BFA, 1982

Founder of The Grommet


SodaStream is a highly popular home carbonation system. GoldieBlox’s toys and games for girls promote interest in engineering and confidence in problem-solving. Fitbit produces wireless-enabled wearable devices that measure data such as the number of steps walked, quality of sleep and other personal metrics.

While these companies are now well-known brand names, they each got their start on The Grommet, an innovative product launch platform co-founded by Jules Pieri (BFA 1982) in 2008.

“We have an unusual business model,” says Pieri. “Our customer is not the consumer, it is the maker.” And makers on Pieri’s site have an opportunity to introduce their innovations in a very personal way. After submitting their products to Pieri and her team for review (only 3% of all products considered go on to become Grommets), they are introduced and promoted online through a 90-second video where they tell the story of their product’s conception and creation. They also participate in an online chat where potential consumers ask questions for six hours after the product airs, giving makers a chance to engage directly with customers.

Over the seven years since its inception, The Grommet has garnered a reputation among entrepreneurs as a savvy curator of innovative products and as a company that supports those it works with. As Pieri explains, “It’s a community. A big part of what we do is creating a business model that is the antithesis of the nameless, faceless business. We try to model our business on the local village economy, where you knew all the people who made things.”

Read more from the U-M Stamps School of Art & Design.