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Jules Pieri

Author Archives: Jules Pieri

Founder and CEO of The Grommet.

  • Moving Day (Sort of) Part One

    I wrote recently about our pressing need to move the Daily Grommet team to more space.   It has gotten ridiculous in our offices, with twelve people working out of two small offices and an entry way.  For instance, I hold most job interviews on our worn porch steps.  We have an elaborate telecommuting schedule set up.  We park eight cars end to end in two lanes, and have to play chessboard moves every time someone needs to leave.  You really can't hear yourself think with all the hubbub of our worklives.

    Here is Lara making a phone call. This is pretty much how all of us take calls...outside or in our cars.

    Our new software developer, Anthony, who works at a card table just inside the front door, said,

    I came in here to interview on a video shoot day and was overwhelmed in 20 minutes, with people coming and going, guests, and everyone tip-toeing around to not make noise during taping.

    We shoot videos once a week in our conference room. We just shove the table aside and let it roll.

    Anthony (now that he is on board) wisely has taken to staying home on our weekly video days.

    So, in May I launched a thorough real estate search and found some great spaces.  I was all jazzed up to make it happen

    And then luck, or life, or something, intervened.  Two offices in our "office house" became available as of July 1.  And we snagged two other offices in the office/house across the lane.  I guess we are actually building a village.  It's nice.  I like our location, right in a historic town center, with shops and services right at our doorstep.  I like our landlord, who does business on a handshake.  And I like being right next door to our site designers, POD Design.

    So we stay.

    And after we decided to stay,  one of my favorite journalists, Wade Roush, said:

    Daily Grommet moving?  You can't move! I know it's crazy and funky, but that house is part of your culture and your brand.

    And one of our investors in Philadelphia, who has never even been to our space, echoed the same thoughts.

    So we are doing our first wave of our "not-move" move today.  We decided to put half the Discovery Team across the lane...working on the theory that they won't be easily ignored or isolated.  Joanne will float between the two offices, to stay close to her team.

    Our Executive in Residence, Apollo Sinkevicius, is running the whole operational side of the move. He loves to make these disruptive events seamless and smooth for the team.

    Me, bringing flowers from my garden over to transplants, Wendy and Julia, to help them feel at home.

    We're all pitching in today to bring masses of stuff over to occupy the two new rooms.  Alas it is the first day of work for our Savannah College of Art and Design intern, Claire Lorman.  But we warned her....start-up life is not glamorous!

    That's our new intern Claire in front, and June and Anthony bringing up the rear, as they exit our current offices with stuff for the expansion space on our "campus", as Jeanne calls it.

    This is our "multi-purpose" room and Jesse's future editing suite. Yikes.

    Wendy and Julia are already settling in.

    And, yes we will really move one of these days.  But not for now.  And in a start-up, "now" trumps "tomorrow"--any day.

    P.S.  Patti just cracked me up.  She told Apollo "The psychiatrist in our new building is starting to see patients at 1PM."  I thought she was telling him to make an appointment!  ("Not very subtle", I thought.  And, "Odd. Apollo does not seem to be having any issues with the move." )  Turns out she was just letting him know to keep the noise down during the transition.

  • Our Buddy Beta

    Our COO Patti Purcell imported an interesting idea from her days as CEO of BodyShop.com   It's called "Buddies."  The purpose is to assign each new employee an experienced hand whose job is to speed up the team's knowledge of the new person.    The vehicle:  an afternoon outing on the company's dime.  The old hand Buddy picks the venue and then returns to the team with a presentation (in any form) about the new person.

    Our new senior developer Anthony Deaver was the lucky guinea pig.  We went easy on him for what he joking called his "hazing"....we assigned affable Jen Lockwood to the task.    Here they are as they left the office:

    For a guy who says he "hates to talk about himself" Anthony was a very good sport.  It was hard to predict Jen's choice of venue...the girl can span fashion shows, gritty urban dives,  and grueling mountain climbs.  Anthony must have worried about the girly end, especially because her office mates were urging her to take Anthony out "for a nice lunch" and some vaguely genteel pursuits.   Jen's response:  "He's a guy!  He'll be bored stiff!"  Her brilliant choice for Anthony:  a tour of Sam Adams Brewery followed by a pub lunch at the venerable Doyle's in one of Boston's traditionally Irish neighborhoods.

    Jen gave a multi-media presentation to all of us today.  Anthony clearly got over his shyness on the outing, as Jen had a dense paragraph of job titles to describe the huge variety of careers and hobbies pursued by "Deacon" Anthony.  My favorites were "carny" and "restaurant owner."

    I love this artsy shot of Anthony at the brewery.  I am guessing it occurred after a few taste tests:

    Buddy Beta was a huge success.  We gave a lot of pity to poor Lara Simon, who is our next-up Buddy, and has a tough act to follow.

  • They work! They really, really work!

    Here's a great email we received from a thoughtful customer.

    Daily Grommet,
    My daughter got obsessed with gardening a few weeks ago, so we ordered a couple of EarthBoxes from you, and set them up on the garage roof (to keep them away from pesky critters.) The first shot is from April 18, the second is from today, some five weeks later. Spinach thriving on the left, carrots coming along nicely on the right. She's had so much fun tending to "the babies," and the results have been completely satisfying. Thought you'd like to know!
    Anne F.

    We are delighted to know...and so impressed that you thought to take "before and after" photos. Thanks Anne!

  • Sex, Reality-based Demographics, and Romancing the Pocketbook: Three must-haves for innovation

    June is  Innovation Month in New England.  Journalist Scott Kirsner asked for thoughts on how to amp up the heat in New England. I have three urgent recommendations:

    1)  "The rate of cultural and economic progress depends on the rate at which ideas are having sex." --as declared by Matt Ridley.  (He's a writer who covers evolution and genetics.)  I think we are actually doing a pretty good job in this area already.  There must be an "ideas" event every night of the week-- and the universities are a motherlode of aphrodisiacs.  As an industrial designer I know that the depth of creativity often depends on the depth of openness to influences, oddball ideas and the seemingly improbable juxtaposition of competing thoughts.  Case in point:  when my first startup was consulting to Reebok, and trying to invent bouncy shoes to enable better basketball rebounds, a scientist suggested we study the chemicals released in the legs of fleas--since they can jump hundreds of times their size.

    We do need to improve the mix of speakers and stop asking the usual suspects to take the stage at tech events.  Which brings me to idea #2:

    2)  Make sure our entrepreneurial leadership, investors, and "influentials" reflect the general population. The "prominent" entrepreneurial community in Boston is overwhelmingly middle-aged, white, and male.  But the people who will buy their products are overwhelmingly NOT that at all.  I see a problem with this picture.  A funnel to failure, really.  Beyond that, I believe  it's also the first time in history when we can really learn from young people in a company setting, as opposed to training them to become contributors.

    So, sadly, if you deliberately set out to restrict resources and attention to a small slice of the population, like we do--unconsciously--in New England,  that would be an ideal way to crush innovation.  We need to fix that yesterday.  Like about 30 years of yesterdays.

    3)  Work hard and fast on innovation in the biggest sector of our economy--consumer products and services. Business products and services only contributed 3% to the last ten years of US GDP growth.  Consumer products and services accounted for 70% (and they account for 65% of our economy year in, year out).   We increasingly marginalize our innovation community when we focus it so heavily on B-to-B enterprises.

    So.  Innovation.  Easy peasy, at least in my eyes.  Cross pollinate, include new faces, and grab the consumer opportunity NOW. I have a front seat on the successful expression of all three of these imperatives every day when I see the idea submissions coming to Daily Grommet. They are not originating from the usual suspects.  They are coming from college kids corralling cheap prototyping and manufacturing tools, grandparents who have the time to connect improbable invention dots, immigrants importing ideas from home, restless cube-dwellers, and ambitious young mothers.  Truly, all over this country, people of every stripe and color are pushing the innovation envelope in the consumer sector.  We can do it too.

  • Answer: Why not?

    Question:  Why would anyone crochet a full-sized Mongolian Yurt?

    We covered this story five months ago on the Daily Grommet blog.   Kate Pokorny, inspired by a variety of sources including a TED talk by Margaret Wertheim, a Cooper Hewitt Exhibit on "Fashioning Felt" and her own work with a microfinance organization, said "Why not?"

    I gave her a small contribution towards the homespun wool, for which she promised to send me a crocheted piece of wall art.  I just got it and I am thrilled.  I am even more thrilled that she is nearly done.  Here's the package I received last week:

    That's Kate in the photo, holding up a part of the Yurt, and a sketch of the finished product.  And a friendly volunteer sheep in the corner.  Go Kate!

  • We need to move....yesterday

    We have been bursting at the seams for months but I tripped on a new level of ridiculousness this morning.  Here is how Sara is working today:

    She has her computer plugged into the bathroom outlet.  When someone needs the facility, she has to go on battery power.

    I think these photos are proof that we need more office space...... yesterday.

  • Here's what we do with the "extras"

    We receive a massive number of boxes and deliveries to our offices.   Most are a mix of solicited and unsolicited product samples.   In our tiny space they are a management job in and of themselves.  (See this photo from my personal blog. ) After our evaluation is over, samples either go into our archives, back to the creator, or donated to charity.

    Here's one pickup of several boxes, destined to a local philanthropy.

    It's satisfying to know that each sample, whether it becomes a Grommet or not, finds its way to a welcome home.

  • Mother's Day Story No. 2

    I just received this email from Daily Grommet customer, and friend, Nancy and it cracked me up:
    "I sent my mother a Smith Island cake for Mother's Day. Her reaction was hilariously near hysteria. I never knew this, but in 1973 my parents had lined up a week's vacation on Smith Island at a local's house. The deal was that Smith Island families put up visitors for a week and cooked for them--an early version of a B&B, I guess. They had finalized their reservation and the hosting couple had bought all the food--and then my dad had to go Detroit because Ford wanted to transfer him. My mom had to cancel the reservation.

    The woman hit the ceiling! She said that my parents would never be allowed to land on the island if they ever came back. My mom said that if that woman was still on the island and found out that cake was going to her, she would have stopped the shipment--or stepped on the cake before it went into the box!

    The funny thing is that I never knew my parents had lined up this trip. It was to be a get-away just for the two of them. I was in high school at the time, and I certainly remember Ford telling my Dad they wanted him to transfer, but I have no recollection of a cancelled trip to anywhere called Smith Island.

    My mom told the story to all her friends on the Isle of Palms, beginning with the preface "Nancy has a friend who has this company called Daily Grommet, and they feature one product a day. . ." So you got some publicity down there!"

    Thanks to Nancy and her Mom for sharing this crazy bit of serendipity in our mutual lives.

  • Mother's Day--Story No. 1

    A man I recently met asked me for a killer Mother's Day gift idea--he wanted something truly special for his wife.  After a few "research" questions, I pointed him to the Liquid Metal bracelet.

    I was delighted to receive this enthusiastic email this morning.

    This is my post-mother’s day huge “thank you”. My wife is a terrible liar. So, if she didn’t love your pick I would’ve known immediately. She LOVED it. She has never in the history of my gift-giving put something I gave her on right away - see my covert photo of her mother’s day afternoon nap (attached).

    I received some wonderful gifts from my three sons this year, but found myself equally delighted to play a tiny role in another woman's Mother's Day.  Her husband is the real hero, though, for caring as much as he did about her response.

  • Putting a face with the name

    I participated on a panel at last week's  New Marketing Experience conference in San Francisco.  Ahead of time,  I Tweeted that I was looking to connect with people in SF and Stephanie Lawrence of Haiti Projects responded (remember the gorgeous embroidered nightgowns, and Sara the feisty founder on our video?).

    Even better, Stephanie was able to join me at the conference for the full day.  I really love meeting the people behind the Grommets, and Stephanie's enthusiasm for the Haiti Projects mission was inspirational to me.  (This is a great Mother's Day gift, BTW.)

    Here is my tiny photo diary of the day.

    Stephanie Lawrence of Haiti Projects, me, Chris Brogan of New Marketing Labs

    Great setting for the conference: Fort Mason in the Marina District of San Francisco

    View in the other direction, opposite Fort Mason

    Lupine was growing wildly on the banks of the harbor

    So was nasturtium

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