My failed business ventures and the lessons I’ve learned.

failed-biz

Success: it’s hard to come by. Being an accomplished entrepreneur is something that I have attempted to achieve for nearly my entire existence. The business ventures I looked into beginning have all varied, and failed. Though some of these have been more difficult to move past than others, I have still gained valuable life lessons. I wanted to share with you my failures, why they failed, and what I had gained in return.

1) “Poo Poo Coffee” — Age 4-5

As many children enjoy doing, I wanted to run my own beverage stand. Instead of going the typical lemonade and coffee route, I wanted to do something “revolutionary” and introduce the public to a new refreshing drink. Thus, came the birth of Poo Poo Coffee.

What it was.

Unlike most cold, carbonated sodas, Poo Poo coffee was created by shaking a Diet Coke can, dumping it into a cup in which it sat there for a few hours and occasionally adding some water or other beverages to it. The idea of this came to me from being a curious child who enjoy making disgusting concoctions. Before setting up a stand, I forced my family to try it. Though they apparently looked like they were going to throw up, all I was told was that it “tasted good.”

Why it failed.

Poo Poo Coffee tasted just like what it’s called, absolute shit. Not to mention, this was not an original product. I did not create the formula, but rather destroyed a perfectly fine tasting one instead. Also when the “business” was up and running, I failed to take into consideration how necessary things such as cups are. I had only one massive glass that I assumed was good for everyone to drink out of. Surprisingly, I only had one customer who I did pull from the streets. The (obviously) confused woman paid me 25 cents, drank from the cup, and went along her way. Needless to say, Poo Poo Coffee did not stay open after that.

What I learned.

Poo Poo Coffee is disgusting and no one wants it.

2) “Summer Camp for Kids Younger Than Me” — Age 8

During a summer spent at my father’s house, I came up with the idea to open a summer camp for kids who were younger than me. I honestly believed that I was not only responsible enough, but would have been able to provided all the needed services to keep a group of small children occupied and entertained.

What it was.

Honestly, I had just dragged a table out in the front yard, had a few pieces of paper, and my younger brother playing next to me to start the “registration process.” The idea was to have parents leave their children with me, I would read to the kids and provide other educational services, take the children on walks to the playground nearby, and share my toys with them. After informing my dad of what I wanted to do, he sarcastically approved of me making handwritten signs with his address and phone number to be posted all over the neighborhood (which I in fact did).

Why it failed.

I was an eight year old child, not an adult. I’m also fairly certain that it would have been very illegal for me to have even tried doing something like this. Not to mention, I definitely was not responsible enough to feed, care, or even try to “teach” children younger than me.

What I learned.

Children shouldn’t open up summer camps, but rather attend them instead. Handwritten signs lose almost all validity, and it’s probably not a good idea to put my dad’s address and phone number up everywhere.

3) “University of Oregon House Party” — Age 21-22

After “becoming of age,” I found myself more drawn to house music and wanted to go dancing constantly. I also discovered the amazing power of social media websites such as Twitter, and used it to talk to some of my favorite musicians. With the guidance of a mentor, I felt inspired to create a “house party” at the Univeristy of Oregon.

What it was.

The idea was to have a massive dance party in one of the biggest lawns on campus. With the help and support of some non-profits, internationally recognized performers were going to be flown out for a show that was going to be free for the general public. Some local performers were going to open, and booths were to be surrounding the venue for people to shop and eat at. It was going to happen at night on a weekend towards the very end of the year so that students would have been able to attend.

Why it failed.

I was able to get everything donated to me (including the performer’s time) except for the flights. Though the “house party” was aimed to raise awareness for a good cause along with offering entertainment, not one airline cared to donate to it. Thus, it never happened.

What I learned.

This was possibly the biggest heartbreak for me. More than anything, I wanted this event to happen. I had worked and stressed so long on it, only to have it all blow up in my face. I learned how to cope with not succeeding like this. This failure also showed me that I am capable to achieving a lot in a small amount of time, regardless if it was fully executed or not. I also learned that I have the ability to pitch and sell musicians to perspective clients without ever having them listen to one song.

4) “ENTILT” — Age 23-24

After graduating from college and being continously rejected from perspective jobs, I felt inclined to try and start my very own business. “ENTILT” was crafted from an original idea of mine, and expanded with the help of a couple partners.

What it was.

The idea behind “ENTILT,” was that it was an entertainment based company that offered various services, a publication, and a clothing line. With the help of my partners, we all were able to provide a multitude of options to help with branding and expanding the growth of potential clients. My partners and I decided it was best to list our previous clients to others to help develop a strong portfolio of our work.

Why it failed.

Though we met often to discuss what we wanted to do, I felt that I was the only one putting in work behind the company. I had created a decent website, was the only one to list my past clients, and created presentations to send to potential sponsors. My partners didn’t contribute as much simply because it was a bad time for them to do so. And I suppose it was for me as well. Not to mention, we had too many ideas and didn’t create a simple enough plan to initially start off with. It would have been wise for us to have focused on only one aspect of the company, rather than three at once.

What I learned.

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. Do not take on too many obstacles at once. It’s also important to team up with people who are on the same page and who are ready to take on such a commitment. And I’m sure it wouldn’t have hurt to have worked somewhere else first in order to gain more experience before creating my own company.

I have faith that in some point and time in my life, I will be a successful entrepreneur. I believe that I will be able to finally craft up the perfect idea and be able to find the sponsors needed to make it flourish. Though it may take some time, I’m greatful for everything I have experienced professionally while growing up. Sometimes failure is necessary so that we can learn how to avoid it in the future. With that in mind, stay tuned as I’m sure I’ll have another “brillant” start-up idea here soon.

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Talk shows are tools for generating conversation about products and brands, not much else.

We live in a world where more people care about the daily activities of another rather than learning about something of intellect. Turn on the television, flip through the channels and a moderately attractive person is covered in make up on the screen telling you about how so-and-so’s new body is perfect for summer. It’s an ongoing joke that everything Oprah touches turns to gold. Internet Blogger Perez Hilton makes a sizeable living off of providing thousands of readers with daily gossip and content related to the lifestyles of celebrities. Kim Kardashian is considered a multi-million dollar franchise, as her personal brand alone generates outstanding consumer sales. Simply because over other pressing matters in the media, people care more about what others are doing with their lives; eating, drinking, wearing, absolutely everything. Every product that Kim Kardashian is seen with thrives in sales simply because of her consumer following. As a public figure, she is a living mannequin for nearly every single industry in the international market place. Others are catching on to this and are now creating more senseless programming such as The World According to Paris. Even as public figures utilize services such as rehab, psychiatrists, and massage therapists, these professions are receiving media exposure so that such services will of interest to more consumers. Without a living and breathing face, products, brands, and services would have difficultly being integrated into society.

The importance of a talk show in today’s modern society is not to generate original dialogue; it is not to provide an outlet for the American public to relate to, but rather to build new consumer and behavioral habits off of a given brand. I know that others may be quick to question this idea I am bringing to the table, but truly think about it. Celebrities are nothing but Barbie dolls. They are faces behind societal movements. They are tools into drawing the public into the advertising industries plans of action. The Morning Show, The View, and Anderson Cooper are just examples of shows that use dialogue and conversation to bring awareness to political activism which inevitably brings attention to brands and products. Sponsors use strategic product placement and request for certain conversation topics to be mentioned on air as a means of generating discussion about a particular brand or product. This same tactic is used with talk radio, as hosts and callers “discretely” do plugs for companies that are funding airtime. By mentioning a security system (or something else) in the middle of a heated discussion, listeners are thrown off from the normal programming and exposed to a conversation about a product.

I noticed this during an event that took place on campus that I attended to conduct research for a financial literacy project I was working on at that time. From my understanding, in order to best approach how to reach a key public it is important to look at its consumer habits and interests. These reflect the population’s mindset in regards to monetary priority and reasons to consider new purchases. A key component in approaching this is by taking into consideration local, national and international public figures. Public figures are used to connect to different populations based off ethnicity, sexuality, sociological and economic status, religious background, and consumer interests. Based off of my research, I have found that people tend to follow by direction of individuals world of mouth, rather than an entire corporation or organization. These messages are being transmitted through social media and entertainment. Facebook and Twitter are leading word of mouth communicators in Eugene and throughout the nation.

Managing Director of Oglivy, APR, and PRSA fellow Mickey G. Nall confirms this idea to be a driving force behind much of the company’s success. During a keynote he presented on the University of Oregon campus on May 4th, Nall stated that 80% of Americans make consumer based decisions from word of mouth discussions. Spokespeople are often needed for consumer generated content and events as these individuals gain the trust of the public in order to verify the validity of brands. Nall further discussed how consumer public relations drive brand-specific editorial coverage that focuses on the rational and emotional stories. This is why when creating a brand, it is important to make it relevant to the consumer. This means that the brand needs to link directly to the consumer’s life in order to link the brand to a specific platform. This is easily done through media and entertainment as celebrities are used to help familiarize a brand with a public. By doing so, consumers are more likely to trust the brand and are thus more likely to incorporate it into their lives. It is also important to utilize celebrity figures as media generates more media content. Popular news programming is more likely to use content from already known events and persons, as it will bring in a large viewing audience. Differentiation is also a key component in generating a consumer following; if something is more likely to stand out amongst the rest, it inevitably will succeed.

A perfect example of a thriving public figure would be Talk Show Host Ellen DeGeneres. Nall even concluded his presentation by stating that DeGeneres is a great place to put a brand, as she draws in her audience using awareness, engagement, and action with consumer habits. This assumption was supported during a live taping of the Ellen Show Fiesta Bowl at the University of Oregon. The show was also a giveaway to bring attention to an upcoming college football game. I chose to attend this event because Ellen DeGeneres is a prominent figure daytime television, and according to CoolSpotters.com she is a representative for many popular consumer brands and entertainment, not only nationally but in the Eugene community as well. Some of the names she represents are Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama, Mila Kunis, American Idol, WalMart, ABC, along with multiple other fashion lines and footwear. DeGeneres followers and supporters consumer traffic tends to be drawn towards brands she represents, which grows and varies based off of her business marketing decisions. This can be evaluated by the large attendance to multiple similar events she has hosted at the University of Oregon.

According to QuantCast, her website brings in traffic mostly from Caucasian females 18-50+ years old with no college background and have low incomes. I had observed that many who fit that demographic were in attendance at the event, along with young mothers, 18-25-year-old students, families, minorities, individuals with Christian religious backgrounds, and young engaged women. The event also brought in a large homosexuality supporting community as well, with over 300 people in attendance. Not to mention, the entire crowd came to the location based off of messages posted on Twitter for a college sporting event and Samsung giveaway. Because of DeGeneres, the Eugene public welcomed Samsung and college football into their lives. Because of a talk show host, brands were able to prosper to a vital key public in able to generate consumer sales.

As previously mentioned, this exact same tactic and approach to product branding is used in talk radio as well. Talk radio show hosts such as Glenn Beck and Lars Larson use product plugs constantly as a form of content during their shows. The side conversations they have with others in the station and callers conducts the same form of awareness as DeGeneres does during her show.

In today’s day and age in order for advertising to be successful, it must be orchestrated in a manner that is different from how it has been in the past. Consumers do not want to listen or watch media directly from a particular brand telling them to buy its product. The general public relies on recommendations from trusted figures when making purchases. In order for these recommendations to be heard, a conversation must be generated to make product discussion appropriate. Talk shows and radio are aware of this and continue to implement product conversation into programming.

Think about it, you yourself are a walking mannequin for brands. Every single time you open up your laptop in a public place and browse the web, you are providing free advertising and awareness about the products you use to those around you. Every time you buy food or drinks from a particular place, you are showing others that you choose that product over others. And every single time you mention any celebrity, product, or television show you are generating conversation about brands. Conversation runs the world, and bank accounts. Constant dialogue is not only needed to keep people entertained, but also to keep the economy in normal function. Thinking about starting your own business or need help advertising a new product? Don’t worry so much about paying tons of money for traditional marketing, but rather get out on the streets and start talking to the people you want to reach.

Help me help you. Gimmedat client.

UPDATE: Client found! Check out this amazing non-profit, Stove Team International. Thanks everyone for the suggestions!

______________________________________________________

Help!

For my Strategic Public Relations Communications course I need to have a “client” to use for the remainder of the term.

A client can be anyone/anything that you are working on or are aware of that could use a little help and research.

This “client” will be used to:

    Create a social media strategy
    Create a stakeholders piece
    Create a internal communications plan
    Formulate an exclusive final presentation.

More details will be released later the final project.

WHY YOU SHOULD SUGGEST A CLIENT TO ME
This is FREE public relations work just handed to you. You have absolutely nothing to lose. If you don’t like what I’ve done, you don’t have to use it. But because of your suggestion, you will be aiding towards the enrichment of my educational experience.

So come on… help a student out. Suggest a client to me!

Please send suggestions to lshort@uoregon.edu, or post in the comment section below. Thank you.

If you give a hungry man a fish…

On February 17th, 2009, President Barack Obama signed for a $787 million stimulus that is intended to help “all” Americans. This bill comes from all the remaining money in our tax cuts and government spending. President Obama believes that the stimulus will add growth in the economy. Ideally the stimulus plan is a fantastic idea, however; it is not realistic and will not work into setting our country back up onto its feet. If anything, this “relief” is masking the current problems and is going to cause more turmoil down the road.

According to http://www.recovery.com, the stimulus will be dived up in eight different areas; $288 billion towards tax relief, $144 billion to state and local fiscal relief, $111 billion to infrastructure and science, $81 billion to protecting the vulnerable, $59 billion for health care, $53 billion towards education and training, $43 billion to energy and the remaining $8 billion for other projects. It is intended, through this money, to prevent state and local cuts to health care and education programs and cease other tax increases. This money will be used towards the taxpayers, however; it is very unclear how. If no one is positive on to where this money is going, who is to say that it is actually working?

Mainly, the stimulus will fail because it is not addressing the problem at all. The primary issue with our country is that it does not understand its limits financially. We continue to spend and there is nothing to show for it. It’s amazing that despite the mountains of debt our country is surrounded by, we are some how able to fund $787 billion? The worst part about all of this, we are using this empty money to pay for situations that only occurred due to poor money management.

The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve plan to give money to provide low-cost loans and guarantees to hedge funds and private equity firms that buy securities back by consumer and business loans. This funding will also go towards investors who acquire new securities backed by auto loans, credit cards balances, student loans and small business loans. The only reason why the need for funding towards these firms exists is because loans were given to people who knew they could not pay them.

Look at our real America. Be disgusted by the crowds of people who find having a designer handbag more important than feeding their families. The stimulus funding really needs to be dedicated purely towards education, education in banking. Clearly our population has proven that we do not know how to balance a checkbook, let alone save up for things unaffordable now.

It is said that if you give a hungry man a fish, he will be fed for that day. But if you teach a hungry man to fish, he will never go hungry. Instead of handing away tons of money, lets work towards building a stronger work ethic for the nation. Our country needs to lead by example, its time for all of us to start using our fishing poles.

(FAUX NEWS STORY #2) Suspected arson kills 10 people

At least 10 people, including four children, are dead after a suspected arson destroyed a four-story apartment near Streater College last night.

The building, located at 1600 Kearney St. in east Smallville, housed 75 people before two gasoline-soaked mattresses were set ablaze on the second floor around 10 p.m.

Fire Marshal Harold Smythe said that with the destruction of the building it is “highly likely” more dead will be found.

Terry Andersen, 34, was found dead in his third-floor apartment minutes after firefighters arrived on the scene. The cause of his death is unknown at this time; however, according to Olson County Medical Examiner Dr. Helen Trent, most fatalities were due to smoke inhalation.

Andersen was the assistant city manager for the past three years.

According to police officials, he has no known next of kin. Names of the other deceased have yet to be released.

Fire officials also reported that apartments in the vicinity of Kearney Street. and Birch Lane have had four arsons in the past four years, claiming the lives of five Streater College students. None of these reported cases has been solved.

The Olson County Red Cross will provide some emergency shelter for those left homeless.

FAUX NEWS REPORT (SAMPLE)

Lauren Short
January 13, 2009

A dense fog caused accidents that lead to a Herbert Produce semi-trailer to block both lanes of traffic on U.S. highway 101 two miles north of Yachats, which created a 20-vehicle pileup that killed seven and injured more than 30 Tuesday around 8 p.m.

The Oregon Department of Transportation estimates the highway will be cleared by this afternoon. The current detour requires 40 minutes to return to U.S. 101.

Lieutenant Sara Marshall claims this is the worst weather-related accident in the past 30 years. Visibility was reportedly less than 10 feet. Oregon State meteorologist Bernard Sims predicted fog development yesterday after warm costal fronts brought temperatures to low 30s.

Nine remain in serious condition, and all injured parties were taken to Newport’s Northwest Trauma Center. Names of the deceased are withheld until further notification.

Additional information on highway conditions can be found at http://www.tripcheck.com.
(144 words)

My Letter to Duncan McDonald. Who am I?

Dear Professor McDonald:

Who am I? To be completely honest I have no idea. I could tell you the typical “My name is Lauren and I’m from Eugene,” or I could try to persuade you that I’m something I am not. I could list off my accomplishments, or talk about my failures. I have an opportunity right now to allow those who do not know me well to be familiar with me, and I don’t know how to utilize it.

It is a little interesting that this is assigned at this exact point and time in my life. I feel as though right now I have been going through a self-image crisis and am currently battling with being comfortable in my own skin. I have always been the same person it is just a matter of whether I showcased that or not. I have had my fair share of trust, confidence, and motivation issues; however, I have never let any of these destroy who I am as a person. I have hit rock bottom and picked myself back up. I know that I am in complete control of my future and my destiny. I am human. I make just as many mistakes as anyone else, if not more. But I know that I am capable of achieving anything and everything that I want as long as I apply myself.

I do not want to define who I am simply because I do not want to limit myself. What I can create and imagine cannot be described with a couple adjectives in one page. I want others to comprehend the type of person I am, and I’m willing to put forth the work to prove it. I hope that throughout this class I can confirm to you that I am a hard worker and that I will go far. Above all else, I hope to prove to myself that I am talented and that I have every possible quality needed to pass this class. I want to prove that I have changed and that I am a person with some intellect. I’m ready to take on anything this class has to offer. I am looking forward to the hard work, sweat, blood and tears; but more importantly I’m ready for the challenge.

With respect,

Lauren Short