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Jules Pieri

Author Archives: Jules Pieri

Founder and CEO of The Grommet.

  • L.L. Bean knows that even the store door handles matter

    I dropped $250 on new X-country ski bindings and boots this weekend.  That's a ton of dough to me.  And since I haven't bought ski equipment in 20+ years, the purchase destination was pretty much a jump ball. I might be more overtly reflective on this kind of decision than the average bear, but most people have a complex subconscious approach to non-routine purchases.  Their decisions reflect their personal values at a level that great brands know how to serve.

    Let's start with the reasons for the purchase.  First, below is a picture of me a week ago, at the point when my old cross country boot totally separated from the sole, on the shores of Lake Champlain.  I shouldn't be smiling as I had no idea how I was going to travel miles back to my car without a functional ski set-up.  (My clever friend Jill figured out how to use her gator and my boot laces to lash my foot to the ski.)

    Here are the broken boots:

    Here is the reason why I was feeling urgency to get back in gear for the season:
    Continue Reading

  • Citizen Commerce, Let the Revolution Begin

    citizen commerce

    On an otherwise unremarkable January morning, the US Government recently made my day. Specifically, a public servant named David J. Kappos.  He's Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. His organization surprised me with the unexpected delivery of a very official-looking Trademark certificate for:

    Citizen Commerce

    We had applied for this a year ago, but hadn't heard any updates in months.  The trademark just showed up.  Shiny gold seal and all.

    I'm delighted for Daily Grommet to be the cheerleader and guiding hand for Citizen Commerce.  It's a movement that represents the following thoughts:

    • Individual people have great power to shape the world we live in, through the most ordinary of behaviors: sharing, writing, talking, buying.
    • We control 65% of the US economy via these actions.
    • Every decision to buy (or not buy) a product or service is a "vote" for something.  A vote for a company and people who do business in a way that supports your values
    • Because the tools to create products are so much more accessible than ever, there is a new Industrial Revolution happening all around us.   Big companies with scale no longer control the tools of production and distribution.
    • With social media sharing tools, technologies, and behaviors (and the engagement of highly accessible video) we can finally have the information to act on our values.
    • We can efficiently organize to support (or expose) companies, people, and products that deserve our time, attention, money and resources

    THOSE are the reasons I'm grinning ear to ear holding the Trademark certificate.  Let the Revolution begin.

  • My So-Called Daily Grommet Life

    Carol Fishman Cohen

    This post so delighted me, that we are reprinting it from Yahoo!  Shine in its entirety. BTW, for anyone anticipating a return to work, or looking to make a big change in your job in 2011, check out Carol's company.  They run wonderful events and publish truly helpful advice for the "relauncher."

    by Carol Fishman Cohen, Co-founder, iRelaunch, Co-author, Back on the Career Track

    I have been a loyal fan of Daily Grommet since early on*, but it is only recently that I realized how intertwined my life has become with the new products I have purchased from the site. As the mother of four teenagers and as the co-founder of a small company, I really appreciate the built-in vetting vehicle the site has become for me.  Grommet streamlines the purchasing process for items I'd normally either spend a lot of time researching before buying, or just not getting around to buying at all, even though I needed them.  So here goes....

    Yawn......time to rest my head on the "CleanRest Ultra" pillow I bought from Daily Grommet.  I ended up buying four of them because I realized the pillows around the house were 20 years old! Plus we have a few allergy sensitive members of the family, so I was intrigued by the allergen free materials. As advertised, the pillows arrive, soft and comfortable.

    Napapijri BeltIt's morning! I'm getting dressed - today I am going to wear my "Napapijri Naik" belt that I got from Grommet as a 50th birthday present for myself.  This belt actually has grommets on it for the belt buckle to latch into, which is one of the reasons it's such an easy gift to give to others - it fits everyone.  As my kids can tell you I am somewhat fashion challenged, especially in the casual wear department. Wearing this belt makes me feel uncharacteristically chic.  I got one for one of my best friends who is on par with me in the fashion backward department. We both get compliments whenever we wear them.

    Into the kitchen to make breakfast!  One of my kids barely eats except for breakfast, so I try to make him pancakes as often as I can.  I am using not one, but two Lodge Cookware cast iron skillets purchased from Grommet about six months ago.  Exactly as portrayed on the video, they are naturally non-stick, and everything, including pancakes, cooks beautifully in them.  I feel like a bit of a 1950's throwback cooking breakfast in my cast iron pans, but so be it.

    I'm hard at work planning the iRelaunch Return to Work Conferences my company produces.  I need speakers' gifts!  Of course, I go straight to Grommet and find a number of contenders; The "I'm not a paper cup" cup, the Memory on Hand flashdrive bracelets, and the Tea Forte collections.  I get eight of each to give to speakers at conferences in different cities. For our university host in each city, I get one of my favorites - the Zip-N-Go Blanket.  I love this product, especially because it was created by a person who returned to work after a career break (as did a number of Grommet people, including their dynamic founder Jules Pieri).

    How did holiday season creep up on me so fast? I need Hanukah gifts for my family and hostess gifts for the Christmas parties we are going to.  Grommet doesn't disappoint: Bananagrams, the CyberCube, the Maine Flame eco-friendly fire starters, plus a Gorillapod tripod for my husband...perfect!  Then I discover one of my favorite grommets of all time: the Big Dipper Beeswax Candle; exquisitely crafted, a beautiful beeswax aroma, and a gorgeous color and feel.  I have bought more than 10 of these for hostess gifts, for presents for my own company team, plus I had to buy one for myself.  I can hardly bring myself to light it because it is so beautiful.  But it burns for FIFTY hours, so I know I will use it for a long time.

    It seems as though every day I am interacting with the Daily Grommet products I have purchased, whether for friends, family, co-workers, clients or myself.  Thanks, Grommet, for being there at critical moments with just the right product.   Happy Holidays!

    *Disclosure:  I have known Daily Grommet's Founder Jules Pieri for years, and she's on the Advisory Board of my company iRelaunch.  I also know some of the Grommet management team. However, no one at Grommet asked me to write this and it is not some thinly veiled advertisement for the company.  I would have written it even if I had no connection to Jules. I can be reached at [email protected]

     

     


  • Doin' what it takes

    I like these two pictures of Jen and Kate testing a potential Grommet.  I don't think this particular product made the cut, but I kept it out of the picture frame either way.   They are doing their thing on the little Wallis Court lane where we are located.  It really helps to be in the center of a town to do our testing.  More home like.  I can't imagine trying out the more adventurous Grommets in a downtown city setting. ( I WOULD like our office to have a proper kitchen, though.)

  • "I've met the expert and he is us." --Pogo in 2010

    I got my Sears Tool catalog today.   Next to the artful cover rendering of the "Right Angle Impact Driver" are three prominent icons.  The familiar Facebook and Twitter (mildly jarring at Sears, no?). And above those, a mysterious round blue icon with the words "Reality Checked" next to it.  Hmmm....I open the catalog and find this layout:

    The Real People, whose photos are sprinkled on every page of the thick catalog, range from "Norb, traveling handyman" to Tina, "NHRA dragster driver."  Sears is faster than I would have expected at recognizing the reality of 2010.  They are conceding that the definition of an influential expert has been completely upended.   Not that long ago, in a now-outdated era of traditional media, people who could simply garner more audience were deemed "experts." Think of pediatrician/author T. Berry Brazelton.  Consumer activist Ralph Nader. Finance advisor Suze Orman.

    Not so today.  Today we recognize the truth we always lived in our "real lives." What we experience in our homes, families, and neighborhoods.  Namely, that you get to be an expert by really doing something, not just by talking about it. And social media and video make that basic truth as plain as day.  Moms want real-time advice from other moms.  We like getting financial advice from our peers on Mint.com, not from an over caffeinated talking head.  And, Ralph was a real marvel, but we can each be an influential consumer activist tomorrow, if we want to spend our energies in that direction.

    We've been very careful at Daily Grommet to build an experience that is open to a wide range of experts.  Our team takes a holistic approach to evaluating a potential Grommet, but we don't pretend to be Underwriter Laboratory, or Dr. Oz.   We love to call in experts to help us explore and accurately articulate a story.  Bloggers, practitioners, editors, people in the right demographic, sports pros, chefs.   You get the picture.  That approach is not only contemporary, but it is very scalable and not subject to the vulnerabilities of tying Daily Grommet to a single name or face.  (That's why I bristle at the slightest comparison to Martha Stewart.  It's not about her, particularly.  It's about Martha creating a successful business for a very different era.  Grommet is for today.)

    I do find women embrace this approach naturally.  Women just encountering Daily Grommet never ask me the question that many men pose, "How can your team be good at so many categories?"  Women, being in control of 80% of the consumer spend, know what it is like to be skilled at assessing products in a wide variety of categories because it is an important financial skill for them.  They don't want to be hoodwinked.   It can be different for many men.  Their consumer life is often focussed on a narrower range of categories, where they enjoy diving deep and looking for expert advice.  Women rarely have so much time for an individual purchase, and they actively maintain a natural "board of experts" with their on and offline friendships, service providers, and their trusted retail sources, where appropriate.

    For both men and women, Daily Grommet becomes a natural extension of both of these thoughtful consumer approaches.  Everyone is busy, everyone appreciates a trusted source and a group of people who do all the work.  And they all recognize that "real people" are the go-to source in today's level playing field of social and rich media.


  • Conscious Capitalism

     
     
     
     

    Jules Pieri

    Jules Pieri

    I'm working with AuthorsGlobe on  some really interesting online Master classes which give people  easy access to some of the most progressive business thought leaders of our time.   The current series kicks off  on November 10 with Raj Sisodia.  He's a Professor of Marketing at Bentley University.  A few years ago, as part of a long process of questioning traditional marketing and even fundamental business practices, and while writing his book "Firms of Endearment," Raj began the process that lead to his founding the Conscious Capitalism Institute.

    I asked him a few questions to explain this exciting movement.

    Conscious CapitalismHow do you define conscious capitalism?

    We define conscious capitalism as having four key characteristics:

    • First, business can and should be done with a higher purpose in mind, and not just with a view to maximizing profits. A sense of purpose creates a high degree of engagement for all stakeholders, especially employees.
    • Second, the business is explicitly managed for the simultaneous benefit of all of its stakeholders. We use the acronym SPICE to denote the stakeholders: Society, Partners, Investors, Customers and Employees. A conscious business aligns the interests of all stakeholders, so that what is good for one is good for all.  Society is listed first for an important reason: businesses must ensure that they are on the “right” side of society, that they have a positive net impact on the world.
    • Third, such businesses have conscious leaders, who are driven primarily by their loyalty to the firm's purpose, rather than being driven by power or money. They lead by mentoring, motivating, developing and inspiring people rather than through command-and-control or the use of so-called carrots and sticks.
    • Finally, such businesses have some unique cultural characteristics. We represent them using the acronym TACTILE, which stands for Trust, Authenticity, Caring, Transparency, Integrity, Learning and Empowerment. The word tactile also suggests that the cultures of these companies are very tangible to their stakeholders as well as to outside observers; you can feel the difference when you walk into a conscious business versus one that is purely driven by a profit motive and just for the benefit of shareholders.

    What's changed to make this important today?

    Business as usual will not work because people have changed, and also because our collective sense of urgency about the need for radical change has never been stronger. As Tom Friedman wrote in the New York Times recently, "Mother Nature and Father Greed have hit the wall at the same time."

    The world has changed significantly, especially in the past 20 years. What used to be acceptable in the past is no longer acceptable today. Think about it. 150 years ago, slavery was widely acceptable to a large number of people. 100 years ago, many thought it acceptable to deny women the right to vote. 75 years ago, colonialism was still widespread and generally accepted. 50 years ago, most people accepted segregation as a way of life.

    As human beings, we did not stop evolving when we got up on our hind legs. Our evolution continued, but became more internally driven. As these examples illustrate, our consciousness about what is right and what is wrong is constantly evolving. The data also suggests that human intelligence has been rising at an average rate of 4% every decade for the past 70 to 80 years. This is known as the Flynn Effect.

    Some of the greatest changes in society occurred about 20 years ago. The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 triggered the collapse of communist regimes all over Europe, something that had been unthinkable just a few years before. This essentially ended the defining ideological debate of the 20th century between competing systems for organizing human societies. Capitalism and democracy decidedly won that battle, and the only question now was the type of free markets and democracy that worked best.

    1989 was also the year in which, for the first time, there were more adults over the age of 40 than below the United States. The psychological center of gravity shifted into midlife and beyond, triggering a gradual but deep transformation of the zeitgeist towards a greater concern with meaning, purpose and other centeredness. We refer to this as the beginning of the “Age of Transcendence.”

    In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web, an invention that would transform the world like no other, perhaps in our history. Within a few short years, the web ushered in an era of true information democracy, in which the average person had free access to more information more rapidly than the richest persons in the world had enjoyed previously. People became infinitely better informed, and were soon far better connected as well, through the web as well as through mobile technology. We now live in an era of almost total transparency, in which all corporate actions and policies become public knowledge, especially if they are controversial.

    Taken together, all of these changes have resulted in a dramatically transformed landscape for business. The so-called feminine values of caring, nurturing, relationships and compassion are on the ascendance in most spheres of society. People today care about different things, are better informed, better educated and better connected than ever before. They are looking for different things from companies, in their roles as customers, employees, suppliers, investors and community members. However, most companies have not evolved to keep pace, and are still conducting business according to norms that were developed in a much different time.

    Companies that operate according to the principles of conscious capitalism are far better attuned to the sensibilities and needs of people today. These companies create multiple kinds of wealth: social, economic, intellectual, ecological, cultural, spiritual and of course financial. Our research (reported in the book Firms of Endearment) found that such companies outperformed the market by a 9 to 1 ratio over a ten-year period, while paying their employees better, having profitable suppliers, paying taxes at a higher rate, providing great customer service, investing in their communities, and having a positive impact on the environment.

     
     
     
     

    Rajendra Sisodia

    Raj Sisodia

    What companies or individuals are the best examples of being conscious capitalists?

     

    Our book features 28 companies, 18 of them publicly traded. Outstanding examples include Whole Foods Market, The Container Store, Southwest Airlines, Costco, New Balance, Timberland, Wegmans, Trader Joe's, UPS, Starbucks and Google. A great example outside the US is Tata, one of the leading companies based in India. Tata has truly been a conscious capitalist for well over 120 years, always acting from a sense of higher purpose that puts society's needs as paramount and seeing profits as the natural outcome of meeting those needs in an effective and efficient manner.

    What's an example of a company that's represents the opposite of a conscious capitalist company?

    An easy example is British Petroleum, which has just gone through a very public and humiliating ordeal that has revealed how hollow its claims of being a responsible, environmentally sustainable company truly were. A company that is rapidly evolving towards greater consciousness is Wal-Mart. For a number of years after the death of Sam Walton, Wal-Mart became a relentless cost-cutting machine, squeezing its employees, suppliers and communities in order to eke out low prices for its customers and high returns for its investors. After a decade in which its stock price was virtually unchanged, the company has gradually started to better align itself with the value system that is increasingly prevalent today. Other companies that are transforming in a positive way include McDonald's and PepsiCo.

    What will it take to make this a mainstream idea?

    The business world, like many other spheres of society, is highly imitative. As they say, nothing succeeds like success. As conscious businesses continue to outperform their competitors, other companies will be forced to start emulating their business philosophy in order to survive. Our purpose in the Conscious Capitalism movement is to help thing about this change more rapidly and in a more conscious manner, so that companies understand what it truly takes to be an authentically conscious business and not just one that pays lip service to the idea.

    Our mission at the Conscious Capitalism Institute (www.cc-institute.com) includes three elements: research, education and development. We will conduct research that will help improve our understanding of the principles of conscious capitalism and how they can be best implemented. We will develop educational materials (including cases, courses and simulations) that can be used to better educate the next generation of managers coming to our business schools. Finally, we are developing executive education programs to help current managers understand and implement this approach.

    Our hope and dream is that one day soon, Conscious Capitalism will come to be seen as the "normal" way to do business. When that happens, we will be well on our way to creating a society that creates a rising level of well-being for all our citizens in a manner that is sustainable for the indefinite future.

    What will people learn from listening to your master class?

    Through the master class, people will understand how the world is changing, why businesses need to respond, the key elements of conscious capitalism, the impact of these on performance, and how companies can start the change process of becoming truly conscious businesses. They will understand that business transformation starts with individual transformation, and that they must embark on a journey of raising their own consciousness. They will leave with a new lens with which to view the world, and a new perspective on the kinds of companies they should look to associate with, as customers, employees, investors and community members.

    What advice do you give your 3 children in terms of how they can support or contribute to this idea that's so important to you?

    I have tried to get them to understand the consequences of conscious versus unconscious decision making in all spheres. By now, they are all pretty well indoctrinated into the philosophy of conscious capitalism. I am sure that when they look for a job, or perhaps one day when they start a business themselves, they will keep these principles in mind so that their own prosperity does not come at the expense of other people or the planet itself.

     
     
     
     

    You can register here to participate in Raj's November 10 Master Class at Authors Globe.  What a great way to have direct access to Raj, without ever getting on a plane.

     

     

     

  • Ready, set, push the red button

    When we were just about to go live with our new site, I was IM'ing with someone and I wrote, "The ops team is waiting for me to give the OK to push the red button on the black box."    The guy on the other end of the chat believed me--that there really is a black box with a red button.  That was such a charming idea, that we took a photo of Patti and Anthony pushing a button and "going live."

    Don't they look amazing for being beyond sleep-deprived?  (This was at 1AM and they did not get any sleep at all afterwards either, watching their new creation take its first public steps.)

  • Daily Grommet's extreme makeover

    There's a bit of a cobbler's children effect at Daily Grommet. We're always so focused on other people's products that we don't have much time to polish our own shoes. But after having the same basic site since we launched in October 2008, we decided it was time to take the plunge on a new one. Why? Mainly, we've outgrown some of the home-made "crunchier" aspects of how we built things.  (And the hamsters powering the back end are getting REALLY tired.)

    Although I am excited to release the new site, I'll admit, the number one thing I worry about is getting too "slick" in a revamped design. I never want to lose the intimacy and, frankly, oddball qualities of how we work and think and communicate with you.

    But I also don't want to be so "odd" that it's hard to find the Grommets, or confuse you with an unconventional shopping process, so we are nimbly sallying forth. At this point, with over 500 Grommets, we need to make it easier to cruise around making new discoveries, search more effectively for a Grommet-- even when you can't recall its name, and give more shipping and gifting options. We're also adding some whole new areas for exploration, and taking some new risks.

    The heart of what we do, telling you true stories about fresh discoveries, remains untouched. But here's the rundown of what's new:

    A better place to shop

    Probably the first thing you’ll notice about the new Daily Grommet is that we’ve amped up our look. There are brighter colors, bigger, better, and more pictures, all layered onto a clean and easy structure so you can get where you need to go, find what you’re looking for, discover something new and unexpected, and get to the heart of the story faster than ever.

    Citizen Commerce – on steroids

    We’ve always relied on ideas from our community to fuel the discovery on Daily Grommet. Now you can share your finds and favorite products with everyone. Take a look at our brand new Citizens’ Gallery:

    The Citizens’ Gallery is where you can submit your idea for would-be Grommets. You can upload videos, images, and all kinds of details about why you think a product is special. If your submission is selected for display, it'll be visible to everyone right here. You can rally your supporters to “like” your idea and share it out through your own networks, on Twitter and Facebook.

    This means that all our visitors can browse the Gallery and comment on Grommet ideas – we’ll be watching to see which ideas rise to the top; it’s a great way for you to make your voice heard in the discovery process.

    Here are more new features we’ve built in:

    • A streamlined checkout process with express options
    • Flexibility around shipping and gifting – ship to multiple locations in a single transaction ... more shipping options ... and gift certificates
    • Enhanced search capabilities and improved organization by categories – get to the products you’re searching for more quickly
    • New ways to comment on and share Grommets

    • The option to gather Grommets you love in a Favorites list and share your list with friends who need a hint!

    More great stories and inventive products than ever

    Because we’re all about telling rich stories and providing you with the best offers, we wanted to give you even more of each Grommet. Our new format allows us to feature new items and offers from our Grommet partners.

    Watch for even more good stuff in the coming months. And we're all ears if you've got requests or ideas to make your Daily Grommet experience even better. Feel free to Email us anytime!

  • Maker Faire New York Gallery

    Joanne and I had a stimulating time in Queens last weekend, at the premiere World Maker Faire New York, installed at the NYSCI Hall of Science.  With over 25,000 people attending, and 500 Makers, it was a meaningful happening.

    You'll see plenty of "weird" in my photos.  But I failed to capture the many, many ordinary-looking families, and a lot of the more tech-y and geeky aspects of the Faire.  They are simply not that photogenic...things like Arduino controllers and people in normal clothes can't compete with colorful crafts, crazy contraptions, and kooky looking characters.

    (The photos of us outside the back of a truck are actually of  a secret "pop up" restaurant.  Noodle Bar.  Fun!)

    I love this blog post by Anil Dash that does a wonderful job explaining the Maker Movement.  He eloquently makes the case for why this "revolution" is enormous and matters:

    Today, Dale Dougherty and the dozens of others who have led Maker Faire, and the culture of "making", are in front of a movement of millions who are proactive about challenging the constrictions that law and corporations are trying to place on how they communicate, create and live.

    I also loved what Joanne said, after having an exhilarating day connecting with the smart and creative Makers, several of which could be future Grommet partners:

    There are parts of the Maker Faire that were weird, but all parts of it were wonderful.

  • Anticipating egg on my face, and apologizing in advance

    Two weeks ago we had fully vetted a potential cooking tool Grommet and had it scheduled to run imminently.  We used the product multiple times.  We made the final video, wrote the story, negotiated the commercial terms.  I think we had done everything but shoot photography.  It was a "go".  But then Katherine tripped on a negative review in a Dutch publication (the product is a European import).  She doesn't read Dutch but she could read "trouble".  She dug deeper, found enough to worry about, and Joanne cancelled the Grommet.

    It caused all kinds of headaches for Joanne to make this decision.  Someone on her team had to face an upset product supplier.  Hours of lost work.  A messed up Grommet calendar.  A need to accelerate another Grommet.  Yet everyone knew it was the right thing to do.

    But here's the rub.  This will happen again, and we might miss the bad news and release the Grommet story.   The internet is our friend, we can find negative reviews in a nanosecond.  But if a product is new, or if the bad news is slow to surface on the Web, we could get "caught" by a disreputable new player or product.

    I'm very pleased we are developing a new submission process which will openly publicize the ideas we are seeing.  What is now visible only to our team will live in a  public "Citizens' Gallery"  on our site.    This change is going to be huge:  people will be able to get more welcome exposure for their submissions on the Grommet site, and that will also continue to raise the quality of them.

    Here's a first mockup...it's undergoing revisions, but we want to share it anyway:

    Bigger than that, to us, is that we will have a broader chance to hear multiple points of view on a product.  We will open up ways to comment on a Grommet idea.  By exposing our incoming submissions we will have a much better chance to learn about the possible Grommets from people who are committed to helping us maintain the quality and trust we have built, together, at Grommet.

    But....for brand new products even this new Citizens' Gallery is not enough.  Sometimes products fail after months of use.  Sometimes social entrepreneurs do not really give the share of revenue that they commit to at the beginning of their endeavor.  Sometimes they green-wash a product.  Sometimes the front-facing part of the company is professional but the service and operational ends are not.  We have so much experience in figuring this stuff out that we haven't yet had a massive disappointment.  We don't cut corners.  We have a nose for the truth, at every level.

    But we will miss something important someday.   It's just inevitable.  We are a small team.  We don't pretend to be Consumer Reports or Underwriters Laboratory.  Our evaluation of a product, and the people and company behind it, is very holistic (more on this in a later blog post).  We will get duped or just make some errors.

    For this, I will ask for all the input our community can give, once we start exposing our idea submissions.  But I am mainly, here and now, apologizing in advance.   When we get caught short we will move swiftly and powerfully to correct any errors.  It will be deeply upsetting to me and to the Grommet team, and our community.  So I am apologizing now.

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