Fountain Inn, South Carolina
In 2010, Tay Nelson created Bobby's All-Purpose Seasoning in homage to his late father and brother, both named Bobby. In 2014, Tay decided to learn to cook BBQ for his wife, Sarah, and turned to pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s YouTube channel to discover the secrets. Tay only had a charcoal grill, but developed a way to manipulate the fire and use his signature seasoning to create tasty BBQ. Over the years, Tay developed recipes that friends and co-workers raved about, with many even suggesting he should open his own restaurant. In 2018, Tay was working at a local plant and seeking a second job to make ends meet. After receiving his seventh rejection letter, "I said I would never fill out another job application,” Tay recalls. After praying and considering next steps, he decided to take a leap of faith and open his own restaurant. With Sarah’s support, Bobby’s BBQ was born. On YouTube, Tay learned how to apply for a small business loan, and Sarah learned how to write a business plan for the bank so they could buy a professional smoker. Throughout that first winter, Tay braved the cold to stoke outdoor fires and perfect his technique, while Sarah worked on recipes for the homemade sides.
Shortly after opening in October 2018, lines were around the building and people were driving three hours from Charleston to give it a try. "I love barbeque, but I love people more,” says Tay. “Everyone is welcome here. Whether you’re homeless or wearing a suit, we invite you in.” COVID-19 complicated things—indoor dining was banned—but Tay and Sarah moved quickly, putting their menu online and adding a delivery option. Demand continued to climb. "Customers kept coming, and we kept hiring,” says Tay. Today, Bobby’s BBQ is thriving, and Tay and Sarah use their Business Profile on Google to respond to their reviews and YouTube to learn everything from growing their business to doing their own plumbing. “Life is good, but we still take it one day at a time,” says Sarah.
HME Medical Shop
Charleston, South Carolina
In 2008, Mary Wise was working as a pharmacist at a large pharmacy store chain in Charleston, South Carolina, when she had a change of heart. She wanted to do something more personal. After talking it through with her husband, Michael, a former product manager, they made the decision to open their own pharmacy. They soon did, and they greatly enjoyed being closer to the business and customers. But in doing so, they noticed another opportunity. There were a lot of people who didn’t want to or couldn’t come in the store, but there wasn’t a great way to shop online. “There wasn’t really a good way for people to connect with online businesses that would take the time to help them find the right medical equipment and supplies,” Michael said. So they put some inventory online, and it was an instant success. Shortly after, they launched their own website, HME Medical Shop, and they suddenly had two new businesses.
The Wises turned to Google Ads to reach consumers searching for specific medical terms and products. “If somebody with multiple sclerosis is looking for a specific product, we’re right there and can explain exactly what they need and what challenges they may have using the product at home,” said Michael. In addition to Google Ads, the Wises use Search Console to monitor and improve their performance on Google Search. “These tools are so key to see who we’re reaching and to learn more about our customers,” said Michael. Over the past two years, HME Medical Shop has experienced a 256% increase in traffic to its website and subsequently a 166% increase in revenue. “Shopping ads have driven the lion’s share of this growth,” said Michael, who reports a 200% year-over-year increase in revenue from Google Ads alone. The Wises also use G Suite to communicate with their team and Google Analytics to learn more about users who visit their site.
Today, the Wises pride themselves on providing a quality service for those in need. That personalized service they sought to offer with their pharmacy has served them very well online as well. “Medicare and insurance companies make it really difficult to get these things covered,” said Michael. “We provide a low-cost online service and someone to talk to.” HME Medical Shop serves between 600,000 and 700,000 customers per year and plans to continue growing with the help of Google. “We want to keep developing online tools that help people connect with what they need medically,” Michael said. “It all starts with leveraging the technology available. Google tools are such a huge foundation to build from.”
Piedmont, South Carolina
While working for a wholesale candle company, Rob Latham had a spark of inspiration. He saw an opportunity to use the web to get busy brides and other event planners the candles and decor they needed at better prices, more quickly. “I knew I could create a direct relationship with a customer without having a large retailer between us,” explains Rob. In 2007, he launched Quick Candles as an exclusively online retailer carrying 20 to 30 products. To help customers in the harried stages of designing their dream day, he made the then-unconventional move of guaranteeing delivery dates and same-day shipping. Since then, sales have grown consistently every year, and they’ve now sold products to millions of customers from an online catalog of 5,000 different items.
Quick Candles uses AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to reach event planners online. The image-driven ads of Google Shopping campaigns help showcase their products, while Google Analytics lets them track their web performance and find better ways to introduce themselves to D.I.Y. brides. “We’ve consistently upped our usage of Google advertising products every year,” Rob says. “There’s a direct relationship between the advertising investment we make with Google and the sales that we see.” AdWords is now responsible for about 25 percent of the site’s daily traffic. The company also uses YouTube to share a series of fun how-to videos, featuring their own products and a local Piedmont event planner. “We want to get across to people that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get an elegant look for an event,” says Rob.
Quick Candles’ business now includes a U.K. site, which caters to customers all across Europe. Consistent growth lights the way forward for the company and their community, but providing jobs in Piedmont isn’t the only way that they’re making a difference. Partnering with several organizations, they give a portion of their annual profits to local and international charities. ”That’s something that’s been important to us, and that’s been a part of our culture since our founding,” Rob shares. “We’ve had a unique opportunity to develop a successful business, and that success has enabled us to give back.”
Hanahan, South Carolina
New York fashion model and Broadway fire-eater Carol Perkins began hand sewing dog beds, robes, and toys while recovering from a life-threatening brain tumor. “She was homebound and looking for a positive distraction,” Marketing Director Sarah Lovingood says. “She started caring for her neighbor’s dogs while they were away and noticed their old, tattered dog beds hidden out of sight from guests. She saw an opportunity to make better, more beautiful dog products that people would proudly display in their homes.” Carol’s creations were fashionably designed, well-crafted, and soon in high demand. In 1997, she launched Harry Barker—a name she also bestowed on her beloved Sheltie—to share her love for textiles with dogs and pet owners around the world.
Today, Harry Barker wholesales their high-end, eco-friendly products to over 1,300 stores across the U.S. and 17 other countries. “Thanks to the web, trade shows are no longer the only place to introduce new products to retailers,” says Sarah. They also sell directly to thousands of dog lovers worldwide through their e-commerce website—currently, 11 percent of their online sales are international. And they use AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to draw these customers to the virtual storefront. With a five-dollar return for every ad dollar spent, AdWords now drives 40 percent of their online revenue. “We also live by Google Analytics,” Sarah remarks. “It helps us improve our marketing strategy by providing snapshots of our web traffic, how our campaigns are doing, and what products customers are looking for.” Altogether, “Google tools allow us to get in front of customers who otherwise wouldn’t discover us.”
Harry Barker continues to grow annually at a double-digit rate, and they attribute much of that success to their digital-first mindset. “We have so much potential to grow digitally,” says Sarah. “On Cyber Monday, for instance, we really focused on digital strategy, social media, and Google ads. Our sales were up 75 percent year-over-year for that day.” The company meanwhile tries to give back some of the success and affection they’ve received. They support a dog hospice, a wounded veterans program, and many other organizations. “With success comes responsibility to help others. That’s something we always try to remember. It’s the lifeblood of what we do here at Harry Barker,” says Carol.
Fast Growing Trees
Fort Mill, South Carolina
70% of Fast Growing Trees’ customers come via Google
A tree-loving North Carolina family started selling Royal Empress trees (the world’s fastest growing tree) in 2005. At the time it was more of a hobby than a business, one they operated from their back yard. But sales and their product offerings soon multiplied. Marketing shifted from flyers and direct mail to the Internet. By the time they moved to a large rural property in South Carolina in 2013, the aptly named Fast Growing Trees was a thriving enterprise. “It’s a family-run business, small, but very high-quality,” says Justin French, Director of E-commerce. Today they sell over 500 types of trees and plants to customers across the United States.
The thriving business relies on AdWords, Google’s advertising program. “It's definitely the number one driver of customers to our website and it has been since the day we launched,” Justin says. “We get a really great return on investment with AdWords.” They also depend on Google Analytics to gain online customer insights that help them keep the website effective, especially for visitors using mobile devices. “If we don't know what’s going on with our customers on our website, we can't improve,” Justin adds. “Those insights help us to give them an even better experience when they come back.” A YouTube channel and integrating videos directly into their website lets them share short educational videos about trees with their customers. “In the beginning days of the Internet it was just pictures, but now with video we can tell a richer story,” he explains.
From three original family members, Fast Growing Trees has grown to over 150 employees. All of their trees are grown in America, with nursery partners across the country offering varieties that don’t thrive in the Southeast. But the biggest rewards of all come at home in rural South Carolina. “There used to be lots of textile mills here, but those largely have moved overseas,” Justin says. “So being able to offer employment to some of the people around this area is something we take pride in.”