Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Steel + silicon = business success in Detroit

From time to time we invite guests to post about items of interest and are pleased to have Linzie Venegas join us today. Linzie is head of sales and marketing for Ideal Shield, a manufacturing company in Detroit, Mich. that specializes in bumper post sleeves. Based in a city forged in tradition and steel, Ideal Shield has seen great success on the web—a story Linzie tells us in this post. -Ed.

When my great-grandparents moved from Mexico to Detroit in 1917, they were looking for a better life. They had no idea that one day their grandson, my father Frank Venegas, would invent a product and start a business that would help transform their adopted hometown. Thanks to my dad’s hard work and a little help from the web, that’s exactly what Ideal Shield has done.

Ideal Shield specializes in manufacturing bumper post sleeves. You may have seen these around—they’re colorful covers that slide over the steel pipes that keep cars from running into buildings. As a young child, my first job at Ideal was to assemble mailers for potential customers. Our mailers were unique—I would place a pack of jelly beans into each envelope. Talk about a great way to get a high “clickthrough rate!” Today, I head sales and marketing for the company, and we’ve taken our family business online with phenomenal results.

Ideal Shield’s father-daughter team Frank and Linzie Venegas in the factory surrounded by bumper post sleeves and guard rails.

We began using Google AdWords in 2004 to help potential customers find our product because many people didn’t know what it was. We were drawn to AdWords because everyone could see our ads—but we only had to pay for the customers who clicked through to our website. We also found that the leads were very qualified and had a higher close rate than leads from other sources. So far this year, for every $1 we've spent on AdWords we’ve gotten back $22. We’ve been able to have great success—without jelly beans!—using Google AdWords.

The energy we’ve put into our online presence has produced tremendous growth for our business; we’ve been able to grow our workforce by 20 percent. We’ve also focused on building our local community of Southwest Detroit. Each year we hire many interns from the local high school, Detroit Cristo Rey, and teach them skills that will last a lifetime. We’ve outfitted the junior and senior classes at Detroit Cristo Rey with Chromebooks so that they’ll have access to the power of the web anywhere, and many teachers there use the free Google Apps for Education suite with their students. This year, we were proud to hear that Detroit Cristo Rey achieved a 100% graduation rate and a 100% college acceptance rate. We also work with the Michigan Minority Business Development Council to teach other small businesses in the community the importance of an online strategy and how the web can help small businesses thrive.

My dad started Ideal with himself, my mother and a couple of laborers; today this family business has more than 35 employees and annual sales of $14 million. With help from the web, his hard work, determination and “out of the box” thinking have made Ideal a symbol of strength and renewal in Southwest Detroit. My father has always told me that if you take care of the community, the community will take care of you. Detroit is our community—it’s our heart, it’s our home. We’ve been surprised and delighted at how much the web has contributed to Ideal Shield, and we’re happy to share that success with Detroit. We can’t wait to do more!