In How We Make Stuff Now, Jules Pieri―cofounder and CEO of The Grommet, a product launch platform that helps innovative products reach a community of millions―guides you through every step of the consumer product creation process.
The origins of The Grommet was when I discovered the chokehold big retailers had over the flow of new consumer products. I saw it most dramatically at Playskool, when our best product ideas would routinely die on the vine. I asked my boss (who has since become famous—Meg Whitman), “What gives?” She replied, “Independent toy stores used to be where we took our best new products to prove them out. They took risks but they are few and far between these days. Now, if Kmart, Target, Toys R Us, or Walmart don’t want it, it can’t get made.”
It was then that I realized the opportunity that existed for The Grommet—to serve as a product discovery platform that would launch new products to a community of the eager and perpetually curious—people who also want to support innovation, entrepreneurship, and small businesses.
On April 23, 2019 my book “How We Make Stuff Now: Turn Ideas into Products That Build Successful Businesses” will make its debut. For me it’s a pivotal moment, just like the fateful October afternoon in 2008 when we pressed a button that has shaped every waking hour of my life since: the button that launched The Grommet.
The Grommet’s mission was, and remains to this day, to be a product discovery platform that strives to fight for the little guy; the local Makers and small businesses who have worked hard to develop innovative and unique consumer products in a business landscape that is stacked against them.
But after working with over 3,000 Makers, launching a new product every weekday since 2008, I learned that most of them “don’t know what they don’t know” about the journey they are about to embark upon. I also saw that so many entrepreneurs were solving the same problems over and over again—and in isolation.
I wrote this book because I wanted to help future Makers, inventors, and entrepreneurs out.
So how does one take an idea and turn it into a successful business? That was the integral question that inspired my book. I wanted to document the ugly, confusing, grueling, and (in the end) entirely rewarding process that Makers must go through to turn their ideas into a profitable business. Backed by case studies, engaging anecdotes, and personal experiences, Makers will learn step by step how to approach every obstacle they might encounter, and walk away with the tools to build the 16 necessary competencies their company will need to be credible, viable, and successful.
According to research from the Kauffman Foundation (and reported by Inc. magazine), “the number of companies less than a year old had declined as a share of all businesses by nearly 44 percent between 1978 and 2012.” As corporations and giant conglomerates such as Amazon take over our consumer-driven economy, they are stomping out any and all competitors who might dare to challenge them. In true David vs. Goliath fashion, our economy needs the Davids to prevail before every facet of our day-to-day consumer lives is dictated by Goliaths. We need Makers to have a fighting chance, and sites like The Grommet to give them that chance.
Over the last twenty years, however, it has gotten easier and easier to launch a consumer product company. We have seen how the internet and technologies like 3D printing, CNC routers, and laser cutters intersect with crowdfunding, rapid prototyping, and e-commerce to allow anyone turn an idea into a consumer product business. And we are likely at the very beginning of what will be a Third Industrial Revolution, where products will be created by anyone with the idea and fortitude to bring it to life.
What’s happening in product innovation parallels what happened in software over the last few decades. When you put the tools of creation into people’s hands they make stuff. This democratization has occurred in every aspect of company building. This trend, known widely as the Maker Movement, has really been around since the the beginning of civilization with the invention of the primitive stone tools. But we’ve come so far since then that instead of creating tools that are necessary to survive that we’ve moved on to creating inventions and gadgets that make our day-to-day life easier.
I wrote this book because I hope people of all ages will see themselves in the dozens of case studies about real life Makers. And if they—or you—have an ambition to start a product company, they’ll feel like the book is their map and guide.
So if you have an idea, a dream, or even just an inkling, “How We Make Stuff Now” will be your most valuable resource, and who knows? Maybe one day I’ll get to meet you at The Grommet and we can help turn your dream into reality.
Jules Pieri is Co-founder & CEO of The Grommet, a site that has launched more than 3,000 innovative consumer products since 2008. The company’s Citizen Commerce™ movement is reshaping how products are discovered, shared, and bought. Jules started her career as an industrial designer for technology companies and was an executive at Keds, Stride Rite, and Playskool. She was named one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2013 and one of Goldman Sachs’ 100 Most Interesting Entrepreneurs in 2014. She is an Entrepreneur in Residence Emeritus at Harvard Business School and an investing partner at XFactor Ventures.