Behind Every Good Product Is a Story; The Daily Grommet Brings You One a Day

What the Sam Hill (as my grandpa used to say) is a Daily Grommet? The answer comes in two parts. “Grommet” is the word industrial designer and entrepreneur Jules Pieri has appropriated for the kind of bewitching product that you might discover in an upscale shop in Puerto Vallarta or Tuscany or Vermont—something that’s so unique or beautiful or inventive that you just have to buy one and tell all your friends about it.

And the Daily Grommet is an e-commerce startup in Lexington, MA, that features one new grommet on its website every weekday. Through videos and short articles, Daily Grommet staffers—often Pieri herself—explain what’s so cool about the products they’ve chosen and the companies that make them. They also sell the products, on consignment from their makers. This week’s finds, for example, include an energy bar with ingredients picked by customers, a solar-powered flashlight (no, that’s not a contradiction in terms), and a garlic shredder that looks a little like a little two-wheeled Popemobile.

If you’re thinking that the Daily Grommet sounds like Hammacher Schlemmer meets RocketBoom meets VeryShortList, maybe with a dash of Martha Stewart, you’re not completely wrong. But there’s something stylish, original, and earnest about Pieri’s business that isn’t captured by any of these comparisons.

For one thing, as I can relate after visiting the startup’s office/studio in a quaint clapboard house just off Lexington’s main drag last week, the women who run the company (and they’re all women) are, like Pieri herself, genuinely nice people. They have a visible passion for uncovering little-known new products, testing and investigating them, and telling their stories to the world.

Left to right: Joanne Domeniconi, Jules Pieri, Jen Lockwood, Barbara Gordon, Patti Purcell, Wendy Chandor.

Left to right: Joanne Domeniconi, Jules Pieri, Jen Lockwood, Barbara Gordon, Patti Purcell, Wendy Chandor.

For another, the Daily Grommet has a common-sense business model that blends old-fashioned retailing with the best of Web 2.0-style interactivity. In addition to the daily videos, which are an easily digested two to three minutes in length, the startup is utilizing the full complement of social media channels, including a Twitter stream, an RSS feed, an e-mail newsletter, a Facebook page, and badges and widgets that fans can embed in their own websites. And every grommet gets its own permanent page on the site where readers can leave comments and even interact with the people who make the products. (The company often singles out companies that are so small or new that a feature on the Daily Grommet can be their first big break.)

It all amounts to a human-centered, high-touch approach that might just help to redefine what consumers expect from e-commerce sites. Whether such a business can be scaled up efficiently is an open question. But clearly, if you had the courage in this age of cloud-based software startups to start from scratch with a business that sells actual stuff, you’d want to take advantage of the media that people are using today for word-of-mouth exchanges, namely Twitter, blogs, online video, and the like.

And ideally, you wouldn’t just dilute these media with empty marketing messages, but you’d tell real stories about the people who make the stuff and what motivated them.

This is the kind of stuff Pieri thinks about. “Social media is not commerce media,” she says. “What travels in social media is news—whether it’s personal or national or just funny videos. I know that the stories around products have that same power, and the potential that people would want to … Next Page »

Single PageCurrently on Page: 1 2 3

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

Trending on Xconomy