Category Archives: Karma

The Weekly Billionaire Case Study: Sarah Blakely

I told my youngest daughter this morning that I am trying to write a quick article about a different Billionaire each week.  This week I was planning to write about either Warren Buffet or Sarah Blakely.  I asked my daughter to choose between these two for me, and since she is familiar with the ‘Spanx’ brand, she chose Sarah Blakely.

My daughter is 14 and she is familiar with the Spanx brand. I have not really heard of Spanx before this year, or if I have, never thought much of it. That is until one evening when my girlfriend and I were pondering applying for a patent on a goofy sock idea we had (that’s another story). While searching for information about patents I stumbled upon the story of the creation of Spanx and it’s founder, Sarah Blakely.

Here are some things that strike me about the meteoric rise of Ms. Blakely and the Spanx brand:

  • Ms. Blakely scored low on the LSAT. Boy can I relate!
  • She went to work for Danka selling fax machines door-to-door.  This sounds like a brutal job to me, but I’m sure this experience provided the spark and sales skills she needed to start her own successful enterprise.
  • To build a prototype of her idea, she went to hosiery manufacturers in North Carolina.  She promptly discovered that the female undergarments industry was dominated by men who never actually tried the garments out they were making (at least none that would admit to doing so).  She stumbled upon a complete lack of female influence in the production of undergarments for women!
  • Her Dad taught her it was OK to fail, and apparently even encouraged it.  Robert Kiyosaki (‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ author) is constantly harping on the Public Education System for not allowing kids to feel comfortable with failure.  Many people who are afraid of failure may never try to do something hard or new, and thus may never realize big success.
  • Ms. Blakely worked full-time at Danka while she was working on Spanx business and only quit in 2000 when Opra featured her product on the Opra Show.
  • In the ideation of the ‘Spanx’ Brand name, she wanted to create a name that had a hard K sound in it, like successful brand names Coca-Cola and Kodak.
  • Spanx first year revenue was $4 million.  Second year revenue was $10 million.  Then she signed a contract with QVC and sold 8,000 units in the first six minutes of operation!

Forbes estimates Ms. Blakely’s net worth at $1.08 Billion today.

I Command You To Grow!!

Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

I love synchronicity – the Jungian idea that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related. This Spring, I started reading Mike Michalowicz’s book ‘The Pumpkin Plan’. The central idea of his book is that business people should be more inclined to trim away customers to focus solely on their best customers in order to grow them, and their company, to the biggest size possible. Mike likens this business focus on the best customers to a farmer who tries to trim away all pumpkins on a vine to a select one or two in order to grow the biggest pumpkins possible. This Rhode Island farmer’s pumpkin grew to 2,261.5 pounds!! What?!?

Speaking of books, I currently have two books for sale on Amazon if you’re interested: ‘The Lean Startup’ and ‘Sprint’.

Growing is what Spring is all about. For some reason, this Spring in particular has had me focusing inordinately on growth: growing my own vegetables, growing my income, growing my net worth, growing my muscles, growing my cardiovascular strength, growing my family bonds, helping my employer grow. Every day I think about GROWTH. How can I grow more? How can I get bigger? How can I 10x my life??!?! I’m done shrinking!!! I look at the earth – not the World as a whole, but dirt – and biological organisms and how life literally springs forth from it every Spring. No matter what man does to the planet, seemingly, life still springs forth every year. The life force is so strong on earth. Life wants to grow! Life must grow! It can’t be stopped. That’s what this planet does – springs forth life and growth – and humans are no different.

My girlfriend and I started a garden in our back yard a few weeks ago. It was back-breaking work. We got covered in dirt and mud. It rained as we worked. Our backs and hands hurt. I could barely stand upright the next day. It felt awesome. We now have spinach, beans, herbs, bee-balm, tomatoes, potatoes and cucumbers growing. We also have planters of grape vines, black berries and blue berries growing. Despite our lack of farming skills and knowledge, the earth continues to spring forth life. The energy to give life, emerge and grow is unstoppable and everywhere. It’s awesome to think that we humans are products of this energy.

We didn’t stop at a garden in the back yard though. I bought some land down in Southern Virginia this Spring so I could grow even more life! My family and I were down there last weekend (West of the Richmond area) planting Apple, Plum, Cherry and Oak Trees.  We also seeded Sun Flowers, Wild Flowers, and some other seeds.  If we let the land sit for long enough without intervention, trees and weeds of all sorts would eventually take over the land. I am trying to impose my own growth plan and will on the land instead by determining what life I say will grow there.  Why must we grow Fruit and White Oak trees and Sun Flowers, JC? Because I said so, that’s why.  I command it to grow!!

Also in the last few weeks, I discovered this guy, CT Fletcher, and how he uses the phrase, ‘I command you to grow!’, to grow his muscles as he lifts weights. He commands his muscles to grow! Why? Because he said so! It’s his ‘Magnificent Obsession’! This is genius! CT has learned to envision the change he wants to affect in his life, and to impose his will over it to make it so. Can I do that too? Can you?

My new mantra when I look at my Bank Account, my Gardens, my Trees, my Relationships, AND my muscles is: ‘I command you to grow!’ Why JC? Because I said so, that’s why!

Apple Developer Program: Room For Improvement

I’ve wanted to learn to make iOS Apps for some time, so I finally bit the bullet and bought a Mac Mini, downloaded Xcode, and started programming. I’m getting to the point where I want to deploy and test my app on my own iPhone (rather than run in a simulator), but in order to do that, you have to join the Apple Developer Program so you can appropriately sign and deploy your App to real iPhone and iPad hardware. And boy, what a pain joining this program is!

I should qualify this statement…I’ve joined the Apple Developer Program before as an individual. Everything went through ok then, but i never got around to actually building an App. This time, however, I decided to F.O.C.U.S – Follow One Course Until Success – and to actually build an App this time. And this time, I decided to join the Apple Developer Program as a Corporate Entity; you know, with designs of becoming a Billion Dollar Unicorn. Apple gets funny with Corporate Developer Registrations, seemingly. They require that you have a DUNS Number. Ok, whatever. I’m used to bureaucracy. I went and got me a DUNS Number. But for some reason, it took weeks (in reality, months) to associate a DUNS number with my Company in Apple land. Dun and Bradstreet told me to wait a few weeks, after updating some key email and phone number information, before trying to enroll in the Apple Developer Program again. So I waited…and waited…and I’m still waiting…

After waiting entirely too long, I tried to enroll again. This time, Apple complained that my credit card was being rejected. Really? Ok, so I tried another credit card. Rejected again. Really???? I logged in to both credit card accounts. Sure enough, successful charges from Apple on both for $99, but for some reason, Apple would still not let me enroll in their program:

What would Steve Jobs do?

At this point, I am quite flustrated. Of course I will press on, because I am committed to this project and to learning iOS development. But I never had this much problem getting an Android App out into the Google Play Store…I expect much more of Apple.  This process should have been absolutely thoughtless and painless.  But it’s a good reminder of how difficult and tenuous it is to build a company on top of another company’s technology.

EDIT (2/16/2017): I called Apple today and was unable to resolve the technical problem behind registering online, so I registered for the Developer Program over the phone this afternoon.  Part of my urgency in getting this registration done was because I wanted a shot at attending WWDC2017 this year.  Registration for WWDC2017 is by random selection to members of the Developer Program in good standing as of 2/16/2017 at 0530am PST.  I registered online the evening of 2/15/2017, but it failed due to technical problems with the Apple website (my credit cards are fine).  So I’m hoping I can still figure out a way to get in good standing for possible selection to WWDC2017.