As an avid athlete and college basketball player, Missy Park was lucky to grow up during the early era of Title IX, the 1972 law that created new opportunities for young women to play sports. But in the years before Lululemon and Athleta, activewear for women was either ill-fitting or non-existent. So in 1989—with little experience in apparel or retail—Missy decided to launch a female version of Nike. She sent out a mail order catalog of running shorts, tights, and (at the last minute) sports bras; naming her company for the law that had opened doors for her to compete: Title Nine. Over the years, the company kept "hitting singles," eventually growing into a $100 million dollar business without ever taking outside investment. Today, Missy remains the sole owner.
In the field of bio-tech, it can take 10 years and millions of dollars to see if an experimental idea might turn into a life-saving treatment—if it ever does. Noubar Afeyan fully understood those risks when he co-founded Moderna in 2010. He and his colleagues were looking for a way to deploy the messenger RNA molecule to tackle life-threatening diseases. In January of 2020, an urgent opportunity presented itself in the form of a deadly virus that was spreading across the globe. At a breathtaking pace, Moderna produced a prototype for a COVID-19 vaccine, partnered with the NIH to test it, and produced millions of doses, becoming part of the most rapid vaccine roll-out in human history. While Moderna is the best known of Noubar's companies, he has launched many others in the bio-tech space as part of Flagship Pioneering, his multi-billion dollar venture studio.
While traveling abroad with her husband in 2016, Fawn Weaver became fixated on a New York Times article telling the little-known story of Nearest Green, a formerly enslaved man who taught Jack Daniel—yes, that Jack Daniel—how to make Tennessee whiskey. After diving deeper into the story, Fawn ended up purchasing the 300-acre farm in Lynchburg, Tennessee where Nearest had taught Jack how to distill; and she began meeting the descendants of both men. She initially thought of honoring Nearest's story with a book or movie, but decided the best way to preserve his legacy was with a bottle of the best Tennessee whiskey she could make. With no background in distilling, she threw herself into the insular world of spirit-making, an industry mostly dominated by white men and a few major corporations. In the five years since Fawn first discovered his story, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has become one of the fastest-growing whiskey brands in the world, and one of the most awarded American whiskeys.
Paul English is a perpetual founder. Since high school, he's started 3 philanthropies and 8 companies—ranging from e-commerce, to gaming, to GetHuman, a site that helps users access human customer support. His best-known venture is probably KAYAK, a travel website launched in 2004 over two gin-and-tonics with co-founder Steve Hafner. Using a simple interface, KAYAK specialized in search; and it made partners out of potential rivals like Orbitz and Expedia by charging them a fee to send users to their sites. Eventually KAYAK became one of the most-searched "K" words on Google, and in 2012, it sold to Priceline for $1.8 billion. A few years later, Paul started yet another company, Lola.com—and says he plans to launch many more.
As Texas A&M students in the mid 2000's, Cory Cotton, Tyler Toney and their housemates spent countless hours playing hockey in the living room and attempting trick shots in the backyard. A spontaneous bet over a sandwich led the guys to make a video montage of outrageous basketball shots, which they titled Dude Perfect and posted on a new site called YouTube. After that first video wound up on Good Morning America, the five Dudes challenged themselves to even more outrageous stunts: an impossible shot from the third tier of a stadium, a here-goes-nothing lob from the door of a flying plane. But despite their growing popularity, the group spent five grueling years trying to build ad revenue and brand deals while juggling day jobs and commuting weekly across Texas. In 2014, they finally committed fulltime to building Dude Perfect into a robust entertainment platform, which today includes books, TV, live events, and a YouTube channel that has more subscribers than the NBA, NFL, and NHL combined.
After more than 20 years working in the shoe business, Wayne Edy decided to strike out on his own, risking most of his savings to launch his own brand. Knowing he was entering a crowded field, he focused on a niche sport—trail running—and developed a lightweight shoe with a rubber-cleat sole, well-suited to the terrain near his home in England's Lake District. The unusual design raised eyebrows at first, but after inov-8's launch in 2003, the shoe quickly grew a following among elite trail-runners, which raised its profile and helped the brand expand into CrossFit and hiking. After selling inov-8 and then buying it back, Wayne still leads a multi-million dollar business that's headquartered in a tiny English town, while outfitting athletes from around the world.
After falling in love with the first Apple Mac computer in 1984, Lynda Weinman found a new career: using the new technology to teach web graphics. She published a best-selling book on the topic, and then—along with her husband Bruce Heavin—decided to host a web design workshop in the small town of Ojai, California. When the class sold out, the partners realized their straightforward approach to digital design was in high demand. Despite having no business background, Lynda and Bruce continued to expand their vision, eventually offering instructional videos on a range of topics through their streaming platform, Lynda.com. In 2015, the company sold to LinkedIn for 1.5 billion dollars.
In the late 1980s, a New Zealand engineer named Keith Alexander wanted to buy a trampoline for his kids. After his wife said they were too dangerous, Keith set out to design his own—a safer trampoline, without metal springs. He tinkered with and perfected the design over the course of a decade. But he was daunted by the challenge of bringing his invention to market; and he almost gave up. At that point Steve Holmes, a Canadian businessman, bought the patent to Keith's trampoline, and took a big risk to commercialize it. Since the start of the pandemic, sales of Springfree Trampolines doubled, and since their launch, the company has sold nearly 500,000 trampolines worldwide.
We have our final main stage event from the 2021 How I Built This Virtual Summit, and it's Guy's conversation with Rashad Robinson, President of Color Of Change, the nation's largest leading racial justice organization. In this live interview, Rashad talks about finding strength and purpose through activism—an initiative that has no clear end. According to Rashad, activism does not have to center around sadness and tragedy; activism is about the power of the people, recognizing victories, celebrating moments of joy, and implementing self and community care.
In the 1970s, Roxanne Quimby was trying to live a simpler life – one that rejected the pursuit of material comforts. She moved to Maine, built a cabin in the woods, and lived off the grid. By the mid-80s, she met a recluse beekeeper named Burt Shavitz and offered to help him tend to his bees. As partners, Roxanne and Burt soon began selling their "Pure Maine Honey" at local markets, which evolved into candles made out of beeswax, and eventually lip balm and skin care products. Today, Burt's Bees can be found in thousands of grocery stores and drugstores around the U.S.
We have another episode from the 2021 How I Built This Virtual Summit, and it's Guy's interview with organizational psychology professor and author Adam Grant. He's known for his books Think Again, Give and Take and Originals. Adam is also the host of the podcast WorkLife. In this live conversation, Adam explains why entrepreneurs should take a scientific approach to decision-making and why admitting you're wrong goes a long way to learning what's right. We'll be releasing more episodes from the Summit throughout the month of August, so keep checking your podcast feed.
In 2010, Logic the rapper—born as Sir Robert Bryson Hall II—released his first official mixtape titled "Young, Broke & Infamous." At 20 years old, Logic certainly was young and broke, and while crashing on a friend's couch, he poured himself into his music. Logic's career could have fizzled if it wasn't for Chris Zarou, a young college athlete-turned-manager who had no more experience in the music business than Logic. Undeterred, the two decided to work together, continuing to use free music and social media to build Logic's reputation as a talented, fast-flowing rapper with a hopeful message. In 2012, Logic signed to Def Jam Records and in 2014 dropped his debut album "Under Pressure," which shot to number 4 on the Billboard charts. His third album in 2017 went platinum and included the breakout single "1 800 273 8255."
We have another episode from the 2021 How I Built This Virtual Summit, and it's Guy's interview with professor, author, and host of the Unlocking Us podcast, Brené Brown. In this live conversation, Brené talks about how vulnerability is vital for good leadership, and how she sees gratitude as a driving force for improving office culture. We'll be releasing more episodes from the Summit throughout the month of August, so keep checking your podcast feed.
In the 1990's, Stacy Madison and her boyfriend Mark Andrus were selling pita sandwiches from a converted hot dog cart in Boston. They decided to bake the leftover pita into chips, adding a dash of parmesan or cinnamon-sugar. At first they handed them out for free, but soon discovered that people were happy to pay for them. So they eventually decided to leave the sandwich cart behind and launch Stacy's Pita Chips. They hoped the brand might grow into a modest regional business—but it kept growing. Roughly ten years after the launch, Stacy's sold to PepsiCo for $250 million.
We have another episode from the 2021 How I Built This Virtual Summit, and it's Guy's interview with internet content guru Gary Vaynerchuk. In this live conversation, Gary talks about his innovative approaches to marketing and branding, and his belief that you can make money from pretty much anything online, as long as you're passionate about it, and put in the work. We'll be releasing more episodes from the Summit throughout the month of August, so keep checking your podcast feed.
Growing up in New Jersey in the 1980's and 90's, Gary Vaynerchuk honed his business skills trading baseball cards and selling wine at his dad's liquor store. He discovered the potential of Youtube early on and launched Wine Library TV, an unfiltered, in-your-face wine review series that boosted the family business and branded Gary as an early social-media guru. From there, his marketing career exploded, and suddenly Gary Vee seemed to be everywhere: consulting, speaking, vlogging, tweeting, and publishing best-selling books, all while growing what is now a sprawling media company, VaynerX. His energy can be exhausting and his critics think he's full of it, but Gary shrugs them off; he credits much of his success to his immigrant upbringing and his parents' strong work ethic.
Robert Reffkin had a hard time fitting in when he was growing up: raised by a single mom in Berkeley California, he was both bi-racial and Jewish, and had to learn to "feel comfortable with being uncomfortable." Even though he was a self-described C student, he was admitted to Columbia and landed a series of prestigious investment banking jobs, but often felt like he was failing. Then in 2012, Robert was tasked with writing a business plan as part of a job interview, but the plan was so intriguing that he was encouraged to launch it as an actual business. So with a partner, Robert launched Compass, a real estate company that focused on building technology to make agents' jobs easier. Less than ten years after launch, Compass is a publicly traded real estate brokerage with about 20,000 agents, valued at around $6 billion.
Our second episode from the 2021 How I Built This Virtual Summit is from our innovation panel with Payal Kadakia of ClassPass, Tristan Walker of Walker and Company, and Perry Chen of Kickstarter. In this live conversation with Guy, the panel talks about how innovation doesn't require newness, but rather, authenticity. We'll be releasing more episodes from the Summit, so keep checking your podcast feed.
Bobbi Brown started out as a makeup artist in New York City, but hated the gaudy color palette of the 1980s. She eventually shook up the industry by introducing "nude makeup" with neutral colors and a natural tone. In 1995, Estée Lauder acquired Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and Bobbi remained there for 22 years, until she realized the brand was no longer the one she had built.
In the late 1990s, Ben Chestnut was a struggling young designer interning at an appliance company, when somebody suggested that he try designing for the internet instead. A few years later, Ben and two co-founders launched a web design agency, only to discover that the service they'd included almost as an afterthought—email marketing—was taking off among their small-business clients. The founders named that service Mailchimp and pivoted to it full-time in 2007, choosing a winking monkey as their mascot, and stumbling onto the Freemium model before it became mainstream. But their most impeccable timing came in 2014, when they decided to sponsor a new podcast called Serial, a move that catapulted the winking monkey into popular culture. Over the years, despite management jitters and a public reckoning over office culture, Mailchimp has remained profitable and self-funded, with revenue of $800 million in 2020.