Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Magnolia Story

On HGTV’s Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna Gaines “take the worst house in the best neighborhood” and “turn it into their clients’ dream home.”  A husband-and-wife team, Chip manages the demolition and construction, and Joanna designs and styles the interior.  At the end of each episode, Chip and Joanna ask, “Are you ready to see your fixer upper?” as their clients eagerly await the first look at their newly-transformed home.  Now in their fourth season, Chip and Joanna have millions of viewers captivated by their playful rapport and signature modern, rustic style. 
In addition to raising four kids on a working farm and starring in a top-rated TV show, they run quite a few businesses in Waco, Texas. Their empire includes a real estate company, Magnolia Realty; a construction company, Magnolia Homes; a furniture line, Magnolia Home; another furniture line, Magnolia Home Furniture; a collaboration with Loloi rugs; a quarterly lifestyle magazine, Magnolia Journal; a bed and breakfast, The Magnolia House; a real estate subdivision, Magnolia Villas; their quarterly lifestyle magazine; and the Magnolia Market, a shopping and dining destination in downtown Waco. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Can Can Wonderland: A Cure for the Winter Blues

Some of you have read my prior posts professing my love of mini-golf and my exploration of new activities throughout the Twin Cities (again, many of which involve mini-golf). It was fitting, then, that within the first month of Can Can Wonderland opening in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, I counted myself among the visitors. This most eclectic of entrepreneurial ventures is certainly heating up the winter.

Can Can Wonderland is housed in the former American Can Company, which—you guessed it—manufactured tin cans. The factory (approximately 20,000 square feet) has been converted into an artist-designed amusement park and boardwalk.

Its crowning achievement is an 18-hole indoor mini-golf course, with holes of every type imaginable (or not) designed by artists from around the world.  My husband thought it was the coolest mini-golf course he had ever played – and he has a lot of mini-golf experiences to draw upon.  I won’t spoil all of the surprises, but the holes range from a St. Paul Saints-themed batting cage in which you hit your ball off a tee, to a floor-to-ceiling rotating tornado, to the hole formerly known as the world’s longest mini-golf hole, to holes with all manner of hydraulics to transport your ball.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ray Kroc, Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016)

It’s one of the first memories I can identify by time and place. There I am, sitting in the back seat of my father’s red 1960 Buick LeSabre, gazing up at a sign featuring a jolly Mr. Speedee, who is cheerfully informing us that he has sold over 100 million hamburgers as of this mid-winter evening in 1962. Yes, this is even before McDonald’s had the golden arches, though as I recall they followed shortly thereafter

It seems that this restaurant chain has always been around, morphing somewhat from time to time but always growing and grabbing ever-greater market share.  But Ray Kroc’s entrepreneurial autobiography, recently reissued in advance of the recently released movie, The Founder, with Michael Keaton in the starring role, reminds us that the leviathan that is McDonald’s has been around only for a little more than a half-century.

This is the story of a paper cup salesman who graduates to selling milkshake mixers. He stumbles on the idea of franchising a California hamburger joint as a way to increase mixer sales.  Along the way and through persistence, he builds an empire based on hamburgers, French fries and milk shakes—and a brand (and color scheme to make us hungry?) instantly recognizable around the world.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Gift Cards: Tips and Traps from a Small Business Perspective

The holidays are over, the gray days of January are upon us, and for many of us, that means it’s gift card season.

For consumers, this can be fun, going out to spend all that plastic accumulated in December.  But for retailers, it means something entirely different, and though it’s always worth it in the end, gift cards certainly come with their own bag of hidden challenges.

I spoke with my managers and staff this week, and we came up with our own list of “pros and cons” to keep in mind when dealing with gift cards.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

WWBD-What Would Brandeis Do?

In 1890 Louis Brandeis, as a young lawyer, was concerned about the use of the Kodak portable Brownie camera and journalists who wrote unseemly articles about celebrities, so much so that he and his law partner Samuel Warren developed the “right to be let alone” articulated in their article “The Right to Privacy” for the Harvard Law Review. Years later, Supreme Court Justice Brandeis expanded upon this concept in his famous 1928 dissenting opinion in Olmstead v. United States, enshrining the concept as a constitutional right to privacy.

Brandeis was one of the first to recognize the perils of technology and its impact on personal privacy and national security.  Modern jurists continue to cite Brandeis in their legal opinions regarding privacy rights, and his 1890 article continues to be one of the most cited law review articles

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Go Get Your Lunch (You Have Time)

Most of my brain space this month is taken up by thoughts of lunch.

In large part, this is because I am about 11 days into the Whole30 program. Basically, Whole30 is a sort of dietary reboot (and not a diet, as the founders are quick to argue) where you militantly cut out all dairy, grains, legumes, sugars, alcohols, and everything else fun.

After 30 days, devotees argue, you experience huge bursts of energy, your skin gets clearer, and just maybe you lose a little weight. So far, I’ve mostly accomplished offending my mother by turning down her homemade spaghetti sauce, suffering through crippling sugar withdrawal headaches, and confusing the poor staff members at Gray Plant Mooty responsible for ordering team lunches. But, at least it has given me cause to reflect on the concept of personal discipline (and how it applies to lunch).

Thursday, January 5, 2017

“Sweaty January”—How Failed New Year’s Resolutions Help to Support Gyms

Within the past couple of days you have likely heard folks mention a common new year’s resolution: “getting back in shape” or “adopting a healthier lifestyle.” Doing so often involves joining a gym and many gyms experience a surge in January. Approximately 1 of 8 new gym memberships is purchased in January, and gyms often experience a 30 to 50 percent increase in gym attendance during January.

Excitement surrounding these resolutions quickly fades, and with it, so does gym attendance.  “Sweaty January” describes the unique economic model that gyms adhere to: subsidizing the true cost of membership by collecting fees from well-intentioned customers that won’t actually show up.