by Andrew Park

Catlin Gabel School

Five years ago, Ken Tomita came to Portland, Oregon, hoping to reinvent an emerging industry: The industry of iPhone, iPad, and Macbook cases. He launched his company, Grovemade, built on an uncompromising mission to transform the iPhone case market with unparalleled designs and unique craftsmanship. He started off with just a two-man team, himself and his friend Joe. They rented a room in a rundown building in East Portland and started working on their first product, a case for the iPhone 3GS.

They spent laborious hours designing and hand making the product, and after months, Grovemade launched its first product, an iPhone 3GS all-bamboo case. However, the company’s timing couldn’t have been worse. Apple soon released the iPhone 4, and founder, Ken Tomita, knew that the unlucky timing meant low sales for his iPhone case. For many first-time entrepreneurs, it would be all too easy to quit at this point. Thankfully, Ken Tomita was not your regular entrepreneur.

He graduated high school with no college plans, and when he did find a university, he soon dropped out. It wasn’t an issue of immaturity, though; Ken Tomita was determined to make an impact, but he just needed to find out where’d he make it. That answer came to Ken soon after he left college while he was training with a bamboo master who traveled across the Western United States. Ken Tomita fell in love with bamboo craftsmanship and artistic expression during his mentorship. So, after his training was complete, Ken knew that his career had to involve bamboo, or at least artistic design.

That’s why Tomita never gave up. He was in love with his work, and he was willing to fight through the greatest adversity to share his art with the world. He redesigned a bamboo case design for the newly released iPhone 4 and promptly began manufacturing. Once again it was a time-consuming process of handmade fabrication, but his hard work and resilience paid off.

Tomita’s iPhone 4 case was an immediate success, winning the hearts of buyers all over the country and even overseas. Since then, Grovemade has only been expanding. Now employing over twenty designers and craftsmen, Grovemade is dedicated to providing beautiful, handmade wooden cases for all your handheld design. Here is a link to the website’s web page where you can explore and purchase products:

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

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