"College care packages have been around forever. We wanted to be different than what is already out there. We wanted to find newer, trendier, lesser-known brands. Rather than send a box of the same potato chips and cookies they can buy at any store, we wanted to find things that were just a little bit newer, a little bit different." - Lynn Holdsworth of TetherBox
We have a special needs child. He has multiple physical and mental disabilities. The arrival of teenage hormones made his disorders even more complex. On top of that our local school system does not know what to do with him, so right now we don't even have that help.
I used to avoid mentioning any of this to current and potential clients, even when they asked about family. Not out of shame, but because I thought I needed to project the image of the perfect businessman, the guy who is so on top of things that his life is problem-free.
But recently I decided to just say screw it. For one thing, any kind of façade is tiring to maintain and a waste of energy. Secondly, I am thinking that my experience with my child shows I have more than a little grit. I have been both figuratively and literally smacked around caring for him, but I am still moving forward. I have been calm and persistent even in the most difficult of times.
And theoretically, those are traits you want from someone you work with. Because despite the best intentions, problems will happen. There will be bumps in the road. Meanwhile I've known business people who completely lose it when their beverage order is not right. Trust me. You don't want to work with those people.
So yes, my wife and I have a special needs child. Yes, this has meant we've had some really challenging times. But this also means I can handle a challenge and keep moving forward.
From client Rich Redmond
I love that I have a home office. But as the parent of a special needs child, sometimes I need to get out and work elsewhere. Yesterday I set up camp at a bookstore café to do some research and write some rough drafts. And judging by the residue in the cup, I apparently drank some sort of viscous fluid used by insects to preserve their kills. - Cris
You can tell it's the weekend because, instead of working upstairs in my office, I am working downstairs at the kitchen table. What can I say? I'm wild like that.
“What are some of the things you've learned in your years at Shoeboxed that was maybe not taught in school?”
Michael Hourigan of Shoeboxed: Almost everything. I studied marketing and advertising in college. The thing about school is it teaches you the higher level concepts of business but not the intricacies of everything – that is stuff you learn as you go. It's actually funny. One of the start-up terms is “fake it till you make it.” Work at it. Figure it out on your own. And then you finally get comfortable doing things and you learn things. And that's pretty universal across all things marketing, which is what I do. Whether that has been paid advertising, copywriting, blog posts, social media, customer outreach – just talking to customers about the product itself and how we can improve and add to it – that's all stuff you really just learn as you go. And it is quite a fun experience.
A few years ago Zynga was the next big thing, getting amazing numbers for games like FarmVille. It seems those were just followers, not fans. According to Fast Company magazine, "The gaming company reported a $47 million loss in Q4 and continues to hemorrhage daily active users, reporting a 24% year-over-year decline in players."
Pandora is the music streaming service that proved that a complex algorithm can be way worse than just putting your iPod on shuffle play. Apparently their business model does not work. They make money through advertisements that people ignore. Also, in theory, some people pay for a subscription to Pandora. Although, these are kind of like Elvis sightings. You hear about this happening, but you never meet anyone who actually had the experience.
The company is complaining that the money they pay out to the makers of the music – 14 cents for every 100 songs – is too much. They claim that if they are going to reach their goal of making a lot of money off of the work of other people, then those other people will have to be paid less.
However, for some reason the other people don't like this idea too much. Which is shocking. After all, let's say you were in the gasoline business and you were paying the oil companies the hefty fee of 14 cents per 100 barrels of oil. If you went to them and said it was too much, I'm sure they would understand and immediately cut their price in half.
It seems to me that there is a simple solution to this problem though: The employees of Pandora just need to write and record a few million hit songs. Then they can play their own material and that painful 14 cent charge will go away.
(Read the New York Times article "For Pandora, Ruling on Streaming Royalty Rates Is Crucial")
I am staying with family for the holiday and their home wifi is having issues. I tried setting up at a FedEx/Kinko's, but their connection speed wasn't much stronger than what people had in 1997. So I went to a nearby hotel and set up camp in the lobby. The wifi is good, the area is pretty quiet, and, when I need a distraction, there is the time-honored sport of people-watching.