When Robert Poole started Phresh Picks back in 2008, he himself was smack dab in the middle of the prime customer demographic. At 18 years old Poole was among the young set that demanded quality and value from the products on which they spent their money . But he also had the unique background of growing up around his family’s smoke shop, understanding not just the industry and the market, but also the vital components of running a successful business.
“I was relatable to the consumer, but I also knew how to prospect and followup with customers and bring a level of professionalism to the counterculture industry,” Poole says.
It was a humble beginning with Poole selling overstock from the Albuquerque, New Mexico store out of the back of a beat up van. What kept him going was mission to bring a new level of professionalism to the counter culture industry and to give retailers a true one-stop shopping experience.
With the philosophy that their success is built on that of their customers, Phresh Picks has evolved into an internationally recognized distribution company, with a traveling fleet of vehicles, thousands of SKUs – more than 3,000 if you care to count, and a dedicated staff committed to staying ahead of the latest trends and bringing retailers the hottest new products. If a brand name is worth mentioning, you can be assured it’s offered by Phresh Picks.
“We establish the value of buying a product from Phresh Picks by our uncompromising quality and by building a personal relationship with each customer,” Poole says.
As Phresh Picks has grown, they’ve expanded to having offices in New Mexico and California, and invested in state of the art systems for order fulfillment.
“With the explosive growth in our industry, the most successful manufacturers and distributors are those that can quickly ship complete and accurate orders,” Poole says. “There’s a lot more competition, but there’s also a lot more opportunity. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to the winner being he who has the most control over his business.”
A Glass Act
“Now more than ever, as the industry is just exploding, you can really see the presence of branding and marketing, and having a strong brand identity that consumers can get behind,” Poole says.
With that in mind, Poole launched BLOWN Glass Goods, a complete line of American-made glass smoking accessories — everything from high-end custom pieces to basic beakers and hand pipes, crafted from top-quality German Schott glass.
And as the name implies BLOWN glass has stable of artists with which they work, but it’s not just a bunch of guys in a garage blowing glass — this is a professional operation from production to marketing.
“We’re trying to be professional without losing the soul,” Poole says.
“The pieces are consistent and tight enough that you know it comes from a production company, but they still have their ‘wabi-sabi’ — or unique characteristics. You can tell that the holes were not pushed by a machine and that we actually took the time to fire polish all the slits and holes,” Poole adds. “We’re very critical of the details, because our goal is to deliver a while-glove experience.”
Just as smoke shop customers have become more educated, so have glass enthusiasts — not only about quality and function, but also about creativity and design. Much of that, Poole says, has to do with promotion on social media.
“Even somebody who is just starting out, and who has an internet connection and dedication, can build a following,” Poole says. “Some of the stuff I’ve seen coming out is just amazing.”
What that means for retailers is that customers expect more. Blown Glass understands that market, and offers pieces that command top dollar for those that want a showstopper, all the way down to the bread and butter pieces that the everyday person can afford.
“We love top deal with B2B, and do anything we can to s make it as easy as impossible for them to sell Blown glass,” Poole says.
In a competitive market, brand recognition is crucial in buying decision — that’s one of the reasons that BLOWN provides retailers with attention-getting shelf displays, tube talkers and other point-of-sale materials. BLOWN also promotes its brand and retail locations through innovative social media campaigns. A recent contest sent lucky fans on an all-expenses paid trip to Vegas, and in the future, winners might be headed to Amsterdam.
“We invest a lot into figuring out ways in which we can keep our brand relative and at the forefront,” Poole says. “Because we have solid exposure across the country, people recognize BLOWN as quality.”
“Phresh Picks and Blown are still young companies, and we have the ability to improve and adapt.” Poole continues. “I live for the challenge and the competition, and I love helping and supporting all the people in this industry. I want us all to grow together.”