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Exploring the world of entrepreneurship and self development through the eyes of Andy Rodie

Archive for the month “April, 2006”

Entrepreneur – Sara Blakely


This is a lesson in Entrepreneurship. I first noticed Sara on the Rebel Billionare realitly show with Richard Branson. Even though she did not win, she left an impression on me. I have been following her company ever since. Read on. This was taken from www.theladieswholaunch.com
Great website.

How did a twenty-something woman – unhappy with the way her clothes fit, create one of the hottest brands in the hosiery and shape wear business?

Hers is a story of risk and reward.

Sara Blakely didn’t like the thong lines and cellulite staring back in the mirror when she repeatedly tried on a favorite pair of white pants, so she started Spanx (http://www.spanx.com/), with a line of footless pantyhose that promises “we’ve got your butt covered.”

Now Spanx products are sold in stores like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. Blakely estimates the company will bring in $30 million in revenue this year, its fifth anniversary. Spanx has been profitable and self-funded from the start – Blakely is the sole owner and has never raised capital or brought in outside investors.

Step One: Cutting the Feet Out of Pantyhose

“I was selling copiers door-to-door (in Atlanta) and doing stand-up comedy. I had never worked in fashion or retail, just loved clothes and shoes. I spent my hard-earned money on a beautiful pair of white pants, but never wore them because every time I put them on, I could see a panty line or thong mark and a bit of cellulite. Body shapers were thick and uncomfortable. So I cut the feet out of my control top pantyhose, and that worked better than anything on the market.”

Step Two: Selling ‘Crazy’ Idea

“No one in my family had been in business – I come from a whole line of lawyers. Through Internet research, I discovered that most of the world’s pantyhose are made in North Carolina. So I started cold-calling and faxing non-disclosures to the hosiery mills, and they all thought my idea was crazy. They weren’t interested.

“Simultaneously I looked up every pantyhose patent since 1800 to see if there already was a patent for footless pantyhose, and found that there wasn’t. I also cold-called patent lawyers and was met with nothing but resistance and laughter. One lawyer later admitted that he thought I had been sent by Candid Camera.

Taking Legal Matters Into Her Own Hands

“So I went to Barnes & Noble, bought a book on patents and trademarks, and wrote my patent myself, except the claims part, which has the real legal jargon. Finally I was able to find an attorney who would do the claims portion for a few hundred dollars.

Keeping Secrets

“I didn’t tell anyone my idea, not friends or family. Everyone knew I was working on an invention, but they didn’t know what it was until I had already invested a year of my time. This is important because so many people stop dead in their tracks because their husband or brother or someone, out of love, brings up 50 things for them to worry about.”

“The minute you put your idea out there, you’re forced to justify it. A year after working on it (footless pantyhose), I said, ‘OK, I’m going to tell you guys.’ And I was met with a lot of questions and skepticism. People asking, ‘Is that really such a good idea? The big guys will just knock you off.’ If I hadn’t already invested a year, I might not have done it (started Spanx).”

Source of Inspiration: Oprah

“I asked for a sign that I should keep going. One day, I turned on the TV and clicked on Oprah, and there she was showing the world that she had cut the feet out of her pantyhose.”

Finally, a Breakthrough

“I called the hosiery mills and said, ‘I’m taking a week off work and coming in person to talk with you. I met with all the mill owners, and they all sent me away again. Two weeks later, one of the mill owners called and said, ‘I’m going to help you make your crazy idea. Why? I have two daughters.'”

12 Months in the Making

“It took a year to make the first product prototype. I learned the hosiery industry had been putting a rubber cord at our waistbands, even though we no longer needed it because of Lycra. The industry had been taking the average between the largest size and the smallest size and putting average sizes on waistbands.”

“There was not a female in this industry challenging the mills that were pumping out these products for years. No one saying, ‘Let’s make hosiery more comfortable.’ With Spanx, if you’re an A-size, you get an A-waistband. They’re all cotton, so you can wear them with or without underwear, which is the whole point, to get rid of panty lines.”

Packaging the Product

“I knew I wanted our packaging to be red – it’s one of my favorite colors. We didn’t have money to advertise, so I knew a red package would stand out among all the beige and grey on the store shelves. I didn’t read a bunch of books, didn’t have a bunch of classes in marketing. The only source I went to was my gut and myself as a consumer. I thought, ‘Personally I don’t like buying pantyhose, it’s confusing and boring. How can I change that?'”

Naming the Company

“I knew Kodak and Coca-Cola are among the most recognized products in the world. And it’s a weird trade secret among comedians that the ‘k’ sound will make people laugh. The minute I came to that clarity, the word “spanks” came to mind. I knew from research that made-up words do better for products than real words and are easier to trademark, so I changed the name to “Spanx” and trademarked it online.”

Gaining Entree Into Stores

“I called Neiman-Marcus, got the buyer on the phone and said, ‘I will fly to Dallas to show this to you if you give me ten minutes.’ She said OK, got the concept immediately and put Spanx in seven stores. I called every friend in each of those seven cities and said, ‘I will pay you back if you go buy the product and tell all your friends.”

The Art of Self-Promotion

“We have never hired a marketing company, never hired a PR company, never hired a sales company. To promote the product, I stood in hosiery departments for a year and a half. I sent a gift basket to Oprah and said, ‘Thanks for being part of this process,’ because she was the sign I had asked for.” (A few months later, Oprah sent a crew to Atlanta to interview Blakely in her “Spanx headquarters,” which was really the back of Blakely’s apartment. In November of 2000, her interview and footless pantyhose appeared on Oprah’s “Favorite Things” show.)

No Budget, Big Buzz

“With no money to advertise, I had to do things in a way that were on the edge. I took a really big leap of faith there. A lot of news editors and other people hung up on me at first when I said, ‘I’m calling from Spanx.’ But I took the most boring subject on the planet, pantyhose, and made it something people wanted to talk about.”

Bra-llelujah!?

“Now we have more than 40 innovative products for women. We have an all-hosiery bra, so comfortable it’s called ‘Bra-llelujah!’ We have control-top fishnet stockings and Power Panties, our second best-selling product (after Spanx footless pantyhose). We have two new collections in intimate apparel, one called ‘Hide and Sleek,’ which is a line of smoothing camis, slips, and panties that firm and tone.”

Greatest Success

“I was so proud of seeing my products on Neiman Marcus shelves. I thought, ‘There’s something I came up with on my own and now it’s next to Donna Karan and Calvin Klein and other international brands.’ The day I launched Power Panties on QVC, they quickly sold out. I got the sales numbers and realized I wasn’t a one-hit-wonder like the big guys said I would be. I felt more like a company, less like someone who stumbled on a fluke that was successful.”

Greatest Challenge

“Building the team. For someone who’s never taken a business class, never managed anyone, to all of a sudden be a business owner and manager and be responsible for all of my employees’ livelihoods… I was shocked and confused on how to be an effective manager. Then I realized, ‘It’s OK if you’re not good at this, hire someone who is.'” Hiring a CEO”I keep dreaming up ideas in random moments, but I’m a bit more removed from the day-to-day of the company. We have a fabulous CEO and COO. I’m the face of Spanx, spreading the word, involved in new marketing ideas. I’m an entrepreneur who knows her strengths and weaknesses. I’m not interested in running the day-to-day business, so for me to step aside, has not been hard for me at all.”

Words of Advice – On Delegating

“As an entrepreneur, you will be in an eternal state of frustration with people you have to delegate to because you think, ‘I could have done that better.’ That’s not fair to your people, because they have strengths you don’t have. If you can find people who do it 80 percent as well as you can, you’re a lucky entrepreneur. Once I started looking at it this way, I all of a sudden relaxed, no longer expecting people to do it exactly the way I would have done it.” Words of Advice – On Patents”I thought the minute my patent was awarded that I was home free. But a patent is only as good as you are willing to defend it. It’s most important to be first to market, come up with clever marketing, try to fill the distribution channels and make sure your product is the best.”

Probably the longest post in History, but I wanted it all in one post.

Best,

Andy G. Rodie

Create a Company – Part 3


Here is the third part to the create a company series.


Create a company: 3 – Work always long term rather than short term


Your business life is like living in a very small city.
Each time you work with somebody, you leave an impression. I started my business in Paris, and I thought it was big. I realized fast that information goes so fast about you and your company providing a good or a bad service. So fast.

I looked at my very first clients as gods I had to worship, think all the time about the trust they had given me. I had to give them back much more than their trust, exceed their expectations, not just what they had paid for.

Shortly after I had provided that great quality with my team I realized how fast the word spreads around, we won many new clients thanks to our first clients recommandations.
Of course when we made mistakes the word spreads even faster.

Working long term for me is just asking yourself the question: will this client or person going to call me for another business in the future ? This may sound so simple but I have seen so many people and suppliers think short term. Like taking an opportunity to charge much more than the market price for a product or service. It is likely you will not have a repeat and loyal customer, it will be a one time only. Short term.

Now with blogging it is going to be incredibly fast. Transparence everywhere. Your clients will start blogging soon about you, your company and the quality of your services. Your employees may start blogging about the way you manage it, I actually wonder why trade unions have not started blogging much (do you know any trade union blogs ?).

You will have to answer these blogs, especially the ones criticizing your services, so that they do not appear higher than your own website on google and other search engines. By the way, where is the answer from the Hippopotamus restaurant chain on my post ? ;=)

Best,

Andy G. Rodie

Entrepreneur – Mark Cuban, America’s Coolest Billionaire.


This is an interview in young money magazine with Businessman Mark Cuban. There’s a lot to learn from Mark and I will share many of his thoughts in this bloy with, starting with this interview. Check it out.

The”average guy” billionaire, Dallas Mavericks owner, and creator of “The Benefactor” reality TV show shares his secrets for making money.
By Daniel Jimenez, youngmoney.com managing editor

My first encounter with Mark Cuban happened poolside last year at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas. He strolled by me, dressed casually in a t-shirt and swim trunks, holding a towel in one hand. I watched Cuban grab a cold drink before getting into the pool to chat with friends. There was nothing about his appearance or demeanor to signal his status as one of the country’s richest men.

This brief experience helped convince me that the”regular guy” image portrayed by Cuban in countless media appearances was not just for show. He really is a man with two very distinct personalities: an ambitious self-made business tycoon who also loves to have fun, sort of like a hipper version of Bill Gates. Cuban, 44, became a millionaire at age 31 after selling MicroSolutions, the computer systems integration company he had founded upon graduating from Indiana University. In fact, he started his computer consulting firm without having ever taken a computer class.

Following a brief retirement, he returned to co-found Broadcast.com, a leading provider of streaming media on the Internet. He eventually took the company public and sold it to Yahoo! in 1999, leaving him about $2 billion richer. The life-long basketball junkie used a mere $280 million of that money to buy the Dallas Mavericks pro basketball team. These days, Cuban is busy promoting his latest business venture called HDNet, the first national all-high definition television network.

This outspoken entrepreneur has drawn more public attention for his hands-on approach to team ownership, which includes yelling and screaming at players and officials from his courtside seat at games. His verbal attacks on an NBA official (“I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen”) earned him the largest individual fine in league history ($500,000) and led to his accepting an invitation to spend a day working behind the counter of a local DQ. Cuban often shoots baskets with the Mavericks before games and even has his own locker in the team’s dressing room.

The long time bachelor married for the first time ever last September and now lives in a 2,000-square-foot mansion in Dallas. He flies in a corporate jet, which he bought online for $41 million. Despite his busy schedule, Cuban is also a much sought after public speaker on business and technology issues.

Cuban has been known to personally answer thousands of fan email, so I contacted him via email to set up an interview. It took him less than 10 minutes to send back responses to all my questions. His advice is not the usual stuff you’ll hear from other successful businessmen. But then again, there’s nothing common about America’s most extraordinary average guy.

YOUNG MONEY TALKS TO MARK CUBAN:

During an exclusive interview with YOUNG MONEY, billionaire Mark Cuban shared his thoughts on using the fear of failure as a motivator, beating the competition, and why investing in the stock market may not be such a good idea.

YM: What is the key to recognizing a profitable business opportunity?CUBAN: Knowing the industry very well. Most people think it’s all about the idea. It’s not. EVERYONE has ideas. The hard part is doing the homework to know if the idea could work in an industry, then doing the preparation to be able to execute on the idea.

YM: What personal characteristics should a person possess in order to become a successful entrepreneur?CUBAN: Willingness to learn, to be able to focus, to absorb information, and to always realize that business is a 24 x 7 job where someone is always out there to kick your ass.

YM: Did you set career goals for yourself while you were in college? If so, what were they?CUBAN: To retire by the age of 35 was my goal. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there though. I knew I would end up owning my own business someday, so I figured my challenge was to learn as much as anyone about every and all businesses. [I believed] that every job I took was really me getting paid to learn about a new industry. I spent as much time as I could, learning and reading everything about business I could get my hands on. I used to go into the library for hours and hours reading business books and magazines.

YM: Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why?CUBAN: No. I don’t really have new ideas, but I manage to combine information in ways most people hadn’t considered. They aren’t new ideas, it’s just that most people don’t do their homework about their businesses and industry, so there is usually a place to sneak in and do something a little different. You just have to make sure what you want to do can sustain a business and make it profitable rather than be a niche that can be crushed [by the competition].

YM: What advice would you give young adults just struggling to move up in the business world?CUBAN: There are no shortcuts. You have to work hard, and try to put yourself in a position where if luck strikes, you can see the opportunity and take advantage of it. I would also say it’s hard not to fool yourself. Everyone tells you how they are going to be”special,” but few do the work to get there. Do the work.

YM: What types of opportunities would you pursue if you were starting over today?CUBAN: I just started a business called HDNet. There never is one area that has a door open to everyone. Try to find an area with something you love to do and do it. It’s a lot easier to work hard and prepare when you love what you are doing.

YM: What would you tell entrepreneur hopefuls who are afraid of failing?CUBAN: It’s good [for them]. I’m always afraid of failing. It’s great motivation to work harder.

YM: What is the most important piece of advice you could offer someone who’s just starting a business?CUBAN: Do your homework and know your business better than anyone. Otherwise, someone who knows more and works harder will kick your ass.

YM: Did you have to sacrifice your personal life in order to become a business success?CUBAN: Sure, ask about five of my former girlfriends that question… I went seven years without a vacation. I didn’t even read a fiction book in that time. I was pretty focused.

YM: Do you have any general saving and investing advice for young people?CUBAN: Put it in the bank. The idiots that tell you to put your money in the market because eventually it will go up need to tell you that because they are trying to sell you something. The stock market is probably the worst investment vehicle out there.
If you won’t put your money in the bank, NEVER put your money in something where you don’t have an information advantage. Why invest your money in something because a broker told you to? If the broker had a clue, he/she wouldn’t be a broker, they would be on a beach somewhere.

I hope you find it inspirational.

Best,

Andy G. Rodie

One of my daily reads.


There are a few pieces of literature I read daily for inspiration, motivation and inspiration.
This one is my favorite.

DARE TO BE
By Steve Maraboli

When a new day begins,
dare to smile gratefully.

When there is darkness,
dare to be the first to shine the light.

When something seems difficult,
dare to do it anyway.

When life seems to beat you down,
dare to fight back.

When there seems to be no hope,
dare to find some.

When you’re feeling tired,
dare to keep going.

When times are tough,
dare to tougher.

When love hurts you,
dare to love again.

When someone is hurting,
dare to help them heal.

When another is lost,
dare to help them find a way.

When a friend falls,
dare to be the first to extend a hand.

When you cross path with another,
dare to make them smile.

When you feel great,
dare to help someone else feel great too.

When the day has ended,
dare to feel as you’ve done your best.

Dare to the best you can – At all times, Dare to be!


What a challenge.

Best,

Andy G. Rodie

Here is something for all of us to think about.


I think it puts things in perspective when we also consider others who might need a helping hand. God knows we all need that helping hand sometimes. It is necessary. Let me know what your think.


Are the shoes too big? Munson Steed Publisher of rolling out weekly

We don’t always know when we start a venture how it might eventually play out. It takes strong vision and faith to tread a rocky path. Taking on responsibility that we do not own takes a special set of circumstances, some might call it a gift; others might term it a calling, but such openness is not innate in many of us. The Virgin Mary’s Joseph was one with such a heart. Joseph accepted Mary’s son as his own and never accused her of double timing him, even as the neighbors laughed and whispered put downs behind his back. It couldn’t have been easy for him. And whether we’re referring to people in ancient times or the here and now, people’s behavior hasn’t changed all that much. It’s still difficult to do the right thing sometimes, and people will criticize you no matter what you do, so you might as well choose to fulfill your destiny.

The question for seekers trying to build a better world for everyone is how to appropriate the heart of Joseph in these trying times. Sure, it’s simpler to just take care of yourself. But not everybody is capable of caring for themselves. There are many among us who are lost in the darkness of poverty, addiction, mental illness or disease that need someone with the heart of Joseph to bring light to their corner of the world. We all have the ability to work miracles, to be angels in somebody’s life. We may not think of it as a miracle, but the recipients do. When we alleviate someone’s suffering, whether they are hungry or lonely or despondent, we are performing a sacred act. It is not charity or a favor; it is what is required of each of us.
Compassion and humility are not weaknesses; they are the bedrocks upon which any civil society must be composed. Joseph accepted his responsibility in a miracle—despite inner conflicts, his own ego and others’ petty opinions—and became a dad. Somewhere, there is a hand reaching out to you, there is a heart whose ache you can fill, and there is a sick soul you can heal with kindness and love. We, each one of us, is the palliative the world needs right now. Don’t hide from your destiny; you might be delaying somebody’s miracle.

Peace.

One of the best writers of our time. I just have to share his work.
Thanks for your inspiration Munson Steed.

Best,

Andy G. Rodie

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