return to homepage

Archive for July, 2011

Is Now the Best Time to Start a New Business?

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

Is Now the Best Time to Start a New Business? 

I am often asked if these are good times for new enterprise opportunities? Should I wait? Is the economy down too much? Is it a good funding market? Is competition too intense? These and dozens more stated concerns are nothing more than self-imposed hurdles to movement; exscuses. 

Now is the best time in history to start a business, launch a product or offer a cutting edge new service. Even with relatively high unemployment people still are working and shopping. More business incorporations are established each year than the previous year. Global prosperity is galloping along, with formerly poor countries like China, India and Malaysia experiencing spectacular growth (potential new customers for new products and services) and an emerging middle class developing in many third world countries. 

Much of what I just stated might seem at odds with the media presentation of a struggling economy. The mass media knows that bad news sells. It is in their interest to report the problems of General Motors, layoffs, health care benefit cuts and downsizing while ignoring the spectacular growth of jobs and small business around the world. Mass media has a goal of keeping readers on edge; uncertain about the future and discontented. Pay no heed, do your own research on current market conditions if this is a concern. 

The opportunity to successfully start a small business, market an invention or new service is always dependent solely on the value, novelty and benefits of the new offering. If there is an under-served market segment and you can identify a niche in a large market category, the time is always right to move ahead. 

For many years I called on large national department store chains. Buyers always had a reason why now was not a good time to place an order. “Easter is coming”. “We have inventory next month”. “Let’s see how next weeks sale goes”. Always excuses. Meanwhile inventory on hot items was low and sales would be lost. It is the same with inventing excuses to delay an entrepreneurial opportunity.

My advice to students, clients and inventors is simply this: “Time is never an entrepreneur’s friend”. I saw an entrepreneur lose a multi-million dollar purchase order with Home Shopping Network (HSN) by three days. Initial hesitation, self-imposed hurdles, lack of focus and mistakes in the development process caused needless and damning delays. HSN was fed up and placed the order with an inferior but better organized competitor. The loser of this race never recovered. The winner does over $20 million annual turnover with HSN and has built a strong international business. It is maddening to me how often delay equals opportunity lost. 

Do not delay movement to commercialize an opportunity based on short- term business conditions, perceived or real. For example, interest rates and currency conversion has been historically low for the last several years. Recently they have begun to inch up. How high will they go? What effect might the rise have on ultimate success for my venture? No one really knows the exact answer. We only can state with certainty that rates go up, rates go down. Look at the historic averages and anticipate that these averages will hold true to form. Base your financial assumptions on the mean averages, but do not delay movement on a great idea because of uncertainty about one element. Remember; if rates go up, or the dollar jumps in value, they rise for your competition as well. 

Also, do not listen to negative nannies nit picking your project. If you have done an effective job of due-diligence, can identify your market niche as being under-served and can quantify an excellent financial proposition you probably have the makings of a successful business. You will certainly know more than the critics. It is easier for people to be negative than to encourage your interest in taking a risk. Risk equates to possible failure for most people. You will be changing your life and most people instinctively fear change. 

I always encourage seeking advice from friends, family, valued experts and independent counselors. It is important to know as much about your projects strengths and weaknesses as possible before committing your energy and resources. I also know that successful entrepreneurs almost always have an inner compass which sorts through the mass of concerns, objections and negatives they receive. It is always easier to say no, not move forward, than to commit and push ahead. 

America is teeming with dreamers and doer’s, all hoping to succeed in a cluttered, very aggressive marketplace. Delay is never a wise course of non-action if your project has real legs and commercial viability. Somebody else is potentially working on a directly competitive product. You can not afford to lose a first to market advantage because of dallying and uncertainty about entering the market at the optimum time. There is never a perfect time to start. There is only now, and now is plenty good enough.

Duquesa Marketing Appoints National Radio Talent Booking Agency to Schedule Interview Campaign

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Duquesa Marketing, Inc.

www.duquesamarketing.com

 

Press Release

For Immediate Release:

July 22, 2011

Contact:  Geoff Ficke

 859-567-1609

 gficke@msn.com

Duquesa Marketing Appoints National Radio Talent Booking Agency to Schedule Interview Campaign 

Geoff Ficke to Provide Mentoring, Coaching and Consulting Tips To Public through a Yearlong Series of Local Market Interviews 

Florence, KY   Alexis Bruning, V.P. of Sales & New Business Development for award winning Consumer Product Branding and Product Development firm Duquesa Marketing announced today that her firm will collaborate with Hot Guest, Knoxville, TN to promote radio appearances and interviews by Geoff Ficke, President and Founder of Duquesa Marketing. 

“In these difficult times the vast experience and wealth of information that Geoff Ficke possesses in creating products, guiding startup businesses, entrepreneurship, coaching students and mentoring is a resource that we wanted to offer to the widest possible audience”, said Ms. Bruning. “A national radio venue is ideal for enabling Geoff to encourage and guide people as they struggle through this tough economic period”. 

“Geoff Ficke has a great story and message that more people need to hear”, said Laurel Honowitz, President of Hot Guest. “We only represent leading experts and he is certainly one of the most experienced Marketing Consultants and small business proponents that we have ever worked with”. 

Duquesa Marketing will be announcing the next quarter schedule of Geoff Ficke’s radio interviews shortly. The Company has worked to create, Brand, Market and Sell a vast range of Consumer Products for over 40 years, both domestically and internationally.

Duquesa Marketing Announces Introduction of Free Monthly Newsletter for Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Duquesa Marketing, Inc.

www.duquesamarketing.com

 

Press Release

For Immediate Release:

July 22, 2011

Contact:  Geoff Ficke

 859-567-1609

 gficke@msn.com

Duquesa Marketing Announces Introduction of Free Monthly Newsletter for Innovators 

On-Line Publication to Offer Content & Guidance on Marketing, Product Development, Small Business Funding and Entrepreneurship 

Florence, KY    Geoff Ficke, President of Duquesa Marketing announced today that his Consumer Product Development and Branding firm will begin publishing a FREE on-line newsletter each month. The publication will assist Entrepreneurs, Inventors, small and micro-businesses by addressing issues that they must confront as they struggle to gain traction in a competitive marketplace. 

“We work with hundreds of innovative people each year”, said Geoff Ficke. “Having been a serial entrepreneur all of my life, I understand the many difficulties they must confront and overcome from experience, not just theory or abstractions. The Newsletter can be a useful tool in assisting and encouraging these movers to keep pushing toward their goals”. 

Alexis Bruning, V.P. of Sales & New Business Development said, “Geoff Ficke has lectured, coached, mentored and Consulted for hundreds of Entrepreneurs. The newsletter is just one more tool we can offer to encourage future business leaders to follow their dreams and make them realities”.  

“We have hundreds of published articles, news releases, tips, how-to’s and how not to’s already on our website”, said Nancy Ficke, General Manager of Duquesa Marketing. “The newsletter will be a nice added motivational resource to help guide and support the entrepreneurial efforts of people seeking to successfully start or grow a new business opportunity”. 

For four decades Duquesa Marketing has specialized in Consumer Product Development, Branding and Sales while working in all channels of distribution.

To receive a Free Newsletter each month simply visit www.DuquesaMarketing.com and sign-up.

The Nearly Forgotten Fashion Pioneer Who Changed the Way Women Dressed

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

The Nearly Forgotten Fashion Pioneer Who Changed the Way Women Dressed 

Mention the name Chanel and virtually every woman, and most men immediately have a mental picture of the famous logo, eponymous boutiques, couture fashion and famous Fragrances created several generations ago by the fashion doyen Coco Chanel. Ms. Chanel’s professional and personal life has been well-documented in books and movies. Though she has been deceased for many years the Chanel Brand has been protected, nurtured and managed to ever greater heights and is considered one of the most successful luxury goods franchises in history.

Christian Dior and Coco Chanel alone among their contemporaries from the first half of the 20th century remain household names. There was another creative fashion artist however who was considered by the connoisseurs of that time to have been their superior in talent, vision and success. Her name was Elsa Schiaparelli and for all of her fame and accolades she is largely forgotten today.  

Elsa Schiaparelli was born to an aristocratic Roman family in 1890. Her world as a child was full of books, music, the arts and rich, successful people. As a young Philosophy student at the University of Rome she wrote a fairly scandalous book of erotic poems that enraged her conservative family and they shipped her off to a convent where she promptly went on a hunger strike. She left the convent and undertook a lifestyle change by attempting to leave behind the luxury she had always enjoyed and becoming a Bohemian. Her goal was to be an artist and she delved deeply into Surrealism. 

After living a simple life devoted to art and study in New York City and London, young Elsa finally moved to Paris. There she was invited to attend a ball but had nothing to wear. She simply bought some fabric and made a type of wrap dress for herself. She became close to Modernist artists Man Roy and Marcel Duchamp. They, along with the most famous French Couturier of the early 20th century, Paul Poiret, encouraged her to start to design clothes. 

Ms. Schiaparelli started her first couture house but it quickly failed by 1926. In 1927 she tried again and launched a collection featuring trompe l’oeil images on sweaters that became the rage. She was featured in Vogue. Her business exploded with the introduction of “pour le sport” line including spectacular linen dresses, bathing suits and ski wear. In 1931 she opened the Schiap Shop on the Place Vendome. The same year the tennis player Lili de Alvarez created a sensation when she played Wimbledon wearing Elsa Schiaparelli’s “divided skirt, the forerunner of shorts. The new shop included an Evening Wear department that became famous and added greatly the House success. 

Elsa Schiaparelli is credited with many firsts in the fashion world. These include: 

Graphic Knitwear

Color Coordinated Zippers

Whimsical Brooch-like Buttons

Culottes

Arab Breeches

Embroidered Shirts

Wrapped Turbans

PomPom Ribbed Hats

Barbaric Belts

Wedge Espadrille Shoes

Mix-and-Match Sportswear

The Runway Show

Androgynous Fashion Models 

Her work was heavily influenced by the famous Modernist artists of the day including Dada, Fini, Cocteau, Oppenheim and Giacometti. It was the wild Catalan Surrealist sensation Salvador Dali that would exert the most vivid effects on Elsa Schiaparelli’s work. This effect can be easily seen in her Lamb Cutlet hat and the 1936 suit with pockets simulating a chest of drawers. The famous Lobster Dress, Tear Dress, Shoe Hat and Skeleton Dress were classic pieces that included trend setting fabric, tailoring cues, effects and surrealistic images that made the wearer appear to be dressed in artwork. 

The House of Schiaparelli produced garments and accessories that were considered more than Couture Fashion, but unique pieces of wearable art. The House was retained to design costumes for movie productions including Topaze (1933), Moulin Rouge (1952) and for Mae West in Every Day Is a Holiday (1937). 

The bodice figure of Mae West is the silhouette that Schiaparelli used to create the flacon for her signature Perfume Shocking. The “Shocking Pink” used to dress the Fragrances unit carton became so famous and distinctive that it is known to this day as “shocking pink” in pantone books. Through the 1930’s and 1940’s the House of Schiaparelli introduced a number of successful Fragrance Collections for men and women. 

In 1934 Time Magazine placed Madame Schiaparelli at the top of the fashion world. Of her great rival Coco Chanel Time stated, “Chanel has assembled a fortune estimated at $15 million in the United States while being not at present in the most dominant influence in fashion”. Time went on to note that every little garment house on 7th Avenue was making replica versions of every collection that Elsa Schiaparelli produced. 

Chanel was a traditionalist. Owing to the influences of Modern and Surreal art Schiaparelli was an experimentalist. She was the first to experiment with acrylic, rayon jersey, cellophane and a new fiber called Fildifer. This was the first use of synthetics in Couture. 

In the 1970’s Diane von Furstenburg burst onto the fashion scene with her iconic wrap dress. Schiaparelli had created the wrap dress 50 years earlier, the same for Issey Miyake’s pleats and wrinkles skirts which she had first designed in the 1930’s. 

The introduction of the Runway Fashion Show alone would have cemented Elsa Schiaparelli’s place at the pinnacle of Haute Couture history. The Branding and Marketing Strategies that this pioneer created are still used by leading Fashion Houses to this day. The inclusion of whimsy, anything goes and the co-mingling of a variety of colors, shapes and fabrics in her stunning pieces were revolutionary and have never been matched. 

By the end of World War II the fashion scene had changed significantly. The clientele that had made Elsa Schiaparelli rich, famous and a trend setter had changed as well. The world had experienced a terrible trauma. The sort of energy and imagination that was inspired by Modernism and Surrealism was not highly valued. Practical became a cornerstone of Fashion in the 1950’s. The House of Schiaparelli closed in 1954 and Ms. Schiaparelli spent the last 20 years of her life in Paris and her seaside mansion in Tunisia. 

Coco Chanel famously despised Elsa Schiaparelli. Ms. Chanel once said that Schiaparelli made art, not clothes. She disparagingly referred to her as that “Italian Artiste”. Elsa Schiaparelli, born to aristocracy and luxury, never took the bait. If she had negative thoughts about her rival they were well hidden. 

Any student researching the history of the development of Couture Fashion in the 20th century will recognize the design breakthroughs that were created by Elsa Schiaparelli and are present everywhere in today’s female clothing scene. This creative body of work changed the world of fashion forever. Though largely forgotten today, this pioneer has left an amazing artistic and inventive legacy.

Before Asking Others to Invest in Your Project Prepare to Answer the Question That Always Comes

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

Before Asking Others to Invest in Your Project Prepare to Answer the Question That Always Comes 

Recently I reviewed a Business Plan that was submitted with a goal of raising a $2 million angel funding round. The product was a Hair Care Accessory that had real commercial potential. If I were grading the plan in one of my classes I would have given it a solid B. I was smitten with most of the assumptions that the document detailed to support the projects viability, except one. 

There was only one very major red flag that any Venture Capital investor would seize upon and consider a disqualifier; the $2 million angel funding round. The question that is always asked when a prospective Entrepreneur presents to Venture Capitalists (VC) is this: “How much have you invested of your personal capital into this project”. In some way, shape or form this question always pops up. It is usually not well answered. 

In this case the Inventor wanted the $2 million for salaries, a manufacturing facility, travel, staff and offices as well as for inventory build and Marketing. My job is to prepare Entrepreneurs for the rigid cross-examination they will surely receive from the VC panel that examines investment opportunity. I quickly had to refocus my prospective client that funding sources want to know what you are going to do with their money, as well as what you are not going to do with it. Building fixed overhead falls into the category of what you are not going to do with investment monies. 

Ask yourself, “Would you invest in you”? If you will not invest monies and assets that you own in your project why would anyone else. For decades banks required a significant down payment before loaning money to buy a house. Housing was considered a great investment for those who had equity in the property. About 20 years ago underwriting standards were loosened and today we see what having no skin in the game has done to housing and the economy. 

We approach Venture Capital Companies to get projects off the ground. They are in business to discover exciting ideas and products that may potentially become great Companies. They have capital to invest precisely because they are smart people. The pool of hopefuls seeking funding is much greater than the available funding sources. VC is highly selective because they can afford to be.

When an Entrepreneur approaches investment sources they must anticipate and have answers for an array of questions they will surely be confronted with. If you live in a fine home, drive a new car, wear a designer watch and belong to a nice country club the VC’s I know will ask, “Why are you asking us for money”? 

In the instance of my Hair Care Accessory inventor he could not answer this question. I repeated, “Would you invest in you”? He said, “of course I would”. My response was why haven’t you? 

It is not necessary to be living in penury when asking for an investment. It is important that you can demonstrate that you have fully committed yourself to the project in question. You must be able to demonstrate that “You have invested in you”, to the best of your financial ability. Sweat equity is important. Do not take shortcuts. Due diligence must be thorough. How will you Market the project? Only when you can convince others that you are worth their investment will funding sources begin to open to your project.

Make Color & Style Indispensible Elements to Sell More Products

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

Make Color & Style Indispensible Elements to Sell More Products 

Have you never visited a Williams Sonoma store? Notice how the toaster they sell for $300 per unit is always displayed so prominently. Have you ever asked yourself who needs a $300 toaster when a perfectly acceptable bread toaster can be purchased for under $20 at any big box mass merchandise store? What is the impulse that makes a consumer spend such a premium on an otherwise mundane, everyday small electric appliance? Simple, color and style! 

For many years my Product Development and Marketing Consulting firm has worked to create, produce, sell and market a vast range of Consumer Products from Sporting Goods to Pet Products to Toys and Games and Beauty Products.

Color and Design are integral to the successful campaigns we have created for this assortment of clients. The inclusion of unique visual cues in the products, packaging and branding are essential in creating consumer awareness and driving sales.

Every successful Brand has perfected a Color and Style palette that is unique to their product. The well known soft drink or energy drink Brands all have design and graphic cues that have become part of their Brand image. Tiffany has built their Brand around the distinctive Blue Box and packaging that is so lightly touched by printed graphics. New York City streets are travelled by thousands of pedestrians carrying the ubiquitous Big Brown Bag that is synonymous with the Bloomingdale’s Brand.

Auto manufacturers have perfected color and Branding cues that are unique to each flagship producer. Classic German cars are silver, British are British Racing Green, French are blue and Italian nameplates favor Blood Red. Mercedes Benz hoods are adorned with a three point star medallion, the Jaguar is marked with a leaping panther appearing to hang over the bonnet, Maserati famously sports a trident and most spectacular of all is the yellow prancing horse that screams Ferrari. 

Product design itself is also crucial in the creation of a successful brand. Apple makes computers and electronics that are priced higher and sell much better than their competition. Why? Of course they have great performing products, but Apple units are uniquely designed. They do not look like any competitive products. Their color offerings, and product profiles are different in a uniquely Apple-way. Even the famous Apple logo is more classic, subtle, appealing. 

Money invested in a top flight design engineer is always well spent in our Consumer Product world. Exclusive design features will result in product selling for a premium price. Is the Williams Sonoma toaster worth 15 times what the base brand sells for? Does it make your toast  15 times tastier? No. It commands the price point because it has been designed to create consumer desirability, pride of ownership. 

Specialty stores such as Sunglass Hut, Sephora Cosmetics, Barney’s, Allen Edmonds Shoes and Tourneau Watch and Jewelry all sell a range of targeted goods at varying price points. The highest price points are always enjoyed by the product manufacturers that offer the most intense colors, maximum workmanship and prized visual design cues. 

Germany is known for producing and exporting superior engineered products. I enjoy Krupps kitchen appliances for their visual style and wonderful performance features. The Scandinavian countries have perfected a design and color story that is wonderfully displayed in the Bauhaus school and at IKEA. The French Provence-style design for table ware is classic. And the Italian flair applied to any fashion or consumer product is, well………so wonderfully Italian.

When we see a beautifully designed product, sporting a vibrant color our eyes are immediately drawn to the object. We admire it. In many cases we come to desire ownership. There is nothing wrong with mass produced, rote products that provide a specific, basic utility. This type of product has enabled people to live better lives because large scale production makes these goods affordable. However, if you want to penetrate a brutally competitive consumer product marketplace and create Brand awareness a luscious color story and cool styling points will greatly enhance your chances for success.

The Famous Marketing Concept Created by Burma Shave Can Be Applied in New Ways Today

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

The Famous Marketing Concept Created by Burma Shave Can Be Applied in New Ways Today 

Lavoris Mouth Wash, Adams Chewing Gum, Serutan Tonic, Rose Milk Body Moisturizer, Ipana Tooth Paste and Burma Shave were brands that were once successful and well known. Each of them experienced a precipitous decline as consumer preferences changed and they did not adapt and evolve. The consumer franchise that each built has largely been forfeited, except for Burma Shave. 

The Burma Vita Company originally introduced a liniment based on ingredients that supposedly came from Burma and Malaysia. Sales never took off. In an effort to find a more mass market product the Company introduced a brushless shaving cream called Burma Shave in 1925. The shaving cream was not particularly unique or different from other products of the time. The Company knew they needed a Marketing Hook to drive sales. 

The 1920’s was really the first decade that the automobile culture took off in the United States. Henry Ford’s Model T sold in the millions of units as he drove prices down by utilizing mass production and perfecting assembly line techniques. States and cities built roads so that car owners finally had passable all-weather streets and highways to traverse in their new horseless carriages. The roadside service culture was just beginning with restaurants, motels and filling stations springing up to accommodate the newly mobile population. 

Clinton Odell, the owner of Burma Shave, saw an opportunity to promote his new shaving cream. He created the Burma Shave roadside recurring billboard advertising campaign. For anyone who travelled rural highways in the middle years of the 20th century the ubiquitous Burma Shave advertisements were quirky, humorous, cheeky and memorable; all of the elements that make for successful Advertising, Marketing and Branding campaigns. From 1925 until the early 1960’s this strategy made Burma Shave the second best selling shave cream product in the United States. 

At its height the Burma Shave billboard campaign consisted of some 600 sets of six spaced billboard signs that consistently rhymed and created curiosity in car passengers as to what the punch line for each series would be. As years passed some of the series would be topical such as a series about Drunk Driving or World War II. Here are several examples.

Don’t Stick/Your Elbow/Out so far/It might go home/In another Car/Burma Shave 

A peach/Looks good/ With lots of fuzz/But no mans peach/And never wuz/Burma Shave 

Past/Schoolhouses/Take it slow/Let the little/Shavers Grow/Burma Shave 

This classic Marketing and Advertising strategy became doomed as cars became faster, road surfaces improved to accept higher speeds and the interstate highway system was completed and rural roads were largely by-passed by thru travelers. Philip Morris bought Burma Shave in the 1960’s and legal counsel advised the new owners to discontinue the program for liability reasons. The Burma Shave recurring billboard remains a beloved piece of Americana for many older Americans. Burma Shave is still sold in thousands of stores as a budget product. 

A number of very successful modern brands have adapted a variant of the Burma Shave strategy. Billboards are still popular advertising vehicles. However, the cost and permits needed to return a Burma Shave-type recurring advertisement on multiple equidistant signs would be prohibitive. Print and television are the best vehicles available today to reprise a contemporary version of this technique.

Progressive and Geico are insurance giants. Both have succeeded at perfecting a video version of the Burma Shave campaign. They run recurring, interconnected series of ads using memorable characters to create familiarity, quirkiness, humor and good will to their Brands. The Geico Cave Man, the green Gecko and Flo the red headed, bossy clerk have developed into cult personalities. The Scott Trade bumbling, playboy broker and the E-Trade baby are other examples of campaigns that have drafted much of what made the Burma Shave program so successful in its time and place. 

My Marketing Consulting firm often employs a modern print version of the Burma Shave campaign for appropriate clients. We write and design a series of print Advertorials that are informative, soft-sell, light in tone, memorable and establish the client as to go to service provider in their space for answers on a particular topic. This works, is affordable and provides a continuity of messaging. 

Years ago we had a client wishing to launch a golf product. His budget was very limited. We created a series of decals that he placed in the bottom of each of the 18 holes on a golf course. When the golfer finished each hole, he had to reach into the cup to retrieve his ball and as he progressed to and completed each holes play the player observed the advertising images and messages. The product was for sale in the pro shop. Sales boomed. The club pro, the course retail pro shop and our client all profited.

The Burma Shave campaign contained certain elements that can be adapted to your specific needs. The stream of humor, whimsy and reinforcement of your Brand awareness are enhanced by employing this strategy. Take advantage and make this work for you.

The Simple Mundane Product Invention that Changed a Sport and Created a Fortune

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

The Simple Mundane Product Invention that Changed a Sport and Created a Fortune

When I was a young boy growing up in Kentucky almost every town of any size had a drug store, a dry goods store, a grocer, a gas station and a billiards parlor.

At any time of the day local men and boys could be found whiling away the hours just hanging out, playing or watching games of pool played in the gray, poorly lit, smoky halls that held a few well-worn billiard tables.

In the mid-20th century billiards was an aging competitive game, dominated by the presence of renowned self-promoters such as the gloriously named Minnesota Fats. Occasionally Fats would appear in trick shoot competitions on television, but mostly, he barnstormed the country playing local exhibitions. The days of media coverage, renowned players and relatively big money competitions was long gone. 

The golden age for the game of Billiards commenced after the Civil War. Tournaments where the best players competed were heavily promoted and common. Newspapers covered these events like they cover baseball today and Sporting Magazines devoted solely to pool were very successful. There was great interest in the sport and the top players played for big money and were household names on par with the Golfers, Tennis players and team sport athletes we know so well. 

One of the great players of the “Golden Age of Billiards” was William A. Spinks. Spinks was more than a great Billiard champion. He was a great innovator in the sport and in other business disciplines. He perfected his playing skills in several versions of the sport, including: 18.2 balkline, 14.2 balkline, masse shots, artistic billiards and straight line billiards. He won numerous Championships and became famous while based in Cincinnati for challenging the other great cueists (as they were then known) of the day to head to head matches played for big money stakes.

Always seeking an edge, Spinks sought ways to impart more spin and control on the ball as he attempted his shots. To this end he used the pool cue chalk of the day. Cue chalk had been used since 1807. It helped the tip of the pool cue gain greater purchase on the ball as contact was made. Spinks sought a better performing product. To that end he began experimenting by co-mingling additional elements with chalk. While on a playing tour of Europe he was introduced to a substance with a different granularity than basic chalk thought to have come from the volcanic soil found around Mt. Etna. This began a series of chemical experiments. 

The addition of silica and aloxite produced the cue chalk used to this day in virtually every pool, snooker or billiard game. William A. Spinks new cue chalk enabled players to impart more spin on shots if needed, add control and touch that had not been possible with the old dusty chalks.  In 1897 he filed a patent on his product and launched William A. Spinks & Co. with a factory in Chicago. Spinks made a fortune from his invention and the Company that marketed his new product. 

By the turn of the 19th Century William Spinks was a wealthy, famous man. Born into relative poverty, his new found wealth could have financed a life of leisure. He could have rested on his laurels. Instead he bought a ranch in Northern California and undertook new challenges. 

Oil had just been discovered in Southern California. Spinks had been widely travelled and keenly understood the coming need for a rapid expansion in the transportation system for goods and people. He was one of the earliest investors in oil exploration and made another fortune. 

The farm he owned near Duarte, CA was a working concern. Spinks described himself as a flower farmer. He became a prominent “pomology” horticulturist. His experimentations led him to develop an improved avocado. His ranch was expanded to become one of the largest avocado producers in California. The “Spinks Avocado Cultivar” he developed was a longer lasting fruit and was more resilient in cold weather than other avocado types. The Spinks Avocado would become the most popular avocado in the world for several decades until the Hass Avocado was perfected. 

William A. Spinks also knew how to Sell and Market, both himself and his products. Today we take for granted an athlete or public person promoting a Consumer Product. In the late 19th century this was unknown. Spinks helped change this forever. 

His Branding and Marketing Strategies enabled the Spinks Avocado to become the dominant avocado fruit sold in markets around the world. The President of China and Royal Gardens throughout Asia bought Spinks Avocado seedlings and spread the fame of the fruit through the aggressive promotion of William A. Spinks. 

Today we would call a man such as William A. Spinks a Renaissance Man. He was successful in so many different fields. The game of billiards as a player and self-promoter, Sporting Good Inventor, Businessman, Marketer, Salesman, as an investor, a Floriculturist, Horticulturist, rancher and Inventor were only some of the areas that this great innovator mastered. 

Largely forgotten today, W. A. Spinks is a wonderful example of the opportunity available to anyone who seeks success, identifies a way to provide a better Product or Service and is willing to work hard to achieve their goals. More people need to know and study the life and achievements of this visionary.

Why Don’t Business Schools Produce more Entrepreneurs?

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

Why Don’t Business Schools Produce more Entrepreneurs? 

For most of my life I have been a serial Entrepreneur. Even as a kid growing up I knew I wanted to control my own destiny. In order to be free and self-supporting I was constantly seeking opportunity in every way possible. This ambition has lead to a lifetime of interesting challenges, ups and downs, adventure, travel and an array of experiences that I could never have experienced if I had gone the corporate job route. I am always amazed that more people, especially in America, do not take the Entrepreneurial path

In college I majored in Broadcast Journalism. My goal was to be a sportswriter and ultimately an author or broadcaster. Instead, almost immediately after graduating I was recruited into the Cosmetic Business. This diversion has led me to an interesting and rewarding career in Branding, Sales, Marketing and Consumer Product Development mostly for Companies that I started, or turned around. I never went to Business School although I took many Business courses while at university. I am essentially self-taught, a graduate of the Sales and Marketing University of Hard Knocks.

For many years I have owned a Company that provides guidance, Consulting, Management and Concierge turnkey Product Development services to Entrepreneurs, Small and Large Businesses, Inventors and Non-Profit Organizations seeking to enhance their Sales and Marketing, both domestically and internationally. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling career ride that the one I have been enjoying for so long.

For many years I have been asked a rhetorical question: “Why don’t Business Schools produce more Entrepreneurs? There are many answers for that question. I believe that there two which come closest to answering the query. 

  1. There is no Business School course that can teach instinct and creativity.
  2. Courage, fearlessness, drive and confidence are inherently personal traits, not book learned.

I lecture at Business Schools. I am Fellow at the Page Business School at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I mentor students. There is an unusual dichotomy that I have observed from this work.

Students are a wonderful source of Entrepreneurial creativity. Very little of this energy originates from the B-School students themselves.

I, or a professor, can teach a student to write a Business Plan, customize a Marketing Strategy, create a Sales Model or organize Support Logistics. This is all knowledge that is available in text books. What I, and no professor, especially the ones that have no real world Entrepreneurial experience (that means most of them) can do is teach a student the ability to spot an opportunity, act on the opportunity and execute to turn it into a business.

Entrepreneur’s come from every walk of life. Any blue collar worker or clerk can become a business success if they see and create a better way to perform a needed task. No business degree is required. The bookshelves are full of treatises that detail people rising from the most humble of origins to achieve great commercial and social success. One trait that all of these people have in common is the drive and courage to act on their instincts and visions and make things happen.

The news today is full of stories about the need for jobs, Small Business growth and the encouragement of Entrepreneur’s. Even people who have no clue how to organize a Start-up Business trumpet the importance of increasing support for new ventures. B-School Entrepreneurial Study programs are the rage at hundreds of universities. It is essential that this course of study is encouraged. It would be even more enlightening to students if a course in the study of Capitalism, Adam Smith, Free Markets and Milton Friedman were a required capstone unit for receiving a degree.

No one course of study is better than another for preparing a student to succeed as an Entrepreneur. Success is achieved by the creator who also possesses a fearless ambition to outwork, out-hustle and out-compete the competition. It is this combination of personal qualities that the marketplace rewards. No professor, textbook or Business School degree can provide these essential ingredients.

An Example of Remora Marketing That Launched the National Chain Drug Store Boom

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

An Example of Remora Marketing That Launched the National Chain Drug Store Boom 

Before the middle of the 20th century there were no national chain drug stores. The neighborhood pharmacy was typically owned by a local druggist. There were multi-door local groups of stores in some big cities. For the most part these pharmacies filled physician’s scripts; operated a soda fountain and carried only a minimum inventory of basic over-the-counter Health Aid products. The multi-aisled, heavily stocked, promotional stores we know today were still in the future. 

Milton Eckerd opened his first pharmacy on Erie, PA in 1898. The original Eckerd Drug Store was operated as a stand-alone store for years. It wasn’t until 1952, when Milton Eckerd’s son Jack bought three stores in Florida that Eckerd evolved into something that could be called a “chain”. This was only the first step for the ambitious Jack Eckerd. He was about to start an expansion that would forever change the face of American drug store retailing.

Jack Eckerd quickly realized that with a large and growing number of stores, he could Buy, Market, Merchandise and promote a much greater range and inventory of goods in front of his pharmacy dispensing windows. The “front” of a drug store was about to become a traffic and profit generator for the first time. In order for this Business Model to take off Mr. Eckerd needed to drive a much larger head count into his stores. 

This need for foot traffic lead Eckerd Drug Stores to create a classic example of a remora Marketing Strategy. The remora is the little fish that rides along the oceans currents snuggly on the back of ferocious sharks. As the great predatory shark makes its kills and feeds, the remora enjoys cleaning up the bits and pieces that are too small for the host to bother eating. Eckerd Drug Stores became the remora to supermarket sharks. 

Whenever a chain supermarket announced a new location Eckerd Drug Stores would rush in and lease space adjacent to the food retailer. Supermarkets work on very thin margins, are heavily promotional and require huge flows of foot traffic to stay profitable. Jack Eckerd recognized that by employing a type of retail remora strategy his stores would profit greatly from the convenience of being situated so close to such heavy consumer traffic. 

By 1961 there were over 1500 Eckerd Drug Stores and the chain was taken public. Eventually Mr. Eckerd sold his chain to JC Penney and retired to a life of public works and philanthropy. The stores were later sold off in geographic divisions to Jean Coutu of Canada, CVS and Rite-Aid. Mr. Eckerd endowed Florida Presbyterian College in St. Petersburg, FL, today renamed Eckerd College in his honor. 

The simple, but pioneering remora Marketing Strategy that Jack Eckerd perfected helped the advance of mass merchandise consumer product marketing. Before the growth of Eckerd Drug Stores, merchandising in pharmacies was primitive. The advent of the national chain model enabled manufacturers from diverse industries such as Cosmetics, Oral Care, Wellness, Health Aids, Gift Cards, and convenience Foods and small Household Goods to greatly expand distribution and drive down costs and retail prices. Consumers no longer simply went to the pharmacy for a prescription refill, they shopped while they waited for their service to be complete. 

While the Eckerd name no longer adorns the stores he created, Jack Eckerd will always be a legend in the retail world. His skills as a businessman, visionary and marketer are legendary. He changed the way products are sold in ways that affect each of us to this day. He also used the vast wealth he accumulated in so many positive ways. A life well lived!