Cue the hit single from Ma$e, Welcome Back.
I've been on a little bit of a sabbatical from blogging, among other things. Life has taken a massive shift lately. I've been doing what I could to just keep up.
A few months into being back in the city of Seattle, I was offered a temporary slot as a tour manager for my close friend, Matt Wertz. Itching to try it, and needing something... ANYTHING... that may possibly spark up my life once again, I went along.
I had been in a rut for awhile. Not feeling very passionate about my role in the restaurant industry and waiting for that to ultimately pass. It never did, so I had to face the issue of moving on. That wasn't fun. Mainly because there are a lot of people involved in this thing. An investor, my wife, employees, vendors, etc. That can be a lot of pressure mentally that could possibly keep a person involved in an industry they weren't passionate about.
So after a lot of internal debates and a lot of time to think and reflect, I've decided that it was time for the next chapter. There were numerous things that contributed. One was to pursue the passion that I can't seem to escape, music. The other was the decision my wife made to commit to going through med school. So I decided that I wanted her to have the freedom to pursue a passion that she has been putting on hold for the sake of our company.
So now I'm back. Working on the transition from one big thing to another. And finally feeling passionate about writing again. Could I be more fickle?!
More to come...
Crazy? Who, me?
Usually when I meet other aspiring business people (entrepreneurs, investors, etc), I always like to suggest a very short, but potent list of books that could help them become better in the path they have chosen.
Now, I understand that simply reading books doesn't give someone all the knowledge needed to conquer the business and investing world. Experience, in my mind, will always stand out as the best teacher. Experience aside, I always attempt to become an advocate of the few books - of the many that I have read - that stand out the most and have made the most impact on my life.
A few months ago, I received an email from a guy name Barry Moltz. Barry, also a fellow blogger, has recently written a book called "You Need To Be A Little Crazy: The truth about starting and growing your business." The email simply asked me if he could send me a copy of the book for a possible review on this blog. As a side note, there are 3 things I will never pass up: free books, free CDs, and free food. So, of course, I took Mr. Moltz up on his offer to give his book a read.
Needless to say, perhaps (from the first few statements of this blog), that this book has become one of my "must read" books for ANY aspiring - or current - entrepreneur, business/investing enthusiast, or someone who would simply like to understand this particular type of person. I'm going to make this book a requirement for my wife to read as well, so she can understand me a bit more!
There are very few books for me that do what this book has done. Further, this book has accomplished something no other book has... it has taken who I am and put it into words. I have simply never felt as understood as I did when I read this book.
Entrepreneurs, I have found, are a lot like artists in their own way. No one understands us. We're a minority group. And don't even get me started on the family dynamics this causes with the in-laws!
Aside from the connection I had with this book, it also provides some amazing, blunt lessons that Barry has learned either from experience or from the wisdom of others. This is one of those books that you read it and think "I wish I would have read this before I started my business!"
I firmly believe that this book needs to be a prerequisite for everyone to read if they're thinking about starting a business.
Barry has an amazing way of making you feel as though you're not alone anymore. I've always been looked at as though I was crazy for the things I've wanted to do... but I've never thought of it as a good thing until now! This book will, or at least should, become one of the leading books read by entrepreneurs. Barry Moltz has recruited another advocate of his book in me. Finally, we have good reason to embrace the fact that we're all crazy!
In a recent banter of email correspondence, some friends and colleages of mine began discussing the mystery of what makes Jones Soda so cool.
It was all started by a selfish attempt to get people that I knew to vote on a photo I submitted to Jones via their web site gallery. The general public can vote on photos on a 1 to 10 scale and the photo (based on staff picks and votes) can end up on the front of a Jones Soda bottle.
Here is a selection of the discussion that arose from my mass-email attempt:
What I sent:
Sorry for the mass email...
I decided to submit a photo to Jones Soda to get it on their drinkies.
If you don't know about Jones, they're a really cool company up here in Seattle. You can submit photos that other people can vote on to have on a shipment of soda or not... or you can just order a 12-pack of a custom label for like $35.
I wanted to see if I could get one voted on to a label though, so I chose a picture of my dog, Boaz. So, get out and vote for Boaz!! Just go to www.jonessoda.com/gallery and type in "Boaz" in the "Search For" field box.
Then Scott Miller decided to click the "reply all" button and sent out this comment:
What's cool about Jones Soda!? Other than they use odd pictures, what's the big deal? They still use the same big crap-ola ingredients (e.g. high-fructose corn syrup, an ingredient far more unhealthy than cane sugar) as the big soda boys, so I do not see the coolness of this brand. A cool brand would be concerned about the people they serve, rather than be nothing but empty marketing hoopla.
Do people actually fall for this stuff!?
Some replies to Scott's comments:
I think the appeal is in drinking a bottle of funky soda, instead of the same old pepsi or coke. I haven't read the book, but I think it could be a "Trading Up" idea for the consumer. You can't get Jones soda out of a vending machine or a fountain machine. You can't buy it in huge quantities from a place like Wal-mart. It almost never goes on sale and demands a premium price all the time. So when the consumer goes into a place like Starbucks and asks for a "coke" and all the soda they have is Jones then I think people will buy it and think they are special because it's not coke even though the ingredients may be the same. They also offer the consumer new and exciting flavors not available from coke or pepsi. For example: Turkey and Gravy, Lemon Drop, Green Apple, etc. People love the sugary taste of sodas but often get bored with the same old flavors and Jones offers an alternative. I think the pictures appeal to those weird collector type people who go to Burger King and buy all the spongebob squarepants watches. I don't pretend to understand those people, but it gives Jones the advantage of releasing new bottle designs all the time for people like that who collect the labels.
Just my humble opinion.
Boaz on the bottle will make me drink one.
And then here's another reply from me:
I'd have to agree with John in that the appeal is individualism.
However, other than offering different flavors, they are by no means offering a healthy alternative to the others. But I think that what they do have is somewhat sufficient to build a pseudo-brand. I wouldn't go on to bet the farm on their long-term success, but they definitely have something that gets attention... at least for now.
They also have a patent on their online custom ordering, which they have licensed to Nike. That's a great piece of IP to have, but may only be a temporary benefit.
Any other Jones junkies out there? What else makes this a viable (or not-so, if you think that's the case) brand in today's market place?
Oh... how silly of me. If you would like to VOTE FOR BOAZ, go here. Make sure you vote him a 10! Here's a preview of the photo...
Here's some additional information I received about Jones...
Jones reduced carbs in half ahead of anyone else. They didn't create some slick new name or package (like Coke's C2) and spend a jillion dollars marketing it. Nor did they pound drums when they went to Splenda, a sugar based artificial sweeter.
Jones doesn't believe that anyone should drink a "big gulp" of anything.
Moderation is part of their brand gestalt. That's why you don't see two liter bottles or "super sized" cups at a burger joint.
Jones does more for communities, as a percentage of sales, than any of the big companies.
Neither Coke or Pepsi has a Fufu Berry or Strawberry Lime in their product line up, much less Green Bean Casserole Soda for Thanksgiving. Jones is having fun while the other soda brands just fill
up their trucks with the same old stuff. Jones never stops innovating.
Jones is a great example of next generation marketer, mixing technology (packaging, custom manufacturing, killer website) with young-at-heart inspiration and never-ending innovation. Any brand could learn something from this little soda company
The Lazy Gene
For just a quick post here... I couldn't help but post a link to this blog. This is one of my favorite blogs by far. A must read!
Apparently, scientist have discovered a "lazy gene". So now more people will have even more excuses for their lifestyles. Brilliant. Enjoy.
I suppose as some sort of pseudo update on my life in Seattle, I must say that I have been super jazzed up lately about the mere appearance of opportunities that are available here for me (both in regards to business and on a personal level as well).
Last Tuesday I had the amazing opportunity to meet one of my business heroes, Scott Bedbury. Scott was the head of Advertising @ Nike for almost 10 years during their "Just Do It" and "Bo Knows" days and then did a 3-year stint as the CMO of Starbucks in the mid-90s. He wrote the book "A New Brand World" (which is one of my favorites) and now runs his own consulting biz up here. And wouldn't you know it, I had a business-related pseudo-emergency call that pushed me to be a few minutes late for my meeting with Scott! Murphy's Law, I suppose. Luckily, in proof of his great character, he waited and was very patient.
In other news, I was surfing around one of my favorite blogs, The Marketing Playbook, and found out (about a week too late) that Rich and John were going to be speaking at some event for an organization called the Northwest Entrepreneur Network (NWEN). I followed the link to the NWEN's website and was stoked that there was such a place (understanding, of course, that I recently moved from Lubbock, TX).
After emailing someone who worked for NWEN, I quickly received a response inviting me to their breakfast meeting the next day. There were roughly 200 people at this thing. Entrepreneurs, VCs, Angels, lawyers, CPAs, MBA and PhD students from the UW Business school, etc. It was like coming home. So, of course, I became a member immediately after the breakfast. There are even some volunteer opportunities available that seem to be right up my ally. I love this stuff.
On a personal level, there are Starbucks on every corner (which is rad) and then there's my all-time favorite coffee place up on Capital Hill called Vivace. The radio stations actually play good music AND there's even a variety in the types of stations available. Amazing.
Then there's the bars. Pubs, I should say. Small, hole-in-the-wall places that exude community over a glass of Guinness.
And asian food. Yes! Fuji's Teriyaki in Bellevue. Can't beat that. PF Changs. Yumm.
Sports: Mariners (I've been a fan since the mid-80s), Seahawks (I'm more of a 49ers fan, but I won't complain. It's football), University of Washington Huskies, and the Sonics who are, as of this writing, off to a 8-1 start. All I gotta say is that we're definitely saving for Mariners season tickets for next season!
Music: The music scene here is great. A few weeks ago, I got to see Marc Broussard at the Crocodile Cafe. My friend and former co-worker at Red Robin (from back in the day) is getting his band, Mountain Con, on the map in a big way. And Matt Wertz and Dave Barnes (friends and musicians from Nashville) will be playing here in December.
All this to say, I love Seattle. There's probably not one thing I dislike about the area. Well, OK, one thing... traffic. Other than that, this is God's country. And (dare I say it?!...) we may have a republican Governor for the first time in 24 years! Although only winning by 261 votes total, Dino Rossi still has to wait through a recount since the margin of victory was less than 2,000 votes. So we may not know for a few weeks.