Update (9/20): Thanks for all of the entries into our Small States giveaway, @morganrhc is our winner and they have been contacted.
Small States features small companies that design and manufacture within the United States.
Introduction It always seems like small companies based in America have great stories. We’ve seen them time and time again as part of our Small States series, from generational pride to simply solving a problem in your life. But sometimes it all just starts by throwing the football from your workshop across the street to another. For Joe Mansfield and Ken Tomita, that’s how things got started. That’s how Grovemade in Portland, Oregon came to be.
The two of them seem to fit together perfectly, a blend of skills that flow as seamlessly as one of their well known iPhone cases. Joe had a background in digital art, while Ken had a knack for furniture design. As a pair they set out with a vision: create high quality products from homegrown materials that customers feel good about.
Background Started in 2009, before crowdfunding became a viral sensation, Grovemade was entirely bootstrap funded by Joe and Ken. They happened to come together at just the right time, initially creating an iPhone 4 case from wood that eventually became very popular as more people got their hands on the latest iDevice. Since then, their product line and company has expanded, but the vision has not.
“When we first started out, all that we wanted to do was create the best iPhone case in the world.” Ken says about their beginning as a company “We didn’t really think much beyond that, there were no thoughts on how to make a great company, or culture and values – it was just make the best iPhone case.”
Products and Culture When you visit their website, it’s easy to see the quality of workmanship that goes into each product. The subtle curves of the wood and the attention to detail in the desk collection are showcased immediately. The company has grown to roughly 20 people since 2009. Despite that growth Ken still strives to keep the company as “flat” as possible:
“The thing that makes me happy about the crew that we have, we can get to a place that individuals can’t. As a team we work well together, taking the best of everyone’s ideas, we can get to a place that no individual can. That’s definitely the story for myself.”
There is a pride that is clearly evident when you speak to Ken, he knows that they have great products but he doesn’t shove their merits in your face. Instead, he speaks proudly of the work environment that they cultivate with a laser-like focus each day. Their motto is the driving force behind everything that they do:
Be Bold // Do Everything Better Be Open // Work Stronger Together Be Bright // Live Positively and be Nice
“Over the years we’ve built a really strong foundation, we’d like to not be considered an iPhone case company but rather a design company, that makes iPhone cases too. I think that we are capable of anything that can be designed and manufactured in any material. We evolved to the point where we do what we do better than anyone else, and if someone else does it better, we let them.”Grovemade started out using some foreign sources for the materials in their products, but they have been able to make the transition to domestic materials. This is especially noticeable with their new lines of walnut and maple products.
“I think that it is what makes our products so good, we are willing to make them from the bottom to the top. One of our slogans is ‘made the hard way’ and that’s what it takes to make it to a high level. Other people are not willing to do that.”
So what is next for Grovemade? Well, Ken and Joe aren’t quite ready to show their cards. But you can now see their new line of iPhone 6 cases which were announced following the Apple Keynote. Additionally, Grovemade is dabbling in traditional watch making, taking a different approach to an industry that at times lacks innovation. They also have a limited edition run of iPhone docks that are currently available, hand milled from solid blocks of brass and steel – you’ll be amazed by the sheer weight of the product. Grovemade is offering 9to5Toys readers a 15% discount off their products this weekend with promo code 9to5Toys (valid 9/13-15).
Giveaway This week, Grovemade is giving away their desk collection, available in walnut or maple, to our readers. This includes the monitor stand, mouse pad, pen cup and desk lamp ($306 value), you can check out the entire collection here. The attention to detail on these products is incredible. They are sure to be a great addition to any workspace. To enter, simply follow us on Twitter and retweet this article to your followers or like us on Facebook and share with your friends.