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Jules Pieri

Author Archives: Jules Pieri

Founder and CEO of The Grommet.

  • Five ways to be human at a distance

    handsThe social media maven Chris Brogan sent out a newsletter yesterday that was jam packed with good advice.  His section on "Five ways to be a human at a distance" held a surprising point.   I've heard he's very appealing, but I thought he might be all about sending warm pixels.  However, he actually wrote:

    5.) Send paper cards. This has been great lately, this trend of people sending personal cards in the mail. I got one from Beth Dockins at Scotts and I felt so happy. It was very personable. I just ordered 100 blank note cards and will buy stamps so I have no excuse not to send them.

    I was delighted to see Chris highlight this wonderful, trusted way to maintain a personal connection with someone.  In my early career I used to follow every phone call to a sales prospect with a personal hand-written letter.  It was time consuming, but I was always remembered afterwards.  And my sales numbers in that job spoke for themselves....those letters helped.  So this is just not a "make your grandmother happy" insight...Chris is also talking about building meaningful business relationships.

    jackie tFor that reason, I always keep a stash of note cards handy, both at home in the office.  I hear that Jackie Kennedy was a world-class thank you note writer, by the way.  I try to channel her when I am trying to be appreciative and articulate at the same time.

    And as these things go, just when you are thinking of a topic, it comes across your path.  Minutes ago,  Joanne and I had a front porch chat with Karen Battles of B Designs, the creator of our very early fourth Grommet...the charming letterpress note system,  Desktop Caddy.  She said,

    I'm on a mission to help people keep paper and note writing in their everyday lives.  That's why I keep our cards small.  It doesn't have to be a big long old-fashioned letter.  Just two lines is enough to make someone really happy.

    Two lines.  Anyone can write two lines, no?


  • Twist as gifts - Yippee! Yippee! Yippee!

    The above title of this post is lifted straight from an email subject line.  Patti sent it around to the whole team last week.  She was letting everyone know about something wonderful that happened with one of the Grommets.  It was the Twist Clean Bundle, a wonderfully effective set of green cleaning "tools".

    Twist Clean Bundle, photo by Sue Bruce

    Twist Clean Bundle, photo by Sue Bruce

    The day we told the story of this Grommet, we were contacted by tw0 administrators in the Facilities Management department of the University of Iowa.  They were interested in placing a very large order for the Twist product.  They are organizing a national conference for facilities management folks from a huge range of American colleges.  The topic of the conference is “Elevating our Leadership in Sustainability” and they'd like to give the attendees the Twist product to take away, as they fan out back to their home states.

    This is a really big deal for Twist.  Twist just happens to be one of the companies Joanne dubbed as "nice" after her first contact, which makes us root for them all the more.

    But here's the big point.  We, collectively,  helped Twist by spreading the story.  The real power of those stories is realized when our community shares them. In this case, one of the Iowa women had learned about Twist, and Daily Grommet, through word of mouth.  She closed her last email with:

    I am extremely appreciative of all your help…and I’m thrilled my sister shared an email with me from the Daily Grommet!  (smiley face)

    That sister might have thought she was doing something kind of small--telling her sister about a site she likes.  But look at the power of this single email, for making a real difference in spreading the word about this wonderful Twist company.

    Click here to visit the Daily Grommet homepage.

  • This is my kind of gal

    We had 100 Google Voice account invites to give away so we held a giveway contest.  Look what Hannah, one winner, wrote to us, after we notified her of her winning stake:

    Hi Barbara,

    That is awesome news but, unfortunately, I am going to have to disqualify myself! After I left my comment I read that you can only win every 6 months, and I did win a book from the Grommet on March 17, so it really isn't time yet. I'm sure someone else wouldn't mind taking my place and I just want to do what's right. I believe in living by the rules, so please give someone else a lovely surprise! I just love the Daily Grommet and if I were rich, I would probably buy one of everything! You have the best stuff I've ever seen! I am definitely going to look for you on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks so much for choosing me; at least I got to chat with *you*!

    Kind regards,
    Hannah :)

    I probably live in a self-constructed bubble, but I find people like Hannah so refreshing and totally "normal."  My dad was the kind of guy who always returned excess change if a cashier in a shop gave him too much back.  Hannah did the virtual version of that.  She did the right thing, even when no one was looking.  And I also find the Hannahs of the world attract similar types...and I say bring 'em on!

    An update from Hannah on August 2, 2009

    "About the Google Voice thing, I really believe that things work out in the end the way they were meant to be. Lo and behold! Today I got my official invitation from them! Ta da! I was told it could be a longer wait but fate had it worked out this way to lift my spirits and make things right. Now I AM at the head of the line and a happy camper!"

  • Behind the scenes with Living Proof (and what we learn from mailmen)

    Living Proof Anti Frizz products

    Living Proof Anti Frizz products

    Investigating Living Proof was an inspiring field trip for Joanne and Wendy.  They came back all abuzz and couldn't talk fast enough about their experience.  Here’s some of what we couldn’t convey in today’s video:

    • Mitch De Rosa offered to do Joanne’s hair too, but she couldn’t take the time…she’ll surely be back.
    • The Living Proof CEO, Rob Robillard, is a card.  You get glimpses of that in the video.
    • They interviewed Dr. Daniel  Anderson in the laboratory.  Dan is a founder of the company, and a heavy duty scientist from the David H Koch Institute for integrative Cancer Research at MIT.  Unfortunately, we interviewed him in the laboratory and there was a machine running in the background.  The audio overlay was so distracting that we couldn’t use it.
    Dr. Daniel Anderson

    Dr. Daniel Anderson

    The company is located in the R and D heart of Cambridge, in the shadow of MIT.  This is not your typical suburban beauty products company.  It is a technology company.  For instance, Joanne and Wendy met Dr. Betty Yu and Dr. David Puerta.  These two work in collaborative clusters adjacent to the laboratory ( in cubicles ) Joanne said, "This further illustrated the scientific underpinnings of the company."   Dr. Betty Yu was the first employee and is Director of Skincare and New Materials.  Her bio is amazing.  (Hmmm....can't wait to see what new Skincare science she cooks up!)

    Dr. Betty Yu

    Dr. Betty Yu

    Regarding Dr. David Puerta, is the Principal Scientist--Hair Discovery.   Joanne said, "Every person we spoke to mentioned David in conversation."

    Dr. David Puerta

    Dr. David Puerta

    Finally, we look at companies from a lot of angles. (I hear that venture capitalists interview the receptionist, on the sly, when looking at a company.  We like to do our own field work,too.)   In the case of Living Proof, here's what you can learn from the postman.

    Gavin, the neighborhood letter carrier. made his delivery as Joanne and Wendy were being welcomed at the reception desk.  Clearly a champion chatter, Gavin told his own version of the Living Proof story, paraphrased here:

    "Day after day I would come here and people with lab coats would be streaming in and out of the place.  There was no sign.  No one said what they did.  It was all very mysterious.  Especially because outside this icognito main door, they would always have racks and racks of real human hair drying.  All colors.  All types.  I would think to myself, ‘What are these people doing?  They're really strange here."

    Here's a video of the moment, too.  (We're clearly all Gavin fans, already.)


    You can see in the video that Gavin told this story in front of the CEO, Rob, and other team members, who split their sides laughing.  Bottom line: they treated the mailman just like one of the family.  The whole place had a lively, friendly vibe--Wendy said it was welcoming, smart and fresh.  Gavin was clearly part of the appealing fabric of Living Proof.   That was nearly as impressive to Joanne and Wendy as the rest of their amazing story, because we find that kind of humanity generally bodes well for our customers, as we introduce them to a new company.

    P.S.  Wendy is still happily using her Living Proof crème, four weeks later and her hair is rarely frizzly 'tall.

     

    Buy Living Proof's anti frizz hair cream to control hair frizz here.

  • What is this, anyway?

    Patti and I were chatting the other day about how it'd be fun to post photos of "stumpers"....products, objects, things that are puzzling.  Here is one.  I bought it at an antique store in Maine many years ago.  I have no idea why it caught my eye.  I think it was the mystery of it.  I have it photographed here next to some cherry tomatoes.  Any guesses--wild or crazy or accurate--about what it is?

    Those are "normal sized cherry tomatoes...about the diameter of a quarter

    Those are "normal sized cherry tomatoes...about the diameter of a quarter.  Those little dots are actually tiny holes drilled throughout the wood.

    There is very faint writing on the convex underside.  I can't fully make it out but I vaguely remember it saying something like "Munsing" or "Munsining".  Curiously there is a little circle R trademark mark, blowing my theory that this might be a tourist town name hand burned into the wood.

    There is very faint writing on the convex underside. I can't fully make it out but I vaguely remember it saying something like "Munsing" or "Munsining". Curiously there is a little circle R trademark mark, blowing my theory that this might be a tourist town name hand burned into the wood.  The rectangular white area is just a ghost mark from tape...probably from the price tag when I bought this mystery object.

  • Significant Objects Project: Spotted Dog Figurine

    SOlogo2

    In our early days at Grommet we told the story of our first book:  Taking Things Seriously.  Looking at the video now, I am a little embarrassed because if we made it today, it would surely include the author, Joshua Glenn.  I've since learned he is a Boston guy so this would have been a piece of cake to coordinate.  But back then--oh way back in October of 2008-- we didn't quite imagine authors would ever show up for us!

    tts

    Anyway, Joshua has moved onto another interesting  project, in collaboration with one of my favorite journalists, Rob Walker, who writes the "Consumed" column for the New York Times.

    It's called the Significant Objects Project.  Here's the idea.  They hypostulate that if an object has a compelling story, its value increases.  Not just sentimental value, but also hard cold commercial value.    So, they are testing the theory this way:

    • They buy objects of little to no commercial value at swap meets and the like.
    • They have recruited famous authors to write a story about an assigned object, in any style they like.  Obviously, since the authors do not personally or previously own the objects, the stories are fictional.
    • Josh and Rob put the objects up on eBay to see if the value of the object rises.  (Obviously the test is not perfect...moving an item from sale at a local flea market to eBay automatically increases its potential exposure.)

    I see the test as not so much as scientific as just darned interesting.  I am fascinated with objects and their stories.  (Ummm... no surprise there--that is what Daily Grommet pursues all day long).  Significant Objects is a funny twist on Rob Walker's opinion that personal narrative is what gives any object meaning and value. The twist is that these objects' narratives are "borrowed." And fictional, to boot.

    To help the project, and because the stories are so great, I am going to randomly post them as they get released by Rob and Joshua.  Here is the one of the earlier ones, which is still up for auction on eBay as of this writing:

    "]"[Bid on this Significant Object, with story by Curtis Sittenfeld, here.]

    [Bid on this Significant Object, with story by Curtis Sittenfeld, here.

    It’s not that I think I married the wrong man. Because really, how can any of us make a decision except as the person we are in a particular moment? I met Larry and Ronald less than two weeks apart, when I was nineteen. After high school, I’d moved into an apartment with a couple girlfriends from St. Agnes Academy, and we all thought we were very sophisticated, living on our own like that; Bernadette used to grow alfalfa sprouts in pantyhose in the tub. This was in ‘68, and I was working as a switchboard operator at a bank downtown. I met Ronald through a girl from work — he was the girl’s cousin — and Larry I met on the bus riding home one day. I was carrying an orchid plant I’d bought for the apartment, and he asked if I considered myself a flower child.

    I dated them both, but not in a loose way if you know what I mean. That’s how it was then — my girlfriends all dated more than one man at the same time, too. I liked Ronald better because he was taller and because it was harder for me to guess where things stood with him; I had to work to draw him out. Larry just flat-out adored me. He’d always compliment my outfit, and once when he said my perfume smelled nice, I told him in kind of a haughty way that I didn’t wear perfume, it was just shampoo. At the movies he’d take my hand even before Continue Reading

  • Here is our daily "greeter"

    IMG_0376

    This is the flower pot at the top of the wooden steps leading into our office.  It always puts a smile on my face.  Jeanne was not smiling when she was encouraged to taste a red nasturtium.  She said, "My mouth is on fire."

  • Bringing "place" home in a suitcase

    I just spent six blissful, unplugged days in Italy.  Too short, but deeply precious to me and my family. We were near Sansepolcro--a fairly untouristed section of eastern Tuscany.  Nice.  We didn't shop, or buy anything much, beyond masses of food and wine for immediate consumption.  But I assembled a few random things to bring home.   When I looked at them all together, they pleased me for collectively capturing different aspects of the beautiful place I was in.

    Bringing home fond reminders of a trip is nothing new.  Travel souvenirs are an ancient tradition.  Hannibal probably decorated his elephants and Carthaginian battle tents with trappings of his travels.  These are mine:

    Style:  the design of this belt--juxtaposing colorful grommets on an unexpected fabric pattern--delighted me.  It's a little more subtle in real life than in this photo.  I like things that have a couple layers of discovery.  This belt has that.  I thought it was tooled brown leather when I first saw it.  The colors on the fabric were pretty quiet on the shop shelves.
    Style: the design of this belt--juxtaposing colorful grommets on an unexpected fabric pattern--delighted me. It's a little more subtle in real life than in this photo. I appreciate experiences and products that have a couple layers of discovery, as do some Italian leather goods.  This belt has that. I thought it was tooled brown leather when I first saw it. The colors on the fabric were pretty quiet on the shop shelves.
    Taste. Of course we had to bring back some wine. It's so fun to buy the world-famous Brunello at the local Italian grocery store. They had shelves full of it. At a price which even allowed some experimentation. I was worried about the distinctive bottle shape being a magnet for bag security scanner thieves. Phew. The wine stashed in our various suitcases all made it safely stateside.
    Taste. Of course we had to bring back some Italian wine. It's so fun to buy the world-famous Brunello at the local Italian grocery store. There were shelves full of it, at prices which allowed some serious experimentation. I was worried about the distinctive bottle shape being a magnet for bag security scanner thieves. Phew. The wine stashed in our various suitcases all made it safely stateside.
    Utility.  I always bring home ordinary (but foreign feeling) things that will give me daily pleasure.  Italian toothpase.  Miniature wooden clothespins from Barcelona.  French paper clips.  I loved this Italian twine for its thick, uneven girth, and its slightly waxy/polished quality.
    Utility. I always bring home ordinary (but foreign feeling) things that will give me daily pleasure. Vietnamese toothpase. Miniature wooden clothespins from Barcelona. Czech paper clips. I loved this Italian twine for its thick, uneven girth, and its slightly waxy/polished quality.
    A helpful gadget. This Swedish map measurer lets you add and display distances to the scale of your choosing.  Great for hikes and winding scenic drives, no?
    A helpful gadget. This Swedish map measurer lets you add and display distances to the scale of your choosing. Great for hikes and winding scenic drives, no?  It has nothing to do with Italy, other than I will always remember the town and cool gear shop where I found it.
    Craft.  A wonderful ancient textile manufacturer, Busatti, is a local business to the town where we stayed.  I surely bought the most touristy possible item from their line.  But I loved the hand-embroidery and I know that I will use this towel until it wears out.  Linens are one of my favorite travel purchases--because I really use them.  And they pack so well.
    Craft. A wonderful ancient textile manufacturer, Busatti, is in the town where we stayed. I surely bought the most touristy item from their line. But I loved the hand-embroidery and I know that I will use this towel until it wears out. Linens are one of my favorite travel purchases--because I really use them. And they pack so well.
    Silly.  No big story here.  I was just running short of socks. The ones I brought were not drying quickly enough for re-use after washing.  (No dryer.)  I like the idea of these making me smile everytime I put them on for a run.
    Silly. No big story here. I was just running short of socks.  But I like the idea of these "Italia"ones making me smile every time I put them on for a run.

    Craft. Utility.  Style. Taste. And occasionally just a laugh.

    Finally, I shot three of these photos while in Tuscany, and three in the US.  Can you tell which is which?

  • Not sure where we will have meetings in the winter....

    We're pretty crowded in our office space.  We have five rooms, if you include the sacrosanct and incredibly neat space maintained by our developers Gary and Eric.  (Their code is as impeccable as their bookshelves.)

    The rest of us (five full-time, five part-time) live in three rather chaotic (at times) rooms.  We try to keep the fourth room open for video shoots and a conference table.  So, it's pretty typical for us to take a phone call outdoors--just to be able to hear the person on the other end.  (Aside:  we also have squeaky doors.  On a recent call, a person said to me, "Do you have parrots there?"  Jeanne suggested trying the KINeSYS sunscreen as a hinge lubricant.  It worked!  The doors are silenced.)

    Lately, our meetings have been spilling outside too.  Barbara snapped this shot--our visitors for this particular meeting were really good sports about it.  Especially Meg, in the white pants, sitting on our well-trafficked stairs.

    Where we take our overflow meetings at 6 Wallis Court

    Where we take our overflow meetings at 6 Wallis Court

  • Out of the mouths of interns....

    JuliaKemp-Photo

    This is Julia Kemp, our summer intern. She's an MBA student at Simmons College. She is also an industrial designer...in fact, Julia designed the fitness line at Target--her former employer. She's astute, engaged, bright, composed, articulate, and very special. For her first Grommet video, she only had about a half hour warning and she handled the situation like a pro.  Take a look at how she did! We hope she decides startups are fun and not just crazy, and returns to us soon.

    She recently made an observation about leaving a big company to work at Daily Grommet:

    "I can't believe the range of things you each cover.  You have to be super heroes!"

    That made me feel great.  It does feel insane sometimes to hop from a spreadsheet, to doing a video, to negotiating a deal, to testing a pineapple peeling tool.   But I can't imagine working in a job ever again where my role is to simply improve on the performance of the person I replaced.  How dull would that be?

    Anyway, it's fun to see our work through Julia's very observant eyes.

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