From Farmers’ Market Side Hustle To Over 800 Stores – How Did Kelley D’Angelo Do It?

A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes.

I met Kelley D’Angelo, Founder and CEO of Lark Ellen Farm when she gave a compelling pitch at an investment meeting of the Santa Barbara Angel Alliance.

I know nothing about the consumer-packaged goods market, so it was clear at the outset that I was not a value-added investor. This allowed me to listen to Kelley’s pitch from the point of view of fellow entrepreneur, rather than critical, potential investor.

Impressed by Kelley and knowing that her story would inspire and inform other entrepreneurs, I was pleased when she agreed to chat with me, despite her breakneck schedule.

Continue reading “From Farmers’ Market Side Hustle To Over 800 Stores – How Did Kelley D’Angelo Do It?”

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.

Continue reading “This Immigrant Entrepreneur Launched Her Billion Dollar Empire, Despite Speaking No English”

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.

Continue reading “This Woman Saved Clorox When It Was A Fledgling Startup”

This Startup Airline Lets You Fly Everyday / Any Day – For A Flat Fee

Jeff Potter Surf Air 9_16

As noted in Success, Santa Barbara Style, my definition of success includes living where you want to live and making money doing what you love. For many entrepreneurs in Santa Barbara, achieving such success would be much more difficult if it weren’t for the emergence of an innovative airline – Surf Air.

Surf Air flies to 12 locations within California and members can fly as often as they like, paying a flat membership fee. I initially hesitated because I wanted to travel less, not more, and I was concerned that if I signed up to an “all you can fly” program, I would feel compelled to travel more in order to justify the fixed cost.

Continue reading “This Startup Airline Lets You Fly Everyday / Any Day – For A Flat Fee”

When Hiring Entrepreneurs, Ignore Their Resumes

Note: This is the third installment in the Startup Team Building series. Read Part I HERE and Part II HERE.

No ResumeWhen hiring ATM Operators at a Big Dumb Company (BDC), assessing each candidate’s ability to execute predictable tasks is of paramount importance. As such, the recruitment process revolves around applicants’ resumes, which highlight what they have previously done in their professional careers.

What is important at a BDC, because most duties performed at mature entities are repetitive, structured and involve minimal ambiguity. Thus, evaluating the tasks a candidate has previously performed is a valid methodology when filling job openings in relatively static organizations. Continue reading “When Hiring Entrepreneurs, Ignore Their Resumes”

Startups Are A Remix

Copy Transform Combine“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

Steve Jobs, Co-Founder Apple, NeXT Computing and Pixar Continue reading “Startups Are A Remix”

Lunch With Mark Suster

Mark SusterI recently had lunch with Mark Suster, General Partner at GRP Partners, blogger extraordinaire and overall cool dude. I am writing this entry at 4:00 AM. Mark’s kindness and insights moved me to roll out of bed, fire up my laptop and share my thoughts while they are still fresh.


Mark recently wrote a blog entry titled “Whom Should You Hire At A Startup” that was forwarded to me by about a dozen people, including several of my former students. If you have not read it, please take a quick moment to check it out. Reading it will provide you with a good frame of reference for the remainder of this post.

Continue reading “Lunch With Mark Suster”

Balance Minimal Product Viability With Maximum Utility: Maximize Your Startup’s Value Proposition – MVP²

Double A-Side SingleWith a few exceptions at the end of their career, the Beatles did not include songs that had previously been released as a single on their UK albums. According to George Martin, The Beatles’ Producer, “At the time, I didn’t want to shortchange the public. Assuming the fans had bought the single, I figured they wouldn’t want to hear it again on the album.”

Although this approach was common in the UK, it ran counter to the then current Conventional Wisdom in the US music industry. However, by the release of Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles had gained complete control over their creative works in the US and curtailed Capital Records’ prior practice of including singles on US albums.

This tactic provided the Beatles with a strategic advantage over American musicians, as fans knew that if they purchased a particular single, they would not have to pay for it again on a subsequent album. In essence, the Beatles offered a product with a higher value proposition as compared to their American counterparts.

Continue reading “Balance Minimal Product Viability With Maximum Utility: Maximize Your Startup’s Value Proposition – MVP²”

UnVenture Capitalists: Seek Investors Aligned With Your Interests, Not Their Egos

Geoffrey HolderIn the early 1970s, the Seven-Up Company devised an ingenious plan to market its flagship soda. The campaign was so successful it eventually catapulted 7-Up’s sales to rival that of both Coke and Pepsi, making it the third most popular soft drink in the US.

The company hired the Dominican actor Geoffrey Holder, who delivered the commercial’s signature tagline with memorable panache, “Maaarvelous, absolutely maaarvelous.” Overnight, “maaarvelous,” spoken in an exaggerated Caribbean accent, became a national catchphrase.

What made the commercials noteworthy was not their charismatic pitchman. It was the fact that the Seven-Up Company defined its product by describing what it was not, via the “UnCola” label.  When evaluating a potential Institutional Investor, entrepreneurs should consider what they are not, as much as what they are. Entrepreneurs in search of startup capital are well served to seek an UnVentureCapitalist (UnVC), an investor who understands and appreciates the unique benefits of capital efficiency.

Continue reading “UnVenture Capitalists: Seek Investors Aligned With Your Interests, Not Their Egos”

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Follow John’s Startup Oriented Twitter Stream. He promises to never Tweet about sunsets, kittens or awesome burritos.

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