Startup of the Week: Grovemade

Welcome to the twenty-fifth edition of “Startup of the Week” which features many great startups and interviews with successful business heads. This week, I interviewed Ken Tomita, the co-founder and CEO of Grovemade, a company making beautiful handcrafted products from high-quality natural materials.

I’ve asked Ken a series of questions about Grovemade and tips for budding entrepreneurs. Have a read at what he had to say.

How did the idea of Grovemade come about?

Ken Tomita, the co-founder and CEO of Grovemade.

It was founded in 2009 by myself and a friend, Joe Mansfield. I was a furniture designer/maker and Joe was a laser engraver/digital artist. We decided to join forces to start a company based on a bamboo iPhone case for the iPhone 3G.

Simply, what does your business do?

Maple Desktop Collection by Grovemade.

We design and make high-quality products out of natural materials. Our concept is that by controlling the process from beginning to end and by having a highly motivated team we can create products that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

Did you have a business plan?

Not really beyond just making a really good product and believing it would sell itself. We thought we would start with piggybacking on Apple and then someday being able to have products that stand on their own.

What were the challenges you faced when creating Grovemade?

Maple Desktop Collection by Grovemade.

The first year was tough because I bought a CNC machine on a loan and we had no revenue. Then as our company started to grow rapidly, it was very difficult to fulfill our customers expectations of volume and maintain our sanity. It is very difficult to scale manufacturing quickly.

What is the difference between you and your competitors?

Tabletop Collection by Grovemade.

We don’t really think of having direct competitors. I would say what differentiates us from everyone else is the emphasis on being involved in the whole process from design through fabrication. This allows our products to be much better because we can push the limits of manufacturing. We are also not as growth focused, so we are very careful about the quality of our products and the perception of our brand as being original.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

The people powering Grovemade.

Really look at what matters, what moves the needle for you and focus on that. There is a temptation to do everything because that is just the way we are wired. Sometimes, it is better to let some opportunities pass you by so you can do well at your core competency.

In one word, describe your job?


Twitter: @grovemade
Headquarters: Portland, OR, USA
People: 22

Originally published at on January 29, 2016.

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