Archives For August 2013

I enjoy stories of entrepreneurs who follow a passion and start a business. I am also a fan of specialty candy stores and wrote about one of my favorite stores Harbor Candy in Ogunquit, Maine earlier in the year. I discovered Sugarfina in a story about the 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2013 on fastcompany.com. I was intrigued so I decided to dig a little deeper into the story behind their success.

Sugarfina is an online luxury candy boutique that offers a selection of the finest candies from around the world. Sugarfina is designed for adults not kids. Sugarfina is attempting to reinvent the candy category by targeting “foodies”. They offer the highest quality candy with an emphasis on premium all-natural ingredients. Sugarfina was founded in 2012 by Rosie O’Neill and Josh Resnick who dreamed of opening a candy boutique ever since their third date. That night they attended a screening of the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

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Sugarfina’s gourmet candy collection is unique. They offer exotic candies such as Champagne Gummy Bears, Matcha Green Tea Caramel, Licorice Cubes and Dark Chocolate Coffee Toffee. They offer more than 140 different candies. Sugarfina’s candies are sourced globally from artisan producers in the United States, France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden and beyond. Many of the products that Sugarfina sells are exclusive to them in the United States.

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One of things that differentiates Sugarfina is design. Each candy is packaged individually in transparent cubes and neatly packed into bento boxes inspired by Tiffany.

Sugarfina has been described as a “pleasure” as opposed to a “guilty” pleasure. The candies contain ingredients that are good and good for you. These ingredients include nuts, green tea, all kinds of fruit, high cacao chocolate and coffee beans.

Sugarfina has received a lot of positive press. Sugarfina made the “O List” Food Edition in Oprah Winfrey Magazine in August. Sugarfina has also been featured in a number of magazines including InStyle, Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides, Forbes and Travel and Leisure to name a few.

In January, Sugarfina became the first candy partner on Facebook’s gift platform. Revenues are expected to top $1 million in 2013.

Have you tried Sugarfina premium candies?

UGG Australia took off in 2000, when Oprah Winfrey included the boots in the annual listing of her favorite things. Suddenly UGGS were a smashing success. They became a fashion must-have especially with college and high school girls. UGG Australia was one of the fastest growing brands of the past decade. The Oprah buzz was just one of the reason’s for the UGG Brand’s rise to fame. In 2003, Footwear News magazine named UGG Australia “Brand of the Year.” Other celebrities wore the boots on television and movies including Kate Hudson, Jessica Simpson, Kate Moss, Pamela Anderson and Kim Cattrall. It seems that UGGS are on every young girls Christmas shopping list. Experian reports that UGGS was the number one searched term during the 2012 holiday shopping season. Sales exceeded $1 Billion worldwide in 2012.

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The origins of Australian sheepskin boots is tough to trace.  Surfers wore sheepskins to keep their feet warm after catching a wave before they were ever commercially produced. UGGS as we know them landed in the US with the Aussie surfer Brian Smith, who hauled a few dozen pairs of his UGG Australia-brand boots to California in 1978.

The boots attracted a devoted clientele in California surf shops and speciality stores. When winter came along, UGG boots were sold in ski shops and were seen in lodges from Mammoth to Aspen. By the mid 1980’s, The UGG Brand became a symbol of relaxed California culture.

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UGG didn’t find a mainstream audience until Deckers Outdoor Corporation bought the brand for $15 million in 1995. Decker’s bought the brand to complement its successful Teva sandal business. At the time, the company wanted a product line they could sell in the winter and keep their sales force busy. Under Deckers, UGG evolved from a brand focused on an outdoor lifestyle into a fashion powerhouse. From 1995 to 2012, UGG sales grew from $18.3 million to over $1 Billion.

For years, many people have predicted the demise of the UGG Brand. 2012, was the first year that UGGS sales didn’t increase. The challenge for UGG Australian going forward is convincing consumers to buy more products than just boots. UGG has expanded into a number of product categories including sneakers, leather coats, gloves and handbags. UGG has also launched a men’s line and uses New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady as the spokesperson. Going forward, UGG Australia will need to focus on creating a true lifestyle brand that can become an umbrella for a range of products.

Have UGG Australia sales peaked? 

One of the advantages of searching for a job and writing a brand marketing blog is that I have had the opportunity to discover a number of great stories about entrepreneurs who have built meaningful brands. I recently came across the story of Icebreaker. Icebreaker is an outdoor apparel company headquartered in New Zealand. Icebreaker apparel is made from merino wool. Icebreaker created an entirely new category: Merino Active Clothing.

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Icebreaker has it roots in a chance encounter. In 1994, marketing graduate Jeremy Moon met a merino grower who was using a new technology to create a unique performance fabric. The fabric delivered the key benefits of synthetics (easy care, lightweight, quick drying) combined with the natural benefits of merino (warm, breathable, odor resistant, biodegradable. Merino wool is significantly different from traditional wool. Traditional wool is heavy, bulky, itchy and takes a long time to dry. Merino fleece is built for extremes, breathable in summer, insulating in winter, but soft and exceptionally lightweight.

Moon, a recent college graduate was intrigued, and after wearing it, was hooked on the benefits of the lightweight, silky soft natural fibre. The late Sir Peter Blake wore a prototype fabric when he set a new world circumnavigation yachting record. He claimed the fabric was superior in every way to anything he had ever worn before. This convinced Moon to quit his job and launch Icebreaker. Moon found investors who believed in his vision. He also found a highly skilled and experienced board of directors to provide guidance to his young apparel company.

Icebreaker began selling its products in New Zealand and them expanded to Australia. Today Icebreaker products are sold in over 30 countries throughout Europe, Asia, Australasia and North America. Icebreaker. Icebreaker offers a full line of underwear, base layers, t-shirts, jackets, hoodies, pants, hats, socks and gloves.

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Icebreaker was conceived and designed around the philosophy of sustainability, using natural fibres, environmental and social ethics and animal welfare. In August 2008, Icebreaker launched Baacode, a system that allows consumers to trace the origins of their Icebreaker right to a sheep station in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, where the merino fibre was grown. Icebreaker is committed to a sustainable business model that does not put profits ahead of the environment.

Have you worn Icebreaker Merino wool?

Last Saturday, I made my annual trip to Saratoga Race Track in upstate New York to enjoy a day at the races. It is a time for re-connecting with old friends, enjoying family, people watching, enjoying food and beverages and, of course, watching the horses. An August day at Saratoga is a great fan experience. The feature race that day was the Alabama Stakes.

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Saratoga Race Course, “The Track” is one of the most charming racetracks in the country. It was named as one of the “Top 10 Sporting Venues” by Sports Illustrated Magazine and is one of horse racing’s most beloved tracks. It has a unique combination of historical ambience, modern-day amenities and of course style. It is the oldest racetrack in the United States.

This summer Saratoga Race Course is celebrating its 150th anniversary. In 1863, two horsemen decided that it was time to expand Saratoga’s appeal, and the way to do that was to create a permanent racetrack in America. Know as the “Graveyard of Champions,” Saratoga Race Course has earned a reputation for being a challenging track for favorites. In fact, the famous horse Man O’ War lost a race here.

Saratoga has many traditions that add to the overall experience of a day at the races. One tradition is that anyone coming to the track early, just after 7:00am can reserve a picnic table by putting their articles on that table. You must then exit the track when the morning breakfast patrons leave, and pay to re-enter at the time the gates open for racing. Prime tables in the picnic area are in demand especially on a Saturday. Coolers are allowed. The picnic area is a lot of fun and is the way I choose to spend my day at the track. You are also able to watch the horses being led to the paddock. Another tradition is that you can “reserve” a bench seat with a newspaper or program.

The early morning is a spectacular time at the track. It is not crowded and you can watch many horses go through their training runs.

Saratoga Springs is located 35 miles north of Albany and 180 miles north of Manhattan. In addition to the races, Saratoga is host to many summer activities including the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga National Historical Park and a variety of museums.

Have you been to Saratoga Race Track?

Sharpie is an iconic American Brand with a great story. Sharpie has remained relevant in recent years by promoting self-expression through social media and content marketing.

Sharpie was introduced in 1964. The story behind their production goes back to the 1850’s. In 1857, Frederick Remington and William H. Sanford Jr. founded Sanford Manufacturing Company in Worcester, Massachusetts. The company originally produced and sold ink and glue. In the early 1960’s the company began to focus on the emerging marker business. The Sharpie Fine Point black marker was the first pen-style permanent marker. It writes on almost any surface including glass, wood, stone, plastic, metal and paper.

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Sharpie, originally made its mark as the go-to autograph pen for celebrities like Sean Connery and musicians like the Beatles. Johnny Carson was one of their first celebrity endorsers.

Most people have a strong connection to Sharpie. They used Sharpie Markers for school art projects or to label moving boxes. Sharpie has alway been a valuable tool for students, moms and officer workers. Sharpie will be a popular item during the back-to-school shopping season.

Sharpie has benefited from exposure at key events. Football fans remember “The Sharpie Touchdown.” During an National Football League Monday Night Game former San Francisco Forty Niners wide receiver Terrell Owens pulled a black Sharpie marker out of his sock to sign a football he caught to score a touchdown and then gave the ball to his financial adviser, who was in the stands.

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Today, Sharpie is a brand that stands for far more than markers. Sharpie is a very visual brand. Sharpie realized that they had this iconic product that was valued for the ability to assist its users in expressing themselves. It’s a brand that stands for self-expression. The introduction of products like the Liquid Pencil, Gel Highlighter and Stained by Sharpie demonstrates the brand’s ability to come up with innovative ways to help people express themselves.

Sharpie’s marketing promotes self-expression and provides users with tools to share what they have created. Sharpie understands that marketing is not just about putting out branded content. It’s about building a relationship that empowers the passion and creativity of their users.

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Their marketing showcases how their users find new and creative ways to use their products. Their social media efforts have encouraged fans to submit original content through sweepstakes and promotions. Sharpie users have created some excellent pieces of art. Sharpie has built a comprehensive digital presence that showcases users stories, their experiences and creativity. By focusing on their user, Sharpie continues to build their brand for the long-term.

Can you think of another iconic brand that has done a great job with social media?

 

Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by Elon Musk and a group of Silicon Valley engineers who set out to prove that electric vehicles could be awesome. Tesla gained widespread attention with the launch of the Tesla Roadster in 2008, the first fully electric sports car.

The Model S, a fully electric luxury sedan was introduced in 2012. Prices for the Model S start at about $70,000, not including federal and state tax incentives for electric cars. The Model S has been well received. Consumer Reports is calling the Tesla Model S the best car it has ever tested. The Model S, earned a 99 out of a possible 100 in the magazine’s test. The Tesla Model S won the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year Award and Automobile Magazine’s 2013 Automobile of the Year. Tesla said it has sold 10,500 Model S cars in the first six months of 2013. Tesla is proving that if you make a truly unique and remarkable product and provide a great customer experience people will talk about it and do the marketing for you.

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Unlike gasoline cars, an electric car doesn’t need oil changes, fuel filters, spark plugs, smog checks, etc., which are only needed if your car burns oil derived products. For an electric car, you don’t even need to replace the brake pads, because most of the braking energy is captured by the motor and returned to the battery.  

Tesla Motors has huge ambitions. Tesla founder Elon Musk has said he envisions Tesla as an independent automaker, aimed at eventually mass producing fully electric cars at a price affordable to the average consumer.

Elon Musk has overseen product development and design from the beginning, including the all-electric Tesla Roadster, Model S and Model X. Transitioning to a sustainable energy economy, in which electric vehicles play a pivotal role, has been one of his central interests for almost two decades, stemming from his time as a physics student working on ultra capacitors in Silicon Valley.

Tesla is breaking the rules of automotive marketing by not advertising in print and on television. Tesla cars are sold online and through stores in upscale shopping centers like the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. The stores create an experience where customers can ask questions without high pressure sales tactics. They have caused a controversy by bypassing a traditional dealer network. Tesla currently has 35 stores and is planning to expand to 50 in the next couple of years.

Tesla is building its brand through great product, social media and publicity. Tesla is building a brand with a strong reputation. Fascinated media has done much of Tesla’s Public Relations.

Have you test driven a Tesla Model S?

Many products and brands have become successful because they provided a solution to a consumer problem. Great designers are problem solvers. They are not afraid to question everything. Designer Michael Keen began by asking a simple design question: “Can a Sandal Protect your Toes?”.

His ah-ha moment came from his experience as a competitive sailor. Until Keens came along, serious sailors never wore sandals or flip-flops.  Too many stubbed toes! So Keen came up with the Newport Sandal and dubbed it a hybrid – somewhere between a shoe and a sandal. Newport Sandals feature a thick black bumper covering the toes. Keen found a market among sailors and people who pursued other outdoor and water activities.

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KEEN Footwear was introduced to the market in 2003 by Martin Keen and Rory Fuerst. It was a product that was so unique, some people thought it was ugly, that it demanded attention. KEEN Footwear quickly built a cult following among people who love to play outdoors. Sales reached $1.5 million in just three months and have grown rapidly over the past 10 years. Today, KEEN, which is based in Portland, Oregon has an impressive collection of shoes, sandals, bags and socks. Revenues are estimated at close to $200 Million.

KEEN expanded the idea of one Hybrid Shoe, into a lifestyle statement, HybridLife. HybridLife is the KEEN mantra, a commitment to create solutions in product and business practices, to design footwear, bags and socks that enable you to play anyplace without a ceiling; and a promise to care for each other and world around us. KEEN offers innovative hybrid products that enable outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy an active lifestyle.

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KEEN shoes are not high fashion, but they’re highly functional and amazingly comfortable. They appeal to just about anyone who loves to play outdoors. I have a pair of KEEN sandals that are very comfortable and highly functional. They have seen the coasts Northern and Southern California, the rocky coasts of Maine, the shores of Lake George and many other destinations.

KEEN is a company with a unique culture and a commitment to a purpose that goes beyond making money. When it comes to caring, KEEN walks the talk. When the tsunami hit Thailand and Indonesia in 2004, KEEN donated its entire marketing budget for the year, almost $500,000, to tsunami recovery efforts. Since then Keen has donated over $5 million to non-profits that share “a philosophy of caring, conscience and sustainability.

KEEN encourages its employees to volunteer in the community, offering up to 36 hours of paid time each year to participate in volunteer activities. KEEN developed an advertising campaign that encourages people to rekindle one of the favorite parts of their childhood and incorporate Recess into their adult lives.

KEEN built a successful and growing company by designing a product to solve a consumer problem.

Do you own a pair of KEEN sandals or shoes?