Following the unveiling, Joe told Ken that he thought there was major potential in making and selling a phone case composed of natural materials that focused on a high level of craft while being accessible to a large consumer audience. He was so convinced that he made many serious pitches to milling shops around Portland, only to be rejected by every last one. The product would be too complex, too small, too hard to machine. Instead of taking that as a sign, they had a brilliant idea: They'd just do it themselves, investing everything they had in equipment they knew nothing about. What did they have to lose?
To make their case available on a large enough scale, they'd have to employ a CNC mill (a computer-controlled tool capable of reproducing finely detailed cuts). While they knew it could do intricate work, what they didn’t know was how to operate one. But, in keeping with their the-hell-with-it attitude, Ken took out a loan and bought a CNC mill outright, christening it "Rusty". They figured they'd just learn it as they went along.
For the next nine months, Rizzo mentored Yuji on the mill, Ken took the lead with fabrication, and Joe pursued all possible marketing avenues while figuring out how his laser cutter could expedite the manufacturing process. This time was fraught with difficulty. The mill was as much Pandora’s Box as helpful gizmo and the case itself was an enigma due to the rounded geometry of the iPhone 3GS. Still, having gone all-in, there was no choice but to forge ahead.
And then it happened.
The very same day that Grovemade.com went live, the previously unannounced iPhone 4 was leaked to the world when an Apple software engineer left his prototype on a bar stool after his birthday celebration. Suddenly the 3GS was the "old" phone, and everyone was looking at the glorious new iPhone 4. Any coverage Grovemade would have received was buried instantly. The newly minted Grovemade was dead in the water, stuck with a product about as relevant as a rotary phone.
The team set to work immediately. Though they wouldn’t be starting entirely from scratch, they’d still lost the better part of a year’s worth of work in a single day. With the new phone set to drop in less than three months, the race to conceptualize, engineer, and manufacture an entirely new case would be a study in frantic creativity.
By mid-June 2010, they had a photo-ready prototype ready to debut online, and when the iPhone 4 officially went up for pre-sale, the team was able to roll out pre-orders of their new case right alongside it.
This was great news, but completely unanticipated, and everyone’s feelings swung from ecstasy to panic. The business was saved, but how in the world would they gear up to fulfill orders on a global scale overnight?
Thus began a prolonged effort to produce on a scale that should have been well beyond the capacity of a company so small. By toiling around the clock and enrolling family and friends, they took a simple prototype and worked tirelessly to bring it to market.