Saturday, April 17, 2010

A "Kidrobot"....Paul Budnitz, the Interview!

I have loved toys my whole life...and I have come to realise that I am one of a small percentage of 28 year old women that have this passion. I would much prefer to have a limited edition artist designed toy than I would a diamond ring. 
When I was 8 my Dad worked for a Radio Station, and a particular chocolate company needed 2 kids to talk about chocolate on a commercial. My cousin Mark and I were chosen. Because we were too young to receive cash, we were given toys as payment for our services. 
Excited at the prospect of what toy I would be given, of course I agreed to the Ad! It was when we were given our toys that my devastation began...Mark received a Transformer that turned into a jet, and I got a light blue "My Little Pony" with a hairbrush to tame its mane. Crushed was an understatement, pissed off would probably better describe how I felt that day. WHAT COULD I DO WITH A "My Little Pony"?! I wanted a toy with powers, a real toy. 

Unfortunately my Radio friends did not realise that even at 8, I was a toy connoisseur. There was no way "My Little Pony" was going to rock my 8 year old world. The closest I have gotten 20 years later is watching what Finnish Artist, Mari Kasurinen does with her "My Little Ponies"...they should have given me a Pony that had a "My Little Skeletor" flavour. I would have been in heaven...I might have even done another commercial. 
My Radio career is over, but the toy lover in me still exists. It was only last year that my inner child was awakened again when my best friend bought me home some small boxes from the U.S. Inside the boxes were toys, from a company called "Kidrobot". For a moment in time, I held these toys like I would have held the Transformer I wanted so badly 20 years ago. It was like they were made for me, the 28 year old year old woman that refuses to entirely grow up. 
My growing collection of "Kidrobot" toys remind me that dreams do come true, and "Kidrobot" is proof that there is a place for games and fun in an adult world that can be far too serious. 

Founded in 2002 by designer Paul Budnitz, Kidrobot is the world's premier creator of limited edition art toys and apparel. Kidrobot creates toys, apparel, accessories, and other products in collaboration with many of the world's most talented artists and designers. 

Wanting to know more about the man who started it all, I requested an interview with Paul and he accepted. 9 questions to the King of the Kidrobot kingdom. 

BW: Can you paint us a picture of the work environment you have created for your Kidrobot team? 

PB: Kidrobot is a group-work environment.  We don't do much creative work individually, but spread all the work -- creative generation, and decision making --between the various people in the office (and to people outside the office, too).   It's my experience that there is a group intelligence that comes from getting many people's opinions and ideas on something.  So 1=1, but 1+1 =4.   

It's a lot harder to really blow it and design something truly stupid when you've got a number of different people looking in on something.  I think that's one reason the things Kidrobot makes are generally so great.   We don't let each other make dumb decisions if we are willing to speak up.

BW: How do you fuel the creativity of your team?

PB: Creativity responds to lots of pressure and very little time.   It's easy to be creative on a schedule.  It's hard to be creative when you've got all the time in the world.   We all know that experience from writing great term papers. the night before they're due.

My own method is that in meetings, I give every idea no more than two minutes.  If we don't have a good result by then, I either kill the whole thing or revisit it another time when we've all got more juice.

BW: How would you describe yourself as a Leader? 

PB: Benevolent dictator.

BW: I noticed throughout your Blog, there are themes of 'Insomnia' and other images and words that lead me to believe that your mind is in overdrive 24/7! What do you do to switch off? 

PB: I've had trouble sleeping most of my life.   At this point it's gone beyond something I deal with, it's something I've accepted and it's integrated into who I am.  I've learned to work effectively when I'm exhausted, to not let that take over, and to exploit the good energy I have when I do sleep well.

One way I do rest is to sit for an hour at the Tibetan Buddhist Center a few block from our office almost every day.  I'm not a Buddhist, and New Age people give me the creeps.  

And, sitting still for an hour forces me to watch my own mind turning.  I'm more or less helpless to it otherwise. Sitting is probably more healthy than heroine, television, politics, email, and any of the other drugs people I know use to distract themselves.

BW: I really respect the fact that on your Blog you admitted that 'losing your edge' scares the hell out of you. It's not very often that the leader of a global company will drop the bravado and say, 'Hey I get scared too.' What brings about fear for you, and how do you handle it? 

PB: Well, there's a kind of materialism a lot of us artists have around making art while we are struggling, living in dirty little apartments, starving etc.  We feel like we're really "artists" when we are in these kind of environments, that we're viet cong guerillas fighting nobly against the middle class -- and in fact, that's just romanticism.  Every starving artist wants money, and would take the nice apartment on 5th avenue (or the equivalent) if someone handed them the keys.

At the same time, comfort is the antithesis to creativity. So I personally worry when I see myself becoming comfortable.  I'm just naturally good at making my world work,at making money, etc.  That's a gift I have.  That can lead to an outer appearance of success and comfort and all the rest.  

The consolation is, since I basically don't sleep, I'm never comfortable.  I'm an "itchy" person, and that's an advantage as a creator.  There's always something dark to draw upon, even when the outer appearance of life looks settled sometimes.

I don't miss the drunks outside my hellish first apartment in Brooklyn, in any case!  

But I do miss the pierogies.

BW: What was your last moment of 'Pure Joy' at Kidrobot?

PB: Yesterday when the SSUR skull toy released on the Kidrobot Black web site.

BW: What was your last 'Oh Shit' moment at Kidrobot?

PB: When the servers crashed five minutes after we released the SSUR Skull on Kidrobot Black web site.

BW: What excites you about the future? 

PB: Flat paint, Barack Obama, the color black, and good friends.

BW: Do you think there is a blueprint for making one's dreams come true? If so, what is it?

You can't be truly successful without the willingness to sacrifice your personal comfort for what you know is worth doing.   The universe is built so that you receive nothing unless you learn this one little trick.

Another way to say this is that you can't have your dreams come true until you first sacrifice your dreams.  Then you can look around and see what's really going on, put in effort and adapt your dreams to whatever in reality comes up. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Just a 'tweet' away...Scott Gesizler, CEO of "Pizza Capers"!

Last year I got myself 'involved' with Twitter, and you could say it's a love affair that has continued to possibly an obsessive level. 
One of the reasons I grew to love Tweeting was because it was so interactive. I could follow the companies and people I was intrigued by, and do it in real-time. Yes I just said 'real-time', nerd alert!!  

Facebook had always presented barriers to me. It was cool, but it lacked the intimacy I was after. 

One night, very late.... A Miami Design company called 'Friends With You' tweeted across the globe, and I tweeted back. I am known to re-write my tweets sometimes 5 times before I put my 'tweet' out there, and I sat there with a Corona in hand hoping, really hoping that I would get something back. (This Blog is not sponsored by Corona, but if Corona is listening I'll take it)
Within a few minutes I had a reply, and soon I discovered that I had been communicating with one of the Creators of "Friends With You", Sam Borkson. Think of a Celebrity you really froth at the mouth over, and then imagine if they uttered words to you...
In the period of about a month, I had spoken with more of more heroes than I had done in my 28 years of existence. I WAS ONTO SOMETHING!  It was in one of those 'Crash-bang, What have I been doing all my life moments?!' when I realised I should be interviewing these incredible leaders, and putting it in a Blog for the world to see!

My mission was to expose that if a CEO or Founder of a major company was prepared to talk to me, the little lady, that these people were successful for the 'right' reasons and this was the type of leader I wanted to be. 

It was at a function that I had the pleasure of meeting Scott Geiszler, one half of the Pizza Capers empire. 

What impressed me about Scott? 
-He is an all round cool guy who supports a lot of charitable causes. 
-We 'nerded it up' talking about Social Networking for an hour. 
-Scott and his Co-Founder Anthony were ranked No. 9 in 'BRW's Top 10 Fastest Growing Franchises'. (One of my my career fantasies is to be featured in BRW's Young Rich List. Scott's been in the mag, I wanted to be near him!)
CLINCHER: I had been watching Pizza Capers on Twitter for a little while, little did I know that the person I was watching 'Tweet' was Scott. Just confirms my theory, if a leader is prepared to step out from behind closed doors and expose himself to the world, we've got a good one on our hands!



        Scott donating a cheque on behalf of 'Pizza Capers' to ' Mater Miracles'. 

1. What makes the difference between a 'business owner' and an 'entrepreneur'? 
I think Michael Gerber's book, the "E Myth" has the best answer to this question. Early in our working lives, we get very technically competent - the technician in us is in charge. Then, the entrepreneur in us kicks in, sacks the boss, risks capital, and starts a business, the technician becomes a business owner.
From this point, we juggle. The technician just wants to do the work, be good at it, and get paid well. If we let the technician run the show, we have a small business, maybe a good small business, maybe even a great one, but its totally dependant on its owner, and this, i think is the definition of a business owner. If the owner stops, the business stops.
An entrepreneur on the other hand, is about leverage. We leverage our capital to get more and more out of it. We leverage our time and create more of it by surrounding ourselves with a talented team. We listen, learn, grow, invest. We are not good at detail. The classical entrepreneurial problem is continually coming up with the latest greatest, exciting thing, and kind of forgetting about the little details.... like the completing last weeks latest, greatest and exciting thing.

2. I know you are a big believer in Social Media (The likes of Twitter and Facebook). Was there a pivotal moment when you realised the potential of working with Social Media in your business?
I think social media has always been inevitable, and in some ways, it's always existed, we used to call it "talking". Humans are social animals. We like to have friends over, communicate, interact etc. 10 years ago we stopped getting that in traditional ways, and to an extent, we stopped being social. Chasms now exist between neighbours. Because of inexpensive long distance travel, family units, once close geographically are now all over the world. We needed a tool to keep in touch. Clever buggers like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter just saw that need and built a tool to satisfy it. For Pizza Capers social media is simply a new way to do what we've been doing for years, connecting with our customers.

3. What do you dream about?
I've always had a very strong belief in setting goals. Not just having "wouldn't it be nice" dreams, but specific, measurable, written down goals, with a corresponding step by step plan. I re-run my own goal setting workshop every year, and then review my progress weekly or sometimes daily. I have many goals, in all facets of my life. I have many business growth goals and milestones, many personal development goals, as well as goals of contribution to the community. For example, presently, I want to invest more time learning to play my guitar and learning to take better photos. This year I want to learn a new language, French. I would like to commit more time to helping out charitable ventures and I would like to become involved in politics. Each of these things has a corresponding specific action plan. Its the action plan that turns dreams into goals, and goals into reality. The action plan is the most important bit.

4. A multi-million dollar business is no easy feat, what abilities were you born with, and what skills have you needed to acquire to 'make it work'?
I think the only thing I was born with was a set a parents who are amazing, and they set the scene for everything we've been able to do up to now, and everything that we'll do in the future. I remain eternally grateful to them. The things you need to be successful are a matter of skills and attitude. All of these things can be learned, acquired or developed. The foundational lesson my parents taught me were:
1) You don't work, you don't get paid. 
2) Next they taught me to love to work, not just to do it, not just to like it, but to love it - no matter what the job is. 
3) do your best, no matter what the task at hand is - just strive to do it as best you can. 

The next most important thing I learned was understanding that you always work for yourself, even if you're employed by someone else, you still work for yourself. You are your own brand. You should continually invest in learning, reading, listening and growing, and the value of your brand, "you". the more you've grown and learnt, the more you can ask to be paid, and the more you become "worth". From there, success seems to find you.

The next foundation lesson is to learn to continually ask quality questions. Things like, "What's not perfect yet?", "How did I do today?", "How can I help my customers and my team more?", "What can I do better tomorrow?", "How can I add value here?"

Finally, the attitude of win - win is important. There is win in every situation. I learnt to find the win for everyone involved in a situation and to do it  as often as possible. This has been one of the most important parts of the story so far.

5. One of my dreams is to be featured in BRW Magazine, and for me that would be one indicator that I had 'made it'. Is there something that you measure yourself against? (You and Anthony have already been in BRW Magazine, congratulations!) 
I remember listening to a Zig Ziglar tape once, on it he said that you should never measure yourself and your achievements against anyone else, you should only measure your performance against what you could have done with the skills and talents you had. In other words, I measure myself against myself only. The question to ask is "how did I do compared with what I could have done?". I ask that question a lot, and my journal is filled with lessons learnt in that type of reflection. I'll admit that I can be pretty tough on myself, but that's better than measuring myself against other people who may be smarter, more talented, more educated or who started from a stronger position than I did - I find that if i do this i end up depressed and to an extent paralysed from moving forward, and this position is counter productive. If I judge my actions against myself, I find that the lessons learned are powerful and motivational.

6. What has been your most valuable lesson so far in Business?
Early on we learned to think as if "Pizza Capers" was a person. It was not a tool that we used, it was a person and it employed us. Every time a roadblock came up or a decision needed to be made, we repeatedly asked "what's best for Pizza Capers?". This philosophy meant that at all times it was easy to make tough decisions. Some times those decisions were not easy on us. They caused us to work outrageous hours, or to do things we were not comfortable with. The philosophy meant that the business was never stifled by our own limitations, rather, it, as the boss, forced us to go out, get the tools, talent or skills that the business needed - as a result the shackles were off, and the business grew well.

7. What was the last moment of enlightenment you had? (A.k.a what's known as a light bulb, or 'aha!' moment)
I have very few light bulb moments, unfortunately. Almost everything we've come up with is the result of patience, diligence, work and thought. Any that I do have are usually in the kitchen. Most often a new product or new menu seems to come to me an an instant, and often I'll be at work most of the way through the night getting the new ideas down before they evaporate from my head even quicker than they arrived.
Recently we launched a new range of 97% Fat Free pizzas. Over about 4 months, we tried, tested, retried Post Optionsand went back to the drawing board with dozens of different ideas..... none of them worked. Then, it hit me and the 4 new pizzas we launched with were all born in a matter of seconds, and they resembled nothing like what we'd be playing around with up until that point.

8. Where do you see the 'Pizza Capers' business concept in 10 years time? With where the world is going with technology, will it be vastly different to the Business we see today? (Totally happy for a Jetsons or Futurama answer here!) 
I think the core of the business, i.e. making high end, convenient meals and satisfying our guests will be the same. 
There will be a myriad of changes in terms of how we communicate our messages, and in operational things like ordering stock, handling guest orders, measuring and monitoring performance. These are the areas we're focussed on right now. 
Additionally, I think menus are undergoing the most significant changes we've ever seen. Within the next few years I think we'll see a real surge of our kind of food: natural, wholesome ingredients. I think over processed foods, like force meat and processed cheeses and the kind of stuff used by the fast food burger and pizza chains will die a deserving death. I think you'll see the rise of soy type products, and a general Asian-ification of the western diet - wok tossed, stir-fried, real veggies will take the place of burgers, pepperoni and cheese in an increasing number of diets. Red meat will be consumed less. Chicken, seafood will become increasing popular, but vegetarianism and the consumption of products like tofu will grow at an even higher rate.

9. For those who have a new concept or idea they would like to create, what would be your advice to them? 
Learn - I went to a Brad Sugars seminar the other day, he said "you can't out earn your learning". I think the most important thing is to get into a frame of learning. Research, read, listen to audio books, attend seminars, do whatever it takes but get you're learning into overdrive. Stuff you don't know can hurt you - it pays to lessen the number of things you don't know. The other thing is to make sure that your new idea or concept solves some problem for your target market, and very importantly, that it solves the problem in a way that offers something different to the solutions offered by others.
Anthony and Scott - Co Founders

Pizza Capers has just launched a new 97% fat free range that ACTUALLY tastes good. ;)
Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, please

Friday, April 2, 2010

Up Coming Interviews from the land of Baby Wasp!

Hey Party People!!

Sorry about my infrequent posts as of late, I started a new 'day job' working in Business Development and Marketing for a gourmet Pizza has been crazy, and my new 'family' of colleagues work hard, and play hard...The playing hard side of things I'm still getting used to lol. It seems getting older has reduced my tolerance to hangovers. But life is good, and the best thing about my new gig is I can be creative 24/7! :) And now I've had my initiation period, I'm back and ready to Blog it up with some kick arse interviews!

Coming up in the next few weeks on "Baby Wasp's Culture Hound"....

SCOTT GEISZLER - CEO and Co-Founder of 'Pizza Capers', Australia's most amazing Gourmet Pizza Company. I don't just go and work for any company, I researched this guy before I got in! ;) Ranked by BRW Magazine as one of Australia's fastest growing franchises... 

PAUL BUDNITZ - Founder and Creator of Kidrobot, the world's premiere creator of Designer Toys, fashion apparel and accessories! Designer, Film maker and serial entrepreneur. This guy, I am frothing at the mouth to interview. :)

SIIMON REYNOLDS - Australian Entrepreneur, Marketing and Advertising Legend. My Dad's idol, and a man that I have heard about my whole one of my heroes. "The Hottest thing in Australian Advertising" - 60 Minutes

FRIENDS WITH YOU -Established in 2002 by Miami-based artists Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III, FriendsWithYou set forth on a mission to spread the idea of Magic, Luck, and Friendship™ around the world, and become Friends-With-You! Art, Designer Toys and a Creative Agency that has worked with the likes of MTV and Nike. Crazy :)

Stay tuned, same time, same place, same channel. 

Baby Wasp