YOU BETTER WORK! Yes, the first 30 seconds of this podcast is an excerpt from Rupaul’s Supermodel (You Better Work).
There has been a lot of local and national news around Drag Queens. We wanted to talk about these performers and how they really embody the pure spirit of entrepreneurship – creating something out of nothing, overcoming obstacles, facing fear and failure, developing a brand, marketing/sales, building an audience, etc.
“The least paid person in any organization is often the person who interacts with the customer first. If you intend to have a purpose that communicates with the customers, then you must motivate the person who has the least amount of skin in the game to identify with the purpose and connect it to the customer experience.”
We commented on Whole Foods and their healthy discount. The press is mixed on this as it originally included larger discounts for lower BMI scores as one unit of measure. This was not taken well by some obesity educators and activists. Overall, a better discount for those who can lower their cholesterol and stop smoking sounds like good motivation to us.
This time we follow up on the roll: Bicycle Company kickstarter who have reached over $23k in their efforts to get this new venture. With plenty of early bird bikes left ($150 discount!), they should surely hit their goal of $40k in the next 19 days. Help them out! Even $15 gets you a sweet roll: water bottle. They just today posted a video with Jeni’s CEO John Lowe about why he loves the new bikes (Sweet!).The other cool entrepreneurs we saw at the event: Joe DeLoss, Jeni Britton Bauer, and cancer crusader Doug Ulman (he has over 1m followers on twitter)!
You can buy his book of poetry at Button Poetry’s website. You can also read his terrific MTV articles here. Listen in the episode for Karim’s explanation of how Hanif’s name translates from the Arabic to English in a very appropriate way.
Secondly, we discussed The Missing Piece: Doing Business the Donatos Way by Jane Grote Abell. Daniel thought he “grew up” on Donatos Pizza, but Jane explains how she literally grew up with Donatos. She covers everything from the first restaurant that Jim Grote bought from Don Potts, to the Edge to Edge trademark and litigation with Pizza Hut, then the BuyOut from McDonald’s, and Jane’s journey through all of it –including her decision to convince the family to buy back the business from McDonalds only 4 years after its purchase (she even discusses her Undercover Boss episode)
We know you will love this episode. Please subscribe and share with your friends! Also, leave a comment about any entrepreneur you want us to follow or investigate!
also, here is what we watched during the session to keep us laughing:
When I was 18, and planning the next phase of my life, I went into a theater as a weird teenager filled with doubt about the world. I came out of that theater -still a weird teenager – but now filled with wonder in the world.
David Copperfield flew around the stage as audience members were selected to watch from below. He flew through obstacles and inside plexiglass boxes – dispelling all doubt that this was an illusion. He closed his show recounting his memory of his first snowfall – then shooting snow out his hands. Watch how he does this:
David Copperfield is the most successful illusionist in history (even knighted by the French).
I called this post “Data Copperfield” because, like David, big data has been touted as the biggest thing in business. In 2014, I attended the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show in NYC. IBM CEO Ginny Rometty took the main stage at the Javitz Center and said, “Data is a raw material, like gold or coal or iron ore. It is how we take that raw material and use it that adds value.”
David Copperfield’s memory of his first snowfall as an 8 year-old David Seth Kotkin is just a simple childhood memory. In his hands, however, he wraps a story around and leads to a crescendo including two illusions that cause the audience to leap to their feet with applause.
As businesses, small and big, your job is to do the same for your clients/customers. How will you take your raw data and use it in a way that is seamless and somehow magical?
Companies that do this well, like Amazon and Google and Facebook, deliver content you want to see before you know it exists. When I send an email about a trip to Hawaii, my Google ads/results begin to craft around that interest. When I buy a Janet Evanovich book for my Kindle, Amazon suggests books other readers have also downloaded. Facebook shows me my network’s posts that match my recent or trending interests.
To get a great example of how this works, use Google to search for something on your computer. Then search for the exact same thing on your spouse’s computer. Now try the computer at the library or the Apple store. Your results are divergent and distorted because these other devices are not connected to you. Google doesn’t know you at the library unless you are signed in.
These examples for these huge tech companies seem logical, but data is really integral to the of small businesses as well. As a small retail business, it is imperative that your email list, e-commerce engine, and POS systems communicate to effectively build quality data on your customers. (*Quality* is key: garbage in = garbage out). When you can cross reference this info to identify trends in demographics and habits, you can engage your customers in meaningful ways that lead to higher conversion rates and less abandoned shopping carts.
When polled, customers will say they do not want to be monitored online by what they view or listen to or buy. When you say rather, “would you like to do business with a brand that caters to your preferences” they overwhelmingly say yes. There is a disconnect as to what they say versus how they behave.
Data is theater. The work put in on the front end needs to produce a well-executed illusion for the consumer that adds value to their experience.
For example: Just like magic, whether I click the ♥ or not, Instagram knows I love George Takei memes and delivers them to me on the regular.
This post is designed to explain how I went from wanting to be an anthropology loving priest to a retailer working for the world’s biggest bra business.
“MOM! DAD! I’m gonna be an anthropologist!”
My parents, Clay and Nancy, made sure their five children spent vacations learning about the world. On our big trip out west, the Grand Canyon, four corners, Rocky Mountains, rafting down the Snake river, the hot springs of Ouray, train and gold rush at Silverton, and a stop at Mesa Verda were all on the agenda.
I spent at least an hour with a park ranger at Mesa Verde learning about the Pueblo people who had carved out an existence into these Colorado cliffs. The ranger told me I could study Anthropology if I wanted to know more.
As I ran through the national park and cliff palaces I screamed that I had found my calling.
As I got older, I began to see a future as a Catholic priest. I was enamored with the role for a number of reasons: you get to sing in front of a crowd, guaranteed a job, help people solve problems, and all the altar wine you can drink (among other noble reasons)! As I tied this interest to my Anthropology passion, I began to see a future as a missionary. Bringing Catholicism to the people of the world from the vantage point of social science scholar seemed like an asset.
In my sophomore year in college, I learned more about the world’s people than any of my family vacations could have prepared me for. The religions and cultures were so rich and diverse. So many of them shared the same themes of community and “golden rule” reciprocity. Whenever missionaries were brought into focus, the example was not of loving people of God who bring health and happiness. Instead, missionaries of different religions or denominations often fought for commitments from people who were not equipped to understand the scope of motives involved. In fact, many missionaries compete in the same communities often destroying culturally significant practices and monuments in the process.
It became clear that the missionary and the anthropologist were meant to be mutually exclusive pursuits. I evaluated my intentions and determined that a life in the priesthood wasn’t a calling, but probably an exercise in self-reflection.
After finishing my Anthropology degree at the University of Cincinnati, my father told me that Anthro majors were needed in business. (Read more about that here). I kept this advice in mind as my first year after school included working in a high end restaurant, substitute teaching, retreats management, and retail. My anthro studies informed so many of my experiences across these jobs. When it came to finding a culture that fit my own, The Container Store stood out. (This year, they hit Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work for at number 14. Seventeen years at the top of the list.)
I fell in love with retail. It is like being on stage every day. Each customer is a new audience for the products and service you are offering. The privilege of providing a terrific place to work cannot be overstated. This dynamic workplace is always in motion. Retail employs the third largest workforce in America (only Education/Heath Services, and Professional/Business Services employe more). I wanted to be a part of making retail known as a Good Job. (Read more about ways we can do that in Zeynep Ton’s book.)
This passion led to various positions and a scholarship opportunity from the National Retail Federation and the University of Phoenix. After winning the Dream BIG scholarship* and earning my MBA, I wanted to have an even greater impact on the future of retail. When approached by L Brands to lead Victoria’s Secret PINK at their flagship store in Columbus, I weighed a number of considerations. The most convincing argument for leaving TCS after 13 years was a quote from a dear friend, “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about something I learned from Les Wexner.” I am extremely lucky to be a part of this worldwide brand.
My job takes advantage of my experience and education, but also gives me a lot to learn. For starters, there is an art to how to fold a panty.
While I did not see this career path as a 12 year old running through Mesa Verde, I am excited to be living it and proud to be a retailer.
*If you want to be considered for this years DREAM BIG Scholarship, you have until the end of March to apply!
(Disclaimer – this post includes stories of suicide and could be considered sensitive content)
Saw a great movie about a month ago. The End of The Tour, with Jason Segal & Jesse Eisenberg, is about an interview that David Lipsky of Rolling Stone recorded with David Foster Wallace – Harvard grad and author of Infinite Jest who battled depression and took his own life in 2008 at 46 years old.
His explanation of how one sees suicide as a viable choice was beautiful.
“When somebody leaps from a burning skyscraper, it’s not that they are not afraid of falling anymore, it’s that the alternative is so awful. And so then you are invited to consider what can be so awful that leaping to your death would seem like an escape from it…a spiritual crisis. Feeling as though every action in your life turned out to be false and there was actually nothing, and you were nothing. And it’s all a delusion and you are so much better than everybody because you can see it’s all a delusion. And you are so much worse because you can’t function. It’s really horrible.”
This paragraph of monologue is so poignant. Personally, in my own experience, these thoughts on suicide are perfectly described. As a teenager, I went through a challenging time to understand my validity and personal self worth. The following is an account of my own struggles. (These are struggles I own and do not blame on anyone else’s behavior or treatment toward me. I also know this content may be a surprise to many close to me. Please know that you have all been a reason I am still here.)
School was so difficult, I used to make excuses for being sick. I created fake vomit for the toilet from kool-aid, milk and chunks of bread so my mom would believe I was throwing up. She left me in the living room with a thermometer and I would put the tip on a nearby lightbulb to escalate the temperature – anything to get out of another day.
Around me, in an all boy Catholic college prep high school, I was confronted with obstacles hourly. When testosterone and high school politics mix in an unchecked environment, there is often collateral damage. Everyone used the word “faggot” or “gay.” These weren’t specific attacks on any perceived sexuality mostly – just generalized provocations designed to cut deep as a passing insult. To me, however, I felt found out. I believed soon enough that I would be exposed and my family would put me on the street.
A rational person wouldn’t believe that. No one who knew my family would think that. In my mind, however, I felt like a burden. I thought about this all the time. I knew that they would be better off without me. I had a twin, so, I figured they wouldn’t miss me. In fact, I even contemplated the idea that God had made a mistake with me and got it right with my brother.
I made plans and designed ideas about how I would do it. Then, one day, it came time. I didn’t care what a bottle of pills would do to me. Whatever happened, it was far better than the alternative.
Somewhere near my 15 birthday, I went into the medicine cabinet in the kitchen, grabbed the first bottle I found and ran upstairs with a pepsi in the other hand. I quickly entered my bedroom at the top of the stairs and closed the door. My desk was next to my bed. I remember pouring the pills onto the desk top and looking at the pile of ibuprofen. I counted them. I grouped the 30 pills into piles of 5 and then swallowed each pile with a gulp of pepsi. After the desk was empty, and the bottle now in the trash, I laid down and oddly felt happy. It was as if I finally followed through with something really important to me. I thought this would somehow solve a lot of problems for my family. I went to sleep – fully intending to not wake up.
Instead, I woke to the familiar sounds of my siblings stirring and my mom, knocking on my door, “Dan get up! Time for school.” I thought I was dreaming or I was a ghost or something else. I couldn’t believe I was still there. Not only was I not dead, but I felt great. I wasn’t even sick.
I became consumed with the idea of a different attempt.
As a junior in high school, the most difficult academic year, and one that includes a lot of pressure to plan the rest of your life, I remember waking up in the kitchen. It wasn’t the first time I sleepwalked – it was one of the rarer side effects of my asthma meds. I looked at my right wrist, where my left hand was stabbing a steak knife deep enough to draw blood.
As I type this, almost 20 years later, I still see the scar.
Calmly and quietly (to not wake my family), I rinsed the knife and my arm. My whole body was shivering. I wasn’t cold. Looking back, I identify it as shock. Two divergent emotions at once – numb and alive. After getting back into bed, I decided that must have been saved for something. I started thinking about my future.
(side note: Ten years after that incident, I read a report that linked asthma and some asthma drugs with an increase in suicidal thoughts and attempts.)
I guess why I am writing this now because I have not been afraid of these feelings for a long time. I feel related to that scared teenager, but he does’t represent who I am today. That experience may be why I am such an optimistic person now. Every day is a gift.
I have a phenomenal network of friends and family. I am grateful for a robust and beautiful life.
When you read about suicide in the paper or hear about someone who is challenged with these thoughts, do not write them off. It is easy from the outside looking in to assign blame and judgement. You don’t need to, however. From the inside looking out, that kid has placed more blame and judgement on himself than anyone can imagine or understand. Suicide, on its face, seems selfish – “the easy way out.” In fact, it is often rationalized as an act of love and altruism – a sacrifice in order for the ones he loved to go on without his burdensome life.
On Presidents’ Day, here are some facts about the first female presidential candidate (spoiler, she was a badass. Also, read to the end – there is a lot to this woman):
name: Victoria Woodhull (born 1838 Victoria California Claflin) sidenote: when people would ask just how liberal is she, she responded, “Liberal?! Heck, California is my middle name!” #noshedidnt #butstill)
Hometown: Homer, Ohio. (Coincidentally, this is the site of the 80 mile stop on the 100 mile Pelotonia ride to end cancer each year.) Then she moved to NYC and finally England where she died in the countryside in 1927 (88 years old!)
Father: He was a real snake oil salesman. Famously, he heavily insured his mill, then burned it down. Then, having been found to be an arson and a fraud, was subject to a first-of-its-kind “crowdfunding” by the city to raise enough money to force the Claflin’s to move out of Ohio! (true story)
Marriages: 1853, At only 15 years old, she married 29 year old Canning Woodhull (divorced him after her kids were born #BecauseAlcoholism). Then to Colonel Blood (I am not making this up). Then an affair with an anarchist before divorcing Blood in 1876. Finally, she married banker John Biddulph Martin in 1883 (in England, against his family’s wishes) until his death when she moved to the English countryside.
Children: Son – Byron (severly intelectually disadvantaged), and Daughter – Zulu – yes, Zulu – later changed to Zula.
year of campaign: 1872 (lost to U.S. Grant)
party: equal rights party
main platform: women’s suffrage, free love (later in life she expressed an anti-abortion, but pro-eugenics stance. she also recognized that the demand for abortion arises out of societal and systematic ills on a woman)
running mate: Frederick Douglass (yes, that Frederick Douglass, even though he didn’t publicly agree to be her running mate)
Backed by Wall Street: Her and her sister, Tennesee (her dad liked state names, I guess), began the first Wall Street brokerage owned by women (see photo of them whipping the “bulls & bears” of wall street) – Her sister later married a Portuguese baron and became Lady Cook, Viscountess of Montserrat #winning
Endorsed by: Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly – the newspaper she and her sister published (one of the first ever published by women)
Scandal: Arrested a few days before election for obscenity charges for an article she wrote about an adulterous affair of a prominent minister
Legacy: a 1980 musical was written about her called “Onward Victoria” with such numbers as “Magnetic Healing”, “Unescorted Women,” and “Every Day a do a Little Something for the Lord.”
AND in 2012, an Opera called Mrs. President premiered in Anchorage to a good review:
“Sentries in Union soldier uniforms at the doors of the theater nicely set the flavor of the period.”
“It rolled on like a locomotive. The thing ran two hours with intermission without lagging.”
See this video of “Unescorted Women” (starts at 9:20)
A woman should rise “from sexual slavery to sexual freedom, into the ownership and control of her sexual organs, and man is obliged to respect this freedom, then will this instinct become pure and holy; then will woman be raised from the iniquity and morbidness in which she now wallows for existence, and the intensity and glory of her creative functions be increased a hundred-fold.”
“Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere.”
SO, tonight, raise a glass to Victoria, Mrs. President, Home(r)town hero!