Ugly Dolls, Tesla Motors, and Biz Lessons from Big Poppa
BY Max Chafkin
Ugly Dolls in a display case
Ugly dolls, beautiful business. The Los Angeles Times has an interesting look at the birth of Pretty Ugly, the company behind Ugly Dolls, the stuffed animals that were thrust into the national spotlight when they were spotted being carried around by President Obama's daughter, Sasha. The dolls were born out of doodles that the company's co-founder, David Horvath, would scribble on love letters to his future wife and business partner, Sun-Min Kim. The company chose to focus on placing their dolls in small, niche stores rather than in large chains, a move that helped propel the company to millions of dollars in revenue.
Tesla and the future of the electric car. Elon Musk, who runs both the electric car maker Tesla and the rocket company SpaceX, gets the New Yorker treatment in this week's magazine. Musk, Inc.'s 2007 Entrepreneur of the Year, has steered Tesla through a tough year--a recession, an auto industry meltdown, legal squabbles, and bad press--but the company seems to be on the right track. Tesla had its first profitable month in July, has received a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy, and has racked up millions of dollars in reservations for its new Model S electric sedan. The story, which includes comments on Tesla from G.M. and Daimler heavies as well as from rival electric car entrepreneur Shai Agassi, notes that Musk hopes to produce a million cars in 10 years, more than GM currently produces today.
Ten year old busted for lemonade stand. Maybe this is a good sign. After a year that exposed Ponzi schemes and corporate ineptitude, the authorities seem to have nothing better to do than bust a kid selling lemonade without a permit. Or maybe not. Clementine Lee was ticketed in New York City's Central Park this weekend for--wait for it--selling lemonade and cookies. Without a permit! New York Magazine's Daily Intel notes that a judge eventually waived the ticket and chided the cops in court, remanding them to retraining and, in all likelihood, a meeting in the Rose Garden with President Obama. With this precedent firmly in place, Inc. urges any budding lemonade entrepreneurs to cast aside fears of governmental meddling and enter our Best Lemonade Stand in America Contest.
Rain, rain, go away. Here on the East Coast, it seemed like the end of the world was nigh, what with the biblical rains we had the last few months. And that meant a shift in strategy for some East Coast small businesses, the Wall Street Journal reports. A few options: one New York-based bakery started to offer weekday delivery when sales dropped; and two New Jersey restaurateurs have begun selling their special "Hurricane" drinks for less than half-price on stormy days. "When it rains, we pour," is the motto.
Have a question you'd like to ask Tim Geithner? The Secretary of the Treasury has agreed to field questions submitted to Digg. If you want to know about his ties to Wall Street big wigs or how the Treasury's policies reflect the interests of small businesses, submit your question here. Wall Street Journal editor Alan Murray will ask Geithner the most popular queries. You have until noon PST on Thursday. Barry Ritzholtz from The Big Picture compiled some of the more "hysterical" selections, but we think "How do you feel about the revolving door between high job positions in the treasury and Goldman Sachs?" is a perfectly valid question, Keyth Beck from Redmond, even if there are more pressing matters in this economic climate. If you want your voice heard, submit quickly and get your friends to vote for you. The top contender right now? "Why has the federal reserve bank never been audited?"
Business lessons from Big Poppa. Rap fans amongst you may know that before his rise to fame (and ultimate early demise), Brooklyn rapper The Notorious B.I.G. earned his living selling drugs on the New York City streets. Biggie shared the lessons he learned from plying his trade in the song, Ten Crack Commandments, that appeared on his album, Life After Death. Although the song is essentially a crash-course for would be crack dealers, the folks at the business blog, The Metric System, took the song's ten rules and re-interpreted them in the context of a startup business, dubbed Ten Startup Commandments from Biggie Smalls. For example, as they explain it, Biggie's third rule--never trust nobody--is basically just saying, "A healthy sense of paranoia is a valuable asset for business operators. Businesses should take steps to protect their intellectual property, including protection through patents or well-protected trade secrets." (Via Howard Lindzon's blog).