Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Nicest Party I've Ever Been To: A Christmas Story

The Nicest Party I've Ever Been To: A Christmas Story
By: Jake Kilroy | December 23, 2008 2:38 PM

As an employer, you see Christmas parties one of two ways: something you have to do or something you want to do.

And the party you throw shows which you believe.

I've been to both kinds. I've had the good food, I've had the bad food, I've shown up in jeans, I've shown up in slacks, etc. And I'd rather not talk about the bad Christmas parties, where you can feel the boss's teeth grinding while he watches his employees eat the Mexican buffet he felt he had to buy just to please someone other than himself, like you love your job 364 days out of the year and on Christmas, should be buying him dollar store gifts.

No, I'd rather talk about the best company Christmas party I've ever been to, in hopes that employers will give a second thought about their Christmas party and employees.

In 2007, I was working as a screen printer at J&M Promotions in Orange, Calif. Jack and Michele Ohanian ran J&M Promotions, a uniform, specialty items and screen-printing company.

The headquarters was an office with an attached warehouse. Those in the office were generally adults and those in the warehouse were generally obnoxious.

I was of course in the warehouse.

My job was pretty ideal actually. The warehouse crew was 10-20 local high school and college boys who all knew each other somehow. We got the job done, but we got to talk while doing it. We rarely had to talk to customers and we were paid a couple bucks above minimum wage for a job that I'm pretty sure robots could do.

December rolled around and I received my invitation to the Christmas party in the mail. Quite formal for a job where you know everyone's name and see your bosses and co-workers every day, I thought.

Having attended previous work Christmas parties at roller rinks and bowling alleys, the location of J&M's Christmas party caught me off-guard. It was at The Catch, a slightly upscale seafood restaurant.

"[We had to] find a facility that could accommodate our 40 guests and a place where we knew the food was good and we would be well taken care of," Michele recalls.

Since my good friend Chris also worked there, I carpooled with him and his girlfriend, Traci. And since my girlfriend was abroad at the time, I brought my buddy Rex, who made an exceptional substitute and plus one.

The four of us strolled in and couldn't believe we were in the right place. It was a legitimate company Christmas party with all the attendees dressed so much nicer than they usually were (at work). It was in a festively decorated private room with a piano and a Christmas tree surrounded by gifts.

Jack and Michele welcomed us like family and we greeted our peers with handshakes and hugs instead of high-fives. The Ohanians took cutesy pictures of the couples (Rex and I posed magnificently and would've probably won if there was some kind of contest) and asked employees to write down their favorite Christmas memory on a piece of paper upon arriving. Furthermore, there was a table of appetizers and an open bar, complete with a bartender who was generous with the whiskey.

After an hour of talking up good cheer, we took our seats. Jack gave a toast and we ate, all amongst our several different tables. Like actual adults. Again, most of the payroll were twentysomething dudes that I usually saw in jeans, so such a formal event seemed almost spiritual in nature.

There were two bottles of wine on each table and a box of See's Candies on each plate. They served steak, ahi tuna and vegetarian pasta. We all conversed much more politely than we did at work, many of us in ties now with our girlfriends present.

After dessert was served, employees would take turns reading aloud a fellow co-worker's name and favorite Christmas memory, and the person would choose a wrapped gift underneath the Christmas tree, while the rest of those at the tables clapped and yelled jokes.

"We wanted to have some sort of a fun little game to get to know each other a little better at the party. We had all the employees complete this statement, 'My favorite Christmas memory is...,'" Michele remembers. "And it was fun to hear what everyone's memory of Christmas is, from family time to actual events and gifts received. Each employee also received a $50 gift card for various things, such as Best Buy, Trader Joe's, iPod music, gas cards, restaurant gift cards, Nordstrom, etc."

It was pretty wild and actually slightly suspicious to me, since I had never had such warmth and respect at a job before. I recently asked Chris what he thought of last year's party. Knowing full-well I was writing this blog, he said, "I felt like the belle of the ball. I felt like first prize and I was being awarded to myself. Keep that. You're going to quote me on that, right? Say that I said that."

Once dessert was finished, we stood around talking in different social circles, holding our gift cards, chocolate and fourth round of the open bar. It was warm, it was friendly, it was Christmas. It was like all of those old holiday songs were written about this party, though there was no fireplace, no snow or sleigh rides and I don't think anybody's eaten chestnuts in anticipation for Christmas since the 19th century. By the end of the evening, Jack was cracking jokes with Rex, and Michele knew Traci's name.

On the way home, eating our boxes of chocolate, the four of us compared the J&M Christmas party to previous work parties we had each attended over the years. This was the first one any of us had attended with an open bar. "Anytime you can get drunk and your boss pays for it, that's a Merry Christmas," Chris says.

An open bar to twentysomethings is like a free candy store to kids.

"We had an exceptional year [of 2007] and we wanted to have a nice celebration of our appreciation of the wonderful people we have [and had] working with us," Michele says. "We do have nice Christmas parties each year. Sometimes, we celebrate in our home and sometimes we celebrate at an outside facility. Each year we try to have something memorable for the employees to show our gratitude."

The Ohanians spent around $6,200 on J&M Promotions' 2007 Christmas party. And that didn't include the bonuses each of us received, either.

However, business has slowed down considerably this year, along with many small businesses across the country. And sadly, it's affected the Christmas party. "[This year] is a little different in that we did not extend an invitation to include employee spouses or guests," says Michele.

But that won't stop the Ohanians from treating their employees to a nice Christmas celebration.

"This year, we are hosting a luncheon for our employees at Mr. Stox," Michele says.

Now, I don't know if you've ever been to Mr. Stox in Orange, but it's the type of place where the valets need valets and the food looks like it's delivered by The Food Network. I've only been there once and it was for my father's 50 birthday. The only restaurant I could imagine nicer is one run by Helen Mirren and James Bond somewhere in Dubai.

So, really, next year when you throw your companny Christmas party...be the employer that wants to do it, wants to show appreciation, wants the pat on the back to last another year. If you give a little extra in December, your employees will give a little extra the other 11 months.

Because I'll tell you right now, nobody wants to work for The Grinch.

Because I'll tell you right now, nobody wants to work for Ebenezer Scrooge.

Because I'll tell you right now, nobody wants to work for Mr. Potter.

Ok, you know what? I can't think of a way to end this whole thing so it doesn't sound campy, cheesy and stupid. Just throw an awesome company Christmas party. Bottom line: be kind for a better bottom line.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Better Entrepreneur: Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark? (Part II)

Better Entrepreneur: Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark? (Part II)
By: Jake Kilroy | December 19, 2008 9:51 AM

Two days ago, I wrote a blog about Batman and Ironman.

Or at least the businessmen underneath the armor. Who was the better entrepreneur, Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark? Which company was better, Wayne Enterprises or Stark Industries?

I wanted to know. So I asked three of my friends to weigh in on Wednesday.

Now, I'd like to compare their perspective and insight to the reason and logic of an all-star panel of actual entrepreneurs and financial experts.

Alone, they are presidents, founders, professors and directors, but together, they are...The Panel of Truth & Justice!

The Panel of Truth & Justice:
- Patricia Greene, Professor in Entrepreneurship at Babson College
- Christine Moriarty, President of MoneyPeace, Inc.
- Rohan Hall, Founder/CEO of rSitez Inc. and Creator of a social networking site for Ironman
- John "JT" Taddeo, Creator of Zoom Suit, founder of Voodoo Tiki and Co-Owner of restaurant with Adam West
- Michele Harris, President of Smarti Solutions
- Laurent Duperval, President of Duperval Consulting, Inc.
- Eric Papp, President of Generation Y Results-Based Consulting LLC
- Drew Stevens PhD, President of Stevens Consulting Group
- Brian Moriarty, Associate Director for Communications at the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics
- Dayman [absent], Fighter of the Nightman, Champion of the Sun, Master of Karate and Friendship to Everyone

I'm not going wrap up anything at the end of each question, like I did in my last blog. I did not quote everyone for every question. Also, there are more gray areas considered here and more experience to consider. I made sure that each member of The Panel of Truth & Justice was quoted for 5 out of the 7 questions, because The Panel of Truth & Justice also stands for equality. And hope. And dreams. And sometimes, foreign cinema.

To the questiooooooooons!

1. Which company would you prefer to work for?

"Stark Industries. I am a tech guy and Tony has more cool stuff than Bruce. To work for an interesting and innovative company, Stark Industries seems to be the winner. To work with a stable company, Wayne Enterprises wins. It's like Google vs. Microsoft. Both good companies, but going at different speeds." - Rohan

"I'd work for Wayne Enterprises. Bruce Wayne is a hands-off CEO. He trusts his people and lets them do their job. This is shown in the way he treats Lucius Fox." - Eric

"In would entirely depend on what you did in the company and what you wanted from it. WayneCorp is probably the kinder, gentler company. After all, in one of the movies, the press announce that there will be profit-sharing for employees and Bruce Wayne also has the factory manager's family receive full benefits on his 'suicide,' although he is reminded that it is not company policy. The culture at Stark looks quite different with Obadiah yelling at his scientist, although to be fair, he was under a bit of strain at the moment. But, even so, seems like they would be quite different cultures. Bruce seems to respect people in general. Tony, not so much. So for where to work, I'd go with Bruce." - Patricia

"Based upon the end of the Ironman film, it looks like Tony might be getting into the energy business, but in the short term, the bulk of Stark International's incoming $21 billion a year is clearly attributed to weapons sales. The same thing day in and day out can get awfully monotonous for a high impact executive. I hate cash cows. Give me start-ups, launch phases and a board so far at their wits' end that they're willing to stay out of my way and 'rubber stamp' what a sacred cow would consider unbelieveable. At Wayne Enterprises, with her hundreds of sectors across a dozen industries, I'd find enough problematic, underperforming and in need of revamping companies and divisions to keep me challenged and busy for a lifetime." - JT

2. Who would you rather have as your business partners?

"Being partners with Bruce and his widely horizontally integrated Wayne Enterprises would offer an unprecedented degree of control and synergy that would allow business and marketing plans to be implemented swift and powerfully." - JT

"Bruce Wayne. With Tony Stark, it's all about Tony. I feel I would constantly be in a battle with him and I'm not sure he's open to listening. Bruce Wayne, while broody and moody, you can reason with. He'll listen and won't do the opposite, just to do the opposite. I wouldn't like him as a friend though, because emotionally, it would be too draining." - Laurent

"Definitely Bruce Wayne. He was a stronger, more stable personality and maintained control of his company, filled with solid, trustworthy businessmen. Tony Stark was a tempermental and instable CEO." - Michele

"I would prefer to work with Tony. I like his energy and drive, as well as his refusal to quit. Tony works business from the gut and I like that, as it resembles my persona." - Drew

"I'd partner with Bruce Wayne. I think he would be easier to get along with than Tony. Tony would be overbearing and would want everything done his way. He is a one man band. Bruce believes in partnerships. This is evident with him and Alfrd." - Eric

"As an inventor, Stark is much more of a rock star than Wayne. Despite, Stark's appeal, Wayne would be a better business partner. Stark has lost his company a number of times, often due to his own foibles, such as his alcoholism. Wayne is more of a wise enabler who brings out the best in others." - Brian

"Working with Tony, pre-life-altering experience, would always be exciting, but you know you'd take a royal amount of abuse. Partnering with Bruce would most likely be milder as he hides in his public persona. He keeps his widler side for Batman. While pursuing risk is only an entrepreneurial stereotype, Tony's risk-taking is evident in both os his personas, while Bruce saves his for Batman. On this one, I'd go with Tony." - Patricia

"Bruce as a partner would be fabulous. He is not just the son of an entrepreneur, he is one in his own right. He is a hard worker and a gentleman, both qualitites in a respected business partner. Also, Bruce is more appealing because he is better looking." - Christine

"Wayne, because the Wayne businesses seems to be more diversified in various industries and are run more smoothly. There is Wayne Tech for alien technologies, Wayne Biotech for healthcare, Wayne Foods, Wayne Shipping, Wayne Steel, Wayne Aerospace, Wayne Chemicals, etc. WayneCorp has been around since the 17th Century and is well-managed, so being a business partner with Bruce Wayne is not such a bad deal. Tony Stark, on the other hand, is like a mad genius. Very exciting highs and very fast lows." - Rohan

3. Who is the most grounded to his entrepreneurial roots?

"Neither are founders, but both are builders. Tony is the most evident inventor and prior to his conversion, explicitly true to the roots of his company. Bruce seems less about the business and more about how he uses his wealth to help. And, depending upon which Batman it is, and I'm partial to the Michael Keaton version, to be a humanitarian, hosting seriously great charity events that are then usually robbed. For this one, I'm with Bruce." - Patricia

"The Wayne Family Foundations are an important part of Bruce Wayne entrepreneurial activities. The soup kitchens and other organizations they fund keep them in contact with people who are disadvantaged and ill, the very people some of his company's divisions are meant to serve. This helps keep his firm grounded in a moral purpose." - Brian

"Tony Stark was more grounded to his entrepreneurial roots. He created his ultimate technology product through his own ingenuity from practically nothing. He creatred Iron Man as a product extension from defense technology he was already selling. The product created competition in the market, which forced him to make product improvements. This led to a better product, landed him government contracts and increased Stark Industries' market share." - Michele

"The typical entrepreneur will have his hand in everythign and is constantly pushing in unknown and new directions. Tony Stark does that with the constant reinvention of his company. From munitions to consulting to other endeavors, he adapts, changes quickly and shows remarkable resiliency." - Laurent

"When you get right down to it, Tony is 51% Steve Wozniak and only 49% Steve Jobs, while Bruce is 100% Bill Gates, circa 1990. He takes no prisoners, and if there's even a chance you'll be a worthy competitor tomorrow, he buys you and Netscape out today. So, based upon the 'comic book' version of business, finance and entrepreneurship, most of the time written by guys that have exactly zero experience in these disciplines and don't have 20 bucks in their pocket, Bruce is far more entrepreneurial." - JT

4. Who had a better strategy for building up his company?

"Bruce Wayne had a better strategy for building his company. He had the vision and foresight to get involved in ground-breaking areas and new markets with significant growth opportunities, including healthcare, ecological foods and alternative fuels. He diversified his risk." - Michele

"Bruce, I think, exemplifies the typical strategist. He is conservative and calculating, taking the time to think issues through." - Drew

"Wayne spun out new subsidaries and kept the company from getting static." - Christine

5. Who made the most of his resources?

"Wayne is unusual in his success with an inherited business. Most small businesses do not make it to the third generation due to the second generation's issues with everything from mismanagment to taxes. I believe Wayne made the most of his resources because he did not just feel entitled to his inheritance. He worked to make it better." - Christine

"Wayne was orphaned at eight years old when the Waynes were murdered, whereas Stark's parents passed away in an accident after he had already graduated summa cum laude from MIT. A rough start for both young men, but Wayne's rise is a bit more impressive, given his greater vulnerability. That he was able to not only learn to trust others, but to foster trust among divisions of a large multi-national conglomerate is very impressive." - Brian

"Tony is definitely the soloist. Bruce, from Alfred to Commissioner Gordon, always knew where to ask and receive resources." - Drew

"Both of them had great parents that handed them great companies. Wayne continued the tradition or building and expanding the company while Stark eventually drank himself to silliness and destroyed his legacy." - Rohan

"Stark Industries would probably be much larger had it not gone through successive bankruptcies and resurgences. In that manner, we can say that Wayne Enterprises made better use of their human resources. Stark Industries' reoccurring problems were mainly due to human failure. Tony Stark's inability to control his drinking and surround himself with trustworthy advisors cost him dearly. CEOs and entrepreneurs are only as good as the people that surround them. CEOs need to surround themelves with people who are competent in their field, regardless of whether they agree with them or not. CEOs must respect these advisors' opinions and they must listen. Otherwiser, it cuases unnecessary friction, which can later cause the types of issues Stark had to deal with." - Laurent

6. Who is the better CEO?

"Bruce Wayne." - Rohan

"Bruce Wayne." - Michele

"I pick Tony. I admire his energy and love for innovation and forward-thinking. In our present society where items and issues appear to have a shelf life of six months or less, Tony is more malleable and quick to change. He is also proactive where Bruce is reactive." - Drew

"Tony Stark." - Laurent

"Tony Stark. He is more business savvy." - Eric

"I think Wayne is the better CEO." - Brian

"Bruce Wayne emulates the successful entrepreneur in his life by having passion for what he does, surrounding himself with good people, using technology to his advantage, having a bigger vision than the day to day business operations or just making money, having outside interests, albeit law enforcement, that gives him an outlet beyond work, and overall, he has a balanced approach to life and stays in physically good shape as well as mentally." - Christine

"Bruce, either himself or by some proxy, manages to do what many CEOs of huge organizations miss. He manages to keep everyone informed and educated on what is happening company wide to create a synergy between dvisions resulting in systems, products and breakthroughts that would slip by many huge conglomerates. How many divisions alone allow him to be Batman? That's an unbelieveable level of inter-corporate communication." - JT

"If my goal as to 'better CEO' was strictly financial return to stockholders, I'd go with Tony." - Patricia

7. Which is the better company?

"As to 'better company,' I'll define that more broadley and go with Bruce." - Patricia

"Wayne Enterprises." - Rohan

"Wayne Enterprises." - Michele

"Wayne Enterprises." - Laurent

"Wayne Enterprises. They are more diverse." - Eric

"Stark Industries." - Drew

"I would need to see the financials to best judge the overall company. That would be objective. Otherwise, I would lean toward my favorite." - Christine

"Wayne Enterprises is deepy diversified, even including pharmaceuticals and healthcare, which are fairly recession-proof. Wayne is better suited to weather the coming financial maelstrom. According to the list of Forbes 25 Largest Fiction Companies, Wayne Enterprises has sales in excess of $31 billion, compared to Stark Industries' $20.3 billion. However, Tony does it for the most part in one industry, where he appears to be an oligopoly, while Wayne Enterprises is spread across the business map like icing on a Yellow Pages. Could you even imagine the 'W' section of the Gotham Yellow Pages? Wayne, Wayne, Wayne...sheesh!" - JT

"Wayne Enterprises is the better company. Forbes seems to agree." - Brian

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Better Entrepreneur: Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark? (Part I)

Better Entrepreneur: Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark? (Part I)
By: Jake Kilroy | December 17, 2008 1:19 PM

Batman and Ironman both saw some wild profits for their name this year, but nobody thinks to ask them for business advice.

And it's a damn shame.

When Batman has The Joker by his purple collars, nobody wonders about his employees' benefit plan.

And when Ironman is wrecking hell on MODOK, nobody asks, "What kind of expansion do you think his company sees? How are they doing in today's global market?"

But that doesn't mean that Batman and Ironman aren't businessmen underneath their suits. Hell no. In fact, the actual men, Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, are two of the world's most famous business figureheads.

I think we should consider them to be two promising entrepreneurs. Though both initially inherited their companies from their fathers, they have taken their companies to new heights with greater goods. And I actually spent some time this summer discussing the matter.

Nearly every Sunday night this past summer, I would sit around a local Irish pub with three friends and debate the magnificent logistics of nonsense. For a solid month, we argued about being able to fight 100 kindergarteners (and I still say you can't do it).

Meanwhile, in these discussions, no matter how wild or ridiculous, the four of us would consider strategy, ethics and plausibility, while using an array of school subjects and real world applications. We took nonsense rather seriously.

And we love superheroes. So, naturally, it was only a matter of time before we argued the better entrepreneur and better company between Bruce Wayne (and Wayne Enterprises) and Tony Stark (and Stark Industries).

Batman and Ironman came up quite a bit this year especially because of The Dark Knight and Ironman. And of course, business came up, since, as "adults," we can now observe a larger portrait of either superhero.

I decided to finally have my three friends (James, Keith and Zuhair) provide some perspective as to what they thought of Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark as businessmen, company figureheads and, most importantly, entrepreneurs.

Here's what they said...

1. Where would you prefer to work?

"I'd rather work for a company that has more facets than just military technology, as diverse as that may be, and doesn't carry the whole 'creating war machines' stigma with it." - Keith

"I think it would be fascinating to be able to jump from department to department. It would almost be like being able to switch careers while staying on the same health insurance plan. Want to move from ship building to cosmetics but don't want to worry about moving your 401K? Just get a job at Wayne Enterprises." - Zuhair

"Other than making weapons, I really don't know what else Stark Industries does. In the movie, it looks like they have some kind of electrical gravity thing that scares and confuses me. I'd rather work at Wayne Enterprises where I can focus on making the world a better place with my ability to surf the web." - James

WINNER: Wayne, 3-0. The company can diversify. Sure, your business may have one hell of a start, but if you're not adapting or introducing anything new, there's a stale taste left in the consumer's mouth. Diversity is the key to progress and expansion. A great idea is a great start, but it might not be a great end.

2. Who would be a better business partner?

"Bruce Wayne is a playboy. He likes to sleep all day and party all night. Tony Stark knows what he and his company has to do, day in and day out: fight terrorism." - James

"If I wanted to go with a smart, responsible and creative partner who I knew for certain was also a superhero, well, I'd have to go with Mr. Stark. If, on the other hand, I wanted to take a serious risk, potentially losing lots of money, but at the same time getting to hang out with a plethora of super-hotties and riding around in the corporate Lamborghini, I'd have to partner up with good ol' Brucey." - Zuhair

"While both are unarguably ambitious and successful, I feel Stark is more profit-driven. Wayne inherited a giant fortune and an already successful business, with which he can comfortably sit back and manage, interjecting only when he needs some new gear. Stark inherited his father's company and made it wildly profitable. Not to say Wayne Enterprises hasn't grown over the years, but I think Stark would be more growth-minded." - Keith

WINNER: Stark, 3-0. He has his hands in everything. He's an extensively active CEO. And nobody wants a business partner to rake up the profits if he's not putting in the effort. If ever entering into a business partnership, make sure your partner is going to work as hard as you are. Your partner may be a great person, but nobody likes doing business with an angel who slacks off.

3. Who is more grounded to their entrepreneurial roots?

"Tony Stark is more grounded to his entrepreneurial roots. His company is his baby and he treats it that way. Wayne treats his company like his personal toolbox and leaves the day-to-day to Lucius Fox." - James

"Stark took his father's company and made himself the poster child for over-ambition and mind-blowing success. He strikes me as the kind of guy who you could lock in a room for a week with pen and paper and he would come out with a way to make some serious profits. Tony Stark is the proverbial 'MacGyver Entrepreneur,' if you will." - Keith

"I feel like I don't even have to explain the reasoning behind this one, so I'm just going to flat out say it: Tony Stark." - Zuhair

WINNER: Stark, 3-0. It goes back to dirty hands. Who has more of himself invested in his business? What company would you trust more: the one where the founder isn't sure what's going on or the one where the entrepreneur knows every single movement? It's a difficult balance between micromanaging and macromanaging, but you better know what's going on with your company.

4. Who had a better strategy for building up his company?

"While I don't know the answer to this question, I do know that in Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne has a great strategy for keeping hold on his company." - Zuhair

"Wayne, knowing right from the start of taking over the company that he was going to be a vigilante, was far more focused on his personal emotional goals, even to the point of appointing someone else as the CEO to be able to spend more time pursuing them. Stark didn't have this chip on his shoulder and was able to parlay his skills and knowledge into an extremely profitable living." - Keith

"Wayne hired a capable CEO, Lucius Fox, who can run the business while he fights crime. That is just irresponsible. Sure, he's out there jumping rooftops, wrestling Catwoman and speeding around in his fancy Batmobile, but what's going to happen when his employees strike or gas goes up to $80 a barrel? He's not going to fight OPEC. Stark, on the other hand, wakes up every morning knowing what his company is doing, where it's going and that he can use for the greater good of his company and the world. Plus he can fly. Batman can't fly." - James

WINNER: Stark, 2 to 1. Stark took some wrong steps with the ownership of his company, but Wayne letting someone else run his company shows a lack of interest. He's certainly capable of running a company, but his main interests lay elsewhere. An entrepreneur will always be trusted more if he or she is still running their company. Taking a step down is taking trust a notch down. Companies are more trusted when an entrepreneur's main interest is being an entrepreneur. Show an interest in your work and others will too.

5. Who made the most of their resources?

"Both created their personas and indeed much of their abilities to fight crime using all the resources that their companies afforded them. The main difference between the two is that Bruce Wayne used his money to go around the world and learn the skills of being a warrior from the best. He learned how to fight. He learned how to survive. He learned how to be like his enemy so that he could defeat his enemy. Stark never had to learn these things because he was able to build a suit that turns him into, well, Iron Man. You take that suit off and you're just left with Tony Stark. You take Batman's mask off and you've still got Batman." - Zuhair

"Stark was financially successful through every time period in his life, including his college days when he was an engineering prodigy. Wayne was more occupied with gymnastics and fitness at that age than he was with number crunching, deadlines and budgets. Not to say that Wayne was lacking in the smarts department. It's really just a matter of motivation. Stark was more motivated at a young age to be financially successful and, as a result, made more of himself, with less, at a younger age. That speaks volumes." - Keith

"Wayne used his company's ability to produce weapons-grade technology to fight crime while also implementing new technology into Gotham City. Stark just builds missiles and new buttplates for his suit." - James

WINNER: Wayne, 2 to 1. Stark had less and built his company and himself up, but he stayed on the same path. Wayne Enterprises is always so ready to adapt because Bruce Wayne knows how to adapt. If you, as a person, can't adapt, how will your company change to a bigger picture? Always be ready to hear out new ideas, new themes, new products. Never be afraid to be new.

6. Who is an overall better CEO?

"Better CEO is Stark. He's hands-on, knows which direction he wants to take his company and works closely with his associates." - James

"Tony Stark. Everyone knows that Bruce Wayne is mostly just a figurehead. While he indeed runs the company, he really does view it as his own personal piggy bank. But instead of being filled with change, it's chock-full of sweet crime-fighting stuff." - Zuhair

"Stark. Bruce Wayne is the majority stock holder but doesn't even hold the CEO position of his own company. If it were only a matter of experience and Wayne stepped down from the CEO position because he believed Fox would be a better officer, that's one thing. But I feel he gave the position up solely so that he could spend more time on pursuing his emotional goals as an orphan. While admirable, I can't say that makes him a good leader." - Keith

WINNER: Stark, 3-0. It comes down to being hands-on and knowledgeable of everything your company is and does. An entrepreneur's favorite hobby should be entrerpeneurism. Appreciating your own work is the first step to gaining the appreciation of others.

7. Which is the overall better company?

"Wayne Enterprises. Probably more ethical and global in reach." - James

"Wayne Enterprises. They're seriously just better at making, selling and developing anything than anyone else in the whole DC universe." - Zuhair

"Wayne Enterprises. The company is of conglomerate proportions and makes damn near every product under the sun. Maybe that's why Forbes estimates that Wayne Enterprises makes $10 billion more a year than Stark Industries does." - Keith

WINNER: Wayne, 3-0. The company is so diverse, everything from Wayne Chemicals to Wayne Entertainment. They do everything. They are able to adapt, progress and are much more active in charity work. Diversity has made them successful and likeable.

Now, this was the insight of three non-businessmen. Part II will include answers from experts and entrepreneurs. Come back for Friday's blog to see how different the perspective of a good leader and a good company is between businessmen/businesswomen and my three friends.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Is There a Doctor in the House? Does He Drink Coffee?

Is There a Doctor in the House? Does He Drink Coffee?
By: Jake Kilroy | December 12, 2008 10:20 AM

I'm not a doctor.

"What? Come on, Jake, but you know the remedy for so many things...snake bites...marketing campaigns...zombie apocalypses..."

OK, OK, so I am a doctor of sorts. Actually, let's just say I am a doctor. Let's say I just saved your life (as you were infected with the virus from the second season of Heroes). It took me quite a few hours, an andidote and several rolls of Playdoh to keep you breathing on my dining room table. I'm sleepy. The day has worn on me.

Enter Mike Adams, founder of Java Medic Coffee and paramedic for 15 years.

Java Medic Coffee is a coffee gift company aimed at the medical field. The company sells coffee with labels that resemble a doctor's prescription pad and caffeine levels categorized by EKGs. For example, a flat line means the coffee is decaffeinated.

"I got the idea about three years ago sitting in the cafeteria watching people hover around the coffee urns," recalls Adams, 38. "I remember saying, 'If I had a dime for every cup of coffeee a doctor or nurse drank, I'd make more money than saving lives!"

Adams teamed up with a private coffee roaster who had the best coffee Adams had ever tasted and found a web designer who understood what JavaMedic.com should be. And so, Adams started up Java Medic Coffee.

"I primarily used savings to fund the business, and when the inventory increased, I needed to get funding through a home equity loan. The process was involved. I actually went to SCORE, read tons of books about starting a business and niche businesses, and I met with many business professionals who had a better understanding of the term 'spend money to make money.'"

For now, JavaMedic.com has only been able to be a part-time venture. "I still work as a full-time helicopter paramedic," Adams says. "However, my schedule is unique, as I work a 24-hour shift and a 12-hour shift. So, essentially, I work two days a week. This gives me the rest of the week to focus on JavaMedic.com."

But what Adams has is not only a good niche, but he's his own target demographic. He doesn't just understand his audience, he's a part of it. He knows the balance of adrenaline vs. caffeine.

"There is no better feeling in the world than helping someone or saving a life. It is an indescribable rush when you make a difference in others' lives. I love being a paramedic," says Adams. "As an entrepreneur, the rush is when you see your creativity come to life. It is an unbelieveable rush to see others use and enjoy the products you create and market."

Adams would like to take on the new rush for a few years though. "My ultimate goal is to be a full-time coffee entrepreneur and have Java Medic in hospitals, doctors' offices and firestations across the United States."

Since Adams can clearly handle the stress of being a paramedic and an entrepreneur, I thought he would have no problem answering...Jake's Seriously Intense Medical Questions!

Jake's Seriously Intense Medical Question #1: A few years ago, my brother and I took my grandmother to the emergency room once when she hurt her ankle (and has since vowed to crawl to the hospital before letting us take her if there is a next time). I talked to this rather attractive nurse (attempting to score cute points), but it wasn't enough. How can Java Medic Coffee help me win over this nurse next time I'm visiting St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange?

MA: Giving this nurse a pound of Java Medic Coffee would indicate to her you are a man who knows his grind. One cup of Trauma Mama Coffee and she'll be aroused for the entire nightshift.

Jake's Seriously Intense Medical Question #2: I'm actually a pretty big fan of Scrubs and Grey's Anatomy. Let's say both shows are real (in which case, I would of course be actively dating Dr. Addison Montgomery right now). Which character from either show would benefit most and/or be most thankful for a gift basket from Java Medic Coffee? Why?

MA: Carla on Scrubs would most benefit from a Bed Pan Gift Basket, because we all have crappy days, because she consistently covers up the interns' mistakes and she loves coffee!

Jake's Seriously Intense Medical Question #3: Let's say I'm a doctor (a combination of Elliott Gould in M*A*S*H and Nicolas Cage in Bringing Out The Dead), so I'm a little bit unorthodox and sleep-deprived. My peers think I'm a bit of an oddball. What specific items in a gift basket from Java Medic Coffee would help me charm them?

MA: Odd and on the edge, ready for action is a description of many health care providers. A travel mug represents energy to paramedics and having a Java Medic Carabineer travel mug would show your fellow co-worker not only do you provide the best care, you drink premium Java Medic Coffee.

So, next time you see a paramedic in action, you can wonder if he has good coffee stashed next to the gauze.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Meet the Spirit of Young Entrepreneurism...

Meet the Spirit of Young Entrepreneurism...
By: Jake Kilroy | December 5, 2008 1:48 PM

Andrew Galasetti is a lot like me.

Well, the more successful version anyway.

During my first semester of college, I started a website called Zaftig. I used a slow FTP server and a mildly senseless homepage-building program my parents bought me for Christmas when I was 16. I wanted Zaftig to be a community blogzine (before "blog" was in every sentence). My friends wrote articles, fiction and poetry for the site. I updated it with political links and my brother, at some point, drew a series called "The War of 2011: Vegetarians vs. Carnivores." It was a fun deal, but I became busy with college, postponed the site, and lost the passwords and software.

I haven't updated it since my freshman year of college, but you can still see it at www.geocities.com/zaftig_anarchy

And now that you've seen it, let's face it: I was ahead of my time.

Anyway, Andrew Galasetti contacted me some weeks ago with a pitch. I thought I was dealing with your average serial entrepreneur in his mid-40s, several companies under his belt, so self-aware and willing to admit past mistakes and lessons learned from them.

"I've attempted to launch so many ventures over the years, probably more than five. The only endeavors that became remotely successful were a search engine and bottled water company. The others failed because I was interested in getting rich quick and I wasn't fulfilling a need or servicing others," Galasetti says.

Here's the thing: Galasetti's only 20.

Based in Spring Lakes, N.J., Galasetti is the founder and editor of Lyved, a blogzine that covers business, politics, the environment, personal growth, etc. Lyved.com has already been featured on Esquire.com and Portfolio.com

I was impressed.

"How are you able to do this at 20?" I asked, only a couple years older than he.

"Age is just a number. I think the circumstances I've had to face forced me to grow up quickly and take control of my own destiny," Galasetti told me.

I was stunned. I mean, Galasetti's not the first college student entrepreneur, but his kind only comes around sporadically. A lot of college students have a good sense of philosophy, but I rarely knew them to be wide-eyed entrepreneurs. He was taking the great wide open (thank you, Professor Tom Petty) and applying it to real-world diligence. I was fascinated with Galasetti.

However, I found myself growing more and more disappointed in college student Jake Kilroy of freshman and sophomore year. Why hadn't I followed through with Zaftig? Why had it been years since I was so wildly optimistic? I wondered.

And the more I wondered, the more I began having grand delusions of Zaftig paving the way for ventures like Lyved, as if Galasetti owed me as some kind of mentor figure. I didn't and he doesn't. I grew mildly resentful. And I knew he had heard it before.

"Usually criticism comes from internet trolls, so I just brush off what they have to say. Other times, the criticism comes from fellow bloggers. I was recently told that I knew 'nothing about blogging and even less about life,'" says Galasetti. "Comments like these make you think for a moment, but then you have to look at where they come from. Usually it's out of jealousy or frustration. So I don't really take them personally."

Damn. Galasetti's good, I thought.

Why wasn't I as determined at his age? Why didn't I have as much faith in my ideas and schemes? Well, maybe that's all he's doing, I told myself. Maybe he's not working or going to school. Maybe Lyved is just a full-time hobby, I considered.

"Right now, I'm both a full-time college student and I work at a restaurant part-time to pay the bills," says Galasetti. "I have my plate full, but I'm having a lot of fun running this site and changing the world. If I continue to work hard and provide great content, without a doubt Lyved will be a huge source of income."

Ok, the kid's invincible.

And once again, he reminded me of myself, as I worked at a restaurant for nearly five years with "bigger dreams." Growing more anxious about Galasetti succeeding where I quit, I slipped into rapid fire questions/accusations:

- If I wanted to start Zaftig up again, how could I turn Zaftig into Lyved?
AG: Firstly, I would definitely move to your own domain instead of Geocities. Then I would find a simple, clean design and create a professional logo. The site needs to be more visually pleasing, so I would include images with each post and change the black background. I would also not look to turn it into another Lyved. Think about being unique.

- Do you think that my Zaftig appears so "modest" in comparison to your Lyved because it was harder to make a website five years ago?
AG: I don't think it was harder to create websites five years ago. I just think the site needed more focus and it should have seized the power of open source blogging software and social media, which was just emerging at that time. But it's never too late to restart. Tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start.

- What do you think are the top three differences between Zaftig and Lyved?
AG: One, site design; Two, domain--it needs something short and hosted on your own server; Three, topic--Zaftig's seems to be very varied.

- Straight up: Do you think that your Lyved is better than my Zaftig?
AG: As of right now, Lyved may seem better, but with refocus, a new design and a lot of hard work, your site could surpass Lyved. It also depends on readers. Some might find your site to be better. But the web is so big that there's always room at the top for multiple sites.

- Would you let me write for Lyved if I provide Zaftig, your new rival, as a reference?
AG: Sure, as long as you aren't bashing Lyved, I welcome competition.

I shook my head. I had to hand it to Galasetti. I mean, who wouldn't? Come on, the guy's exceptionally nice, he's done everything right and his advice is solid. And he generally wants to help anyone he can.

Now recalling more and more memories of what I did at 20, I find myself increasingly invested in Galasetti. My friends and I were starting fake bike gangs when we were 20 while Galasetti already has sight beyond the site.

"The future for me as an entrepreneur is all about others. Lyved and every other endeavor I launch for the rest of my life will benefit others more than it will benefit myself," says Galasetti. "I plan on donating a lot of the profits from all of them to help social causes, other social entrepreneurs, the hungry and the homeless, and anyone else that is in need."

Again, Galasetti's 20, the age where my biggest obstacles were scoring beeer as a minor and lying to girls about where I worked (NASA, the FBI, the CIA, NATO, all the alphabet agencies launched during FDR's "New Deal," as I was a big fan of acronyms back then). But Galasetti already has perspective.

"When I was younger, being an entrepreneur meant that I would be able to get and buy anything I wanted: mansions, Lamborghinis, boats...to go to others, so that they can obtain basic needs like food and clean water," recalls Galasetti. "When I grow old, I'd much rather leave a legacy than a Lamborghini."

Now, I'm proud of the guy, as if he's proving that my generation has something to offer already.

Furthermore, Galasetti's the best sell for entrepreneurship. He's failed before but any doubt has been replaced with confidence. He's learned from any small mistakes he's made along the way (as a teenager). He works part-time, he goes to school full-time and he still has time to run a popular blogzine with contributing writers. He wants to change the world, he considers every opportunity as a possibility and he's so polite that I want to introduce him to my sister (whose interests include art, sports and Steve Martin, by the way...just so Galasetti knows).

Sure, Galasetti's young, but when has an entrepreneur ever succeeded as a cynic?

And that's where I went wrong.

So, good luck, Andrew Galasetti (and Andrew Galasettis elsewhere)!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Trying Out Twitter (fakebookcovers.com update #1)

Trying Out Twitter (fakebookcovers.com update #1)
By: Jake Kilroy | November 26, 2008 9:33 AM

About a month ago, I started a website (www.fakebookcovers.com) of fake book covers with fake excerpts. It's half-inane hobby and half-business project. I'm learning about online marketing strategies, how to drive traffic, how to make revenue from ads and overall, how to make it succeed. Plus, it's more fun than shooting womp rats in my T-16 back home. I first wrote about it here.

Anyway, my agent/guide, Kim Orr, recently told me that Twitter had replaced blogs. Or so Wired Magazine had told her.

So I looked into Twitter.
"Twitter," for those who still think the word is slang or slur, is the microblogging community and social phenomenon that is essentially the constant status updates as a website and social networking tool. Twitter is "a free social messaging utility for staying connected in real-time," according to...Twitter

In basic terms, Twitter.com is a network of constant updates of what you and your "friends" are doing and it works really well for those with iPhones.

Thinking that there may be some good opportunity to build "readership," I started a Twitter account.

My username is "FakeBookCovers."

However, I have since been scratching my head, attempting to use Twitter in my favor as a businessman, not just a person with too much free time.

To learn how I could use the "insta-tool" for networking, I read more than a few blogs and articles on how Twitter can help a business. What I ultimately gathered was that Twitter, at least for right now, can best be used as a networking tool for a business within itself, as the website works flawlessly as a constantly updated network for friends.

"Your co-workers can use it for travel updates. If you're running late, if you have an urgent message, a piece of news. Really anything that you might need to communicate," read this article by Tris Hussey of pimpyourwork.com. "Because Twitter is a distributed communication system, you can send a tweet from your cell phone via SMS and your followers get it (via the web, IM or SMS as per their choice)."

The core reasons I found to use Twitter for business were if you're in the business of constant updates or would like strengthen customer relations and/or present a more approachable and down-to-earth CEO. But you have to play your cards right for these ones. I mean, it's not difficult, but it can become tedious.

The latter may be the easiest way to really utilize Twitter: by being yourself. A personable entrepreneur or CEO can be the face of the company instead of the product.

CEOs remain a faceless entity unless mentioned or proven otherwise. I think, as a kid, I imagined all CEOs to live in fantastical mysterious lairs, like James Bond villains.

I mean, sure, then you talk to an entrepreneur and the story can become spectacular. It can turn into something like, "Well, I was just a mother working at an insurance company and one morning, I realized that I had left my kid on the roof with the house on fire and that's when I thought, you know, I should invent a robot."

The thing is, no matter how much an entrepreneur talks good percentages and numbers, I'll usually quietly prefer the entrepreneur who listens to Bruce Springsteen and knows what the open road feels like.

I don't like the idea of a stuffy businessman, one that doesn't understand his or her own customers, one that seems distant. I don't want a suit running a small business. I want the everyman who saw a market, sought a product and worked his hands dry to the bone.

I like to see a picture or a funny anecdote on the "About Us" page of a company website. I want something that doesn't seem robotic and flat. You don't have to impress me. You just have to let me know that there are actual people behind a company, not a nameless brand.

So, Twitter can offer a better (or maybe clearer) perception of an entrepreneur, or at least a more human one. Even something like "PatCEO just saw the newest Watchmen trailer and thinks it looks glorious, even though Billy Crudup's voice doesn't sound like what Dr. Manhattan should" at least lets me know that the entrepreneur has an interest and opinion outside of his or her own business.

Sure, it's something small, it's something senseless, it's something about nothing (then again, so was Seinfeld) but just that bit of information has me finding the entrepreneur to be more of a person.

If not working for the benefit of the entrepreneur, the method of constant updates works well for the entrepreneur's customers, if a company offers something interactive.

In this article, Brian P. Watson of CIO Insight, observes the possibilities of good updates, writing, "Twitterlike services to instantly notify customers of a hacker attack or data loss where sensitive information could have been revealed, and so on."

However, it should be acknowledged that Twitter only really works exceptionally well with a business that's already relatively established. It'll strengthen customer relations with the company. And though it works well for those already interested, Twitter can contribute to word-of-mouth, which can be a marketing tool if others are posting tweets (Twitter posts) about your company.

If you want/can, Twitter can be like a one-sentence company newsletter that's sent out frequently without a regularly frequency.

As for fakebookcovers.com and me, Twitter will work well for those already interested in my website. When I post a new book cover and excerpt, I can just post the update and it will go directly to those following FakeBookCovers on Twitter.

And since it's not a full social networking site like MySpace or Facebook, Twitter only really works if you actually have something to offer (whether its updates or personality). It won't keep itself as a casual, informal, fun, makeshift website, like MySpace and Facebook.

So, if you've got something, let everyone know. On Twitter.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Finally, an Entrepreneur Who Can Help My Nightlife...

Finally, an Entrepreneur Who Can Help My Nightlife...
By: Jake Kilroy | November 17, 2008 1:22 PM

When I turned 21, I also turned into a stereotype.

I was at the local bars every Thursday night, and my friends and I became elder statesmen of late nights, philanthropists that believed in lost causes and connoisseurs of bad decisions.

But, out of our element some evenings, we'd show up to dead bars, listen to terrible bands and drink at places that didn't wash their pitchers. We'd get pushed around by unruly bouncers, stared at by awkward biker burnouts and wait in line with clubbers that thought anywhere was a dance floor. We just had off nights sometimes.

And it might've been because we didn't have Randy Rantz to help us.

Rantz is the founder and CEO of Howsthebar.com, a Chicago-based website that gives real-time ratings of nearly 15,000 bars. After years in real estate investing, Rantz finally took his weekend priorities and made them his workweek.

"A couple years ago, my friends and I would text each other bar ratings every weekend to help decide which bars to visit," Rantz recalls. "This gave me the idea to create a website where thousands of members could share bar ratings every night without even knowing each other. That's why I started Howsthebar.com. I created an extensive business plan, gathered some investors and formed a company."

It was just launched last month, after some months as a beta and over two years of research and development. "Our goal for 2008 is to build up the membership, which is free. We will start selling ad space on the site in January 2009," says Rantz, who is "37 years old, which means [he has] had plenty of years to become an experienced bar hopper."

But it won't just be Chicago soon.

"After gaining success in Chicago land, we will focus on the college towns throughout Illinois. We plan on expanding to Wisconsin and the rest of the Midwest shortly after. Eventually, we want to have nationwide coverage," Rantz says.

I'm writing about Randy Rantz and Howsthebar.com for two reasons:

1) To let you know that he's probably going to make a lot of money because college students will spend money they don't have on stuff they don't need. Especially booze. College students are the poor man's consumer, but they're also the best marketing team you can have. College students set trends, even if they don't make sense to the average entrepreneur or person (see "fixed-gear bikes").

2) I'm going to be in Chicago later this week, so I wanted to test Randy Rantz and his website. I came up with three hypothetical situations for the Chicago entrepreneur...

Hypothetical Situation #1:
Some guy just dropped $10 into the jukebox so he can hear The Eagles' entire Greatest Hits collection. The Eagles are overrated and I want to hear The Clash. Can I use Howsthebar.com to find a legit jukebox in the city of Chicago?
RR: Whereas Howsthebar.com does have a feature that accounts for how good the entertainment at a bar is that evening, it doesn't account for The Clash-playing jukeboxes. But we are planning on adding different features to the website that might help in this situation.

Hypothetical Situation #2:
I'll be in Chicago with my friends Nicky and Lindsay. Let's say that Nicky orders a mixed drink but the bartender doesn't recognize the name and Lindsay orders a brand of beer that the bar doesn't have. Can Howsthebar.com help my two friends locate a bar that has what they want?
RR: Howsthebar.com does not have a feature that can help with this scenario yet, but we are currently planning on adding different features to the website that may help in the future.

Hypothetical Situation #3:
Let's say I'm at a bad house party in Chicago when I'd rather be playing pool and drinking whiskey with a wildly attractive brunette who loves Casablanca as much as she digs Tom Robbins novels. How can Howsthebar.com help me achieve my ultimate goal?
RR: Log onto Howsthebar.com and check out a few places that your ideal lady would be located at. What's the average age at these places? Are there more women than men? The bar rating will tell you all of these things. Then grab your Tom Robbins autographed gear and your white dinner coat and go get her!

Friday, November 14, 2008


By: Jake Kilroy | November 14, 2008 10:16 AM

In 2006, Alison Boris (with black hair) and Kathi Chandler (with red hair) were just two L.A. women who shared two passions: fashion and theatre. In 2007, the two friends launched AllyKatStyle, a fashion line that markets from "single and feisty" to "the modern mommy." Taking a break between being boutique owners, real estate developers and mothers, the two had time to answer some...IMPORTANT QUESTIONS!

NAME: Kathi "Kat" Chandler & Alison "Ally" Boris
AGE: 31 (KC) & 37 (AB)
COMPANY: AllyKatStyle ("Sass-essories" for Kittens to Cougars)
FOUNDED: Los Angeles, 2007
WEBSITE: www.allykatstyle.com
KC: That's like picking your favorite child. Here are my top three for today: "NARC" by Interpol; "Rich Girls" by The Virgins; "Straight Outta Compton" by NWA.
AB: "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" with George Michael and Elton John. And no joke, Alfonso Ribierio does an amazing rendition that I love too.


1. What are some overlooked fashion accessories?
AB: Black Gloria Vanderbilt jeans from the late '70s and '80s. With the competitive designer jean market out there today, I think one of the original icons should be brought back. Her jeans were the first time consumers looked a jeans as special or dressy.
KC: The keyboard necktie. Fashionable AND educational. How many fashion pieces can you say that about?

2. What's the best way to spend a rainy Saturday?
KC: Being from San Francisco, I love inclement weather. Any good rainy Saturday starts with a big breakfast of bacon, bacon, eggs and bacon. And lots of black Peet's coffee. I balance the day with an independent or foreign film, a nap and more coffee.
AB: I have two baby girls under 3, so this favorite way hasn't been done for some time. Napping, maybe cozy clothes and a Law & Order marathon and more napping.

3. What's your favorite movie trilogy?
KC: The Rocky trilogy. There were six of them, so it's twice as good as other trilogies.
AB: It hasn't been made yet. With a little embarrassment, I would say if Legally Blonde made a third, that would make the perfect trilogy for me. The first two were guilty pleasures for me. A film about a woman being empowered, outrageous fashion and Washington, I'm in.

4. What's the weirdest or wildest thing to happen to you on vacation?
AB: I was in Paris visiting the Notre Dame on Christmas Eve in the late '90s and I decided to light a candle to ask above for guidance with my life. And then my coat caught fire. Not sure if that was supposed to be a sign or just bad luck.

5. What's the silliest clothing item you still own?
AB: Oh my God, I have a teal green pair of Ostrich Cowboy boots. I guess you can take the girl out of Jersey, but not the Jersey out of the girl. At least they weren't white.
KC: OK, it's not mine. It's my fiancé's. He has a Luchador mask and it gets pulled out when we want to make with the silly.

The 27 Word Question
Did you see M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening some months ago? I thought it was the worst movie I've ever seen. What's your opinion of the film in 27 words exactly (no more, no less)?
AB: Night cast me in The Sixth Sense, in Philadelphia. I plead the fifth. I look forward to working with him soon (please). Can anyone say "kissing up?"
KC: Didn't see it, but Ally worked with him, putting me one degree away. I want to meet Kevin Bacon someday, so I'm sure The Happening was amazing.

You mean Mark Wahlberg?
KC: I definitely have what can be considered a "random" sense of humor. The Kevin Bacon reference is just the idea that everyone is six degrees from Kevin Bacon and now that I am one degree from M. Night, I am even closer.

The Beatles Question
Who was your favorite Beatle?
AB: Paul McCartney. He is timeless and still marketable after 40 some years.
KC: Sammy Davis Jr. He was the Candy Man. He'd mix my mixtape with love and make the world taste good.

Wait, Sammy Davis Jr.? Do you mean that you choose him over any of the Beatles or were there secret Beatles that I was unaware of?
KC: Just random. You are right. I don't care for the Beatles one way or another, but I didn't think that answer would be very entertaining, so I made up who my favorite Beatle would be.


1. What keeps the balance of being good business partners and good friends? And, if you two have such different interests and strengths, how do you compromise?
KC: Ally and I have different areas where we excel, and we respect and appreciate that about each other. She's very creative with lots of ideas and has a strong intuitive marketing bone. We deal with problems by collaborating on a "Perfect World" solution and a "Plan B." For both, we do our best to get on the same page. You don't have to agree, but you have to try and understand where your partner is coming from. This is imperative for partnerships.
AB: Communication. We are fantastic partners. A true yin and yang. The Ally Kats even use a career coach, Barbara Deutsch. She helps use get past blocks, deal with difficult decisions and keeps us communicating currently. She helps us keep on the same page and allow our individual voices and strengths to help our collaborated vision. I also believe that you must acknowledge your partner's talents, ideas and strengths. For me in business, there is no Ally Style without the Kat Style. Plus, we are great friends with a lot history that makes us who we are today.

2. What advice do you have entrepreneurs looking to start up their own fashion company?
AB: Do what you know and love. Keep your vision clear. If not, it is easy to get side-tracked by others' opinions and lose your vision. Your vision has to be supported by your passion. So again, stick to what you know and love. One other important thing: Remember your seed money is that...seeds for your crop. Don't panic about it. You will recoup it someday. Let it hang in the back of your mind the first year, not haunt you.

3. How do you adapt to trends and competitors?
KC: Quickly. Ally and I are able and willing to adjust taste and price. We want the women who buy from us to be happy. If that means carrying purple bags even though we don't gravitate toward it, or keeping a design in stock even though we have had it for six months, we will. It's important to listen to the public, not just the runway.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This Industry Has Gone to the Dogs...and Cats

This Industry Has Gone to the Dogs...and Cats
By: Jake Kilroy | November 12, 2008 1:15 PM

I can no longer lie and say that I understand the pet industry. I can't. It's too hard.

There are so many things in life that I can't quite comprehend: yogurt as a trend, paying over $100 for dirty jeans, how Amy Winehouse is still alive, why Peter Cook cheated on Christie Brinkley and now...the pet industry altogether.

They've finally made a board game for cats.

Last month, Darf Inc. released Catfeats, along with three other pet products. Darf founder Denise Rothman wondered if cats were considered lazy because "we don't focus on them enough" and thought that there might be others out there looking to improve their cat's behavior. So she made Catfeats, a board game for cats and their owners.

And for good reason: to make cats more obedient and fun.

Good. Because for years, I haven't really understood cats. They lie around, they cost you money, they leave whenever they want and you still have to beg for their love. It's like dating someone who thinks she's better than you. Now, if they started playing Risk and Scrabble, I could see the value in having a cat hanging out in my living room, maybe asking me about my day.

However, I suppose that Catfeats will have to do...for now.

And, apparently, Rothman has heard the whole "cats are lazy" speech before. "My husband said, 'You can't do that with cats,'" recalls Rothman, who found online videos of cat tricks to prove to her husband that she could. Rothman's 18-year-old cat can shake hands, so there may actually be some hope for cats with this board game.

How to play Catfeats: You roll a paw print dice, pick a matching paw print card, get your cat to do the activity, enter your score and the first player to score 30 wins. Any combination of 1-4 people and 1-4 cats can play.

Rothman, 56, founded the company in 2006 while working as a marketing and design manager at a high tech company. She spent 2006 and early 2007 developing her ideas. She quit her job and used her stock options to start Darf, and in September 2007, she released Funagle and Do You Mind?, two board games for owners to play with their dogs.

"I sent out a press release [for Funagle] and ended up with over 100 articles written, TV features and radio shows about the game. That drove a lot of buyers to our website," recalls Rothman. "I also sent out direct mail pieces to target retaillers."

Rothman then went bigger. "We went to the Nationa Pet Trade Show this October and made connections with some manufacturer's representatives," says Rothman. "We have a distributor in Belgium and are in the process of establishing one in Australia."

Now, even though most of Darf's products are dog-oriented, it's the cat board game that gets me. Dogs just seem to be better about manners. And cats...not so much, in my experience. When I was a teenager, I was trying to hold my cousin's cat, but it scratched my face and jumped out a window. The family dog licked my wounds, nursing me back to health. So, I admit there may be a bias here.

But the point remains: a fun way to make cats more obedient seems like an industry in itself.

Rothman says that she can train her cats to be obedient, as she and her board game uses the theory of Pavlov's Dog (association of rewards for behavior). "[I] previously was taught to jerk dogs around with the leash and then say 'good dog' when the dog did the task right," says Rothman. "But, in my new classes, we were taught to gesture, name a trick and use treats to get the dogs to perform the tasks. In other words, we set the dog up for doing something right and rewarded them."

In fact, Rothman has already trained her two cats, Paisley and Oprah, to be more obedient just using turkey jerky and tuna oil. If cats can be trained to be obedient through games, then there has to be other entrepreneurial opportunities involving cats that may have been overlooked.

Dogs may have been hogging the pet industry and Darf may have something here.

And, if you haven't heard of Darf's board games, then you maybe haven't been shopping at places like Bark, Bath & Beyond, Pet Fancy, Wag This Way and Pettysburg.

OK, yes, I made that last one up. Pettysburg doesn't exist...yet.

But maybe it's time for me to reconsider the pet industry.

Sixty-three percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 71.1 million homes, according to the American Pet Products Association. And, according to the APPA's National Pet Owners Survey, Americans will spend an estimated total of $43.4 billion on their pets.

For more information on Darf, go to www.darfinc.com. Meanwhile, other ideas of how to break into the pet industry can be found here.

Rothman expects big sales for Darf at Christmas, around the time that I'll start seeing dogs in Santa costumes and begin rethinking this whole damn industry all over again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Inane Hobby Finds Online Home

Inane Hobby Finds Online Home
By: Jake Kilroy | November 10, 2008 10:54 AM

Two or three weeks ago, I started my own website called Fake Book Covers. It's based on an oddball hobby, but I'm going to try to figure out the web industry.

Let me explain.

Recently, I discovered Photoshop on my computer at work. I was immediately addicted and began making fake book covers out of any pictures I could find on my desktop. My co-worker Cheryl saw what I was doing and thought it was funny. So I made her one. Soon, I was making fake book covers for other co-workers and sending them around the office. I posted a few for laughs on a social networking site.

Friends saw them and started asking for theirs. So I made a blog of the fake book covers, at the suggestion of my co-worker, Kim.

Over the next few days, I was receiving texts and e-mails from friends. They loved the silly and inane fake book covers and said they would watch for new ones with anticipation.

Days later, I paid $10 and turned the blog into www.fakebookcovers.com, where I now write fake excerpts and book sleeves for the fake book covers.

And then it hit me.

I could turn Fake Book Covers into a business opportunity, and I could document the progress here in The Daily Dose.

So I have a website now, and I'll be writing about what strategies I've tried to drive traffic, what marketing has or hasn't worked, which web tools have helped me. I'll document my progress or stagnation periodically here in my blog. Hopefully, you and I together (as reader and writer) can figure out the very secrets of developing a growing website.

Yes, a website within a blog...truly kooky. I suppose it'll be kind of like when Jerry and George wrote their sitcom "Jerry" within the actual series "Seinfeld."

Also, I made Cheryl my publicist and Kim my agent.

Step 1: Tell Entrepreneur readers about website and inclusion in upcoming blogs. Check.
Step 2: Figure out Step 2.

Not quite there yet, I guess.

Don't worry, I'll keep you updated.

Friday, November 7, 2008


By: Jake Kilroy | November 7, 2008 9:40 AM

I always wonder what entrepreneurs are really like when they're not talking business. So, I decided to start asking questions that they may prefer to answer (as well as fancy business questions, too). The questions also let them seem a little more real and approachable.

This week, Monica Burnett!

Now...here are... IMPORTANT QUESTIONS!

The Beatles Question
Who is your favorite Beatle and why?
Ringo, because in the '70s, he visited Disneyland while my dad was working there. And I quote (British accent) "See that man over there? His Disneyland jacket is more important than he is."

NAME: Monica Burnett
AGE: 22
COMPANY: Monica Burnett Hats (fabulous handmade hats and headbands)
WEBSITE: www.monicaburnetthats.com
FOUNDED: Rough version 2002, legit version 2005
BASED: Tustin, Calif.
FAVORITE SONG OF ALL-TIME: "Brandy" - Looking Glass


1. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? Who?
Yes! Max Fischer and Doug Funny. You know, the usual.

2. What's the worst snack you've made into a meal?
Microwave-mallows. Instructions: put some marshmallows in the microwave, watch them puff up, eat.

3. What's the dumbest hobby you've ever had?
When I was 2 or 3, I collected those shiny silver gum wrappers that I found on the ground. It was stupid because children should not treasure garbage, but then again, I still like shiny things.

4. You have to make the perfect mixtape. What's the opening song, the one to kick off the mixtape?
"The Final Countdown" by Europe.

5. What's your favorite movie trilogy? And why?
The Santa Clause. It's magical.

The 27-Word Question
I don't understand what happened to our economy some weeks ago. Could you please explain it to me in exactly 27 words (no more, no less)?
Banks lent money, people couldn't pay them back, then neither had money. Banks couldn't lend any more, businesses couldn't meet costs. Business failed, stock market failed, we failed.

The Beatles Question
Who is your favorite Beatle and why?
Ringo, because in the '70s, he visited Disneyland while my dad was working there. And I quote (British accent) "See that man over there? His Disneyland jacket is more important than he is."


1. How does a young entrepreneur go from an idea to a product to a website? What are the steps?
Be crafty, doodle around with ideas and put things together. When your friends and family start saying, "Ooh, make me one!", you have a winner! Once you have your products, you need a venue in which to sell. This venue is most often a website. If you are starting out with a website, you will need some seed money to cover web designers and hosting and shopping cart costs. Lacking seed money? I have also seen many startups use MySpace, Livejournal, Flickr or Facebook as their selling venues. Any place you can post some pictures with a description and price, you are good to go!

2. You accessories have been featured on two Nickelodeon shows ("iCarly" and "Zoey 101"). How does an entrepreneur get in touch with television companies?
Networking! Because I have a "crafty" product, I attend craft shows where you set up a table and display all of your products for the shoppers to peruse. Living in Southern California, I do most of my craft shows in Los Angeles, where the wardrobe stylists flock.

3. What's the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur in her early 20s?
To an on-looker, I would have to say not having any days off. Twenty-somethings are supposed to be out mingling and boozing and having jolly good times, right? Well, being a workaholic, my idea of a good time is updating my website, designing new products or networking online.

4. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in their early 20s?
If you are not a workaholic, learn to be one. There is no such thing as down time. When the orders are filled and the shop is updated, it's time for online networking! Make sure you have MySpace, Facebook, etc. Grab hold of any and all "social networking" utilities and make them yours.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Melting Your Ears Off (Approaching The Press - Coming On Strong)

Melting Your Ears Off (Approaching The Press - Coming On Strong)
By: Jake Kilroy | November 5, 2008 11:52 AM

Being a PR rep seems terrifying. Pitching ideas is hard. Pitching people is harder. However, I know what kind of PR rep makes an entrepreneurial client look bad.

A couple of weeks ago, while a meeting with me, the research editor here at Entrepreneur, James Park, had a bad phone conversation. The PR rep on the other end was pitching her entrepreneur.

"Hi, who is this?" said the high-pitched, fast-paced woman on the other end.

"This is James."

"Are you the editorial assistant?"

"Oh, no. I'm actually the-"

"Ok, well, let me just tell you about my client. He just started his company from the ground up and he's doing something totally new. Like Phillip K. Dick new. Anyway, my client sold his last company for a couple million, so he could focus on this cool new idea that's going to make your hair catch fire from sheer insanity. My client-"

"I'm sorry to cut you off, but I'm in somewhat of a meeting right now. You can send me an e-mail that I'd be more than happy to look over. I just can't talk right now. Let me give you my e-mail and-"

"Sure, but let me just tell you about my client's company, because you're going to want to write about it. I know you are. You're not going to want to wait for that e-mail. His idea is so edgy, it'll cut you! Is your face ready for this? Because I'm about to shove dynamite in your ears with what my client is doing. Your face is going to melt like that guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Get ready, because-"

"Again, I'm really sorry, but I have to go. If you send me that e-mail, I can look it over and forward it onto the Pitches Department."

"OK, OK, real quick though. He's starting a company so innovative that they haven't even invented the adjective to describe it. Marlifilentious? Is that a word? Ok, seriously-"

"I'm sorry, I have to go."

Here's my small piece of advice: Have you ever signed up for a gym membership? Ok, don't be that guy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Mix Tape Theory (Approaching The Press - Being Subtle)

The Mix Tape Theory (Approaching The Press - Being Subtle)
By: Jake Kilroy | November 3, 2008 9:15 AM

I was out drinking recently.

"What? Dashingly suave bloggers go out drinking?" some mild-mannered female mumbled to herself after reading the first line.

Yes, of course us bloggers do. Not always together though. Sometimes, I party with celebrities and models who want to party with bloggers.

While gobbling nachos and making absent-minded observations about the sports teams I didn't care about on the television ("That tall guy has a really funny last name"), I met Monica Burnett, a 22-year-old entrepreneur. I wasn't aware that Burnett was an entrepreneur until the evening was nearly over, and I only found out because I pointed to the tattoo on her neck.

She had a tattoo of a heart-shaped apple just below her right ear. It turns out that the design is also the logo for her company. As a business blogger, I was naturally curious.

"Oh, what do you do?"

"I make hats."

Keep in mind that this is a noisy bar-restaurant.

"You make cats?" I yelled back at her.

It should also be noted that I'm not the greatest at first impressions, especially in loud drinking establishments. One time, it almost got me in a fight. But that's for another time. This is my blog. This isn't my party. So I can't lie if I want to.

Burnett asked what I did and I told her about my gig at Entrepreneur. We talked about anything either of us knew about the business world. She was so charming that I asked for her business card.

She didn't ask me to put her startup company in Entrepreneur. And it made me want to write about her. She undersold herself and I bought in (I'll be writing about her and her company, Monica Burnett Hats, later this week).

It goes without saying that you have to push borders and jump barriers to try and get yourself known (Wall Street vs. Sunset Blvd.). It's never impossible, but it is most certainly challenging, frustrating and exhausting. Being an entrepreneur is like being the actor and the agent. In the beginning, it's your work as well as your job to get the word out.

However, sometimes, the most subtle approach will linger.

Let's call it the Mix Tape Theory.

I know this is business and not music, but hear me out. I just made the theory up, but I think I'm going to reference it from now on. Hopefully, it'll catch on.

Consider my Mix Tape Theory: How many times does an A&R guy have to hear "Listen to my band, listen to my band, listen to my band" before one polite kid hands him a mix tape and asks him nicely to listen to it in the car on the drive home from work?

Show the work, ask for a chance and see what comes of it.

I'm not saying it will always work. There's no absolute way to get known and make money. If there were, I would've already done it a long time ago and, instead of writing this blog, I'd be riding dolphins through the private lagoon located next to my mansion built out of dreams and cookies while my name was sprinkled throughout history books.

Anyway, the point is that I understand that meet-and-greets are difficult to pull off, e-mail approaches are terrifying and making a name for yourself, your brand or your company is downright overwhelming.

But, if you ever get the chance, be subtle enough to see if your "mix tape" sees Side B.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Government-Issued Halloween "Fun Facts"

Government-Issued Halloween "Fun Facts"
By: Jake Kilroy | October 30, 2008 3:33 PM

If you're ever wondering what the Census Bureau does with all of its public information around holidays, you don't need to wait any longer to find out. I'll tell you what they do: they compile all of their cute statistics and send them to national business magazines.

So, in the spirit of Halloween, here are your festive dollars in the government at work: FESTIVE STATS

36 million
The estimated number of potential trick-or-treaters in 2007--children 5 to 13--across the United States. This number is down about 38,000 from a year earlier. Of course, many other children--older than 13 and younger than 5--also go trick-or-treating.
Source: Population Estimates

110.3 million
Number of occupied housing units across the nation in 2007--all potential stops for trick-or-treaters.
Source: Housing Vacancies and Homeownership

Percentage of households with residents who consider their neighborhood safe. In addition, 78 percent said there was no place within a mile of their homes where they would be afraid to walk alone at night.
Source: Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States, 2003

1.1 billion pounds
Total production of pumpkins by major pumpkin-producing states in 2007. Illinois led the country by producing 542 million pounds of the vined orange gourd. Pumpkin patches in California, New York and Ohio also provided lots of pumpkins: Each state produced at least 100 million pounds. The value of all pumpkins produced by major pumpkin-producing states was $117 million.
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service


Some places around the country that may put you in the Halloween mood are:

1) Transylvania County, N.C. (29,984 residents).
Source: Population estimates 2007

2) Tombstone, Ariz. (population 1,562).
Source: Population estimates 2007

3) Pumpkin Center, N.C. (population 2,228); and Pumpkin Bend, Ark. (population 307).
Source: Census 2000

4) Cape Fear in New Hanover County, N.C. (15,711); and Cape Fear in Chatham County, N.C. (1,170).
Source: Census 2000

5) Skull Creek, Neb. (population 274).
Source: Population estimates 2007


Number of U.S. manufacturing establishments that produced chocolate and cocoa products in 2006, employing 39,457 people and shipping $13.9 billion worth of goods. California led the nation in the number of chocolate and cocoa manufacturing establishments, with 128, followed by Pennsylvania, with 116.
Source: 2006 County Business Patterns
www.census.gov/PressRelease/www/releases/archives/county_business_patterns/012181.html and 2006 Annual Survey of Manufacturers, Value of Product Shipments www.census.gov/mcd/asm-as2.html

Number of U.S. establishments that manufactured non-chocolate confectionary products in 2006. These establishments employed 18,733 people and shipped $7.2 billion worth of goods that year. California led the nation in this category, with 72 establishments.
Source: 2006 County Business Patterns
www.census.gov/PressRelease/www/releases/archives/county_business_patterns/012181.html and 2006 Annual Survey of Manufacturers, Value of Product Shipments

24.5 pounds
Per capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2007.
Source: Current Industrial Reports, Confectionery: 2007

Number of costume rental and formal wear establishments across the nation in 2006.
Source: 2006 County Business Patterns

Questions or comments should be directed to the Census Bureau's Public Information Office: telephone: 301-763-3030; fax: 301-763-3762; or e-mail: pio@census.gov

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why My First Business Succeeded (Part VI - Opening Night & Closing Shop)

Why My First Business Succeeded (Part VI - Opening Night & Closing Shop)
By: Jake Kilroy | October 29, 2008 3:07 PM

The grand opening was upon me, a little 6-year-old entrepreneur dressed in a bow tie.

I came up with the idea, I wrote the business plan, I named the company, I hired the employees and I marketed to the customers.

Now it was time to make some money.

And my restaurant "eEvita's" was a huge success.

Relatives poured in from all over the county (yes, county) to eat at my restaurant.

My brother and sister sat people and took drink orders, my mother cooked, my father was the busboy and I hammed it up as the manager: shaking hands, welcoming relatives like strangers, probably speaking with some silly accent that I made up as I went.

I took all of the orders and even ran out a few meals. Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, you have to put in some of your own labor.

But I was also an approachable owner; asking how the meals were, asking how the customers were, asking them what they were planning to give me for my birthday in two months.

I was stern, but still exceptionally kind to my employees, and even nicer to the customers. I was working hard and moving faster than I had the following Halloween when I ate 10 Snickers bars in less than three minutes.

My investors/parents were proud, my host and hostess liked me as a boss (and as an older brother), and my customers swore that they would return.

But...alas, like Robert Frost and Ponyboy Curtis said long before me, "Nothing gold can stay." I decided that the restaurant was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. I took my money and went on a small spending spree, saving the rest for the coming summer.

It was 1992 and I was rich. Well, I suppose if you have any amount of income over $30 in first grade, you're some kind of venture capitalist. You're really just your own selfish investment at 6 years old.

Author Robert Fulghum once said, "All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten." As for me, everything I really needed to know about business I learned in first grade.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why My First Business Succeeded (Part V - Marketing)

Why My First Business Succeeded (Part V - Marketing)
By: Jake Kilroy | October 27, 2008 10:48 AM

evita.JPGI had employees now. I had a busboy (my father), a cook (my mother), a hostess (my sister), a host (my brother) and a waiter (myself).

But I had no customers.

I asked my investors (who were also my busboy, my cook and my parents) to buy a massive flashing neon sign to put on the front lawn, but they had to invest their money in the company car (also known as the Subaru station wagon that took me to Little League).

So I needed to devise a marketing plan.

"Direct mail can happen fast. With a modest campaign to a known target audience, you can acquire a mailing list, develop mailing materials (including direct-mail letter, flier, reply card), launch a mailing and start to receive results in just a few months. This is faster than the typical advertising campaign--and a lot faster than waiting for the phone to ring," says Jack Ferrari here and in his book Successful Sales & Marketing.

Problem is that I had no money and the only target audience I knew of was anyone who showed up for my backyard magic shows during the summer.

So I considered word-of-mouth instead.

"Building your business through word-of-mouth is about cultivating relationships with people who get to know you and trust you. People do business with people they have confidence in," says Ivan Misner here. Misner is co-author of The New York Times bestseller Masters of Networking. "One of the most important things I've learned in the past two decades is this: It's not what you know, or who you know, it's how well you know them that counts."

Word-of-mouth is especially brilliant in elementary school. In fact, grade school is an impressive network of communication altogether: 12:05--a kid squirts milk out of his nose, 12:30--everybody else knows which kid lost his head and the joke that made it happen.

But my fellow students didn't have money and I had no connections/patience for word-of-mouth for adults.

So I delegated the work. I had my mother and father call every one of my local relatives and invite/demand them to eat at my restaurant.

Opening Night was upon me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why My First Business Succeeded (Part IV - Hiring)

Why My First Business Succeeded (Part IV - Hiring)
By: Jake Kilroy | October 24, 2008 9:39 AM

evita.JPGMy restaurant had a name now, "eEvita's." [To read about the exhausting naming process and hear some spunky recaps of childhood, check out Why My First Business Succeeded (Part III - Naming The Business)]

Now, it was time to hire. This was my business. This was my time to shine. Yes, I was only 6 years old, but I was really quite mature. I don't know when I first tied my shoelaces by myself, but I'm pretty sure it was well before most of the other kids.

The next day at recess, I approached my peers about jobs during kickball.

"How'd you like to come work for me?" I said, rocking back and forth on my feet and snapping my suspenders (which I only wore until third grade, I think).

"Can I be the waiter?" every one of my friends seemed to ask.

"No, I get to be the waiter," I'd tell them. "You can take everyone's plate when they're done."

"I don't want to do that. That sounds stupid," they'd respond.

"Nu-uh. Now you can't even come to my restaurant. How do you like that?" I'd explain to them in my most professional tone.

Bottom line: I realized it was a tight-rope walk to hire friends and I was afraid of the fall.*

Plus, if I had to fire them, who would I play kickball with anyway?

"There needs to be a certain sense of objectivity and accountability in the workplace. Friends and family expect to be treated to a different standard--and they should. Away from your business, but never in it," says Brad Sugars here. Sugars is the author of 14 business books, including The Business Coach.

But since I was only 6, I could only hire friends or family. So I chose family. They never threw dirt clods. And I figured that was a safer bet.

However, I had no idea where to get customers, or as I called them then, "people who like to give money." I needed a marketing strategy.

*AN ABSENT-MINDED FOOTNOTE: I was talking to my mother earlier this week about this six-part blog series, and apparently, I did, in fact, hire one friend: Brian Jones. I'm still friends with Brian, but I sure don't remember hiring him. So I thought I'd let my mother tell the story...

Jake's Mother: "Jake's friend and fellow classmate, Brian, would come to our house every morning to pick up Jake to walk with us to school. Jake was very excited about starting his business and enlisted Brian to help him early each morning before school. As Brian would sit on the floor, Jake would dictate what to write as he paced around the room. It was during these early mornings that Jake came up with the menu, ingredients needed and instructions to the chef as to how to prepare all the items, so as to present the plan to his investors: His Dad and Mom. It was also during one of these many planning sessions that Jake announced that he would talk to his Dad about removing the front lawn so as to build a parking lot."

What a trip, eh?

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Here's a photograph (in an octagon because it was part of a collage before this) of my father working for me as a busboy at my restaurant. Yes, I'm well aware that the man raised me, but I was running a business, not a family. And, on a related note, he was a fantastic busboy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why My First Business Succeeded (Part III - Naming The Business)

Why My First Business Succeeded (Part III - Naming The Business)
By: Jake Kilroy | October 22, 2008 9:53 AM

Since my business plan went through [see cute story here], it was time to start my restaurant. Yes, I was only 6, but I had dreams, dammit.

I needed a name now. I wanted something that sounded "classy but hip," "old school but modern," "give me your money but in a wildly fair way where you and I both remain totally guiltless about the prices."

Calling it "Jake's" was too obvious, too predictable, too cliché. Too Michael down the street (this kid who once stole a bunch of my pogs, when my dad had said he was a bad kid from day one).

Everyone was expecting "Jake's."

Instead, I thought about naming it after my favorite things, but what wealthy customers (when you're in first grade, that's just about anyone with over $50 in his or her pockets) would eat at a restaurant called "Chocolateballoonsgokartsdancingcartoonsrecess?"

Also, such a name could've been misleading anyway.

I began to realize that naming the restaurant might actually be harder than chapter books without pictures.

Here, Peter S. Sloane, an attorney specializing in trademark matters and a partner at Ostrolenk Faber LLP, and David Perla, a lawyer and co-founder of Pangea3, a leading legal outsourcing company, have three rules for naming your company:

1. Don't assume you own a trademark.

2. Don't use geographically descriptive terms.

3. Don't go adjective crazy.

Then it clicked.

I knew what I wanted to name it, and I considered the name to be hip, edgy and sophisticated.

I came up with "eEvita's."

No, that's not a typo, nor was it a misspelling years ago. I thought of myself as an innovative grammatical renegade.

My mother remembers a different story, saying that I wrote the lower case first and was too lazy to get a new piece of paper. But mothers will be mothers, I suppose. Well, except for in this story, the mother will be a cook and valued employee.

John Williams, the founder and president of LogoYes.com, the world's first do-it-yourself logo design website, poses two questions for naming your company here:

1. Is it easy to say? Names are said more than read. After all, when words are read, they're also spoken in the mind of the reader.

Bam. Easy to say. You just say it like the first "e" is missing. It's pronounced "Evita's."

2. Is it easy to spell? Can customers find it in the phone book or "Google" it without trouble? Usually words that are easy to spell are also relatively short. Avoid acronyms (e.g., "K.A.T.G. Enterprises") and "clever" names that require analysis from your reader (e.g., "CU4 Lunch").

Ok, so the first "e" might have been misleading, but we weren't in the phone book anyway. Besides, this is circa 1992. It's not like they could've easily looked the place up online. The only time the word "Google" was ever used was in the phrase "googley eyes" during arts-and-crafts time.

So now I had a business plan for a company with a name. I was ready to expand. But who was coming with me?

Here's the sign that I made and pinned to the front door: