Product discovery and marketplaces are all the rage right now but when Jules Pieri launched a product discovery marketplace 11 years ago she pioneered a cross-section of entrepreneurship that launches products more than 300 times per year. The Grommet is a curated marketplace of small businesses producing unique products from inspirational founders.

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Main Takeaways:

  • Brian and Phillip are joined on today's episode by Jules Pieri, Co-founder and CEO of The Grommet.
  • The Grommet is a unique marketplace that takes the guesswork out of finding quality brands that represent truthful and meaningful brands.
  • Today's market has paved the way for the romantic entrepreneur, but how do you turn your great idea into a successful business?
  • The marketplace model has seen a prolific rise in variety, but how do you know what products and brands you can trust when shopping in a marketplace?

Small Business Innovation: The Story of the Grommet:

  • Phillip first met Jules at Magento Imagine and was entranced by the founder story of the Grommet, which he had never heard of before the conference.
  • Jules started The Grommet eleven years ago, which launches one innovative consumer product from small businesses per day, a lot of which have become household names.
  • The Grommet was founded because Jules saw that technology has made it easier for individuals to create products and larger companies were becoming less and less innovative.
  • The innovation of small businesses proved to be very disruptive and now The Grommet is viewed by around four million people every day.

From The Wrong Side of the Tracks: An Entrepreneurial Playbook:

  • Brian asks Jules to talk more about herself and how she came to start the Grommet.
  • Jules recounts how she grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Detroit, was the first person in her family to go to college, and when she was fourteen, she snuck behind her parents back and applied for boarding school.
  • From very early, Jules developed a playbook for doing things that were scary and uncomfortable for her, and she learned to like it: a perfect platform for an entrepreneur.
  • Her career tracks through three different phases: an early career as an industrial designer, later working for two separate start ups, and finally, Jules worked for some larger brands that led her to coming up with the idea for The Grommet.

Left on the Cutting Room Floor: The Fallout of Innovation:

  • Phillip recently listened to a podcast with Malcom Gladwell and Rick Rubin about the artistry is left on the cutting room floor as a musician and that the final product is only released after several edits and fine tuning.
  • Larger brands have a tendency to play closer towards the plight of the musician where a lot ends up on the cutting room floor, but smaller brands have a lot of advantages in innovation, but tend to be capital constrained.
  • Brian is reminded of an older episode with Sucharita Kodali from Forrester in which Sucharita describes her experience regarding the purchasing cycle of Toys"R"Us.
  • Why do you think most products don't make it to shelves when being evaluated by large brands?

A Call to Action: Citizen Commerce is Shaping the World:

  • Jules has recently coined the term "citizen commerce" which means that every act a person takes to vote with either their time or money to support a product shapes a business.
  • If you really care about a cause or a product, you have the opportunity to make that happen in the world by being more intentional with how you spend your time and money.
  • Jules suggests to take a mer 10% of what you spend and put that towards products that you truly believe in and think will make a difference in the world.
  • Consumers' demands and expectations of brands have become heightened and consumers have the power to determine winners in the marketplace; consumers can change the future of the world by not engaging with brands that don't meet these heightened expectations.

A Massive Product Stream: How The Grommet Chooses Products:

  • The Grommet lends credibility to the products it chooses to highlight each day, but only 3% of products actually make the cut.
  • It takes a lot of time to figure out what companies truly stand for, but Grommet does that research for you and takes the time to make sure brands are being truthful.
  • The Grommet engages deeply when a company is or is about to be in production and helps them craft their story and get that product to market.
  • The hardest thing to do is get an audience in a crowded world, and retailers aren't interested in a single-product company in the current climate.

The Power of the Marketplace: How Different Landscapes Highlight Different Products:

  • What are the challenges that marketplaces face today, especially considering the hype around marketplaces as a business model?
  • Jules sees that there is a trend to move more towards marketplaces and becoming increasingly more niche.
  • Etsy and Amazon offer opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to marketplace originality and ease of shopping.
  • There are a lot of interesting (yet scalable) marketplace models and The Grommet has a very interesting place in this landscape that they will be developing in the near future.

Diminishing Returns: But Not How You Think:

  • The return rate at The Grommet is an infinitesimal 3%, where as other eCommerce sites see returns in the high teens to low twenties percentage wise.
  • The Grommet accomplishes this by using video to create product understanding, and the simple fact that they don't present products that aren't worth your money.
  • The Grommet wins customers based on quality and trust, but most marketplaces are antithetical to those qualities by not providing products that are authentic.
  • There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that examines how the ceding of product control has led to thousands of banned, unsafe, or mislabeled products.

The Power of the Entrepreneur: Romanticizing Business:

  • Statiscally, 66% of millenials and 75% of high school age students want to start their own businesses.
  • Jules believes that there is a healthy ecosystem forming around the entrepreneurs that The Grommet works with and a lot of products that used to be locked up behind large companies, are now available to the public.
  • It is not just the fact that there is an explosion of entrepreneurial companies that has led to this current market, but also due to an explosion of services and platforms that are helping the entrepreneurial brands.
  • "In the Gold Rush, you want to be in the pickaxe business, because even people who never find gold still need the tool."

The Right to Exist: Who Says What Products Belong in a Marketplace?:

  • Phillip points out that crowdfunding platforms are an easy way to suss out need for a product in the marketplace.
  • Jules reveals that the audiences on crowdfunding platforms tend to be older males with high disposable incomes, and the powerhouse consumers in the economy are older females with high disposable incomes.
  • There is a whole world of opportunity beyond crowdfunding platforms, and companies like Away earn their place in the market by making the experience of purchasing their products better than that of their competitors.
  • Jules personally does not like some of the trendy brands message of cutting out the middle the middle man to get a better product (which she affirms is a lie).

How We Make Stuff Now: Turn Ideas Into Products That Build Successful Businesses:

  • Jules has written a book called "How We Make Stuff Now: Turn Ideas Into Products That Build Successful Businesses".
  • Based upon ten years of running The Grommet, Jules wrote the book to put all of the things she learned from makers into a form of reference for other makers out there.
  • Writing a book was a low-priority bucket list item for Jules, but she found that there was no book like this out there, so she needed to create one for the industry.
  • Due to her unique background and way of thinking, this book is clearly a stand out from other books out there and is truly unique in its advice and suggestions.

Getting Capital: How To Get Funding for Your Product:

  • CircleUp is a platform that aggregates angel investors and does equity funding in a vetted and curated offering to smaller companies.
  • Phillip spent some time with Jason Calacanis and the world of syndicates and angels doing more passive investment is a new way for companies to bring entrepreneurship to market.
  • Now is such a magical time to build a business because there are so many options available to you in regards to getting funding.
  • Jules sees a huge competitive advantage in pursuing capitalist funds that promote diversity, especially the inclusion of women on their teams.

Predicting the Future: The Standard Future Commerce Question:

  • Phillip asks Jules to talk about a challenge or obstacle that some listeners may be facing right now.
  • Every single week, Jules is blown away by some of the innovations that come through The Grommet.
  • "Sometimes the world is just waiting for you to work an idea. Don't get discouraged if there is no proof that your idea is a great one."
  • If you examine the market and don't see a need for your idea, that could mean that your innovation will be the exact thing that the world is waiting for.

Brands Mentioned in this Episode:

As always: We want to hear what our listeners think! Where was your most unlikely source of inspiration for one of your successful products? How are you capitalizing on today's entrepreneurial market?

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Retail Tech is moving fast, but Future Commerce is moving faster.

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