Friday, March 27, 2009

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Shmaltz Brewing Company

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Shmaltz Brewing Company
By: Jake Kilroy | March 27, 2009 11:50 AM

I first started at Entrepreneur in June 2007 and, at the time, had a very boring perspective of business. Business wasn't quirky to me. No, I didn't think that everyone was a suit, but even those who ran small businesses had a very distinct personality, I thought.

Small-business owners were serious about trying to succeed, which in turn, sort of just made them serious people, I figured. To me, businesspeople were businesspeople, whether they worked in a corporate headquarters or a dinky little office. However, as an intern, I was quickly assigned to a research project where I was to investigate the craft beer industry, and I soon learned that a number of entrepreneurs not only had senses of humor, but they applied them to their actual business, their products, their websites and their marketing strategies.

And the first business I remember respecting the originality of was Shmaltz Brewing Co. for "He'Brew - The Chosen Beer" and the Lenny Bruce tribute pale ale "Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A." Their gags were clever and, most importantly, a good sell for their products.

So I thought it was only fitting that I approach founder Jeremy Cowan for my first "Important Questions" back in October 2008. But Cowan was extremely busy throughout the rest of 2008, seeing quite a swell in business. Well, he recently got back to me.

You can tell it was my first "Important Questions," as there's no 27-Word Question and the fancy business questions don't seem as poignant. But Shmaltz is celebrating its bar mitzvah this year and to pay tribute to a clever company, I asked...


NAME: Jeremy Cowan
COMPANY: Shmaltz Brewing Company (HE'BREW Beer & Coney Island Craft Lagers)
WHAT IT IS: Niche craft brewery
BASED: San Francisco & New York

1. What's the next big plan for He'Brew?
JC: This year, Shmaltz Brewing turns 13, which in Judaism, marks the year of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the coming of age for a Jewish boy or girl. For Chanukah, we will launch Jewbelation Bar Mitzvah as we celebrate 13 years of delicious beer and delicious shtick. The label design will feature micro images of publicly submitted bar mitzvah photos. Should be really fun.

2. Who's next in line for the tribute to Jewish Stars?
JC: Top Secret, totally hilarious and, of course, mythically delicious.

3. What's been the most rewarding moment for you with He'Brew?
JC: I'm certainly really excited about the growth of the company over the past five years (1000%), but I'm most proud of the quality and uniqueness of the products we've created, and drinking a Shmaltz beer with the kick-butt staff that has become my working family over the past two years!

4. I have some friends that brew their own beer. One or two have talked about starting their own company. Any advice?
JC: There are a lot of brewers in the United States and He'Brew really developed a cult following because of the quality of our beers. Yes, we have a lot of fun with our labels and our branding, but it's all about quality and creativity. In the current market, it must be exceptional beer to gain a dedicated fan base. Do something unique and interesting and share the passion with others relentlessly...and wake up every day and do it over and over and over!


1. What is your favorite album to listen to while enjoying good craft beer?
JC: I dig Corn Mo and the .357 Lover's "Your Favorite Hamburger Is A Cheeseburger." I love this band! Dave C. Wallin, the tattoo artist who designed the labels for Coney Island Craft Lagers, is the bassist for Corn Mo. Fun stuff to rock out to!

2. Who's the toughest celebrity you think you could beat in a boxing match?
JC: Meatloaf

3. What book, movie or show changed your life?
JC: Watching The Daily Show for the first time. I was waiting for someone to really challenge the current platform of news reporting. I love how Stewart combines political commentary with humor and hard news. Jon Stewart rocks.

4. What's your favorite movie trilogy?
JC: Spinal Tap, Best In Show and A Mighty Wind. This is my favorite set of three movies with the same set of actors. As an ode to the Tap, for our anniversary, Shmaltz Brewing released Jewbelation Eleven with a giant amp turned all the way up--to 11.

5. What and where is your favorite establishment to drink? Where is your favorite non-beer drinking establishment?
JC: Damn tough question, since Toronado in San Francisco and Blind Tiger in New York City have been so great to Shmaltz Brewing...but I'd probably say Spuyten Duyvil in Williamsburg, New York. They serve the finest American craft beers, and consistently switch up their beer menu to feature the best seasonal beers. They have a great little beer garden in the back of the bar, which is great during the summer months. Favorite non-beer bar though is at the sideshow in Coney Island.

The Beatles Question
Who's your favorite Beatle?
JC: Ringo Starr. For decades, he's handled all of The Beatles fan mail by corresponding directly with their fans. Now that is truly amazing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Get the fuck outta there!
You know what? I'm just going to turn this into a blog of kittens that make me laugh.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Some Cartoon Characters Just Aren't Funny In This Economy

Some Cartoon Characters Just Aren't Funny In This Economy
By: Jake Kilroy | March 20, 2009 10:35 AM

Last week, I was watching The Critic, which I consider to be the lighter and cartoon equivalent of Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night.

Anyway, I noticed that the character of Duke Phillips wasn't as funny to me as he once was. Phillips, the exceptionally rich and charming megalomaniac owner of his own broadcasting company, just seemed to bother me this time around.

And it's not that I've matured beyond cartoons. I assure you that I haven't.

It's just...I don't think that outrageously wealthy cartoon characters are all that funny anymore in this economy. 10 years ago, these characters were great. I laughed at their delusions, their perspective of the poor and their generally overall wackiness. Their sense of business was marred by their senselessness and gracious detachment from societal norms and standards. The salary gap between them and their protagonist counterparts was a laughable observation of poor vs. rich. But the economy was doing better then and there wasn't a reason to suspect that the cartoon employees of these fictional millionaires and billionaires would be facing layoffs.

Even if these characters were created 10-20 years ago, how are we able to laugh at their relevancy in today's economy? Are whimsical firings and layoffs funny these days?

Sure, they're cartoon characters, but even fictional portrayals of today's financial elite have their grounding somewhere. Isn't it infuriating to watch a cracked character throwing money away when you know friends and family that can't find work?

Yes, they're hand-drawn works of fiction, but when they don't show compassion for their working force or the working class, doesn't it feel like you're not in on the joke anymore?

And by all of this, I am of course referring to extremely loaded cartoon businesspeople. Not the wacky mafia or criminal types. The pigeons on Animaniacs and Fat Cat from Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers will always amuse. Or there's small business owners obsessed with money, which are fine. But they're much too small-time to really edge out your nerves. Characters like SpongeBob SquarePants' Mr. Krabs are still funny. In fact, Krabs only has an average of two employees.

It's just the deliriously rich cartoon businessmen and women that have lost their edge. Their antics were once loony novelties. But now, their jokes seem cheap and aggravating.

I decided to evaluate the top five rich cartoon characters that have lost their biting humor to sheer biting that stings. Without further introduction, here are the top five television cartoon characters that have lost their funny edge over the last decade as the economy has tanked.


#5: Mr. Burns
Springfield Power Plant
The Simpsons
PERSONA: Burns is the classic frail, town hall, businessman villain. He's done everything from blocking out the sun to attempting to make an outfit out of puppies. He has blackmailed and bribed. He has, in fact, actually tried to steal candy from a baby. But failed. The baby was too strong.
QUOTE THAT SUMMARIZES THEM AS AN EMPLOYER: "Get going. And answer those phones, install a computer system and rotate my office so the window faces the hills."
PARTICULAR EPISODES: Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk, Who Shot Mr. Burns?, Raging Abe Simpson And His Grumbling Grandson in "The Curse of the Flying Hellfish"
Hilarity Factor of 1999: 9
Hilarity Factor of 2009: 6
REASONS FOR DECLINE: Burns is so out of touch with everything that what he does can't even be considered business. He runs his modern nuclear power plant with the integrity and insanity of the industrial revolution. The man writes with a quill pen and wears goggles while driving. In all actuality, he should be the least funny on here, as he has accomplished the most demoralizing destruction to his townspeople. But his ability to consistently outdate himself by not only decades, but maybe an entire century, keeps him seeming irrelevant, nonthreatening and generally misplaced. His erratic but calm participation in 21st Century business as a man of the late-19th and early 20th Century prevents him from becoming too relevant today.

#4: Duke Phillips
Phillips Broadcasting (formerly Duke Phillips' House of Chicken & Waffles)
The Critic
PERSONA: Though maybe the most endearing character on this list, Phillips is still balanced with an insulting ego. He founded a hospital (good) with a robotic statue that announces, "All hail Duke, Duke is life" (bad). Phillips even had the funds once to build a preschool on a dare. He is fierce in his detachment from society, but too realistic to be silly. He makes a conscious effort to flout his wealth and power, once calling Webster to add a word so he could win at Scrabble. On on occasion, when renting a hotel room that resembles a five-star residence in Dubai, Phillips calls it a "tragedy" that they have the wrong kind of tigers in his viewing display. And at one point, Phillips says, "Like other members of America's cultural elite, I worship Pan the Goat God." He is so aware of his crazy that it doesn't count.
QUOTE THAT SUMMARIZES THEM AS AN EMPLOYER: "I'm gonna run this country like I run my company. I'm gonna raid the pension fund, dump chemicals in the oceans and sell our best assets to the Japanese."
PARTICULAR EPISODES: All The Duke's Men, Dukerella, Dr. Jay
Hilarity Factor in 1999: 8
Hilarity Factor in 2009: 5
REASONS FOR DECLINE: Again, although he is the most likable character on the list, he still actively taunts his workforce and is repeatedly threatening to fire movie critic Jay. Profit always surpasses integrity and art to him. He walks through walls with ease and often flaunts his ability to have others killed. He is reckless, but not deranged. Phillips sometimes appears to be a little too close to real CEOs. He micromanages what he doesn't understand and evades taxes as a registered citizen of the Dutch Antilles. He is dishonest to the government and other businesses, but never really to his employees. He's just playfully discouraging. It was a lot funnier when real CEOs weren't micromanaging what they didn't understand and being financially evasive. So Philips loses three points.

#3: Scrooge McDuck
McDuck Enterprises
PERSONA: Though supposedly loosely based on Andrew Carnegie, McDuck rates low because he's preachy. It's always easier to preach the value of money when one has it, and he expects his employees to live up to his demand, even when he won't raise their pay. And to top it off, he had a temper. He fired both pilot Launchpad and inventor Gyro for minor mishaps. And he flouted his money by turning it into a swimming pool, which was so inane that it was somewhat loveable. But that was then, when his motto for money was always "earn it, square." However, in today's economy, nobody's hiring. So, how are we to earn it? Exactly. Shut up, McDuck.
QUOTE THAT SUMMARIZES THEM AS AN EMPLOYER: "I'm the richest duck in the world."
PARTICULAR EPISODES: Down And Out In Duckburg, Catch As Cash Can - A Drain On The Economy, The Uncrashable Hindentanic
Hilarity Factor in 1999: 5
Hilarity Factor in 2009: 4
REASONS FOR DECLINE: He only loses one point because honesty and hard work is as relevant 20 years ago (when the series ran) as it was 10 years ago as it is today. McDuck's message was strong, but he wasn't fun. He was the universal strict boss, but was still relatively fair. This whole odd balance made him slightly unfunny to begin with, as we've all had bosses like that. McDuck never lets you forget that he has money, and that he swims in it, but he also never lets you forge that he earned it, square. Also, he would always rehire Launchpad and Gyro anyway.

#2: Mom
Mom's Friendly Robot Company
PERSONA: In public, Mom appears to be a much older version of Paula Deen (pleasantly plump with a delightful Southern drawl) and uses old-time similies like "squeaking like an old screen door." But in private, Mom is a chain-smoking, foul-mouthed CEO that holds 99.7% shares of Mom's Friendly Robot Company. She only looks out for her best interest with ruthless business tactics. In one instance, Mom stole the entire fortune of nice guy delivery boy turned accidental billionaire Philip J. Fry by stealing his pin code and bank card. She has hosted charity events to cultivate relationships with investors. Also, she tried to kill mankind once by way of her business products: robots. However, it was Judge Whitey who decided that "being poor" was a legitimate mental illness.
PARTICULAR EPISODES: A Fishful Of Dollars, Mother's Day, Future Stock
Hilarity Factor in 1999: 7
Hilarity Factor in 2009: 3
Hypothetical Hilarity Factor in 2999: 0
REASONS FOR DECLINE: When the economy was better, a character like Mom was outrageous. She was so mindlessly evasive of the truth and lied straight to the public in wacky and bold forms and forums. She was a saint in the public's eye, but a tyrannical, abusive sociopath in private. Through hostile takeovers and simply takeovers through hostility, she managed to build an empire. The over-the-top business empire of dishonesty and hyper-control was funny in the late '90s. And then Enron happened. And then a slew of other businesses happened. And then the economy tanked. And then Mom didn't seem so funny.

#1: Carter Pewterschmidt
U.S. Steel
Family Guy
PERSONA: Pewterschmidt is by far the least funny wealthy character on television these days. And he was to begin with. His perspective of the working class has always been uncomfortably mean and discouraging, as well as racist and sexist. He mocks and taunts the less fortunate. He's actually said that the secret to happiness is money and has pushed those poorer than him (asking for his help) to do obnoxious things, like eat an entire pine cone. And Carter's best friends are also mogul mongrels, like Ted Turner and Michael Eisner. Greed loves company (and companies), I suppose.
QUOTE THAT SUMMARIZES THEM AS AN EMPLOYER: "I'm never taking you to my country club again!"
PARTICULAR EPISODES: Screwed The Pooch, Peterotica, Padre de Familia
Hilarity Factor in 1999: 4
Hilarity Factor in 2009: 1
REASONS FOR DECLINE: Pewterschmidt is so relevant because he actively chooses to be a terrible businessman and person. He doesn't recognize his own gardener, even after 12 years of employment. He ignores his own workforce and writes the poor off as beneath him. Pewterschmidt can and will ignore the suffering of those close to him while shrugging it off as their problem, even if it is his responsibility. As long as he has his money and his ability to keep making money, he feels he can ignore the problems of those in his employ. He is also spectacularly dishonest, unsympathetically self-involved and a disaster of a family man. His character was already somewhat brutal in 1999. But that was when the economy was better, and you actually felt sorry for such an awful person. Now, in 2009, nothing about Pewterschmidt is funny. Nothing. Well, save for the occasional good fart joke, which earns him a 1.

And there you have it, the top five cartoons that have lost their place on television as their audience continues to be mistreated, misinformed and laid off.

"New Dusty Road"

in a fractured state of disrepair
in beautiful intoxication by jake kilroy.

New dusty road,
where are your rocks of graves and your steady pace of wooden churches?
See, we all have is a melody,
and your beer doesn't serve our bodies well,
for we cherish these moments of typewriter gin.

Yes, yes, surely a new beat, a cobblestone street,
play that piano like demon bones and let us hear your coattails sail.
A question for the younger man; a round of disgrace,
as we should be mellower men?
Of consciousness, I have ready right to strike!

For these nerves beat my guts into a songbird's last hum!
Hear the Bible wage, that wonderful sound of drums,
terror or timid, we're quick with jokes, faster with women!
I believe this is killing me, disaster among, a grin to wrong...
shall we hear you again beatnik maestro of divine cigarette cartons?

A prison man, of prisms, man; I can hear you again.
This patron of the sea, this call to me, I won't ever see your heart again.
Where is the broken melody of spinning newspapers, a last truthful character,
not I, not you, not her, and never Him.
You've got us feeling all right.
I stole lines from a gyspy musician here and there.
Ripped and trite, this isn't the poem I set out to right.
Or write.

I mean, Jesus, I'm stoned out my goddamn mind.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Strike up the band and paint the halls!
I won't have it quiet or boring when duty calls!
Ready my suit and ready with haste!
I've got some plans with a stuffed suitcase!


I'm back.

And all I'm going to do is post random things I write with very little editing.

Fuck it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How The Irish Know Business

How The Irish Know Business
By: Jake Kilroy | March 17, 2009 11:51 AM

Today is St. Patrick's Day, and as the son of an American who was the son of an American who was the son of Ireland natives, I thought I'd write something in tribute to the Irish.

Also because I asked my father about Irish businessmen and women some months ago, and he had quite a response.

My father has long been one of Ireland's heavy promoters. And by that, I mean that we've had many conversations at the dinner table of which great historical figures were Irish, though they were popularly known for being from elsewhere. At Christmas, at my grandparents' house, winter carols turned into lively Irish folk songs.

In fact, I'd use the phrase "lofty Irish nationalism" to describe some conversations I overheard as a kid. So you can imagine the delight of the Irish side of my family when they heard about a book called How The Irish Saved Civilization.

A little over ten years ago, American scholar Thomas Cahill wrote How The Irish Saved Civilization. In it, Cahill detailed the Irish's part in protecting Western Civilization against everyone from the Huns to the Saxons.

My father read Cahill's bestseller and praised it for years after finishing it. In fact, I recall many of my uncles and grandfather talking about Cahill's book at several holidays when I was younger.

Some months ago, I approached my father about writing a blog called "How The Irish Saved Business," thinking I could draw parallels between business and warfare. However, I wasn't sure if it would make sense, so I asked him how I should go about it. In his e-mail reply, he admitted that he didn't have much experience as an entrepreneur and said that he wasn't sure how the Irish saved business exactly, but he suggested that there were a couple of things that the Irish knew about business.

So I just turned the rest of the e-mail into an essay by my father.

"How The Irish Know Business"
by John Kilroy

There's probably a lot to mine in the connection between being Irish and running a business. A huge number of Irish surnames are on the list of people running America's Fortune 500 companies. America is Ireland's most successful colony.

Real Irish have a lot of good aspects for being entrepreneurs. Generalizing to a great degree, there's unfettered imagination and brashness bordering on recklessness. They don't like rules, or people telling them what they can or can't do, so being their own boss is a good solution. It's also a good way to enter a market that already seems to be "owned" by some dominant companies.

The Irish are great talkers. I think they're generally good salespeople. As salespeople, they'll tend to want to keep talking long after the sale's been closed, which is not strategically smart. I've done this. And where some night complain, the Irish tend to be fine with buying a customer a few rounds long after the work day is done. In other words, the purpose of talking for the Irish is talking, and they can quite easily depart from a pointed focus on the sale.

And there's a respect for people, so that while the Irish might slip into exaggeration from time to time, I think they don't feel right about actually misrepresenting something to the degree that someone will end up in some sort of financial pain. I think maintaining the relationship is very important. There's a respect for honesty in the relationship, even if sometimes the Irish aren't great with a sterile, frozen sense of what's true at any given moment.

A lot of times, the Irish have a gift for transforming what should be a mundane experience into something that strangely feels like fun. People find themselves gravitating to such people because it just tends to be more fun. So, whether it's motivating employees or striking a deal, fun can be effective, and fun is something the Irish can do quite well.

And, although it might be diminished, there was a time when the Irish had to work at any price at any endeavor or starve. That's a powerful motivator. And it was true at a time of great prejudice in the United States against the Irish. So, they have an immigrant's approach to good ol' hard work. No job is demeaning. All labor is good. You may have more money, but I can outwork you every single day of the year because that's the only way my ancestors survived.

And the Irish have the sense of optimism that makes great entrepreneurs.

Having said all that, the Irish make bad employees in a typical sense. I know I still can't sit through a serious meeting without thinking the entire time of funny things to say. It look me 20 years to finally stop blurting them out. Now, I allow boring meetings to remain boring. Straight-laced types think a sense of humor has something to do with a lack of serious intent, but to the Irish, a lack of humor is the same as being dead.

And it can be challenging to get the Irish to understand that 8 a.m. is an actual time, and not nearly the same thing as 8ish or 8:30ish or sometime today. And 5 p.m. is an actual time, and it overrides whenever happy hour starts.

Direct conflict might be an unknown quantity when it comes to the Irish and business. On the one hand, the way the Irish employ language can fly right past people. There's the old saying that an Irishman can tell a man to go to Hell in such a way that he looks forward to the trip. To get an Irishman to speak his mind in a terse, direct fashion is a challenge, especially when it's a situation of direct conflict. On the other hand, it doesn't take much for an Irishman in a situation of direct conflict to just explode. I think a lot of other cultures have a more reasonable middle ground in times of negotiating conflict.

An Irish accountant working for a Wall Street bank would probably not use such language as "broke, "bankrupt" or "out of business." He might start the conversation with, "Well, the situation is that you have less money than you used to, but you have a lot more time to work on your golf game."

Friday, March 13, 2009

I Know What Boys Like, I Know What Guys Want

I Know What Boys Like, I Know What Guys Want
By: Jake Kilroy | March 13, 2009 2:32 PM

"I know what boys like. I know what guys want." -- The Waitresses, from their album Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful

Sure, vocalist Patty Donahue said that she was what boys liked and what guys wanted in 1982, and the whole song was seemingly just a love affair with herself. But some time ago, this song came on in my sister's car, as do many favorite tracks of the 1980s, and it got me thinking, "What do men like? And what do they not want?"

I decided to just ask someone who had experience advertising to men.

"Guys don't want to read wedding content about flowers or cake," Chris Easter, 25, told me. This, of course, opened up a manly door of manly insight.

Easter is a co-founder of The Man Registry, along with friends Bobby Horner, 27, and Jimmy Horner, 29. is an online resource for grooms and a specialized wedding registry.

And the company started out of personal observation, which is always my favorite start to any entrepreneurial story. I much prefer "I noticed that nobody sold plastic lion skulls, and damn, I just love quirky crap, so I started a company that sold plastic lion skulls" as opposed to "I graduated from business school and just kept trying to figure out what would make me money."

The Story: A few years ago, Easter and his partners were attending a number of weddings, constantly hunting down items on registries and noticing that nothing really seemed fun to them.

"The gifts were predominantly geared towards the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. There weren't really any gifts that the guy could get excited about," says Easter. "As we thought more and more about the creation of a groom's registry, we began to look around at resources for the groom online. We were surprised to see that there were none."

So the salesman (Easter), the chemical/pharmaceutical purchaser/business developer (the younger Horner) and the airline captain (the older Horner) became entrepreneurs by founding the Kansas City-based website in March 2008.

And the three entrepreneurs were undoubtedly onto something about fun gifts that the groom might love. I'm actually attending a wedding tomorrow, which my girlfriend and I went shopping for last week. The registry at Bed, Bath & Beyond was filled with spatulas, towels and random pink items. My girlfriend stuck closer to the actual list, looking for a mortar & pestle for our friends Shawn and Tina. Meanwhile, I suggested buying a dragon statue. It turns out that the "Beyond" section of Bed, Bath & Beyond is super weak and has no awesome dragon statue. I guess "Beyond" to them just means patio furniture, rugs, lamps and nothing with lasers. Ugh.

"Once the three of us realized in our heads what this could eventually become, we moved quickly to get it online. We took the initial steps of forming an LLC, putting together the business plan, setting up the business banking info, and putting together a solid team of advisers and mentors in various areas of business," says Easter. "Simply put, we got our ducks in a row before we even thought about making our first sale."

But how does a company like The Man Registry secure the massive demographic their company is based on?

Easter laid it out for me.

"Since we're strictly an online company, the design and functionality of the website are of huge importance," says Easter. "We have obviously had to work hard to determine what engages men on the web. We have identified key areas that are essential to selling grooms on our website. If we don't do the following things well, we fail."

* Humor--"We try to have a touch of humor in all of our advertising and content. We think it's important to do this, even if the humor doesn't necessarily relate to weddings. You can see an example of an ad we ran here. Look at the left-side column and you'll either see an ad for our personalized groomsmen gifts or our 64oz. jumbo flask. If you reload the page a few times, they both should rotate in and out."
* User-friendliness--"The site has to be user-friendly. Period. If a guy can't figure out how to navigate to a certain page or shop for a certain item, then what is the point?"
* Website layout and design--"We have found that a visually stimulating website or advertisement is more likely to hold a man's attention than one that is based in text. Including photos and bullet points in articles keeps a guy reading and is less likely to bore him. When it comes to the design of the website, we try to use the color blue a lot because our research and other statistics have shown that many respond to the color blue."
* Products--"The big draw to our site is obviously the wedding gift registry. We have to constantly be maintaining and adding products that guys are going to want. We have to keep our finger on the pulse of the market and what is currently popular and what's going to be popular in six months."

Though Easter and the Horners (also a possible doo-wop group from the early 1960s) have the logistics of marketing to men, they're still only attracting 50 percent of the population. What about women?

"We do devote approximately 35 percent of the marketing budget to reaching out to brides. The main message that we try to convey to the bride is that her fiance can go from an uninvolved bum to actually enjoying the wedding process by visiting our site and seeing just how many aspects of wedding planning he can get involved in," says Easter. "We also ran a campaign in November and early December encouraging women to buy Christmas gifts for the men on their list from The Man Registry. We had a great success with this campaign as we were able to convey that The Man Registry knows men and knows what men like."

I thought the initial questioning would be more difficult for Easter, but marketing to men while securing women actually seems much easier when he puts it in those terms: "Men, we know what you like, and women, we know what your men like."

Why does it have to be harder than that?

"Since we're in the wedding industry, we have to include [the woman demographic] in our budget and plans because marriage is a two-person job. In many instances, we rely on the bridge to discover our website either online or in wedding publications and send her fiance to our site," says Easter. "Typically, guys don't actively seek out wedding websites, so we have to get creative in how we reach them. One of the ways we do this is marketing to the bride because we know she's going to send him to The Man Registry."

Beyond that, they just need to keep the men coming back to the website for more than shopping. Right now, on the website, a featured article is "Writing Your Vows: A Gameplan."

In fact, their content is what may keep repeat visitors. The content is relevant, witty, charming and informative. It isn't just a box of slick gimmicks.

"The content in our 'Groom 101' section focuses on the groom's responsibilities and areas that he would be interested in," says Easter. "These categories range from the bachelor party to picking out the right ring to honeymoon planning to groom-friendly wedding showers where he can rake in the manly loot! We also recently launched, which is our official blog. This blog is updated several times per week and includes regular guest blogs from some of the heavy hitters in the wedding industry."

Aside from content, the other two outlets of the website's "three pronged approach" is a wedding vendor directory as well as gift registry and groomsman gifts. The gift registry is the centerpiece of the website, according to Easter. It has a large selection of gifts for the best man, groomsman, usher and ring bearer, and can be personalized.

But did it have everything?

I decided, as a superb investigative journalist, to see how reliable The Man Registry's gift registry actually is.

"I used to play in a garage band with three close friends," I told Easter in my e-mail. "Let's say that, hypothetically, and God forbid, as we can all hardly dress ourselves in the morning, those three guys were going to be married soon. What items from The Man Registry would you recommend I buy for my friends?"

"First off, we'd be very interested in meeting the women who have agreed to marry these men!" Easter added, after reading the descriptions of my friends. I suppose I should also mention that I let those three friends (Rex, Jeff and Chase) each write their own mini-biography...

REX: An avid gamer, Rex would like to play Call of Duty with the Stanford Branch of Dunder Mifflin more than anyone else. And if he could have any job in the world, he would have Jim Halpert's job: as Pam Beesley's fiance. Rex loves Zooey Deschanel and Katy Perry (but only when she looks like Zooey Deschanel). And if zombies started a revolution, so that he could fight and destroy them, Rex would be the happiest man in Brazil.
CE: "Rex has surely thought long and hard (that's what she said) about how his video game playing time is going to decrease after marriage. Our guess is he won't be playing Call of Duty much with the wife. However, maybe she can become a gamer too. Surely he has an XBox 360, Playstation 3 or Wii. How about picking him up Rock Band or Guitar Hero? These are games that most women can tolerate and actually enjoy! They also make for great party games when the couple is entertaining.

JEFF: Jeff is a man with a fierce temper and great thirst for high proof gin. He enjoys hiking in the woods alone, armed with nothing but a walking staff. He also owns Pat Boone's entire musical catalogue.
CE: "Gin you say? Well, assuming he doesn't drink it straight, which is not recommended by The Man Registry, he must like martinis. The Nostalgic Electrics Vintage Martini Shaker can give the kitchen or bar a little flavor and excitement. If he needs somewhere to store all of his excess gin, maybe you could also throw in The Maxam 64oz Jumbo Flask.

CHASE: Chase was the front-runner for "The Most Interesting Man In The World," but missed the final interview because of a luncheon with Tupac. For several years, Chase lived in the woods using only his beard to survive. He had no walking staff, as walking staffs are for total wusses. Chase remains the only man in the history of time to ever win a bet with God.
CE: "If he ever goes in the woods for old-time's sake, give him something that he can put to use. The Maxam 2 Person Tent will give he and his bride shelter and a good night's rest for a weekend camping trip...not that they'll be doing much sleeping..."

And there you have it: what boys like, what guys want.

Friday, March 6, 2009

You (And I) Can Finally be in the Loop

You (And I) Can Finally be in the Loop
By: Jake Kilroy | March 6, 2009 2:02 AM

I don't think I've made it any real secret that I'm technologically inept when it comes to the problems of my computer. In fact, I sometimes have small problems with appliances, too. I burn my microwaveable pizza 80 percent of the time at work and stuck a knife in the toaster well after puberty.

So when someone pitches me something tech, I usually try to pass it off to other people. Let them figure out the order of what appears to be sporadic letters and numbers to me.

A tech press release could read something like:

"The T-1000, Skynet's latest model, is more efficient than the 800 series. Due to its mimetic poly-alloy, it has the ability to change shape, color and texture. Even when shot with a Winchester Model 1901 10ga level-action shotgun, the T-1000 will heal itself and still rid the world of those pesky John Connors."

And I would be totally clueless what the actual threat is.

So, with the help of PR rep, I wrote a tech blog. In it, I confessed my inexperience with technology and how a PR person had actually helped me, even though I did my best to fight her (and all PR).

And then Andrea Maclean, a new PR rep, sent me an e-mail me shortly after.

"You've opened the PR flak floodgates," Maclean wrote in her e-mail.

"Opening the floodgates for PR is like the Helm's Deep scene in Lord Of The Rings," I replied. "That's the last thing I wanna do."

But Maclean wrote back, "I LOVE Lord Of The Rings--seen it a bagillion times."

"Hmmm..." I thought to myself, as I continued to read. Maclean went on to pitch CrossLoop, a desktop sharing application of tech support, which most certainly sparked my interest. But, me being me, I couldn't allow someone in PR to win that easily. So I demanded Maclean answer me these questions three...

1. Get at least five words out of the word jumble CHARLES DARWIN.
AM: How about this: Radar, Drawn, Swindle, Swine, Drawer, Rachael, Laws, Scrawl, or this little diddy: Nerds swindle swine in war.

2. Not even going to give you the movie. Why does Rick make Ilsa get on the plane with Victor Laszlo?
AM: Casablanca--short version, because he loved her. Long version: because Victor needed Ilsa's support in his efforts against the Nazis. In Rick's famous "hill a beans" speech, he basically says fighting the Nazis is more important than his wanting to be with her. This was a big deal, since Rick had been neutral about the war. In the end, he finally chose a side--against the Reich.

3. What is your favorite, most underrated film?
AM: I don't follow ratings or critic reviews. I just like what I like. I'd say it's a tie, depending on my mood, between Sideways and The Princess Bride.

Her three answers were dead-on. As was her pitch for CrossLoop.

"Think of your own personal Geek Squad," Maclean said.

But I wasn't even sure what Geek Squad did.

"Essentially, CrossLoop is like an eBay for tech support, but you can also have a tech-savvy friend help you for free using CrossLoop," Maclean explained.

The reason something like this appeals to me is because I could use tech support at all times. At any given moment on the computer, I could probably use advice. I have several tech-savvy friends, but bringing them over to the house and buying them Chipotle for their time isn't always efficient. If they were able to help me from their computer, however, it could lighten the load.

And I could use tech support at home. Here at Entrepreneur, our tech support is Jamie. Jamie has successfully fixed every problem on my computer here at work. I have yet to stump him. But maybe your company doesn't have the employee count Entrepreneur does.

I mean, how many entrepreneurs are often alone at weary hours, shacked up in their home office, trying to get their company, their product or their service off the ground?

When starting a company, tech support isn't usually the first department filled. An entrepreneur will get someone to ship the product, someone to look into marketing schemes, someone to take care of the books, et cetera. So the idea of a company that advertises "cheaper and immediate tech support" may be something to look into, once your company is starting to expand and actually have a network.

If it suits you as an entrepreneur to invest in something like freelance tech support, the steps, according to a CrossLoop fact sheet, are as follows:

- Download the free CrossLoop application
- Enter a 12-digit access code
- Click "connect" to give your helper remote access to your computer
- It's completely permission-based

And if you want more, here's a little demo, complete with adorable faceless characters.

The application, available in 21 languages, is, according to the website, "combined with the Help Marketplace, a community of more than 13,000 technology experts in over 130 countries." The Help Marketplace includes hardware support, software and applications support and training.

And it seems that there's a viable market for this form of tech support. In September 2008 alone, CrossLoop was covered by TechCrunch, PC World and The Wall Street Journal.

So if you're looking for 24/7 tech support once your business grows beyond your friends and family helping, maybe look into something like CrossLoop.