You don’t typically have moments of ringing self-actualization at a yard sale.
Yet, there I was, feeling so satisfied in my savvy wheeling and dealing that I hadn’t noticed I was internally critiquing the marketing approach of a kids’ lemonade stand.
“F&K’s Froot Juice?? Well, that’s unfortunate. Looks a lot like an F-bomb. And what the hell is froot? You’re serving Lemon-E Tang Dream, guys! You can barely read that hand-written sign underneath…that’s your niche, you gotta push that!”
I don’t know if you need a better example of entrepreneurial culture run rampant than a 34-year-old man in cargo shorts holding a used SodaStream, playing Wolf of Victorian Village, contemplating brand consultation for unassuming third graders.
I should have taken it much easier on them. They’re already better at business than I ever have been or will be (evidenced by the fact that they pushed four chocolate chip cookies on me and my girlfriend in 90-degree heat).
During those mock business plans we were assigned in elementary school, I was always the kid that would waste all his seed capital on posters and “vibe” and run out of money before you could get a product on the shelves. (In my defense, I may have also inflated the demand for “custom-made” bologna sandwiches).
Business has just never been my thing. I knew I was destined to be more a creative than a capitalist when I watched all those ’80s movies celebrating the power brokers and indefatigable Wall Street warriors, and ended up identifying with the guys on the bottom of the ladder. Remember Glengarry Glen Ross? If Alec Baldwin’s Blake character was blasting away at me, I’d probably sheepishly agree with him. “Coffee is for closers? Okay, I’ll just have a lemonade and show myself out.”
It’s probably why I’m so impressed with the business culture that has arisen during the last decade in Columbus. Here, the guppies are allowed to swim in the Shark Tank, eventually making their own waves.
And it’s not because they’re independently wealthy or even ruthless; Mikey, Nina, Jeni: they’re all branding geniuses who have crafted a template for how to, quite literally, make a name for yourself in this town.
They’re doing it by becoming successful in careers that weren’t presented to them – or anyone – traditionally.
No one wakes up and decides to be the drag queen that emcees Highball Halloween alongside the mayor. The former pedicab-driver-turned-pizza-peddler? Nope. That’s not a thing. Well, actually, it is now.
But it’s not all pizza and ice cream, kids. You need more than a good idea and some solid branding to get by. You gotta have a plan.
Which is why, this month, we take a look at a few others who have carved out alternative career paths for themselves, and have them put down a few breadcrumbs for the rest of you out there sitting on the next great Columbus moneymaker.
And some of you most certainly are.
But how to make it a reality? Or maybe more importantly, how do you steer clear of the landmine that will f*ck it all up?
This month’s cover story, “Like A Boss” (page 55) is more than just starched-stiff business profiles – it’s a collective essay of functional philosophy for the new world of commerce, one this city has clearly embraced.
It’s also been a great resource for me to finally get my very first business idea back in the works:
Coffee is for closers.
And bologna is for believers.