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  • Meet the Maker: Andris Lagsdin of Baking Steel

    In our Meet the Maker series, you hear from our Makers on their journeys as entrepreneurs and how you, The Grommet Community, have changed their businesses for the better.

    Today, we're catching up with Andris, the inventor of Baking Steel. Years ago, while working with chef Todd English, making incredible pizza in brick ovens, Andris was always searching for a way to make the perfect pizza at home.  While working at his current steel job, Andris read that steel is the best brick oven substitute. He took a scrap home, tested it out for cooking, and the results were delicious. We wanted to learn a bit more about his "aha-moment" and what it's been like starting a business.

    baking steel 4

    What did you want to be when you grew up?
    A professional tennis player.

    What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
    Stop hesitating and just do it. So much fear in uncertainty, you just need to trust yourself and take a leap.

    baking steel

    Best business advice that you ever received?
    I was reading "Crush It" by Gary Vaynerchuk a few years ago before I launched The Baking Steel. His chapter on marketing was literally one word–CARE. Do that and amazing things happen with your customers. So this is what I tell our team, to care.

    What three personality traits do think have helped you become a successful entrepreneur?
    Courage, patience, chasing a little adventure, and being grateful every, single day. Do I get extra credit for four?

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    What lessons have you learned over the years that might help other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
    Any person who takes that leap will be amazed at what happens when you start doing what you love. Have a little bit of patience and dream big. Continue Reading

  • 9 Ways To Travel Easier

    Looking for the best travel accessories? We asked our team members to share some of their go-to Grommets for when they are traveling and this is what they said:

    9 of the best travel accessories to take on your next trip

    FitKicks
    Flexible Fitness & Travel Shoes
    “I take FitKicks on EVERY trip for lounging and walking around my hotel or Airbnb (the floors aren’t always the cleanest). I also pack these go-anywhere shoes for the beach because you can just shake the sand off.”
    –Cynthia Njuguna

    ...

    ...
    On the go? Here are 9 of the best travel accessories to take on your next trip.

    Hydaway
    Pocket-Sized Water Bottle
    “Hydaway is hands-down my favorite. The bottle folds up so small (perfect for TSA), and once you're past security you can fill it up! Whenever I travel with it, people ask about it or comment how cool it is. Pilots, flight attendants, parents, fellow fliers...everyone is impressed.” –Katherine Foley

    ...

     

    Long trip? Here are 9 of the best travel accessories to take on your next trip.
    Trtl
    Neck Support Travel Pillow
    “I try to sleep a little on long plane trips to trade shows, and the last thing I want when I wake up is a sore neck. Trtl keeps my neck still and in a comfortable position. The fleece is soft, too, with a nice cozy feel.”
    –Mike Lovett

    ...

    Continue Reading

  • London Harness in Massachusetts: A Grommet-selling Shop

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    Many Main Street retailers meet the same Makers you do at The Grommet, filling their shelves with unique, innovative products. So shop local—it's another way our community can help small businesses succeed.London Harness, a Massachusetts shop with a 250+ year history, sells Grommets. Here's a bit about them.

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    We were amazed to learn that it’s the country’s oldest luggage store, and we considered it a privilege to work at a business that's part of the fabric of what makes the Boston area so unique. As time went by, we realized how much we have in common, professionally and personally, and yet little did we know that we would make some of our own history here.

    store

    First, we discovered our shared passion for serving customers as if they’re family. It’s how we like to express our sense of hospitality, and the importance of community, which reflects who we really are.

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    Continue Reading

  • Strong Women Building Strong Girls

    Recently, I've been thinking more and more about the considerable work that still needs to be done in the fight for women's equality.

    On February 7th, we launched ‘100 Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls’ from the brilliant Timbuktu Labs. As the title suggests, the book dispatches with the tired princess in a castle fairy tale and instead tells the stories of 100 real women whose tales have been even more fantastic–who didn’t need knights in shining armor to make them happen.

    VideoStillV1_TimbuktuLabs

    That afternoon, a video message from Hillary Clinton produced by MAKERS, the storytelling platform for women by women, hit my Twitter feed. She encouraged her audience to ‘dare greatly and lead boldly.’ It was Clinton’s first real public appearance since the election and an echo of her message to the nation’s female youth during her concession.

    “To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams."

    Continue Reading

  • Meet the Maker: Jennifer Nevins of Savor

    In our Meet the Maker series, you hear from our Makers on their journeys as entrepreneurs and how you, The Grommet Community, have changed their businesses for the better.

    Today, we're catching up with Jennifer, one of the mom-inventors behind Savor. Jennifer, together, with Karla, created a thoughtfully designed keepsake system that is and meant to be seen. Hear more about how these Makers  got their start and what they've as entrepreneurs. 

    Meet the Makers of Savor

    How do you get around creative blocks?
    Research. Research. Research. After we hash out together what we think are the best ideas we can muster, we convene focus groups of relevant audiences. We try to have folks we don't really know in these groups so we can solicit honest advice. We are also constantly engaging with our consumers to see what they like and what they don't like.

    Best creative advice that you ever received?
    Make sure that you're not so attached to a creative idea that you forget your consumer's needs. We value aesthetics greatly, but we also need to make sure our product solves a problem.

    What three personality traits do think have helped you become a successful entrepreneur?
    Courage (to fail, to ask, to put ourselves out there), attention to detail, and sticktoitiveness (it's actually a word–we checked).

    maker Quote Savor

    What lessons have you learned over the years that might help other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
    Making a business succeed is about much more than having a good idea or a good product. We've had to wrangle with shipping, warehouses, freight, factories, accounting, web design, Google analytics, trade shows, gift wrap, you name it. Most of it is not glamorous, but any break in the chain can keep your business from succeeding. To be successful, you need to feel like none of it is beneath you and all of it is worth doing (even the parts you hate). When we are freaking out having spent two hours on the phone with UPS, we try to think that the fun is in the problem-solving and the reward is that we have truly touched our customers with a product they respond to.

    Maker Photos

    "We work wherever we are. Karla still holds another job and has two kids and I, Jenny, have a household of three kids, so we have to be flexible about when and where we can meet together. Sometimes it's very early weekend mornings or late weekday nights."

    What has surprised you most about starting a business?
    We are constantly amazed at the time people take to tell you how much they love your product or to give helpful feedback. We aren't people who fill out reviews or surveys, so we are surprised and delighted that on a daily basis our customers want to talk to us and share our products with their friends. By far, talking with the end-users of our product is the best part of our job. Continue Reading

  • Meet the Maker Podcast - Gavin Armstrong of Lucky Iron Fish

    Commenter_LuckyIronFishGavin Armstrong is the CEO of Lucky Iron Fish, a certified b-corps making actual iron fish that you can drop in a pot of soup or cup of tea to get 75% of your daily iron intake. For every Lucky Iron Fish purchased, one is donated to a family suffering from iron deficiencies - an initiative that began in Cambodia and is now being spread worldwide.

    Gavin talks about his experience working in impoverished countries and his passion for sustainable businesses leaving a global impact. He also discusses the challenges that come with running a business with such a mission and what he sees as the future of Lucky Iron Fish.

    VideoStillV1_LuckyIronFish

    Like what you hear? Listen to the rest of the Meet the Maker Podcast series here then rate, review, and subscribe on iTunes

  • Meet the Maker: Rhonda Francis of Fairy Fastener

    In our Meet the Maker series, you hear from our Makers on their journeys as entrepreneurs and how you, The Grommet Community, have changed their businesses for the better.

    Today, we're catching up with Rhonda Francis, one part of the triplet-Makers behind Fairy Fastener. Rhonda, Terri, and Lou put their identical problem-solving heads together to solve an everyday issue—how to put on necklaces and bracelets all by yourself. These entrepreneurial ladies call themselves the Fairies—and their jewelry clasp helpers Fairy Fasteners. We recently chatted with Rhonda to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey. 

    makers of fairy fastener Terri, Rhonda, and Lou–Makers of Fairy Fastener

    ...

    How do you get around creative blocks?
    We have been fortunate to know and be introduced to some wonderfully creative and talented people. It takes a village to raise a child, much like the creative development of an idea. We're not afraid to ask for input and guidance. It's amazing how supportive people have been.

    Best creative advice that you ever received?
    Build prototypes, test them. Conduct test market product reviews.

    ...
    What three personality traits do think have helped you become a successful entrepreneur?
    That's a funny question, because our company was founded by triplet sisters. My brother always said I had a third of a brain.  :)
    I feel that the strongest traits for all three of us are, being passionate, commitment to our ideas and to each other, and accepting and embracing risk.

    meet the maker of Fairy Fastener

    What lessons have you learned over the years that might help other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
    It will be much harder then you think, but you will get past those awkward and uncomfortable moments. You can't do it alone. Choose people to take on responsibilities that are not your strengths. Don't think that you can manage every aspect of a start up. Look at the big picture and develop a solid business plan before you make large financial commitments. Know your target market and develop strategies for them.

    What has surprised you most about starting a business?
    I have learned more then I thought I could, would, or should. I amaze myself, my partners, and my family on my ability, tenacity, and endurance to develop a brand that my sisters and I are proud to sell. Continue Reading

  • The Power of Small

    “We all succeed when small businesses succeed.” You heard this line ad nauseum throughout the election cycle, but practically, outside of a sound bite, what does that look like?

    It starts by looking something like this.

    US-map-Ace-locations

    We are Jules Pieri and John Venhuizen, the CEOs of The Grommet and Ace Hardware and we are bridging local store owners, Makers – and you, to help small businesses thrive.

    We passionately believe that there is power in small. The small business. The little guy. The dreamer. The inventor whose vision could be the next big thing. The folks who wake up every day with a chip on their shoulder because they have to duke it out against the shackles of bureaucracy and the Goliaths of business every day. We believe that there is a liberating strength and might in our collaboration.

    We share many of the same goals. We want to strengthen Main Street. We want to amplify the maker movement and launch a new and different kind of industrial revolution. We’re working together to bring more early-stage businesses into your backyard. This creates jobs for people you probably know, gives you higher quality products and bolsters your local economy.

    The-Grommet-and-Ace-Hardware

    We believe in the consumer. We know that consumers yearn for more than cookie-cutter, commoditized, generic stuff anyone can get from nearly every store. We know that consumers still believe in discovery, values-driven brands and a local face behind their retail purchases.

    We firmly believe that there is more to the shopping experience than just faceless interactions and drone delivery. Together, Ace and The Grommet, we can offer our customers more of what we believe makes America special, the unbridled creativity of the local entrepreneur.

    And we’re not budging. We’ve seen the business landscape stacked against the underdog for too long. The way we can tip the scales is by investing in innovation. So we will. And we hope you join us.

    You play a vital part in this success. We humbly ask for your continued support. Visit your local Ace, try these innovative products from the Grommet. It takes tenacity, guts and grit to build a company and help it grow. Learn more about our collaboration that’s putting Grommets in Ace stores in your neighborhood, including more than 170 locally-owned Ace Hardware stores just last month.

    Thank you for your support, for supporting small.

    Jules-Pieri-and-John-Venhuizen

  • Meet the Maker: Hope Klocker and Jules Vranian of Sweet Jules Caramels

    In our Meet the Maker series, you hear from our Makers on their journeys as entrepreneurs and how you, The Grommet Community, have changed their businesses for the better.

    Today, we're catching up with Hope Klocker of Sweet Jules CaramelsHope and her sister, Jules Vranian  were born into a family of culinary pros and restaurateurs, and have built one sweet business using only natural ingredients, sourced from around the world. We wanted to know more about Hope's journey as an business owner and what advice she has for those just starting out on their own entrepreneurial journey. 

    Meet the Maker of Sweet Jules Caramels

    Ho do you get around creative roadblocks?
    Caramel as a base is receptive to an endless number of flavors so we really don’t have blocks with creativity. Our problem is more what “not” to make! We make caramels in a dozen flavors now.

    Best creative advice that you ever received?
    You need to know what your ingredients have to offer in flavor, texture, and smell. Apply creativity and expert technique when those qualities speak to you.

    Continue Reading

  • Meet the Maker Podcast: Will Carswell of Zen Art Puzzles

    commenter_zenWhen you think of puzzles, you think of 1,000 pieces, finding the corners, and taking hours to complete it. Zen Art Puzzles buck the traditional stereotypes. Each puzzle is laser cut from premium birchwood here in America. They're just a few hundred pieces and you can try to find the corner pieces, but there may be six of them. With piece designs ranging from traditional jigsaw to moose silhouette, Zen Art puzzles give you an imaginative way to relax.

    Will Carswell, one of 23 puzzle makers in the U.S. talks about the intricacies of each puzzle and the care he and his company put into each piece of his business from manufacturing in America to using eco-friendly materials for each product.

    videostillv1_zen

    To learn more about Zen Art Puzzles and to purchase, click here.

    Like what you hear? Listen to the rest of the Meet the Maker Podcast series here then rate, review, and subscribe on iTunes

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