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

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‘Wow, this is the next thing in e-commerce! You cracked it, Jules. Are you still looking for investors?’ With somebody with his experience, I had to execute. He even submitted some grommets, and we did some of them. So he’s gotten engaged on a number of levels.”

One element that seems to attract investors and customers alike is the company’s commitment to finding products and makers with a countercultural or humanitarian bent. The solar-powered flashlight, for example, is from a company called SunNight that sends one flashlight to a community in Africa for every unit bought by a consumer. (This “Buy One, Give One” approach may sound familiar to followers of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation, which had great success using a similar formula to sell laptops around the 2007 holidays.) The grommet for June 16 was “Arghand Soap Pebbles,” remarkably stone-like soaps hand-crafted by members of a cooperative in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Former NPR correspondent Sarah Chayes started the cooperative in 2005 to help provide a livelihood for former opium farmers in the war-torn country.

Pieri relates, “One investor said to me, ‘Jules, when I invest in this company, I invest in more than a business. If you do it right, it’s a movement. You’re giving people an opportunity to really support the little guy, the innovators.'”

But does becoming a movement mean growth and profits? I told Pieri that if I were a prospective investor, I’d ask the classic “scalability” question: how can a business premised on selling just one item every day build up to multimillion-dollar revenues?

Daily Grommet chief discovery officer Joanne Domeniconi confers with chief operating officer Patti Purcell.

Daily Grommet chief discovery officer Joanne Domeniconi confers with chief operating officer Patti Purcell.

“We have a clear vision to be meaningfully big,” she answers. She declined to share investment or revenue figures, but already, she says, the Daily Grommet formula seems to be attracting fervent shoppers: Grommet customers make four times as many purchases on an annual basis as Amazon customers. She points to the upward trajectory of similar companies like Gilt Groupe, a members-only e-tailer that conducts 36-hour online sales of overstocked designer clothing and recently raised $40 million in venture cash; Woot, which sells one discounted gadget or videogame every day and won a $4 million investment from Amazon in January; and Etsy, a hippie-chic marketplace connecting sellers and buyers of handmade goods.

The trendspotter site Springwise has a name for such sites: “curated marketplaces.” But in its review of the Daily Grommet last month, it singled the site out for its thoughtfulness.

The plan for Grommet’s growth, Pieri says, is to build on the success of the original site by creating “verticals,” business-speak for topic-specific offerings, such as “Grommet Gear,” “Grommet Food,” “Grommet Garden,” and the like (the company has 12 product categories in mind altogether, Pieri says). By introducing 250 new products per year and selling just $100,000 worth of each product, each vertical could bring in $25 million per year in gross revenues, she projects. Which sounds meaningfully big to me.

Also see the complete Xconomy interview with Jules Pieri.

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

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