Jules Pieri of The Daily Grommet Wants to Make You Think Outside the Retail Big Box

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if somebody explains to you why they grow it and how to cook it, and you make that face-to-face connection, the texture of the experience matters. You can also get that by going on a factory tour or visiting a wonderful boutique where the person selects their offerings very carefully, or an old hardware store where the proprietor can teach you how to use every product.

X: Does a grommet always have to be a physical product?

JP: No. We’ve featured Mint.com, the personal online financial management tool. We did a service called Unigo, a brand-new company that is creating social-networking-like profiles of colleges. We have done Kiva.org—about once a month, we do a philanthropic organization or something that isn’t a commercial opportunity for us, but just part of the zeitgeist. We have 12 categories and one of them is services, so we featured Bookswim, which is like a Netflix for books—a way to borrow the latest, greatest hardcovers or college textbooks instead of buying them. In this world, a lot of our interaction with products is Web-based, so we can help to surface meaningful services that improve our lives.

X: Talk about the nuts and bolts of your e-commerce operation—the sales and fulfillment parts.

JP: The first 24 hours are different from everything after. For the first 24 hours [after a new grommet is published] our model is to control the consumer experience from end to end. We take inventory on consignment, predicting what the demand will be, and we have a third-party fulfillment operation. We deal with a wide variety of suppliers, and we don’t want to overwhelm them with a large quantity of orders that wind up taking four weeks to show up. So from the beginning we made the hard decision that we actually need to be good at fulfillment.

We also wanted the product to show up with its story—so there is a slip with the story that ships along with each product. And we like to surprise people with samples of products [usually previous grommets] packaged alongside. We can also do special configurations. With Twist, for example, we put together a Daily Grommet configuration of four products that Twist doesn’t actually sell together.

After the first 24 hours, we connect people straight to the supplier. We keep the video and the content live, but if you buy the product on day 2 or day 20, you are going straight to the supplier, and we earn an affiliate fee.

X: The videos are a key part of the presentation for each new grommet, but it takes some real work to make a good video. Do you write scripts for those? And why do you do the videos yourselves, rather than hiring traditional “talent”?

JP: It was a really big decision for the team to embrace video in the way we do it. We are really out there on the videos, personally. The night before we shot the first one, neither Joanne or I slept. This is not part of our history or our careers. But it had to be done. And like anything else in a startup, you just do it. At first, it was only us, because there was no one else to do it, but I did want it to be a broad range of people eventually, so it wouldn’t be just about my taste or my endorsement. It’s the team’s vetting of the product that matters. And you can see from our videos that they are not scripted, because I want the staff’s real reaction. But we do have a responsibility to cover the points—you can’t just do a breezy personal story, because this isn’t about us, it’s about the creator of the product.

X: Would it be fair to say that the demographic you’re aiming at with the Daily Grommet is one with a fairly high income—the sort of people who can afford to pay more for a product that has a unique story behind it?

JP: The really high-level opportunity here is a new way to launch and discover products. We are creating that via social media and new technologies and content. 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 … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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  • Jules is a real inspiration for entrepreneurs especially if they are women. The Daily Grommet is a fantastic idea and seems to really fill a void in the market. I love it that someone is reviewing and showing me new and interesting products that I have not yet discovered.

  • This thoughtful, insightful interview was a pleasure to read. I learned a lot too. As a fan of Jules Pieri’s and a repeat customer of Daily Grommet, I can attest to the quality of product, attention to detail and creative use of design elements throughout the site, the packaging and the product literature. As an entrepreneur myself, I appreciated hearing the evolution of Jules’ vision through company launch, and especially appreciated how she values the “relauncher” segment of the labor market as a source of current and potential employees.