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  • Michael Krakovskiy 5:03 am on December 2, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , HMS Beekeeper store, , , , , Trading card, , Webkinz, Webkinz Webcast   

    Entrepreneurship Heros I 

    To celebrate my 2 year anniversary of working for Fast Company and Inc magazines, I decided to write 2 posts about entrepreneurship. Here’s the first one.

    The owner of super awesome HMS Beekeeper store recently complained that people told her that she should close “because it’s ‘buy nothing day'”. I’m pretty sure that these people would have enjoyed my childhood in the Soviet Union, where most days were ‘buy nothing day’. Soviet Union was the kind of place where reporting your father to the secret police could make you a national hero, while engaging in business activity was a crime.

    I was brought up in an environment where 99% of non-governmental commercial activity was outright illegal, and the allowed kind was considered extremely unwholesome by association. Just about any item produced by the Soviet industry would be stamped with a price in order to discourage illegal arbitrage, like this condom, for example:

    These days outside of California it’s hard to imagine a society that considers this much commercial activity evil, but when I was a kid, any schoolchild caught engaging in commercial activity of any sort could get in a lot of trouble. Personal entrepreneurship was literally a criminal activity. This kind of an environment tended to produce excellent jet fighters, but pretty crummy condoms.

    In America entrepreneurs get a lot of respect (outside of government and hippie circles), and they tend to start early. You always read about the likes of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates having business ventures in high school and college.

    My former co-worker told me a story about his daughter who got into trouble for her entrepreneurial activities in 2nd grade. She and her friend decided to cash in on the popularity of Webkinz. They went into the business of selling hand-drawn counterfeit Webkinz trading cards. Surprisingly they were able to sell a good deal of those. The trouble came when the teachers noticed that they were engaged in market segmentation and variable pricing (which is a topic of one of my favorite Joel on Software articles). You see, the girls were selling cards at a discount to the popular kids and at inflated prices to unpopular ones.

    This episode only increases my dislike of schoolteachers. If I were in their place I would have praised the girls for entrepreneurship, and explained to them that it’s copyright infringement that is problematic, while market segmentation is perfectly kosher, even if a little sneaky. I’d teach them about premium vs generic branding and how some people happily pay a lot more for identical items in different packaging.

  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:37 am on May 20, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: airline flatware, , , , , Fishs Eddy, , Heroes of the Torah, Keeping the Faith, NBC, priest and a rabbi, , , Trading card   

    I Don’t Know if this Qualifies as a Mitzvah 

    I am a big fan of a NBC’s failed TV show “The Restaurant“. If you remember, in the promotional clip Rocco says that 90% of restaurants fail in the first year. The author of this article claims that “the ridiculous myth about excessive restaurant failure rates is once again perpetuated and moves from industry scuttlebutt to everyday knowledge.” I don’t know the numbers seem about right to me – Rocco’s is out of business, right? I am just glad that I actually managed to go there once, eat lukewarm Italian food and have my picture taken with Rocco’s Mama.

    So, what happens with all the cups, plates and flatware from all the failed restaurants? Well, partially it’s bought by resellers, such as a wonderful little store located right at the beginning of Silicon Alley in Manhattan. It’s called Fishs Eddy and it sells a wide array of used commercial plates and flatware. For instance, have you ever wanted to steal a nice fork from an airplane? Well, Fishs Eddy sells airline flatware.

    They also sell some one of a kind items that seem to be specifically manufactured as novelties. Take these “Heroes of the Torah” tumblers:

    They seem to be made as a follow-up to a movie called Keeping the Faith, a story about a priest and a rabbi who traded “Heroes of the Torah” trading cards when they were children.

    There are of course no “Hero of the Torah” trading cards. That’s right, in real world they are called “Torah Personalities” cards. These were made in the late eighties-early nineties, and might still be manufactured. I dug up an image on eBay:

    There’s also a version called “Torah Link” that is available from torahtots.com.

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