For six years, The Grommet has been building a reputation as a clever platform for connecting makers of unique products to consumers who value sustainability, quality, technology, and social enterprise. A shopper on the site today can find anything from flattering bicycling pants to a handcuff for hooking your handbag on your shopping cart to a soda bottle rocket launch pad.
The founders of the e-commerce company, two former Keds and Stride Rite executives, conceived The Grommet as a way to connect independent designers and inventors of innovative products directly to customers. As we described here in March, they’ve helped nearly 3,000 products launch in more than 20 vertical markets since 2008.
Now the Grommet wants to help makers reach even more customers by connecting them with retailers. And it hopes to help Main Street shops compete by getting access to unique items that the big box stores don’t stock. Grommet cofounder Joanne Domeniconi says a new wholesale section of the site will be open to qualified, verified retailers starting in June. Products will first be available from the 100 most successful makers already selling on the consumer site in the gifts, toys, home projects, tech, and gadgets categories.Among them: the Nested Bean baby swaddle, Cuppow's mason jar to-go lids, hand drawn typography maps from I Lost My Dog, Brewsees bottle-opening sunglasses, the Eyn iPhone storage case, and the Silpoura clip-on spout.
Domeniconi is looking for early adopter retailers to join the Grommet community now in advance of the June launch.“It’s all part of our mission to level the playing field for Main Street retailers and Makers,” the company website claims and a video demonstrates.
Domeniconi says the evolution was natural. Already, The Grommet's email newsletter has a large following in the retail sector —from small as well as quite large stores—who like to keep up with the latest product launches. “We’ve grown a wonderful community of people who care about this, and a fairly significant reach to retailers who are passively watching our daily news about new products,” she says. “The natural extension for us was to create a way for retailers to actively participate with our new-to-market products.”
That’s not to say that many retailers haven’t already hooked up with Grommet sellers. Domeniconi and her team gladly connect retailers directly to the makers they inquire about. “The maker is our customer and we’ve always made those introductions outside our own business model,” she says. But, as maker James McDonald testifies on the new wholesale page: “I love selling and interacting with retailers, but don’t get me wrong, I would rather spend that time creating.”
Domeniconi says it’s a common sentiment among her vendors: “For an early-stage entrepreneur, there is so much coming at them at once. You’re in a race to succeed and trying to scale your operations and sales. But if you don’t continue to create product, someone else will come in and extend your offering. Finding the right retailers is crucial."
Adds Domeniconi, “What we’re doing now is facilitating that connection more directly and efficiently with a lot of heart and purpose. We’re hoping to create a whole maker–retailer ecosystem.”