We all have our story… This is mine
In 1987 I came to the United States on vacation from England and loved it so much I quit my job and hatched a plan to return for an adventure. The big idea was for a friend and I to bring antiques from England and sell them the way people buy Tupperware – yes, antique parties in peoples homes. I was certain the plan would boom, but 6-months in we were down to our last $20!
No one bought our antiques, they drank our wine, ate our cheese then looked at our prices and left. We sat at the kitchen table staring at that last $20 bill.
“Do you have any ideas?” I asked “No” said my business partner… “do you?” “Well” I said “there’s that pub on Main Street (we lived in Huntington Beach, Southern California) they serve all the beer you can drink for $7 and all the nachos and cheese you want for $2.99. Lets go!”
We arrived at opening time, placed our $20 on the bar and started drinking beer
We TALKED and TALKED and TALKED about all the amazing people who had helped us, all the people who had tried to rip us off too. We talked about what had happened, the problems we’d faced, situations we’d not expected and the amazing adventure we’d had so far.
After a while I turned to the bar tender and told her “We just spent our last $20 in the whole world here tonight” “Why” she exclaimed – “this bar’s crap!”
We laughed and I explained we came for the $7 beer as it was all we could afford. She smiled and poured us shots. Soon she was telling the other bar tenders who give us appetizers and more shots. Next customers heard our story and started asking questions and listening to our stories of cashing in our savings, selling all our possessions, scouring Great Britain for deals, then all the mistakes we’d made dealing with shippers, customs and our efforts to make sales. We had lots of great and funny stories, that seemed to get funnier the more we drank.
At last call I choked up because I couldn’t tip the awesome bar staff.
The girl who had taken most care of us said “don’t worry – you guys are great, you’re just broke that’s all. Look around this bar, nearly everyone’s broke, but you two are living an adventure – I’m jealous!!” and I knew she was right. Then, out of the blue, a man down the bar offered us a ride home. Of all things he owned a limousine company and drove us home in style in the back of a brand new limo.
As we thanked him he said “you only fail if you quit. Don’t quit on your dreams”. And that whole evening added up to something magical.
The next day was the day I’d been dreading. Waking up penniless. But somehow, when I woke up I was relieved… I felt… two eyes, two ears a nose… I’m still alive, I’m just broke (and hungover). Then I realized something profound… HOPE. I jumped out of bed and went to the kitchen. There stood my business partner, like a broken man, like he had actually been beaten up. I said “anyone will forgive you if you go back to England, after all we’ve been through, after all that’s gone wrong. But I’m not leaving, somehow some way I’m going to make this company work. I have no clue how, but I commit. Today I vow to find a way to make it work.” “Ok I’ll stay” he said.
So now I’m going to fast forward the story.
Seven years later we had re-located our business ‘Propaganda Inc’ to a 27,000 square foot live/work warehouse that we purchased in San Francisco. Sales were in the millions and we were doing business with some of the best known brands on the planet. Along the way we realized that our antiques were good for visual branding and had also extended our inventory selection so we could tell the visual branding story for many different types of customer.
Business had exploded. We did the visual branding for every Polo Ralph Lauren store on the planet, every Nike store, every Banana Republic, Macy’s and Nordstrom. The list went on.
We were also picked up by the media, not for being successful but for how we were successful: by using unique and disruptive branding techniques to garner serious customer attention. Once Propaganda grew to $20M I sold out to my partner because I realized that my real love, my passion and my future was in BRAND BUILDING. So in 2005 I created the World Famous Company LLC and the adventure continues.
World Famous Company