The Empire Builders Podcast

Stephen Semple and David Young

Reverse engineering the success of established business empires. read less
BusinessBusiness

Episodes

#142: Kinko’s – Kinky Red Hair to Copy Company Empire
6d ago
#142: Kinko’s – Kinky Red Hair to Copy Company Empire
FedEx purchased Kinko's for 2+ Billion Dollars. Kinko's doesn't exist any more, but I think we can all agree that Paul Orfelea built an empire. Dave Young: Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those. [Colair Cooling & Heating Ad] Dave Young: Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast. Dave Young here with Stephen Semple. And we were talking about empires. We're talking about things that started small and ended up really darn big. And Stephen whispered today's topic into my ear just as we were counting down, and it's like, "Man, we've been on a run of nostalgic trips to our youthful times." Stephen Semple: That's kind of true, isn't it? I hadn't thought about that. But yeah, we kind of have been. Dave Young: So today we're talking about Kinko's. Kinko's, the copier place. Stephen Semple: Kinko's the copier place. Dave Young: If you didn't have a photocopier at your disposal, you had to find a Kinko's. That was it. That was your only other choice. Or find a print shop and wait a couple weeks. Stephen Semple: And it's easy because Kinko's sort of isn't around any longer. It'd be easy to go, oh, well, they failed, and no, they didn't. The reason why they disappeared was that in February of 2004, they were bought by FedEx for $2.4 billion. So when you look at all these FedEx stores, they were Kinko's that basically FedEx took over. When you sell something for 2.4 billion, I call that an empire. Dave Young: I think so. I think so. How did they get started, and when? Stephen Semple: They basically started back in 1969, 1970 is sort of the starting point. It was founded by Paul Orfalea, and he started literally with 100 square foot shop across street from the University of California. And you got to remember, back then, photocopiers were really large. So his 100 square foot store, customers couldn't come in. Dave Young: That's mostly a photocopier, in those days. Stephen Semple: Customers would come up to the window and they would basically hand the stuff and it'd be copied and it would hand it back out the window. There was no room for customers in 100 square foot shop. Dave Young: Young people right now thinking about the size of a photocopier. When you're talking 1970s, think of your deep freeze in the garage and add about a foot to the height of it, a chest type deep freezer. And I mean, this was serious technology, super expensive piece of equipment, but up until things like this, the only way to get a copy of anything was to run a piece of carbon paper through your typewriter with the original. Stephen Semple: Well, here's how innovative photocopying was. And it wasn't originally called photocopying. It was originally called Xerography. That's the actual technical name for it, which is the reason why. It also then became known as Xeroxing things, but- Dave Young: Making a Xerox. Stephen Semple: And then for a bunch of reasons evolved in the photocopying, but I wish I remember which Bond film it was, but there was one of the really old Bond films where 007 breaks into an office, they lift up a photocopier from a crane and put it over so that he can photocopy some of these secret documents. When it's being done in a Bond film, it's amazing technology. Today we find it almost laughable. But going back to Paul, so Paul grew up being very business-minded. His whole family were entrepreneurs. His dad made clothes, he had uncles with various businesses with restaurants and all sorts of things. He enjoyed college,
#141: Bubble Wrap – Fidget Toy or Packing Safety?
21-02-2024
#141: Bubble Wrap – Fidget Toy or Packing Safety?
We all think about the pop pop pop. But it works best when it doesn't make a sound. Here is the beginning of Bubble Wrap and the Sealed Air Corporation. Dave Young: Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom-and-pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us. But we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those. [Tapper's Jewelry Ad] Dave Young: Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast. I'm Dave Young, Steve Semple's right there. And today, we're going to talk about bubble wrap. I didn't even know it was a brand. Is it a brand or is it just an invention? Stephen Semple: Well, it's patented. Dave Young: Is it? Stephen Semple: Yeah, yeah, yeah. There's a company that owns the right to bubble wrap. Yep. Dave Young: I'm in. Let's pop, pop, pop. Pop, pop, pop. Tell me more. Stephen Semple: Yeah. Well, it was invented in 1957 by Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes, I'm probably butchering the name, in Hawthorne, New Jersey. And today, it's like a $10 billion industry. Dave Young: Gosh. I've got memories as a kid. I didn't know it was that early. In 1957, is that what you said? Stephen Semple: Yep, '57 is when they invented it. Yep. Dave Young: I remember my dad bringing bubble wrap home. We ran the radio station, if he got some fragile part in or something and it was wrapped in bubble wrap, he'd bring it home and give it to the kids. Stephen Semple: Early fidget toy. Dave Young: We'd fight over that stuff 'til it was all done. It was usually the big ones. I don't think they had the little baby bubbles for a while, but the big ones were fun. Stephen Semple: One of the first games I remember playing on my iPhone was actually one where you popped bubble. Where you popped it. Dave Young: Yes, I remember. I'm like, "That's why I got an iPhone." Stephen Semple: So the idea today is a trademark brand of the Sealed Air Corporation. So the Sealed Air Corporation- Dave Young: Sealed Air Corporation. Stephen Semple: ... owns the trademark to bubble wrap. And it was first made by sealing together two shower curtains with bubbles in between, that's what they did. Dave Young: Nice. Stephen Semple: Yep. And there's a number of things that they tried to figure out how to use it for. At one point, they tried to market it as an insulator for greenhouses. Alfred was really interested in how machine shops worked, and Mark was a chemist from a very aristocratic family. And at the time, they were doing work with waterproof fabrics to try to make raincoats and that's kind of where this whole, "Oh, if we have a raincoat, we seal the air in between, it'll be insulated raincoat," and all this stuff going on. And there was a lot of work being done in plastics at that time because following World War II, what we started seeing was plastics being used in transportation and all sorts of different things. And in fact, over World War II, there was a 400% increase in manufacturing in plastics. So there was all sorts of stuff going on. Dave Young: Okay, yeah. Stephen Semple: So they laminated these two plastic sheets together to create this breathable but waterproof thing, and it would give it texture. And again, no one was interested in it, but somebody did approach them and say, "Hey, could you make a textured wallpaper?" So they started playing around with making this textured wallpaper, but didn't work out all that well. They couldn't control the shape of the bubbles, and different types of air got trapped and whatnot. But what they did do is they filed a patent on it and started to look for a market.
#140: Building Trust – Using Social Media
14-02-2024
#140: Building Trust – Using Social Media
Being willing to expose a weakness or a flaw or admitting a mistrake... uhm, sorry, A mistake allows people to know you are real. And real matters when building trust. Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients, so here's one of those. [Tommy Cool Air Ad] Stephen Semple: Hey, everyone. Well, we've given Dave the day off and I have with me a very, very special guest, Matthew Burns. Say hello, Matthew. Matthew Burns: Hello, everybody. Thanks for inviting me, Steve. This is great. Stephen Semple: Yeah, so here's the reason why I wanted to bring Matthew on and what we're going to talk about is Matthew and I had an awesome experience in the fall, and we traveled to Western Canada with Gary Bernier, and we did a number of presentations and met with about 50 business owners out in the Edmonton area. And we're talking about a number of different things around marketing and whatnot. And one of the areas that Matthew presented that people really had a lot of engagement around was this whole idea of building of trust and specifically the role that social media can do around building of trust. And the part that I love the most was how you started that whole conversation, that whole idea that we talk about in terms of the trust conundrum. So I think that's what you should start with in terms of talking about. Matthew Burns: It's this whole idea of when do you actually gain the trust of the target, whether it's a friend, whether it's a family member, whether it's a colleague or a client or a customer. We do a little thing where we trick our audience and we make them answer questions and we say, "Listen, so is trust important?" And we know trust is important, but we ask and everybody says, "Yeah, yeah, trust is important. It's a great thing. We need it." And it's important for the sale. And they'll say, "Yeah, it's important for the sale." Okay, perfect. So how do you build trust? What is it that you do with your business that builds trust? And inevitably we get the same answers. You get, oh, we show up on time and we do what we say we're going to do. Stephen Semple: Treat them with respect. Matthew Burns: Treat them with respect. So we're like, "Okay, that's awesome. And never stop doing those things. That's incredible." So you're doing all those things and you want them to trust you, but when do you do those things? When do those things happen? Before the sale or after the sale? Because remember, we're aiming for trust being really important for the sale itself. So when do those things happen? And they're always like, "Oh." And I said, "Because you said you wanted to be trusted before the sale, but to be trusted, you need to deliver on your promise. Well, that comes after the sale. You need trust for the sale." So this is a paradoxical loop. It's just going to keep feeding into itself. I need it beforehand, but we don't actually get it until afterwards. So trust comes second. True, honest, trust comes second. It's once you've delivered on your promise. It's once you've engaged with the client and delivered what you said you're going to deliver, whether it was even just I'm going to call you back on Tuesday and you call back on Tuesday. Okay, I can trust now that he's going to do or she's going to do exactly what I'm asking for. That's the conundrum. I think the big thing is how do you circumvent the conundrum? How do you get to be trusted before the sale? I'll ask the listeners, if the client came in, the customer came in and they trusted you implicitly,
#139: Trivial Pursuit – Hard, But Not Too Hard
07-02-2024
#139: Trivial Pursuit – Hard, But Not Too Hard
A Canadian invention that sold for $80,000,000 to Hasbro in 1993. Now it is a worldwide sensation. Come on, you've played it. Dave Young: ... welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom-and-pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is... Well, it's us. But we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients, so here's one of those. [AirVantage HVAC Ad] Dave Young: Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast. I'm Dave Young, and Stephen Semple is alongside, and we're talking about empires, empires that got built up by people that started businesses with an idea and a dream. And Stephen just whispered today's topic into my head, and... Through these headphones, and I'm blown away because the topic is Trivial Pursuit, and he told me that it was a Canadian company that started Trivial Pursuit. Instantly, I have a million questions, like did they just steal U.S. state secrets to make all these questions? Stephen Semple: I wish I had the recording on earlier when you were like, "They're a Canadian company?" Dave Young: You Canadians are smart. Nothing gets past you. Stephen Semple: We've done... God, what number are we at? We're 130 or 140, and you've never reacted with that level of surprise. I was like, "Damn. I wish I had that recorded." Dave Young: I mean, you stop and think about it, it kind of makes sense. Up in the frozen north, you've got to spend a lot of time on board games. Stephen Semple: There you go. Dave Young: When it's too cold to snowboard. Stephen Semple: That's it. That's it. It's never too cold to snowboard, that's the only problem. So it was created by fellow Canadians, yes, Chris Haney and Scott Abbott in 1981, and in 2008, Hasbro bought the full rights for $80 million. As of the most recent data I could get was, 2014, they had broke through 100 million games sold, in 17 languages. 1993, it was named the at the Games Hall of Fame, and basically it's sold over two billion copies worldwide. Dave Young: Amazing. I haven't played it in years. It's still around though, right? I mean, you still... Stephen Semple: Oh, yeah. And there's lots of different versions now. Dave Young: Well, I remember clearly the original version, whatever that was called. It was just called Trivial Pursuit- Stephen Semple: That's right. Yes. Dave Young: That's what it was. Stephen Semple: Yeah. Dave Young: And it had enough questions that you could play it a bunch of times before you really needed to buy an expansion pack kind of thing. Stephen Semple: Yes. Dave Young: That was what was fun. But I think I played it so much with friends, and classmates, workmates eventually, that nobody would play against me on that original version. Stephen Semple: Right, 'cause [inaudible 00:04:08] Dave Young: Then you get in, like, "Oh, the sports version. Nah, I'm no good at that." I might remember the name Gordie Howe. Actually, that explains that it was a Canadian company, 'cause there were a lot of hockey stars in a lot of the question answers. Stephen Semple: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So the origin goes back to 1970, it took them a while to get it going. So it's the '70s, and the market's dominated by games for kids, there's no adult games out there. And Chris Hanley's a photojournalist, super creative guy. Scott Abbott's a sportswriter- Dave Young: Yeah. Stephen Semple: That might be part of the sports part to it. Dave Young: Probably Gordie Howe's cousin? Stephen Semple: There you go. And so one night they're going to play Scrabble, and it's missing some tiles, and they decide instead to do trivia.
#138: Trip Advisor – Because Real Matters
31-01-2024
#138: Trip Advisor – Because Real Matters
Travelling is fun, but stressful. Is the destination going to look like the pictures on the website? Voila, Trip Advisor. Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us. But we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients, so here's one of those. [Wyatt Works Plumbing Ad] Dave Young: Hey, welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, that's where we're at, right? I'm Dave Young. Stephen Semple: That's where we're at for right now. Dave Young: Yeah, I don't know. And as we're recording this, it's early in the morning. Stephen has gone to the great trouble of researching empires, and people that built them, and how they did it. And just before he hits record, he whispers in my ear the topic of the day, and all I have to do is show up and do this kind of stuff. Hi, Stephen. Stephen Semple: Hey. You're really doing so well this morning. Dave Young: Look, it's early, I'm still waiting for the meds to kick in. I'm stalling because I'm trying to think of things that I know about the empire that you told me about. We're going to talk about TripAdvisor. Stephen Semple: Yes, sir. Big player in their space, man. Dave Young: They are. And my recollection is they're sort of travel agency-ish, but they're also just big search and ad, and you just find them when you're going to a place and you want to know stuff about things before you hit the ground. Stephen Semple: And that's literally the inspirational idea for TripAdvisor. So TripAdvisor was founded by Steve Kaufer in February of 2000, and today they get like 400 million visitors a month to the site. Dave Young: That's not nothing. Stephen Semple: That's not nothing, it's pretty significant. But here's the interesting thing, the thing that really drives them, user review was actually an afterthought when they started their business. It's not where it started. So, Steve has got a major in computer science, in 1985 he graduates, and he decides to start this software company, and he stayed there with a bunch of friends, and he stayed there for 10 years, and he worked at night. And in fact, what it was, he started off doing this productivity tool, which found errors in C code, and he grew it to 160 people, and doing 18 million in sales, and then the market changed and it contracted. And by the time he sold it to Compuware in '98, they were down to a dozen people. But it was a learning lesson for him, because what he discovered when he reflected back on it is he had on these blinders, and the blinders was, as the business was contracting, he kept thinking, "All I need to do is invest a new product, all I need to do is make this thing better and it'll work." What he was not connecting with was what did the customer actually want? Dave Young: How is the market changing too, right? Stephen Semple: Correct. Dave Young: Man, if you think that you're the rock and you ignore the fact that the market is changing around you, you think you're doing something wrong, you just haven't opened your eyes. Stephen Semple: Yes. And he believed that business failed because he had this complete product first focus. Product, product, product, not looking at the market, not looking at the customer, and that shaped what happens next. So he basically walked out with nothing from that venture, and he goes on vacation in 1998 and he goes down to Mexico. He and his wife are going down there and he's planning the trip. So like, "Well, where should we go?" "Well, how about Mexico? How about [inaudible 00:04:43] of Cancun? They go into a travel agency.
#137: How To Recruit Good People
25-01-2024
#137: How To Recruit Good People
Labor shortages are affecting the hiring of good people. How does business change their recruiting practices to get the best workers? Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Yum. Before we get into today's episode, a Young from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those [No Bull RV Ad] Dave Young: Welcome back to the Empire Builders Podcast. Dave Young here along with Stephen Semple. And today, we're not even talking about a product. We're not talking about an empire. We're talking about something that empires and businesses of all shapes and sizes need, and that's good people. And we're going to talk about how to find them. Stephen, you've got some thoughts on recruiting. Stephen Semple: Yeah. And if people go back to episode 59, we did a whole talk on demographics. And one of the reasons why we talked about demographics is frankly the challenge that businesses are going to face going forward, finding people. And I really encourage people to go back and listen to it, but just to summarize, so basically for the 70 years following World War II, what happened consistently every decade was the labor force grew. More people were entering the labor force than leaving the labor force due to the baby boom, women entering the workforce, and immigration. In 2020, something happened. 2020, that became more balanced in terms of the labor force did not grow in North America. In fact, what's happening is our labor force is beginning to shrink. And when you look at demographics and you look forward, because we do not give birth to working age children, and birth rates are low, we're not replacing our population the workforce is going to continue to shrink for the foreseeable future. Our workforce is going to get smaller and smaller. That's just the reality of it all. And that changes a lot of things, including recruiting. And here's the interesting thing. So right now, we're in a stage where people are worried about the economy and talking about a slow economy and whatnot. And what is our unemployment rate right now? 3.5%, which is a historic low. So even though we keep reading about, oh, there's layoffs here and layoffs here and layoffs here- Dave Young: And nobody wants to work. Stephen Semple: Right. And that's the fallacy. Nope, no, everyone's working. Everyone is working. When we think about growing an empire, there's a bunch of things you need. You need scalable marketing, you need to use scalable sales, but you also have got to be able to attract people. So I believe recruiting is going to become a really important part, and even a more critical part to growing a business in the future than today. Because in the past, there was always people available. They aren't any longer. And this is not just a North American phenomena. A few years ago when I was over speaking at the London Stock Exchange, I had a chance to meet business owners from all over Europe, France, and Sweden and whatnot, and they were all talking about the same thing. They're all talking about this shortage of labor. This is a worldwide phenomena. There's expectations that China's population by the end of the century is going to be cut in half. Dave Young: Wow. Stephen Semple: That is going to be 500 million people rather than the billion it is today. So this is a worldwide thing. So now getting back to it. So to me, I believe that this is going to change how we have to recruit. Our whole strategy for recruiting, and I'm doing this with some customers, has to change because... Everyone says to me, "Oh, it's not about the skill sets. Bring me somebody with the right traits and I w...
#136: Silly Putty – From War Effort To Childs Play Thing
17-01-2024
#136: Silly Putty – From War Effort To Childs Play Thing
The real liquid solid for adults turned into Silly Putty for the kid inside all of us. Natural rubber was hard to get and Silly Putty was the mistake that created an empire. Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders podcast, teaching business owners the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those. [Irock Plumbing Ad] Dave Young: Welcome back to the Empire Builders podcast, Dave Young here alongside Stephen Simple. Stephen just whispered the name of today's topic into my ear, and it's one that I've certainly heard of. It's one that I have vast amounts of experience with as a child. We're going to find out if they're even still around because they must be, they built an empire. I think I know a little bit of the back story. It's sort of an accidental product called Silly Putty. Stephen Semple: Yes, Silly Putty. To give you an idea of how big Silly Putty is, there's been 350 million eggs sold, which would account to about 4,500 tons of Silly Putty in the world. It's in the National Toy Hall of Fame, and it's in the Smithsonian Institute. Dave Young: One of my favorite things to do with Silly Putty is probably not something that today's kids can do much with it because nobody buys newspapers anymore, but used to be able to smash the Silly Putty onto the comic strips. It would lift a little bit of the ink off, and that would be kind of fun. Stephen Semple: You could stretch it. Dave Young: Yeah. Kind of a goofy product. There's no legit purpose for it other than just to play with it in your hands. Stephen Semple: Invention of Silly Putty is disputed, actually. Some say Earl Warrick from Dow Corning, some say that was the inventor. Most including Crayola, who are now the owners of Silly Putty attribute it to James Wright at GE Labs in New Haven, Connecticut. So most say it was James Wright. So we're going to go with it being James Wright. Any case, whichever one was the inventor, it was invented in 1943 and today it's one of the best-selling toys in the world. As we're talking about, it's in the National Toy Hall of Fame, in the Smithsonian Institute. Dave Young: So 1943 puts it right in the middle of World War II, and we're fighting to stop the Axis and the Nazi powers. If I recall, if I heard a story once, it was like they were trying to invent something that was part of the war effort. Stephen Semple: Yes. In fact, that's exactly what it was. Again, just give you an idea of Peter Hodgson is the person who ran with Silly Putty and popularized it. In 1976, when he died, his estate was worth $140 million, which is probably in today's dollars 600 million. He did really well. He did really well by this. You're right. It was a year after he passed away that it was sold to Crayola. Back to GE Labs in 1941, Japan invades the rubber producing countries at the beginning of World War II creating all sorts of shortages. If you take a look at the countries that they invaded at the beginning, they were all basically countries that were the source of natural rubber because at the time, rubber came from the sap of trees, rubber was used in tires and rafts and aircraft products, and they were all made from natural rubber. That was the only rubber that was around. So basically companies like GE with the war effort were looking for a substitute. They were trying to find a substitution for natural rubber. James Wright was working on the problem, and he came up with a compound that was soft, sticky, stretchable. What made it unusual is that it can be compressed and it's a solid that can be cut, but when it's balled up, it bounces.
#135: Herschel – Established by Design
10-01-2024
#135: Herschel – Established by Design
Wouldn't it be cool if there was a better built backpack that cost the same? The beginning of Herschel. How to feel established from day one? Dave Young: Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those. [BWS Ad] Dave Young: Welcome back to The Empire Builders Podcast. Dave Young here alongside Stephen Semple, as he usually does. Just before we start the countdown to record, he asked me if I'd heard of today's topic, which is Herschel what? Stephen Semple: It's called the Herschel Supply Company. Dave Young: Herschel Supply Company. They make backpacks. When you said backpacks, I immediately thought of the JanSport backpack that every kid in junior high ever owned. Business world seems to have in the last 20 years. Like the Swiss Army or whatever. There's a brand that you see those a lot, you see. There's some other brands, but I've not heard of this one. Stephen Semple: So first of all, warm them to my heart because they're a Canadian company. Dave Young: Oh, well, there we go. I'm guessing these are high-end backpacks that only really successful people can afford like you. Stephen Semple: They are, and I don't have one. Dave Young: Oh, well, never mind. Stephen Semple: But they are a really nice backpack and they are very high quality. And in fact, they were one of the companies that really led this charge in terms of backpacks becoming higher quality and higher design. And they were started in 2009, and today they're sold in 9,000 locations around the world. Dave Young: That's a lot of locations. Stephen Semple: Yeah. They are a massive success. And they were started by two brothers, Jamie and Lyndon Cormack. And again, as I like to point out, Canadians, and if you saw their backpacks, what's really interesting is if you saw them and took a look at it, given the way the logo is and the design and whatnot, you would feel like it was a really old company, not a company from 2009. And that was by design. That was very much intentional. They built this old and established feeling purposely. They both worked in apparel, and one of the things that they noticed was there was a gap in the marketplace. There were no stylish backpacks, and college students were using them and people were going to work with them, and there was nothing stylish. And today they also do duffels and suitcases and wallets and things along that line. And how they came up with the name was an old prairie town near where they grew up in Saskatchewan, Herschel, this little town. And they would visit it as kids, and literally 18 people lived in this little town, and it was down in this little valley and it had this nice little hockey rink in curling rink and an old school that had been turned into a little local museum. And so they actually went and hung out there as kids. So Jamie moved away to Canmore and worked in mountaineering school, and he wanted to be a mountain guide. He studied this for four years. It takes a long time to be a mountain guide. And at one point his boss pulls him aside and says, "I'm not hiring you back." And he goes, "Well, why not?" He goes, "You're too young, you're too smart. I want you to be one of the people in the back of the helicopter coming up here on weekends, not working in the front." Dave Young: Wow. Okay. Stephen Semple: So he went back to the city, to school part-time and was doing graphics while working in a skateboard shop. And so he started a local skateboard magazine called Sequence,
#134: Krispy Kreme – Word of Mouth Masters
03-01-2024
#134: Krispy Kreme – Word of Mouth Masters
The Randolph brothers busted a hole in the wall of their bakery to accommodate factory worker's short break time. That was the first of 3 ways to create word of mouth. Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from Mom and Pop to major brands. Steven Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Steven sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients, so here's one of those. [Travis Crawford Ad] Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast. I'm Dave Young. I'm here with Steven Semple, and we're going to talk about an empire that was built, that's why we call it the Empire Builders, in case you hadn't caught onto that whole thing about why we're named what we are. Good morning, Steven. How are you? Stephen Semple: Wow, you're really on it this morning. Dave Young: I'm not on a... People ask, "Is that scripted?" Oh gosh, no. Isn't it obvious? You've whispered our subject for the day in my ear just as we started the countdown, and it instantly brought back memories of trips to Austin, Texas, with my children back in the early 2000s. Probably back around the turn of the century, young man, shortly after. Stephen Semple: Really? Dave Young: Mm-hmm. When Julie and I first traveled down to Wizard Academy, we had four kids at home. And this was when Wizard Academy was still down in Butte, at Roy's office. So the easiest way to get there was down I-35, if you're familiar with Austin. Stephen Semple: Right. Okay. Dave Young: Well, right at... I think it's at Slaughter and I-35. We had to make a stop every time as we headed south at a Krispy Kreme Donuts. Stephen Semple: At a Krispy Kreme. All right. Dave Young: Because we didn't have a Krispy Kreme donuts back in Western Nebraska. There probably still isn't one. Stephen Semple: There's no question. They're far more concentrated in the south of [inaudible 00:03:00] although another city that has a ton of them is New York City. Dave Young: Really? Stephen Semple: Yeah. When I was doing the speaking engagement this summer at NASDAQ... So first of all, there's a really neat one right off of Times Square. I swear, you couldn't go five minutes on Manhattan without bumping into a Krispy Kreme. They were everywhere. Dave Young: Really? Stephen Semple: Yeah, they were absolutely everywhere in New York. Dave Young: In case the listener hasn't figured it out, today's topic is Krispy Kreme donuts. Stephen Semple: I guess we never had [inaudible 00:03:30] announce that, did we? Dave Young: What we loved about it... I mean... Shoot, I'm raising kids, and everybody ate donuts, right? But we had a place in our hometown called Daylight Donuts, which I think was a small franchise. And you could get donuts at the grocery store. You could get the boxes of donuts, but man, there was just nothingness. And Dunkin was around, but there was just like the Krispy Kreme had the green light, red light thing on the drive-up. And if the green light was on, it means they're making donuts right now. And yours will still be hot from the grease when they hand it to you out the window. And it was like, "That was an amazing thing." Stephen Semple: Yeah, they've done incredible. They were founded by two brothers, Vernon and Louis Randolph, and Winston-Salem on July 13th, 1937. And today, they have 1400 locations. They got 21,000 employees, and they do a half a billion in revenues. So they've done real well. Dave Young: I think half a billion's empire sized. Stephen Semple: Well, yeah, it's a lot of donuts. That's a lot of donuts. Dave Young: It's a lot of donuts. The other thing that was really cool about what's go...
#133: Pepperidge Farm –
27-12-2023
#133: Pepperidge Farm –
While struggling in the great depression, Margaret Rudkin was brave enough to offer her healthy bread, made for her son, to the local baker. Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those. [Armadura Ad] Dave Young: Welcome back to the Empire Builders Podcast. Dave Young here with Stephen Semple talking about empire building. Stephen Semple: We have another remarkable female entrepreneur that we're highlighting. Dave Young: Oh, cool. So I don't know much about this one other than I've seen a lot of their marketing over the years and they've become a meme. There's a meme called Pepperidge Farms Remembers. And so we're going to talk about Pepperidge Farms, probably not the meme, but that was a throwback to their marketing campaign. How did they start, Stephen? Stephen Semple: Well, when you become a meme, you know you're a big deal. Dave Young: Oh, yeah. Stephen Semple: Pepperidge Farm was founded in 1937 by Margaret Rudkin in Fairfield, Connecticut, and she went on to sell the business to Campbell's Soup in 1961 for $28 million in 1961 money and became the first woman to sit on the board of directors of Campbell's Soup. She also later wrote a cookbook, The Margaret Pepperidge Farm Cookbook in 1963, and it was the first cookbook to make the New York Times bestsellers list. Dave Young: Wow. All right. Stephen Semple: So she's a big deal. She's a big, big, big deal. And Pepperidge Farm, they lived on this 123 acre farm and it was named for the Pepperidge tree that was on the property. Margaret was a mother of three, smart lady. She was valedictorian of her high school and had a career and worked as a bookkeeper for nine years, and we're talking in the early 1920s before marrying Henry Rudkin. So took a very different path. And Henry was a stockbroker and they went on to have three children, and in 1929, they moved to this farm in Connecticut right when the crash happened. Now, her husband's a stockbroker, and while they were not wiped out by many, times were still tight for them. Now, her son, John, had developed asthma and a number of allergies, and their doctor who was way ahead of his time recommended staying away from processed food. So again, this is like 1930. And one of the things that she realized that she needed to do was make a better bread for her son, John. She wanted to make this whole wheat bread and she had never baked before. So she pulled out these recipes from her Irish grandmother and it took time and their early results were not great. In Margaret's words, the first loaf should have been sent to the Smithsonian Institute as a sample of Stone Age bread. It was hard as a rock and about one inch thick. Dave Young: I like her sense of humor, Stone Age bread. Stephen Semple: Stone Age bread. So after trying a few recipes, she finds one that is nutritional and her son likes. The doctor also liked it and saw the results, and so he wanted to buy it for other patients. And since they could use some extra cash, market crash, husband is a stockbroker, they decide to sell it to Dr. Donaldson, and he recommends it to his patients and other doctors. Margaret also decides to see if she can sell it to a local grocer. So here was the challenge. Dave Young: We go from Stone Age bread to prescription-strength bread. Stephen Semple: I didn't think about it that way, but here's an interesting challenge and here's where I give Margaret a lot of chops. A lot of chops on that.
#132: Adventures in A.I. – Left, Right and Connected
20-12-2023
#132: Adventures in A.I. – Left, Right and Connected
Stephen had a chance meeting that lead to an adventure in A.I. development. The recreation of the human brain? Let us know your thoughts. Dave Young: Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those. [No Bull Ad] Dave Young: Welcome back to The Empire Builders Podcast. Dave Young here with Stephen Semple sharing stories about business building and empires, going from small to massive sizes. And Stephen, you said you've got a weird one for me today. I don't know what to expect. Stephen Semple: I've got a weird story to share, and it's a little bit outside of the norm of what we talk about because it's not really about an empire, because it's about artificial intelligence, which is a topic that a lot of people are looking at and thinking about. And I was down in Austin, Texas a couple of weeks ago meeting with Roy Williams, our founding partner, writer of three New York Times bestselling books, and we got talking about artificial intelligence. And I shared with him this little artificial intelligence journey I went on, and he was like, "You have to tell that story." And I was like, really? He goes, "Yep, you got to tell it on your podcast and you got to tell it exactly the way you told me." So I was like, okay, here we go. I got this opportunity. I was invited by Ellen K, who's a big time DJ in Los Angeles. Give you an idea how big she is, Ryan Seacrest got his start with her. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So she gives me a call, invites me to this event that she's hosting where she's giving Marc Anthony his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So she goes, "Do you want to attend this event?" I'm like, hell yeah. So I hop on the plane. I fly out to Los Angeles. I'm at this event, and it was really wild because they closed down the street. I'm behind the ropes. There's all these screaming fans. Marc Anthony's there. All sorts of other celebrities are there. And I'm like, you know what? I want to meet Marc Anthony. I figure out how they're leaving, so I positioned myself close to that door, so he's going to have to walk past me. And there's no one at that spot yet. No one's figured this out yet. So it's like, awesome. I'm in the prime location. And it's working perfectly. He's leaving. He's walking past me. His back is to me. So how am I going to get this guy to turn around? Well, I've been working with a guy, really amazing coach who's been teaching me a lot about public speaking. But whenever you're working with these coaches, they always throw these other little tidbits out. And one of the things he was saying is about status. He says, if you ever want to establish yourself as being on the same status as somebody and get their attention, here's what you do. You say the word hey, has to be hey, hey, your name, not theirs, your name, and one word. Now, if you can't do one word, two, maybe three, but no more than three. So Marc Anthony's back is to me, and I'm hearing the audience, "Hey, Marc Anthony, look this way. Hey, Marc Anthony, look this way." And I said, "Hey, it's Stephen Semple. Congratulations." He fricking stops, turns around, shakes my hand, thanks me for my support and how much it means to him. And we literally talked for 30 seconds. I was so unready for it, I didn't have my camera out to do a selfie. Because at that point, I could have done a selfie because we're peers, right? Dave Young: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Stephen Semple: So I didn't get the picture. That's bad on me. But the cool thing is,
#131: Michael Kors – Brave, Bankrupt and Brilliant
13-12-2023
#131: Michael Kors – Brave, Bankrupt and Brilliant
Michael Kors was always destined for fashion. Modelling at a young age to losing everything and starting again. Open to adapting is his legacy. Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those. [Tapper's Jewelry Ad] Dave Young: Welcome back to the Empire Builders Podcast, Dave Young here with Stephen Semple, and we're talking about businesses and empires and people that started a company and grew it to fabulous heights. As Stephen whispered the topic into my ear this morning, I thought, well, I don't really know these guys. There's a reason for that. You said this is one of the top 50 brands in the world? Stephen Semple: Yes. That's what they're considered. Dave Young: Okay. So this is just proof that Dave is just a hick from the sticks. I promise you that Michael Kors products are not being sold in the town I spent 50 years in. Stephen Semple: There you go. Dave Young: This is something that you buy in New York City, right? Stephen Semple: In the big town. Dave Young: Tell me more. Do tell. Stephen Semple: So Michael Kors, it started in the early 1980s, and as I mentioned in the past 15 years when they really exploded, they became what many consider one of the 50 biggest brands on earth. You may recognize this one because Michael Kors has also been a judge on one of your favorite shows, Fashion Runway. Dave Young: I'm sorry, what was that? Stephen Semple: Fashion Runway. Dave Young: I got nothing. I got nothing. Stephen Semple: You got nothing. They're now part of a big company. They're owned by a parent company that owns other brands such as Versace and ones along that line. Dave Young: Oh, of course. Stephen Semple: And today it is public and it's worth about $6 billion, but it's not been an easy ride. In 1990 through all of this, Michael Kors had to go bankrupt. So this is a ride with a couple of twists and turns in it. So Michael Kors was actually born, Karl Anderson and his stepdad's last name is Kors, and he decided he wanted to change his name to core. And when he went about changing it, he decided he also wanted to change his first name because he liked the sound of Michael Kors. And he was exposed to fashion at an early age. His mom was a model and she was tall. And because she was tall, she was always the bridal model because for whatever reason, the bridal model were always the ones that were tall. And when Revlon opened a store called The House of Revlon, they wanted an in-house hair model and she became that for a while. He also did a little bit of modeling as a kid. So as a kid, he grew up around fashionable people. His mom was fashionable, his dad, his grandmother who worked as a secretary got dressed up for work every day. So it was very much that type of household. And he loved to draw, much of it was fashion, and he was very flamboyant. He was very fortunate in terms of the family that he grew up with because they gave him confidence even though he was not the same. He was lucky that as a gay child in the '70s that he wanted to do fashion and his family supported all of that. So he considers it very fortunate family background that he grew up in. And he grew up loving movies, and they would go into Manhattan and New York City as a destination, and it was always a magical thing for him to go to and buy something at Saks, and he would try to find something that no one else had. So he knew he wanted to do fashion, and he enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology and that l...
#130: Poinsettia – Mexican Shrub to Christmas Icon
06-12-2023
#130: Poinsettia – Mexican Shrub to Christmas Icon
What started with an obsession with a beautiful Mexican shrub, turned into a Billion dollars in annual sales and a patent on the flower. Dave Young: Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom-and-pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is... Well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those. [BWS Ad] Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast where the countdown just ended and the podcast has begun. I'm Dave Young, alongside Stephen Semple, and we're talking about empire builders, people that have grown a business, a category, all of those things, into an empire. As we do, Stephen whispered the topic to me just before the countdown started. It's kind of a seasonal thing and it's poinsettias. I actually know a bit about poinsettias. Stephen Semple: Well, you see, this is the part. It was almost like I wish I had started the recording ahead of time because when I sent it to you, you were going off on the person's name and you were starting to give a bunch of the history, and I'm like, "Geez, what does Dave not know?" Dave Young: I actually stumbled across the guy's name. I was thumbing through a book in the Wizard Academy Tower. Stephen Semple: For those who've not been at the tower, there's like 10 million books in the tower. Dave Young: Well, I happened to be looking for an old book we're keeping an eye out for and picked up this old book that looked... It was old and it was a history of, I think it was an Andrew Jackson biography. There was a bookmark, a little piece of paper tucked into the book on a particular page, and it said, "This is the guy poinsettias is named after", I think a guy named John Poinsett that somehow is written about in this book. I have no other information other than that. I looked at it, it's like, "Okay, well, yeah, it would make sense if it's named after a guy named Poinsett." My other tangent knowledge of poinsettias is my sister and her husband owned a greenhouse for a long time and grew poinsettias every year and sold them. They wholesaled them all over the state of Nebraska. Stephen Semple: Oh, is that right? Wow. Okay. There's a billion dollars worth of these plants sold a year. It's pretty amazing and as we all know, has almost become symbolic of the holiday season, certainly here in North America. And much of it was developed by one guy. It's really quite amazing. It's this Mexican shrub really, is what it is. It was first used in the 14th century by the Nahua? Dave Young: Probably. Stephen Semple: I'm probably pronouncing that wrong, people for a die and medical purposes. The plant's brilliant leaves were so revered by the Aztec Emperor, Montezuma, that thousands of them have been transported to these high altitude capital every winter. After Spain colonialized Mexico, Franciscan Monks dubbed the plant, the Flower of the Blessed Night and began showcasing them in- Dave Young: Really? Yeah. Stephen Semple: ... annual Christmas processions. For the next few centuries it was popular in Mexico, but obscure to the rest of the world until, and it wasn't John, you were so close- Dave Young: Joel. Stephen Semple: ... last name was right, Joel. Joel Poinsett. He was this wealthy southern unionist slave owner who in the early 1800s was appointed the first U.S. Minister to Mexico. So while in Mexico, he actually tried to execute the purchase of Texas, which made him a little unpopular in Mexico. So on a trip in 1828, he saw the plant and was so struck by it that he shipped samples back to the U.S. The plant became known as poinsettia.
#129: Angie’s List – From Intern to Internet
29-11-2023
#129: Angie’s List – From Intern to Internet
Bill Oesterle just wanted an easier way to renovate his home. Angie Hicks was a bright young intern. From answering phones to half of a Billion dollars. Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us. But we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients, so here's one of those. [BWS Ad] Dave Young: Welcome back to the Empire Builders Podcast, Dave Young here alongside Stephen Semple. And we're just talking about businesses and what are the little pivots that they made along the way that turned them into empires, from mom and pop kind of things? And today, Stephen, you told me we're talking about Angie's List. Stephen Semple: That's right. Dave Young: I think that there's a person named Angie involved in this story. Stephen Semple: That's correct, Angie Hicks. Dave Young: Let's hear it. They haven't been around forever and they've made some interesting pivots as well. Stephen Semple: Yeah. They're actually now called just Angi, if you were to go to the website to pull them up, rather than Angie's List. But yeah, they were founded in 1995 by Angie Hicks and Bill Oesterle. And in 2011, they went public on NASDAQ. And 2013 they had 2 million subscribers. And in March of 2021, IAC, who's also the owners of Home Advisor, bought the company for $500 million. And it's estimated they do about $350 million a year in revenue today. Dave Young: Wow. Stephen Semple: Yeah. Dave Young: That's rags to riches. Stephen Semple: Yeah, it sure is. Dave Young: So they've been around longer than I thought. Stephen Semple: They predate the internet, really, like 1995. And that's the other part that I found surprising. It's like, 1995? No one was online in 1995. Dave Young: Tell me more. Stephen Semple: Yeah. So Bill had this small private equity firm, and he had hired Angie to work there as an intern. So she worked there for a year as an intern. And after the internship, Bill reached out to hire her. He said, "I have this idea, but what you need to do is you need to move here to Columbus." And he'd raised some money. And he said to her, "You need to commit to doing this for a year." And Angie describes herself as very risk-adverse and not at all entrepreneurial, so she wasn't sure if she should do this. So she asked around for advice. And what I love was the advice her grandfather gave her. And her grandfather surprised her, because her grandfather is very conservative. Here's what he said. He said, "Well, what's the difference between being 22 and looking for a job and being 23 and looking for a job?" Dave Young: Not a whole lot. Stephen Semple: Right? So she was like, "Well, that makes a lot of sense," so off she went, because really what's the risk? A year later, you're looking for a job. What's the difference? So the idea that came about that Bill had for Angie's List landed because of Bill's experience renovating his home in Columbus. He had recently renovated a home in Indianapolis, and he had used this local service called Unified Neighbors. So somebody had this service called Unified Neighbors, which was really a list of who was good and not good in the home improvement space. Dave Young: That's been a huge problem for people over the years. Stephen Semple: Absolutely. And he just assumed that, when he went to Columbus, that Columbus would have a service just like that. And what he discovered was, it didn't. And what he discovered was most places don't. So he saw this as an opportunity because this didn't exist. And so what they decide they'd do was start their own,
#128: Behind The Scenes – Dave Young
22-11-2023
#128: Behind The Scenes – Dave Young
Who is Dave Young and why does he make such a good side kick? Is it a short attention span or his years of radio and business acumen? Let's find out. Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Simple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients, so here's one of those. [Waukee Feet Ad] Dave Young: Welcome back to the Empire Builders Podcast, Dave Young, here alongside... Wait, wait a minute. Wait a minute, is that you Matt? Matthew Burns: It's me, Matthew. Dave Young: Where's Stephen? What the heck's going on here? Matthew Burns: We've done this in the past where we gave you a week off, so we're going to do that for Stephen this week. And we're going to find out why the heck Dave Young even exists in the Empire Builder Podcast world. Dave Young: Geez, I feel a little existential dread now. Matthew Burns: That's okay, because Stephen felt a little bit of the same. I have this really awesome job with the podcast and I get to sit back and listen to everything after it's already completed and then write the social media posts and get it all put up on the blog. And I have always wanted to be a little bit of an ego play. I want to get myself onto the recordings and so I said, "Hey, let me do the interviews for the behind the scenes stuff." And that's what we're going to do today. Dave Young: All right. I'm the guy that has to fake my own imposter syndrome. Matthew Burns: Yeah, because you still have that. Come on, give me a break. The number one question is are you really seriously kept in the dark until the beginning of things? So the podcast starts and you're always like, "Well, you just told me that we're talking about eggs," whatever the podcast title is. Is that how it goes down? Dave Young: Yeah, no, you're absolutely right and I wouldn't have it any other way. I think it's what makes it fun to do this. I mean, for two reasons, one, first and foremost, Stephen does all the research and I don't have to do any of that. Matthew Burns: So you're lazy, I see. Dave Young: This is my role. Matthew Burns: Oh, sorry. My bad. Dave Young: It's not lazy. It's using someone's talents to the max., if that makes sense. Matthew Burns: Absolutely. Dave Young: So I feel like one of the things I got pretty good at when I was doing live radio was just being live and in the moment on things and being able to handle curveballs, just improv and ad lib. I'm pretty good at that. If somebody says, "Hey, we need somebody to fill 10, 15 minutes on a stage." I'd be the first to say, "Okay, I don't have a comedy routine, but I could probably keep people sitting in their seats for 15 minutes." Matthew Burns: Put me in coach. Dave Young: You know what I mean? Matthew Burns: Yeah. Random conversations with any of our partners is everybody tells me how quick Dave Young is, just quick. It's, "This dude's quick." And they mean in response and your depth of knowledge. And you can get involved in a conversation very quickly and have some mastery of it somewhere, whether it's direct or relatable, which is wicked, and it does make it very easy for Stephen to go and be completely masterful of the content that he wants to talk about for each episode. And you go, "Oh man, you know what? When I was... We used to..." An El Camino, whatever that thing, and then you bring yourself all the way in and you make it very personal, and that's been the most brilliant part of it. And then it also makes it very natural that the banter is not now been created, it is what it is. It's exactly what it is.
#127: Wonder Bread – The best thing since…
15-11-2023
#127: Wonder Bread – The best thing since…
Eliminate the friction... That is what Lee Marshall did time and time again to keep Wonder Bread and Hostess at the top. Even taking pointers from milk. Dave Young: Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom-and-pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those. [Travis Crawford Ad] Dave Young: Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast. Dave Young here with Stephen Semple. And I seem flustered because usually Stephen hits the record button, I get a five-second countdown, and right during that, he tells me what we're going to talk about. And he said nothing this morning. He said nothing. He just got this smug grin and didn't say a god dang word. What's going on, Stephen? Stephen Semple: Well, so I want to ask you this. Can you finish this phrase, the greatest thing since? Dave Young: Sliced bread. Stephen Semple: There you go. Sliced bread. The greatest thing since sliced bread. That's what we're going to talk about today. Dave Young: Okay. Stephen Semple: Sliced. Dave Young: Bread. Stephen Semple: Yeah. And specifically, the first bread to be sold nationwide pre-sliced was Wonder Bread, which was done back in the 1930s. But the earliest record I could find for sliced bread being sold was Kleen-Maid Bread from Chillcothe Baking Company in 1928. I managed to find this little obscure newspaper ad talking about that. But basically, the first nationwide company to do it was Wonder Bread. But Wonder Bread was first introduced as non-sliced on May 21, 1921 by the Taggart Baking Company in Indianapolis. Dave Young: I mean, I think about that, and you'd have to have a pretty dang good knife to slice a freshly baked loaf of Wonder Bread. Stephen Semple: Yeah, it was actually quite a technological challenge. But what was going on, if we think back to the early 1920s, is supermarkets were exploding on the scene, and that was really changing the way people shop. They are now going to one place to buy food, where traditionally they went to a baker for bread, they went to a butcher for meat, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Now they are going all to one place. And also, larger, regional, and national players started to emerge instead of everything being local. And we are also having the Industrial Revolution coming on the scene. So this heavily impacts bakeries. You start seeing bakeries starting to have factory-style production. So industrials start looking at bakeries. And mergers start to form. And we start seeing all these mergers going on and these national bakeries come on the scene. There's this gentleman, Lee Marshall, who's heading up Continental Bakery, and he starts to consolidate all sorts of bakeries under his brand. Here's the problem. He's so good at that, that he gets nailed by antitrust and they actually break up Continental Bakery. Dave Young: Break up big bread. Stephen Semple: Yeah, big bread. But at this point, Lee knows where the industry is heading, and he sees that there's this big pivot towards white bread. And white bread at this point had traditionally been seen as a luxury item for the rich, because the process of making the wheat for it was quite difficult until it was able to be industrialized. And he comes across this bread, Wonder Bread, made by Taggart Bakery. And in 1925, he buys Taggart Bakery. And it also came along with Hostess. So it was Wonder Bread and Hostess. But the Wonder Bread's unsliced. And here's the problem, Wonder Bread is incredibly soft. It's this soft, light bread that gets kind of butchered when you start trying to slice it.
#126: Best Practices – Are they though???
08-11-2023
#126: Best Practices – Are they though???
Crazy innovations become future best practices. So what do you want your marketing goals to be set be based on? Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from Mom and Pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those. [Waukee Feet Ad] Dave Young: I'm Dave Young with Stephen Semple, and he caught me off guard because we're not going to talk about a brand today. Stephen's going to go on a rant about best practices and leadership, and it startled me so much, that tripped me up. I love your rants, so best practices versus leadership. Yeah. Ready, set, go. Stephen Semple: Well, this is one of the things that drives me really quite crazy because we'll introduce an idea, an innovative new idea to a customer, and the first thing they'll want to sit there and say is, well, has anybody else done this? And I'll say, well, this coffee company did it. Well, yeah, but we're not a coffee company. Has anybody else done it in the coffee industry? And I'll sit there and say to them, we really like following best practices. Right? Well, guess what? The best practices of today were innovative brand new ideas that shocked the industry 20 years ago. Dave Young: Exactly. Stephen Semple: And I feel like this idea of best practices is so much limiting innovation in industry today. We all get together as these industry groups. One person stands up there and talks about, and usually it's not even the person who created the best practice, it's some consultant who studied the best practice, who now you should spend all sorts of money with because they're going to teach you this best practice and lock you into a path of being a follower. The other thing is the leader in the industry who created these best practices, you are never going to beat them at their game. You're never going to beat them at the game they quite frankly invented. They invented it. You are David going in trying to beat Goliath, using his weapons and his sword. Never going to happen. Dave Young: So I'm going to say this and it's not as pushback, but there are places where best practices are good to have, right? When your automaker has engineered and designed a car and said, these are the best practices for maintenance of this vehicle, you should follow those best practices. You shouldn't say, I'm going to be a maverick and I'm never going to change the oil. Heart surgery, if this is the best practice for heart surgery, you should probably hope that you have a surgeon that's willing to follow the best practices. But there is a surgeon out there somewhere that broke new ground and developed those best practices. There's also a surgeon out there that broke new ground and his patient died on the table. And best practices, like you say, what it ends up being is just copycats. When you talk about marketing and advertising, when people say, well, best practices for the dental industry is this. That's just because somebody did a really good job one time and everybody started copying them. Stephen Semple: The other problem is, that also feeds into this, is measuring versus not measuring. So here's the best example I can give. I can measure the impact of overstocked inventory. I got 10 pairs of socks left, which has driven companies to having no inventory. But what they can't measure is loss sales due to not having it on the shelf. That's not measurable. And the reason why I say that as an innovative idea is, one of the innovations that Walmart brought was focusing on that because Sam Walton said, you can't sell what's not on the shelf.
#125: Clairol – Challenged everyone.
01-11-2023
#125: Clairol – Challenged everyone.
Joan, Lawrence and James went against what was common thought and practice of the time to create an absolute empire. Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom-and-pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is... Well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those. [Tapper's Jewelry Ad] Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast. Dave Young here, with Stephen Semple. And Stephen, we're diving into more feminine territory for me. You keep triggering my relationship with my sisters, when we talked about Barbie dolls and things like that, and now it's Clairol. Stephen Semple: Yes. Dave Young: The beauty product. I'm trying to even remember. I should know this, right? I had three sisters and raised four daughters, and Clairol should be firmly entrenched in my vocabulary. I know it's a female beauty product line, hair, skin, makeup, that kind of stuff, all of it. Stephen Semple: So hair's the big one. That's the one we're going to talk about because that's basically the origin of Clairol was dyeing hair. But I was thinking I almost need to pick one of these ones in the future and have your sisters on with you. I think that would be quite a lot of fun. Dave Young: Oh, please, sir. Stephen Semple: I even have the title for the podcast, Dave Young, angsty. Dave Young: Angsty. Stephen Semple: So, Clairol, it's an old company. It was founded in 1931 by Joan and Lawrence Gelb and a business partner of theirs, James Romeo. And what they saw was this hair coloring preparation in France called Clairol. So it was already called Clairol, and it was being done in France. So what they did is they co-founded the Clairol Company to import products from France. Here's how big they got. And I don't know when it changed to them having the international rights and things along that lines. I didn't really go down that rabbit hole, but give you an idea how big they got. In 1957, so you're basically talking 26 years after they founded, they were sold to Bristol-Myers, and then in 2004, they hit 1.6 billion in sales. And today, they're under a company called Coty, which was acquired from P&N for $12.5 billion. So they became a really big company in the space. But the thing that we don't realize is how revolutionary a product Clairol hair dye was, because hair coloring at the time was very looked down upon. It was very frowned upon. And today, it's really common, like half of all American women between 13 and 75 color their hair. Dave Young: Right. Stephen Semple: Oh, and Dave, there's hope for you. It's becoming more popular with men as well. Dave Young: I believe that. And I've known men that do it, that I have a feeling always believed that nobody knew they were doing it. They believed that. Stephen Semple: Well, see, for me, it's not even an option because you have hair. I don't. So... Dave Young: Well, I mean, you've got that white goatee. I've got a white goatee, and yeah, I agree. Honestly, I've always felt better grave and gone. And so I'm thankful for my flowing locks. Stephen Semple: Yeah, there you go. Rub it in, rub it in. So anyway, it is now becoming more popular with men. But as I said, it wasn't always, and a great example of this is in the 1950s, Betty Friedan wrote a book, The Feminine Mystique, and she said there's three things women should not do, should not smoke in public. Now this had an impact in the cigarette business. Remember, we talked about Marlboro? Where originally started off as a woman's cigarette, and women's smoking declined, and they pivoted to it being a men's cigarette.
#124: Harry’s – 0 To $1.4 Billion in 7 Years
25-10-2023
#124: Harry’s – 0 To $1.4 Billion in 7 Years
From feeling ripped off to inspired to Germany and then buying a manufacturing plant to stop the competitor. Wow, Harry's was ready to fight. Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients, so here's one of those. [Irock Plumbing Ad] Dave Young: But welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast. Dave Young, along with Stephen Semple, and we share stories about people that have built themselves an empire. Stephen Semple: That's correct. Dave Young: And today Steve told me we're going to talk about Harry, Harry's razors. Stephen Semple: Yes, Harry's. Dave Young: Harry From Harry's. You know Harry. Stephen Semple: Harry from Harry's Razors. That's it. Yes. Dave Young: Yeah. Stephen Semple: Yeah. So- Dave Young: Do tell. I mean, I think I've peripherally heard it, but I don't think I've used the product. Stephen Semple: Yeah, I've not used the product either. And I also remember when they first came out and they were advertising primarily online, but now you see them in Walmart and in Target and whatnot, they become really quite a big deal and really a disruptive force in the shaving business. But in terms of a disruptive force, one of the main actors in this, we've heard of before, because it was founded in 2012 by Andy Katz and Jeff Raider, and Dave, you may remember the name, Jeff Raider. He was one of the founders of Warby Parker back in episode 80. Dave Young: All right. Stephen Semple: So Jeff, he's got a couple of big successes under his belt because Warby Parker as we know was huge. It was huge. So they launched in July of 2012 and 2016 they had 2 million customers. 2017, their product was launched in Walmart and Target, 2019 Schick was going to buy them for $1.4 billion, and that purchase was blocked by the FTC. So they became in seven years, a pretty big deal from startup to being a business worth, even though the sale didn't go through, still valued at $1.4 billion. And when they started, and frankly the market still is, but when they started heavily dominated by Gillette. Gillette was a 70% market share. Today it's been whittled down by companies like Harry and the Dollar Shave Club where Gillette is 50%, but still 50% of a market is big. Dave Young: It comes and goes in and out of style, but men are always going to be shaving their beards off. Stephen Semple: Yeah. Dave Young: They're always going to be shaving whiskers off. Stephen Semple: Right. Even guys like us, we're shaving part of our face, just not our entire face. Right? Dave Young: Yeah. It's not ever going to just be a fad business, I guess is what I'm saying. Stephen Semple: Yeah. So Harry's really pioneered the direct to consumer model. They were sort of one of the first into that because at the time Gillette was sold in retail, and Harry started online and did online advertising. That's how they started. And a lot of what they did is not as effective today, but really worked well a decade ago. So Andy and Jeff met at Bain and Company, and it was a consulting firm. They became friends and they both left to join private equity firms and then they were off to business school. Jeff, of course, starts Warby Parker with some buddies while he is in Wharton. And if anybody has not listened to that story go back to episode 80. It's almost unbelievable. They started this business online, and I wish I kept some of the old ads and they did this retargeting. So, which again, was much more effective a decade ago than it is today.
#123: CHOMPS – A meat stick empire?
18-10-2023
#123: CHOMPS – A meat stick empire?
What do you do when you have an itch that won't go away? Pete Maldonado scratched his itch and didn't quit until CHOMPS was born. Dave Young: Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those. [Travis Crawford Ad] Dave Young: Welcome back to the Empire Builders Podcast. Dave Young here, along with Stephen Semple, talking about businesses and things. So you told me that we're going to talk about Chomps. Stephen Semple: Chomps. That's correct. Dave Young: Chomps. They're a beef jerky company. Stephen Semple: Yes, they are. Dave Young: My surprise at this one. Like I think I've heard of them. And I eat mostly keto carnivore kind of style, so you'd think I would know about Chomps. Who knows? I may have some of their stuff in the kitchen. I just don't think of a brand name maybe. And my question to you was I didn't know that a beef jerky company had risen to empire status. It sort of reminds me of like the whole what is an empire in our view. We have to look at this like we're the Federation of Planets. Once an organization acquires warp speed, then we pay them a visit. Stephen Semple: Let me wet your whistle here a little bit. Today, they do over $100 million a year in sales. Dave Young: I mean, that's an empire to me. 100 mil sounds good. Stephen Semple: Here's the thing that's kind of interesting about them, they started in 2012, so they're just a little over 10 years old, in Chicago by Pete Maldonado and Rashid Ali, and they originally started it as a side hustle. It was going to be a thing for making some extra cash on the side. Because Pete was in the real estate and Rashid was a consultant, so they had these full-time jobs. And as I said, today they're both working at it full-time because it's a $100 million business. And what makes them unique is they use grass-fed beef and no sugar. So it's this grass-fed beef, very natural ingredients, not a lot of additives to it. So it's basically a healthier alternative to regular beef jerky. So Pete grew up on Long Island, and in high school he was super into sports and he became a fitness trainer. And when he was in college, he was doing well as a fitness trainer. He was making up to 150 bucks an hour, but he didn't finish college. Here's what happened. So he's in business school and one day he sees his business school prof struggling changing a flat tire on his car. So Pete goes over to give him a hand, and this car is a complete beater. And the prof's complaining about the car and how he wishes he could get something better. In that moment, Pete's like, what can this guy teach me about business? He doesn't even have a decent car. So he quit school and he became a personal trainer full-time. He's 22 years old. He moves to Florida. He wants to start a business, and it was in the heyday of the no money down buy homes, flip homes. And as we know, Florida was huge in that. So he got into that, bought some homes to flip. He had perfect credit, so he was able to get loans and he was going to make his fortune flipping homes. And he went in, as he describes it, at the absolute height of the market, like the absolute peak of the market and he's leveraged to the gills. He has a couple of million bucks in debt and owns four houses that he can't sell because the market crashes, and he had to declare bankruptcy. So here he is, 27 years old and bankrupt, so he goes back to personal training. So while he's doing the personal training, he's finding he's spending a lot of time creating diet plans for his client...