manny says his father would be smiling, too.
Charlotte Candle Company
Charlotte, North Carolina
In December 2016, Amy Walsh Stock received an artisanal candle that she fell in love with. When it burned to the bottom, she looked for a replacement and was shocked by the cost. “That piqued my interest — what made this candle so much better than a candle I could purchase at the mall?” she wondered. Turns out, it was the way the candle was made and the ingredients it was made with. After some research, Amy realized there was a market for handcrafted candles made naturally, and she began to explore doing it herself. “I actually started my company searching through Google and watching YouTube videos of how people made candles,” said Amy. “I learned about different ingredients, purchased a kit online, and was able to start dabbling in my kitchen.” The next year, Amy and her husband, Travis, launched Charlotte Candle Company, which sells small-batch, eco-friendly candles to consumers across the U.S.
Amy initially struggled with building a professional website and search engine optimization. When she eventually launched her page, she noticed that she wasn’t ranking at the top of Google Search, so she turned to Google Ads to make her website more visible. With Google Ads, Charlotte Candle Company has generated more than 127,000 impressions, resulting in around 2,300 clicks. The platform is responsible for 23% of the company’s revenue and almost 30% of referrals to the site. “From a sales standpoint, Google is our No. 1 traffic referrer,” said Amy. The business uses Google Analytics to track and optimize its search campaigns, as well as G Suite apps like Gmail, Docs, and Calendar to stay organized. “I use Docs to go back and forth with my husband on orders and things that we need to accomplish daily,” Amy said.
Amy is happy to report that Charlotte Candle Company is growing at a rapid rate, and she anticipates adding a part-time employee this year. “We’re bursting at the seams at this point,” she said. “To be able to say that is a good problem to have — we’ve reached our max capacity, and now we have to expand and grow.” Part of that growth involves donating candles to charitable causes and partnering with the organizations, which offer curated products from local vendors. Amy also hopes to open a brick-and- mortar location and expand into other product lines that feature natural ingredients. For now, though, Amy is focused on her online business and continuing to grow with Google. “Google is the expert in helping people grow their business online,” said Amy. “It’s invaluable.”
SnS Grills (Adrenaline Barbecue Company)
Concord, North Carolina
Adrenaline Barbecue Company has shipped to over 30 countries worldwide
David Parrish was never one to be satisfied with the ordinary. After serving in the U.S. Air Force for nine years, his love of food and camaraderie led him to an obsession with barbecue. “I’m a nerdy guy by nature, so I really dove into it,” he admits. While exploring his newfound passion, David discovered a revolutionary way to make better-tasting barbecue. It is called the Slow ‘N Sear, a grilling accessory he invented to convert an ordinary charcoal grill into a quality smoker. Realizing that there was an entire community of backyard-cooking enthusiasts who were interested in the product, he founded Adrenaline Barbecue Company in 2015 with his wife, Catherine. “So many people want to make their friends and family happy by making good food. We help them do just that,” says Catherine. From their signature Slow ‘N Sear accessory, Adrenaline has expanded to over a dozen products, each designed “to make charcoal grilling and smoking easier, and better than anything you can get in a restaurant,” she adds.
To connect their business to backyards everywhere, Adrenaline Barbecue Company went online “right off the bat,” says David. They use Google Analytics to understand their web traffic and to keep their e-commerce site running smoothly. “Nothing in our business goes very far without Analytics,” Catherine notes. They attract barbecue fanatics from across the country with AdWords, Google’s advertising program. G Suite tools, such as Gmail, Calendar, and Drive, give them the logistical muscle to compete with larger companies. And through their YouTube channel, they share recipes, barbecue how-tos, and product demonstrations with thousands of fans every week. “We’re an online business, and Google products help us reach as many people as possible,” says Catherine.
Things are only heating up for Adrenaline Barbecue Company. They doubled their sales from 2016 to 2017 and now fulfill tens of thousands of orders every year. They also proudly manufacture their entire line of grilling accessories in the U.S., shipping them to over 30 different countries. For David and Catherine, however, Adrenaline’s greatest success goes beyond the numbers. “Our product helps somebody make weekend ribs, a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, or a celebratory graduation dinner for their son or daughter,” shares Catherine. “Knowing that we created something that makes those experiences more attainable is wonderful. That’s what we enjoy the most.”
Wilmington, North Carolina
When U.S. Army Infantry Branch veteran Mike Mayo got tired of the corporate world, he decided to start an online business that catered to those who shared his passion for the outdoors. His brother Chad Hankinson, a triathlete and avid outdoorsman, came on as CEO. In 2012 they launched Outdoor Equipped, a company that sells clothing and footwear with the adventurer in mind. "We wanted to offer specialty brands and products that encompass a healthy lifestyle,” says Chad’s son Robert Hankinson, Vice President of E-commerce. "Whether it's going on a casual run, or hiking, or fishing, or walking around the city—our goal was to offer our customers specialty brands and products to get them outdoors, get them active, and keep them moving, while looking good."
Google tools have enabled Outdoor Equipped to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. They use AdWords, Google's advertising program, and Google Shopping campaigns to get in front of consumers who are searching for the great brands and products they sell. Google Analytics also helps them make smart, data-driven business decisions. "Our goal is not to compete with the big guys on price, but rather, deliver a great customer experience," Robert says. "Google Analytics helps us do that. It tracks our traffic, conversions, and demographics. It lets us measure our data and constantly make improvements to stay ahead of the curve."
The great customer experience is paying off. In 2016, business boomed to the tune of nearly $50 million in online sales. Robert plans to continue growing the company by expanding their AdWords campaigns and driving downloads for their mobile app. Outdoor Equipped is also active in their local community. The family opened a flagship store in downtown Wilmington and gives back to the city through event sponsorships, free concerts, charitable donations, and discounts for veterans. “We want to be seen as a North Carolina family company and a staple of the community,” Robert says. To other small businesses, he offers this advice: “Stay true to who you are and what you’re passionate about. But remain adaptable, as the marketplace is always changing.”
Raleigh, North Carolina
250 retailers sell High Cotton’s ties
When Judy Hill’s son, Cameron, was in medical school, she learned that doctors couldn’t wear traditional silk neckties in many hospitals because they can harbor harmful bacteria. So she whipped up a machine-washable, all-cotton bow tie for him to wear instead. That simple, brilliant solution inspired her to start High Cotton, her own family-owned, hand-crafted bow tie company, in 2010. “With less than $10,000 we started our business and hit the ground running,” says son James, Co-owner and Vice President of Sales.
While Judy was making ties at their kitchen table, Cameron immediately created a website to sell her colorful ties online. “Our website is so important to our success that I tell people all the time that we are really an e-commerce company that just happens to sell bow ties,” James says. They use AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to gain exposure and new customers. James also relies on Google Analytics to gain insights that help them keep their site fresh and relevant. “We eat breakfast and review Google Analytics each morning to make sure that we are on track,” he says. “It’s like the website is our heartbeat and I’m checking its vital stats.” The Google Apps for Work suite of tools, including products like Gmail and Google Drive, makes it easy for everyone to communicate and collaborate. Street View on Google Maps allows customers to get a feel for their Raleigh store before they visit. “The 360-degree photos in Street View have definitely gotten us some of our wholesale business, because it’s so much easier to actually show potential buyers who we are, instead of just telling them.”
Judy no longer sews bow ties at her kitchen table—a manufacturing partner handles that task now. But, she still designs two product lines a year, each with between 150 and 200 new items. The locally hand-cut and hand-sewn products support the revival of the North Carolina textile industry. Today, 50% of their revenue comes through the Internet; Google is the primary driver of site traffic. “Google is really our business partner. We went from a yard of fabric to making more than a million dollars a year. It’s really the American dream.”