What It Takes To Be A Founder: Vision, Grit, Passion

What It Takes To Be A Founder: Vision, Grit, Passion

 

Ever since the drama emerged around Travis Kalanick and Uber, I’ve been thinking about how few people really get what it takes to start a business from scratch.

  • Especially one that is carving out totally new territory.
  • It will be interesting to see if Jeff Immelt, formerly of GE, gets the CEO position at Uber.
  • If he does, expect an outcome not unlike Sculley at Apple. Hashtag #UberIsOver.

But back to what it takes to be a successful founder: It’s so easy to pass judgment about a founder not being nice enough or caring enough about work/life balance or that company culture may not be quite to your liking.

The Founder’s Mindset/Values vs. Non-Founder Executives

  • It’s clear to me from numerous discussions over the years with friends and colleagues that unless you’ve been a founder, you don’t really fully comprehend what it means to love your company more than anything else in life and that you are willing to sacrifice everything for that company.
  • Naturally when things go off the rails, it is not pretty and founders can be a pretty unforgiving lot
  • In other words, there are two sets of lenses through which you can judge founders: the lens of an employee or the lens of a founder. The latter sees the behavior and the attitude in a different light than do employees.
  • As a founder/entrepreneur there are a million things you are responsible for, you are “never not working.”
  • In the early stages, every problem is ultimately yours to solve (and founders are notorious control freaks)
  • With so much at stake and so little time, most entrepreneurs/founders, who are scrappy to begin with, don’t have the patience for bureaucracy and niceties.
  • Quite frankly, as a founder, being nice is a low level priority when you’re putting everything you have on the line.

Company Culture/Hiring

  • From personal experience I can understand how everyone at early stage startups reflects the founder’s profile. You tend to hire friends of friends.
  • For example, at Zandl Group, we had 8 women and 2 men. Presumably, men could have taken umbrage that we were too female, too gay, too so many things.

Case Study Founders

  • Combative, headstrong traits are not restricted to Silicon Valley although the most well-known examples, at the moment, are from the tech sector including Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg (now morphing into a poster child for philanthropy), and Bill Gates, hell to work for while leading Microsoft but now the philanthropist-in-chief.
  • However, if you go back in history, there are plenty of examples of brilliant minds that changed the world in profound ways who were exceptionally tough and not at all nice to those working for them e.g. Thomas Edison, Frank Lloyd Wright, even Walt Disney was notorious for his ill-treatment of staff and close friends.
  • There are also examples of women who lead their companies with the same toughness. Two role models for me are Anna Wintour (not a founder but a strong leader) and Martha Stewart. Many of my friends consider Wintour an absolute monster. I see her as someone desperately trying to save a dying print business, she offends some by asking pointed questions and annoys others by cutting silly expenses. All done to save Vogue and many of their jobs.

The Bottom Line

  • Founders have a vision of what they are trying to create. They give it their absolute all – and then some.
  • When those working for them come up short, founders can go off the deep end.
  • Apple and Amazon employees (two of the toughest companies to work for) routinely say that as hard as it was to be reamed out by Jobs or Bezos, they became infinitely better at what they were doing and produced more and better work than they ever conceived possible.

Read on below for more on the companies I founded and what I learned from those experiences.

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New Job Alert: If You’re Into Social Media and Data, This Is For You

New Job Alert: If You’re Into Social Media and Data, This Is For You

 

Those brilliant computer science researchers at Cornell University have figured out ways to study global fashion trends by analyzing the billions of photos uploaded to social media each day.

The result? A first-of-its-kind analysis of global and per-city fashion choices and spatio-temporal trends.

  • Only problem: their info is a little dry – too many words, not enough images.
  • They need some trend people to turn it into a more visual, engaging presentation for the fashion industry.
  • Here’s the link to their paper: “StreetStyle: Exploring world-wide clothing styles from millions of photos.”
  • My question for them: Can this framework be applied to other categories e.g. food, cars, sports? That would be truly brilliant.

Read on below for a quick rundown on how Kavita Bala, professor of computer science; Noah Snavely, associate professor computer science at Cornell Tech; and Kevin Matzen, PhD student in vision, graphics, robotics, created this study.

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A Step in the Right Direction: But Calling a Size 10 a Plus-Size is Ridiculous!

A Step in the Right Direction: But Calling a Size 10 a Plus-Size is Ridiculous!

 

Interesting opinion piece in the Observer on the growth of the $20 billion Plus-Size market – although starting it at size 10 is questionable.

  • The fashion industry has to get over itself and realize that the majority of women in America now wear sizes 12-16.
  • I wear sizes 10-12 based on the brand.
  • And I am working at losing 15 lbs for my health – but for the fashion industry to call me “plus-size” because I don’t fit their size 6 fantasy is a bit outrageous.

Reading this made me newly appreciate how brilliant the COS concept is – so right for today’s market. They’ve accomplished it through design, sizing, and customer-focus and they’ve done it in a way that has eluded other retailers/brands.

Why COS works for today’s women without needing to call out plus-sizing:

Design:

  • “modern, functional, considered design”
  • They have such a clear and concise master plan for how – and for whom – the clothes have been designed.
  • Their styles are not intended for waifs or for Kardashian body types.
  • Note: It is interesting that their website is nevertheless populated with tall, thin types but the clothes definitely work equally well for large sizes as for small.

Sizing:

  • They offer 4 sizes: XS, S, M and L
  • The sizes correspond to numeric sizes 2-4 (XS) to 14 (L)
  • But what I absolutely love most about COS is that the clothes have been designed with the largest-size as a reference point. You never run into a situation where an item only looks great in the small size.
  • I shop there almost exclusively at this point and have never been happier with my wardrobe.

In-store experience

  • One of the points that the writer of the Observer piece makes is how dismal it is for “plus-size” shoppers to try on clothes in stores – and that many brands e.g. The Gap, only have their larger sizes available online.
  • COS consistently provides a great in-store experience. They place as much emphasis on their Large selection as they do the Smalls or Mediums.

Customers

  • The COS customer base is very diverse, the store is always full of women of all ages and all sizes.

Read on below for info on the successful online Plus Size Retailers that the writer highlights for the Observer – and my perspective on who they serve based on their websites.

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Top Lipstick Trends from Around The Globe

Top Lipstick Trends from Around The Globe

 

July 29th was National Lipstick Day. And  I totally missed it – which is really weird since lipstick is my thing!! It’s the only cosmetic product I use.

In celebration of National Lipstick Day, YouCam Makeup, a leader in virtual lipstick try-ons released their  global lipstick study based on findings from their 280 million users, 23.5 million of which use the app daily.

Here are the top trends based on users from around the globe:

The two-toned lip is the fastest growing trend globally – UP 74%

  • While ombré lips became popular last year, two-toned lips (different colors on top and bottom lips) are now the fastest growing trend.
  • Two-tone lips were first noted on the New York Fashion Week runway in Jason Wu’s Fall 2017 collection, and now beauty brands such as Estée Lauder and Laneige have released two-toned lipsticks

Read on below for 3 additional trends. Read More >

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First Millennials, Now Gen Z: How are Oldsters Going to Keep Up?

First Millennials, Now Gen Z: How are Oldsters Going to Keep Up?

 

Those dastardly millennials are killing off everything from beer to diamonds to movies.

Here are 3 areas where millennials are making different choices than Gen Xers or Boomers:

Marriage & Diamonds

  • Millennials aren’t getting married as early – if at all – as the generations before them.
  • 47% of millennial women will be unmarried at age 33.
  • In the 1940’s, only 9% of women were unmarried at that age.
  • This has forced the Diamond Producers Assn, to rethink the role of engagement rings.
  • Their new campaign encourages millennials to commemorate any “real” relationship, not just one that leads to the altar, with a diamond.

Dogs vs. Babies (Source: SunTrust Mortgage)

  • A third of millennials were influenced to purchase their home because they needed space for their dog.
  • Their dog was the third most commonly cited reason for buying a home, coming in above children and marriage.
  • Only more living space and the opportunity to build equity came above the furry companions.
  • 42% of millennials who had never bought a home said their dog, or the desire to have one, would be a key factor in their decision to get on the property ladder.

Movies

  • The number of ticket buyers ages 18 to 24 dropped off by more than one-third between 2013 and 2016, reported the New York Post.

But wait. Now that we have millennials figured out, here comes Gen Z (teens).

  • There are Gen Z experts like Connor Blakley who just informed Business Insider that “for the first time ever, young people are defining what’s cool.” Really???
  • Or …. you could check out the nationwide Piper Jaffray survey of 5500 Gen Z’s (average age 16)  for their favorite brands and actual spending. For me, this is where the rubber hits the road, making it the best way to gauge priorities and values.

Read on below for some key takeaways from the Piper Jaffray study.

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Two Millennial Entrepreneurs Give It Their All in NYC

Two Millennial Entrepreneurs Give It Their All in NYC

 

 

Two 20-year old college students from the Midwest, drove East this past week to set up a pop-up shop on Elizabeth Street in Soho featuring their Think Outside The Box line of t-shirts, hoodies, hats, skateboards.

  • I got a chance to check out the store and meet Spencer Kuhlman and Johnny Wermers on Friday.
  • What most impressed me about this millennial startup is their go-getter attitude.
  • How incredibly ballsy to set up a business when you’re still a teenager and then take it to the fashion capital of the country!!
  • A pop up in NYC is not easy to find nor inexpensive. They are funding theirs with profits from their online sales over the past year.
  • For the New York pop up, they launched an exclusive line of skate decks, backpacks, polos, and more.

The store will be open this Saturday and Sunday (August 5-6) from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is located at 171 Elizabeth St.

On the web: www.thxnkoutsidethebox.com/

They originally got on my radar through an article in the Grand Forks Herald. Highlights below along with more photos from the store.

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Forget Times Square Glitz: The Best Billboard Action Is In Brooklyn

Forget Times Square Glitz: The Best Billboard Action Is In Brooklyn

Street Art Billboard for Clash of Clans Video Game. Artist: McBess

 

THIS IS A BIG DEAL: The next generation of billboardery is NOT being created by the advertising creatives whose gigantic digital billboards dominate Times Square.

  • Instead, cool brands are reaching out to artists and street art collectives to create fresher and more engaging visuals to showcase their brands – especially brands looking to tap into those with a millennial or urban mindset.
  • Brooklyn is front and center when it comes to this new billboard artistry trend.
  • Over the last decade, Brooklyn has increasingly been identified as one of the great cultural epicenters of the world.
  • Which is why so many brands are setting up creative outposts there (especially in Williamsburg and Greenpoint). Believe me, NOBODY is setting up in Times Square.

I’ve been aware of this for a while. We moved Zandl Group’s offices to Bushwick in 2008 just before the street art scene fully took off there. The Bushwick Collective was founded in 2012.

  • But it was newly brought home to me this weekend as I biked from Manhattan to Williamsburg and rode up the waterside along Kent Avenue.
  • Visually glorious and exciting to see so much art in so many different forms.

See below for just a smattering of what I saw.

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Floristry Is Hot: Especially In The Fashion Biz

Floristry Is Hot: Especially In The Fashion Biz

 

I’ve been seeing the word “Floristry” showing up a lot lately.

  • Since it was a term I was not familiar with (vs. florist or gardening), I checked it out and WOW.
  • A whole new creative industry is being born.
  • The really exciting stuff is happening right at the intersection of fashion, social media, and e-commerce.
  • Many of floristry’s leading names come from the fashion and art worlds.

Here are 5 key events that kicked off this trend going all the way back to 2010:

2010: Instagram and Pinterest are founded.

  • Access to photo sharing on social media makes this trend possible, providing opportunities for floristry startups, disrupting the status quo.
  • Based strictly on their social media accounts, floral designers are finding themselves hired to design weddings and events all around the world,

2012: Raf Simons’ debuts his first Dior show with “flower walls” commissioned from Belgian florist Mark Colle.

  • Overnight, the flower wall trend is born, becoming especially popular for Instagram-friendly weddings and industry events. (All documented in Dior and I)

2013: Anna Potter, founder of Swallows and Damsons, is one of the first florists posting on Instagram.

  • Her unstructured and garden-inspired style of floristry attracts a huge following (currently 154K).

2015: Whitney Bromberg Hawkings, former SVP at Tom Ford, co-founds Flowerbx.

  • Her big idea came when she realized there was no digital service offering a consistent, simplified approach to sending flowers.
  • Backers include former Net-a-Porter chief executive Mark Sebba, Carmen Busquets and Natalie Massenet.

2017:  Rodarte show at Paris Couture Week

  • The flower accessories and adornments make front page news.

Read on below for more on the most influential names in the floristry world.

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