This Immigrant Entrepreneur Launched Her Billion Dollar Empire, Despite Speaking No English

A version of this article previously appeared Forbes.

In 1904, eighteen year old Ida Rosenthal immigrated to the US, speaking only her native Russian. Shortly after arriving in New York City, her husband fell ill, forcing Ida to become the family’s sole breadwinner.

She used her meager savings to purchase a sewing machine and began creating dresses from magazine photos, which she sold for $25 each.

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This Woman Saved Clorox When It Was A Fledgling Startup

A version of this article previously appeared Forbes.

In 1913, five business people founded America’s first liquid bleach factory. The group raised $75,000 ($2 million, inflation adjusted), with the intent to mine the salt-water deposits that occur naturally in the brackish ponds around the San Francisco Bay Area. It was then processed into sodium hypochlorite, the main ingredient in household bleach.

Their intended market was large institutions, such as factories, food processors, laundries and municipal water companies. As such, they packaged their highly concentrated, 21% sodium hypochlorite product in 5-gallon containers.

The company floundered for two years, nearly going out of business before Annie Murray, wife of one of the company’s founders, stepped in. She modified the company’s product and packaging, while redefining its target market. Annie’s efforts helped create a company that is going strong over 100-years later. In 2018, Clorox employed over 8,000 people and generated over $6 billion in sales.

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8 Startup Lessons From “The Founder” Movie

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Even when it was published on Netflix, I had no desire to see The Founder movie, as it was clear from the film’s preview that it was yet another, “businessperson gone bad” film. As a Professor at UC Santa Barbara, I constantly battle Hollywood’s stereotype of the rapacious, maniacal businessperson, by teaching my students that Honesty is a competitive advantage. Successful serial entrepreneurs know that their relationships are valuable assets worthy of careful nurturing – employees, investors, customers and suppliers are loyal to entrepreneurs they trust and trust is built on honesty and integrity.

Thus, I had little desire to watch yet another over-the-top depiction of a nefarious entrepreneur… and then I found myself on a five hour flight, with nothing worthwhile to read.

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Meet Martha Harper, The Social Entrepreneur Who Perfected The Franchise Business Model

A version of this article previously appeared Forbes.

Isaac Singer is credited with initiating the concept of franchise territories, as a means of selling his sewing machines in the mid-1800’s. Yet many people do not realize that one of the pioneers who helped perfect the franchise business model was a woman.

In addition to creating a franchise chain which exceeded 500 locations at its peak, Martha Harper was also one of the world’s first social entrepreneurs, helping thousands of middle-class women create their own businesses and control their destinies.

Martha was born into an impoverished household in Ontario, Canada. Her parents rented her out as a domestic servant when she was seven years old, launching her career as a maid, which she pursued for the next 24-years.

One of her domestic duties was washing and cutting the hair of the affluent ladies of the household. An inquisitive child, Martha had the good fortune of working in the home of a kind-hearted physician. Although she had little formal education, the doctor indulged her curiosity, opened his library to her and taught her basic chemistry.

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This Woman’s Company Should Have Been Named After Her, Not Her Husband

A version of this article previously appeared Forbes.

In 1936, Ruth Handler and her husband Elliott were $200 in debt and unable to pay their rent. Elliott was a shy carpenter, while Ruth’s friends described her as, “beguiling and determined.”

On her lunch break, at the age of 20, Ruth entered a local furniture store with samples of her husband’s plastic chairs. Initially rebuffed, she refused to leave until she could speak with the store’s manager. She walked out of the store with a $500 purchase order. Four years later, she sold $2 million of Elliott’s dollhouse furniture through retailers nationwide.

Though she was the de facto leader of the company, America of the last century was not ready to accept a female led company. Thus, she agreed to name the startup after her husband and his friend Harold “Matt” Matson, resulting in the name Mattel.

Matson resigned and sold his shares to Ruth and Elliott less than two years after the company’s founding, due to health issues. Ruth had previously headed the company’s sales efforts, but she formally moved up to the CEO role upon Matson’s departure.

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7 Entrepreneurial Lessons From Tyler The Creator

A version of this article previously appeared Forbes.

In my capacity as a Professor of Practice at UC Santa Barbara, I was asked by the Student Association if I would consider interviewing rapper, fashion designer and entrepreneur Tyler The Creator.

I was flattered to be considered, but Tyler’s Manager, Christian Clancy, wisely thought better of it and requested a more hip and informed Professor to conduct the interview. This reprieve allowed me to attend the event as an observer, freeing me to get schooled by Tyler, right along with the students.

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5 Ways Poker Legend Annie Duke’s Brilliant Book Will Help You (And Your Startup) Make Better Decisions

A version of this article previously appeared Forbes.

When I saw World Series Poker Champion Annie Duke speak in 2017, I was inspired to write an article describing some of her recruiting techniques. Impressed with her wit and insights during her talk, I was excited to read her latest book, Thinking In Bets. I was not disappointed.

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An Unlikely Unicorn: Lynda.com’s Journey From Garage To $1.3B Sale

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

I recently interviewed Bruce Heavin, Co-Founder and Head of Innovation at Lynda.com, as part of UC Santa Barbara’s Innovator Stories series. Bruce, along with his wife Lynda, created a learning company from their garage, initially by holding in-person classes and later selling VHS tapes via mail order. Under Bruce’s innovative guidance, the company was an early adopter of the Internet, creating online videos long before platforms such as YouTube became ubiquitous.

Bruce and Lynda eventually grew their startup into a global powerhouse, offering 5,700 classes and 255,000 video tutorials to over 4 million users.

In 2015, LinkedIn purchased Lynda.com for $1.5 billion, making it a bonafide unicorn. The outcome was especially impressive, as the company was entirely self-funded for its first 17-years.

You can listen to our discussion in the background, while you work, run or play. If you’d rather download my talk with Bruce for free on iTunes, you can do so here.

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SaaS Is Dead, Long Live Software

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

During the first half of the last century, numerous fortunes were made electrifying devices that were previously manual. Because electrification was new, the qualifying term “electric” was an important distinction when describing these newfangled gadgets. However, the adjective “electric” was eventually dropped when all the devices in a product category utilized the technology. Software terminology is stubbornly not following a similar evolution.

It’s high time we kill the term Software As A Service (SaaS) and call it what it is – software. Even Salesforce abandoned it’s silly “No Software” tagline, after the company had to explain in 2015 that it meant, “No legacy software, just cloud software.”

You’re not a SaaS company, you’re a software company. You’re not a SaaS investor, you’re a software investor. You’re not a SaaS entrepreneur, you’re a software entrepreneur.

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Make More, Work Less – Create A Veblen Brand

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

This Louis Vuitton / Supreme boxed logo t-shirt recently sold for $1,750. The shirt was produced by Supreme, which originally sold it for $485.

You may think that this item is an anomaly, but it is not. A Louis Vuitton / Supreme hoodie resold for $7,500. Other Supreme apparel sells in the aftermarket for hundreds more than their retail prices, including box logo hoodies which typically sell for between $500 – $1,000.

Supreme even sold a brick, emblazoned with its logo for $30. The logo brick now resells for $100 – $999, depending on condition, inclusion of packaging and the IQ of the buyer. The Supreme crowbar, which retailed at $32, is a much better deal, reselling for $80 – $399.

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