Las Vegas, Nevada
When college student Paul Serra got a summer job working at a video store for Adam Topping, neither dreamed they would end up running a multi-million-dollar business together. While working at the store, Paul, a lifelong guitarist, was also thinking about selling sweatbands and other promotional products with his band’s logo on them. He did some market research. “It turned out that a lot more people wanted sweatbands for athletic use,” Paul said. Having become friends, Paul and Adam teamed up to launch Suddora, a sweatband and sporting accessories brand, in 2008. By focusing on a niche market and offering dozens of colors and sizes, Suddora was able to find an audience online. “You can go into any sporting goods store and buy a sweatband or two, but you can’t buy them in 20 different colors because no store is going to stock that inventory,” said Paul. “Our business would never be able to exist if it wasn’t for the internet.”
Paul and Adam didn’t find Suddora’s customer base on their own; they used Google Ads to better reach people searching for sweatbands or similar products online. “We were using Google’s Shopping ads from the beginning,” Paul said. Suddora also uses Google Analytics to learn more about its customers and to optimize its search campaigns. “We look at different data to see what is and isn’t working and update our site to make conversions better,” said Paul. In addition, Paul relies on G Suite tools like Gmail, Calendar, and Drive to stay organized.
Suddora allocates almost 90% of its marketing budget to digital advertising and reports a $1.50 return for every $1 spent on Google Ads. In 2018, the company launched a U.K. website and served more than 160,000 customers worldwide. Suddora gives back each October by donating 10% of its sales to fighting breast cancer and sponsoring a number of local sports teams. “Our community is online,” said Paul. “We always find people to partner up with and to sponsor or donate to.” Paul and Adam have come a long way from the video store, and they plan to keep on going, growing their headband business and expanding their football category to include accessories like towels and hand warmers. “Some of Adam’s friends were taking bets on how fast we’d fold after we launched in 2008. But we’re still very much here, and we will continue giving our customers high-quality products,” Paul said.
GoJump Las Vegas (Vegas Extreme Skydiving)
Las Vegas, Nevada
Many people fall in love with their job, but Edward Carroll literally tumbled head over heels for his. After retiring from the British Army as a paratrooper, Edward moved to Las Vegas in 2003 and founded Vegas Extreme Skydiving to share his passion for thrill-seeking with visitors from all over the world. “People who come to Vegas want to try different things. With skydiving, there is an actual feeling of flying, and it’s very addictive,” he says. “The weather is also perfect for jumping out of airplanes.” Using over 37 years of experience, Edward grew Vegas Extreme Skydiving from modest beginnings to the premier choice for high-flying thrills. “We may not be the biggest, but we’re the best in the business,” he assures.
With so many other attractions vying for visitors’ attention, Vegas Extreme Skydiving uses the power of the Internet to stand out from the competition. Mind-warping videos on YouTube provide thousands of curious viewers with the visceral thrill of skydiving. AdWords, Google’s advertising program, helps keep the business on top of visitors’ minds and web searches. And Google Analytics gives Edward the insights to optimize his online performance and make the most of his time and budget. “I want to be in every magazine and every billboard, but there’s a limit to what you can do. As a small business, you have to focus on the essential things,” he says. “These days, that thing is Google.”
Today the sky’s the limit for Vegas Extreme Skydiving. They have expanded their VIP offerings to include everything from basic lessons with expert instructors to skydiving weddings. They now operate a brand-new Cessna 208 Super Caravan, the most advanced skydiving airplane in the world, and use it to ferry 6,000 jumpers into the wild blue yonder each year. “I always knew that if we were kind, were respectful to customers, and provided a first-class service, then good things would come,” Edward says. Over 50,000 visitors set foot in Edward’s state-of-the-art facility annually, and he uses that positive buzz to give back to his Las Vegas community. “We give away lots of skydives to charity every year,” he shares. “In this town, small businesses look out for each other.” When it comes to making a local impact, sometimes the best perspective is from 15,000 feet up.
5 Star Helicopter Tours
Boulder City, Nevada
What do you do when you have over 25 years of tourism experience and live in one of the most scenic destinations in the country? For husband-and-wife team John and Melanie Power, the answer was simple: You offer VIP helicopter tours at an affordable price. “It’s a saturated industry, but we felt there was a better way to provide that sort of service to the customer,” says Mark Stanway, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. They launched 5 Star Helicopter Tours in 2012, offering daily first class aerial trips to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon and nightly flights over shimmering Las Vegas to visitors from all over the world.
Like Las Vegas itself, 5 Star Helicopter Tours has grown from modest beginnings to the premier choice for Nevada adventure. They operate a fleet of five Airbus helicopters and 10 Mercedes-Benz ground transportation vehicles to shuttle customers to and from their hotels, and offer an entire portfolio of outdoor excursions, including ATV tours and overnight camping trips. The company relies on Google tools to compete in an already crowded market. AdWords, Google's advertising program, drives awareness and keeps 5 Star at the top of visitors' minds and web searches. “It drives over half of our online traffic and reminds customers that we're here,” Mark says. “That's very important.” They also use Google Analytics to measure their web traffic and adjust their marketing strategy accordingly. And through YouTube videos, they attract curious visitors with inside looks of their VIP services. “Everything Google is doing is hugely significant for our company’s success,” Mark says.
Today, 5 Star Helicopter Tours is as big of a Las Vegas act as any. They’ve already shared the glory of the desert with over 120,000 customers. Their website sales continue to grow by 65 percent annually, with AdWords driving 45 percent of that growth. And with plans to purchase two additional helicopters, they have no intention of slowing down. “We want people to enjoy more of what helicopters can do and make memories that they're going to share for the rest of their lives,” Mark says. With Google, small businesses like 5 Star Helicopter Tours can bet on themselves and their future.
Las Vegas, Nevada
10 full- and part-time employees.
Enrique Villar-Mendez and Lora Hendrickson founded Radioactive Productions in 2012 with a business plan and a hope that a viral video would send them zooming toward success. Instead, they realized the greater business potential in creating consistent, high-quality online content. In addition to projects for clients in the hospitality industry, they also create a variety of government and educational videos. “This is definitely a small production company,” Lora says. “What's incredible, though, is that we have the opportunity to play on a level playing field. Because we are more creative, more innovative, or resonate more strongly with our clients, we're able to compete.”
The partners quickly found that YouTube was their most valuable online tool. The platform allows them to easily, quickly, and securely share videos publicly and privately with clients. “YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world,” Enrique says. “It's free, and gives you all these analytics about how your videos are performing. We’ll even set up a client’s YouTube channel if they don't know how to.” The company also relies on the Google Apps for Work suite of tools—including Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar—to communicate both internally and externally. “We have a very finite budget, and we need to maximize every dollar,” Lora says. “By using Google products, we don't have to pay for expensive software.”
Radioactive Productions is now growing more than 50% year-over-year. Their staff and client list have expanded as well. The partners proudly point out that their small production company recently beat out bigger competitors to land a large university contract. In time, Enrique and Lora hope to produce original digital content. “Being a small business is a fun challenge, an adventure, and definitely a roller coaster,” Lora says. “Sometimes dollars and size don't matter, but passion and creativity can go very far.”