Mari

Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

Maya: Shoes Always Work.

In Be memorable, Business, Experience, Just plain fun, Shoes on 05/01/2015 at 2:27 pm

Maya is one of my favorite people of all time. She owns Swank Productions, a ridiculously creative and luxurious event planning company based in Chelsea. We met when we were both the only non-industry people speaking at a User Experience conference in Toronto a million years ago. And although our meeting was brief, I have always remembered her passion, straightforwardness, and no-BS way of approaching life — and I try to see her as often as I can, because her energy is so contagious.

Way back when, the Sex and the City movies were coming out, and Maya decided she wanted to produce the launch parties for them. She wasn’t sure how to get her company in front of the producers. In her typical New York hustle fashion, she did some covert research, found out one of the female producer’s shoe sizes, and sent her a single Manolo Blahnik . . . with a note. “Want the other shoe? Meet me for coffee.”

Manolo-Blahnik-Shoes-6

And like that, she won her way to a meeting, followed by a contract, to create the launch party of Sex and the City: the movies. In her presentation: “Shoes always work.” True story.

I ❤ Maya. Happy birthday to you, my sparkle sister from another mister! xo

Bill: Clarity Brings Energy.

In Brainstorm, Business, Create, Human behavior, Organization on 02/05/2015 at 11:45 pm

I met Bill when I was looking for someone to watch the NFC playoffs with. In spite of the fact that he bleeds green and gold, we’ve remained friends through the past two football seasons. Bill also is a legit, big shot business guy (but you would never know this if you met him).

In one of our many brunches (which we admittedly do mostly for my benefit, but occasionally for his sustenance), we were sorting things out (for me). He asked what clutter I had in my life, and helped me figure out what I needed to eliminate — emotionally, mentally, physically — and then said this:

“Mari! Clarity brings energy, and with energy, you might actually find the motivation to do all of the ambitious things on your to-do list. You’re a quick starter, so stop making excuses.”

These three simple words are on my desk as a constant reminder to cut the noise, focus on intent, and ride the wave of energy that inevitably follows.

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Now if I could just get some energy to shovel my car out.

Chris: Productivity Apps.

In Organization, Strategy, Super Helpful Info on 03/13/2013 at 10:15 pm

I met Chris when we both were on a social media panel at SES NY a couple of years ago.

On Facebook today, Chris posted a link to “21 Tools for Maximizing Productivity” – which included awesome apps like Boomerang and Rapportive. But I was looking for something that’d keep me from automatically opening Facebook every 30 seconds.

And there it was:

Procrastinator – a Chrome extension, and exactly what I was looking for.

Whenever I (habitually) open a new tab to Facebook during work hours, it shows me this obnoxious screen:

ImageProcrastinator, you are one mean app. I can tell we’re going to get along splendidly.

Geoff: P-Touch Everything.

In Org B, Organization, Super Helpful Info on 01/27/2013 at 4:41 pm

Geoff Alexander, who’s currently the Managing VP of extremely-social-media-savvy Wow Bao, has been an amazing mentor, friend and colleague for the past several years. I met him when we first were on the Twitterbox, talking about Foiled and Wow Bao donating food through a project we put together that year, “Chicago Soup.”

Ever since then, we’ve managed to get together every so often. He inspires me. Geoff is the kind of guy who gets you excited to take action and move your business along. (For this reason alone, I should probably hang out with him every day.)

One afternoon, I was running around and caught him at one of his stores. He took me to the back so I could check out his operations, which always seem so flawless. I asked him how he kept everything organized. He held up a P-Touch Label Maker.

Wow Bao P Touch

“Mari, this will change your life. P-Touch EVERYTHING. We label every single thing.”

And it’s true. Behind the counter, every single thing is labeled, clearly, with a simple P-Touch labeler. So easy. Time to do this at our packaging stations and kitchen.

Matthew: One Week Away = Ready to Scale

In Business, Org B, Strategy, Super Helpful Info, Take action on 01/27/2013 at 4:04 pm

Wayne, one of my SCORE advisors, introduced me to Matthew D’Agostino, retired third-generation owner of La Bonbonniere in central New Jersey. When I was on the east coast to work on a project for Foiled, he was gracious enough to take me to a deli lunch (despite his vegetarian diet) and talk ACTUAL bakery talk for a couple of hours.

I gleaned close to 200 bits and pieces of helpful information, but the most valuable was this:

“If you can figure out how to run your business while you’re away from it for one full week, then you’re ready to scale it out.

Foiled Cupcakes Scale It Out

This really made me think: what are the pain points that my business experiences when I’m gone? I identified four:
– Nobody to do supply deliveries while I’m gone. (I hired one of our drivers to do this.)
– We need a new supplier for foils that we don’t have to pickup from. (I found a new supplier that can ship directly to the kitchen.)
– When deliveries go awry, I step in and fill in the gaps. (I doubled up on drivers.)
– Custom cupcakes are tough to execute. (Setup longer lead times for customization.)

Thanks, Matt, for what is probably the most useful piece of advice I’ve ever worked towards in this entire business.

Shannon: Grant For Good.

In Be memorable, Create, Dancing, Marketing, Networking, Organization, Relationships, Tech on 10/23/2012 at 1:29 am

I met Shannon when we were both on a panel last year in Chicago. She’s the super smart, hard working, inspiring founder of Pivotal Productions. We discovered that we were both tap dancers in a past life (although she won national tap dance competitions and I never even entered them). Here’s a snapshot of us doing a triple time step before our panel:

So, one of the best things she brought up was how she joined forces with a bunch of other small businesses to provide an amazing grant (like, $100K+ in business services) to one non-profit applicant via Grant for Good. Why is this brilliant?

1 – Two heads (or seven companies, in this case) are better than one. Businesses can do more when joining forces than operating solo.

2 – Harnessing requests for donated product or services – which is every small business’ challenge – is much easier if it’s handled in an organized, official way. (Saying, “Apply for our Grant for Good” > reviewing a million scattered requests for donations.)

3 – This gets more press. Let’s face it: we donate “in exchange for free press” all the time, but what does that really get us? A tiny logo on a banner? A quarter page ad in a program that nobody reads anyhow? By collaborating and doing something truly impactful, it’s likely to get more buzz.

I’m excited to apply this concept – and to tap dance again with Shannon. Next time, on stage!

Bob: Go With the Greens.

In Strategy, Super Helpful Info on 07/18/2012 at 9:45 am

Bob and I met at church a long time ago – maybe in 2001 or 2002. His wife, Jean, ended up becoming a superhero example of how to be a loving, kind, non-judgmental person. She also referred us to the kid’s pediatrician (she works there) – who we love.

We were having a conversation once about driving and navigating city lights. I probably complained that I managed to hit every red light, to which he said, “Why do you waste your energy? Just go with the greens.”

I drive all the time, all over the place, and every day I hear these words in the back of my mind. Because there are a couple of true hidden gems in Bob’s advice:

1 – You save a ton of stress – the kind that builds up in your arms, neck, back, and legs – if you don’t stop and go all the time. Which also equates to less road rage. #win

2 – If you get in sync with the green lights on a grid system, you rarely have to hit the brakes. (Note – speed racing through this system will inevitably get you a red light every time, so just follow the speed limit.)

Sure, I still get caught at a bunch of red lights. But at least I’ve convinced myself that I’m getting to my destination faster – which is all that really matters, right?

Jocelyn: Conceal Your Mistakes.

In Cooking, Strategy, Super Helpful Info on 07/06/2012 at 11:02 am

Jocelyn and I were best friends in high school – a given since we had 6 out of 7 classes together. Our teachers must have hated us, not just because we were chatty, but because we were ALWAYS together (and usually being dorks).

As one of the best students at our school and probably the most Type-A person I knew, it came as no surprise when she, as a grown-up Pastry Chef, was the first to come to mind when asking myself, “Who should create some recipes for this cupcake business I have no recipes for?” (Side note: we still use some of her cake recipes today, because they’re just that good.)

When I was in CA for our first photo shoot, Jocelyn started piping cupcakes for the camera. She told me to garnish the cupcakes that were sitting on the side and to use the garnishes to conceal any mistakes. So I did.

Once back in Chicago, as we hustled through our first year of running Foiled, I quickly realized that garnishes were going to be our saving grace. Without the chocolate curls, toasted coconut, crushed peanuts or Oreo crumbs, we’d have sent out lopsided, air-bubbly cupcakes. But with the garnishes, nobody noticed anything except how good the cupcakes tasted (thanks to Jocelyn and her Type-A-ness, I promise).

We have a rockstar Chicago-based pastry team that knows what they’re doing, but just in case, we’ll always keep our garnish stock full.

P.S. Go 49ers!

Dan: Everything Is Relative.

In Be logical, Business, Human behavior, Marketing, Strategy on 06/26/2012 at 6:06 pm

I met Dan Ariely at The Market Research Technology Event in Las Vegas. I spoke on the last day at the last possible time slot. Dan spoke on the best day at the best time slot. So basically, he is seriously legit. He’s also a behavioral economics professor at Duke and has a ton of fascinating studies on human behavior and consumer habits.

In part of his presentation, he discussed relative pricing.

Which subscription plan would you choose?


You (and 68% of people) would probably pick the $59 Economist.com subscription, because it’s cheaper and gives you what you think you need. Right?

Okay. Now imagine that you had seen this offer instead of the first one:

With this scenario, you (and 84% of people) are probably thinking, “Oh, MAN. I could get Print + Web for $125, when print on its own is $125? What a deal! I’m totally going with the $125 option.”

And just like that, the Economist just doubled their revenue, just by throwing in a martyr price point.

From Dan’s book:

“Most people don’t know what they want unless they see it in context . . . We don’t know what kind of speaker system we like – until we hear a set of speakers that sounds better than the previous one . . . Everything is relative, and that’s the point.”

Frickin’ brilliant.

Tony: Don’t Outsource Your Core Competency.

In Be authentic, Business, Experience, Strategy, Tech on 06/21/2012 at 7:53 pm

I met Tony Hsieh at a 37signals event (seems like I meet a lot of people there). He was doing a national tour to promote Delivering Happiness, and my friend Jason invited me to join them. There were only 30 or so people there, so it was a pretty intimate setting, which was great.

Tony talked about his experiences with growing Zappos, and one of the biggest operational hangups he experienced was when they trusted an external company to handle their warehousing and fulfillment. After losing money, losing customers and losing time, Tony writes in his book:

“It was a valuable lesson. We learned that we should never outsource our core competency. As an e-commerce company, we should have considered warehousing to be our core competency from the beginning.”

People think our core competency is cupcakes. But it’s not. There are a million cupcakes in this city. What sets us apart (according to our clients) is the service level that each of them get with each order. Yes, the cupcakes need to be pristine. They need to be impeccable. But what we’re GOOD at, what sets us apart from our competitors, is our personal service.

So taking Tony’s advice, we will never outsource that. You have my word.