Alli Cravens has worked in the women's fashion and retail industries, in jewelry and… rotational molding.
She's a fan of polyethylene. And she has a quick sense of humor.
“My experiences in marketing rotomolded products has made me so aware of the benefits that I often look at things and think, ‘that would be better if it was rotationally molded.' When I see new rotomolded products I get very geeky,” she said.
Cravens is director of sales and marketing at Granger Plastics Co. in Middletown, Ohio, known for its rotomolded underground storm shelters. An outgoing woman, she is a natural spokesperson when local reporters call, or the Weather Channel stops by, for a report during severe weather season.
But a lot of what Cravens does is more traditional. “I've written thousands of press releases,” she said.
Cravens, 38, also answers questions from dealers and homeowners. Selling storm shelters is a unique business — a product you hope you never need. It's not like new kitchen cabinets or a new bathroom.
“It's a life-saving product. It's the only home improvement product that'll save your life one day,” she said. “People buy them for the peace of mind. They don't really buy them because they want to use them.”
Granger molds other products at its factory in Middletown, including air cargo shipping containers, custom molded parts, burial urns and cemetery vases. But the Granger ISS Tornado Shelter gets the attention — especially when severe weather strikes. The company sells the shelters to housing developers, but Cravens said the bulk of the market is single-family homeowners.
Alli's husband Shawn Cravens is the general manager and his father Jim is the president and owner.
Shawn Cravens has created about 150 websites for the company, designed to hit on search engine words like storm shelters and funeral products. Alli Cravens develops many of the campaigns, like this year's about tornado planning and safety. The company also explains rotomolding. Consumers typically do research online before making a purchase. “That's really the way that we reach people that are looking for shelters,” she said.
Jim and Shawn Cravens are rotomolding experts. Alli Cravens likes working with customers.
“Even though they know the product better than I do, I can talk about the product way better than they do,” she said, laughing.
Asked to name her biggest failure, Cravens jokes that there are too many to count. “However in the depths of failure I have learned many things. The most important is that the little voice inside your head who wants to talk so much about failure, never really offers any good advice,” she said.
Everyone hears that voice. “I think women listen to that little voice more than men do,” she said. What to do? “Step back, reflect on what went wrong, but concentrate on moving forward rather than rehashing failure again and again.”
Alli and Shawn Cravens have two young daughters. At trade shows, they dress the older one up like Dorothy from the “Wizard of Oz.” They dress up a dummy like the Wicked Witch. Remember the tornado scene?
“We bring them everywhere because people love them,” Cravens said.