As part of the band Pomplamoose, musician Jack Conte had a sizeable fan base in the late 2000s and was making thousands of dollars a month from iTunes sales. But when streaming services like Spotify took over the music scene, Jack's income dwindled. So he called up his college roommate Sam Yam, who had spent his post-college years launching startup after startup. Together, Sam and Jack created Patreon, a platform where artists' most passionate fans can sponsor them for just a few dollars a month. Following a Covid-era surge in new members, Patreon is now valued at over a billion dollars and supports over 200,000 musicians, artists, and content creators.
In 1992, Steve Ells was a classically trained chef working in a high-end restaurant in San Francisco. But after eating a burrito at a local taqueria, he got an idea: to sell burritos and earn enough money to open his own gourmet restaurant. The first Chipotle opened in Denver the following year. Bringing his culinary training to taqueria-style service, Steve Ells helped transform the way we eat fast food.
In the late 1970s Janice Bryant Howroyd moved to Los Angeles and began temping as a secretary. She soon realized there were many other young people in situations similar to hers. So with $1,500 in her pocket, Janice rented an office in Beverly Hills and created the staffing company ACT-1. Today, ActOne Group is an international workforce management company, making Janice Bryant Howroyd the first African-American woman to own a billion-dollar business.
Morra Aarons-Mele is the founder of Women Online and hosts The Anxious Achiever podcast. Morra shares how her agency pivoted during the pandemic after losing 30% of its business overnight, and how anxious entrepreneurs like herself can lead effectively in a world full of stress and uncertainty. These conversations are excerpts from our How I Built Resilience series, where Guy talks online with founders and entrepreneurs about how they're navigating turbulent times.
By the time he turned 30, Tim Ferriss had figured out how to succeed at things that many people fail at—from growing a business to dancing the tango to marketing a best-selling book. He approached these and numerous other challenges by breaking them down into manageable chunks, carefully documenting his own progress, and taking copious notes. That formula is now wrapped into a hugely successful personal brand that blends optimism with discipline and includes five books and a popular podcast.
Reel is a digital savings platform that helps people people make big purchases without racking up credit card debt. CEO and co-founder Daniela Corrente says the company has added new savings plans during the pandemic in response to consumers looking for new ways to buy and save. These conversations are excerpts from our How I Built Resilience series, where Guy talks online with founders and entrepreneurs about how they're navigating turbulent times.
There were so many interesting moments in Guy's conversation with the co-founders of Riot Games that we decided to put them into this short bonus episode. In it, Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill talk about kids, screens, and the importance of boredom. They answer Guy's questions about why some gamers engage in toxic behavior, and how Riot Games is trying to address it. To hear the whole story of the founding of Riot Games, search your queue for the main episode, which dropped earlier this week.
At USC in the late 1990s, Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck were bonding over video games and noticing that free, player-made modifications for the game Warcraft III were becoming wildly popular online. The two friends were so impressed by these mods that they decided to create their own multiplayer strategy game with an unusual twist: they'd offer the game for free, but charge players money for new characters or customizable clothing (or "skins"). Many investors balked at the idea, unsure that a free game—created by total novices—would generate enough revenue. After three rocky years of development, Marc and Brandon's company Riot Games launched League of Legends in 2009. Over the past 11 years, it's become one of the most popular PC games of all time, pulling in $1.5 billion in 2019 alone.
Emily Powell is the third generation owner and president of Portland, Oregon's iconic independent bookseller, Powell's Books. After having to let go of 90% of her staff in early March, Emily is focused on bringing people back and showcasing Powell's Books' unique in-store experience online. These conversations are excerpts from our How I Built Resilience series, where Guy talks online with founders and entrepreneurs about how they're navigating turbulent times.
When he was 8 years old, Joel Clark loaded bags of his mom's whole grain pancake mix into a red wagon to sell door-to-door. By the mid-90s, he and his older brother had upgraded to selling the mix out of a Mazda sedan and calling it Kodiak Cakes. As he tried to scale the business, Joel made some risky business decisions and almost went bankrupt, but eventually got the brand into Target—a major turning point. Today, Kodiak Cakes is approaching $200 million in annual revenue as one of the best-selling pancake mixes in America.
The former CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh has died. He was 46 years old. We are grateful that Tony shared his story with us in 2017 and we are republishing it as a tribute to his life and career. Tony was a computer scientist whose first company made millions off the dot-com boom. But he didn't make his mark until he built Zappos—a customer service company that "happens to sell shoes." Tony stepped down as CEO of Zappos in August 2020; the company is worth over a billion dollars and is known for its unorthodox management style.
Dr. Iman Abuzeid is the co-founder and CEO of Incredible Health, a digital platform that helps streamline the hiring process for nurses and recruiting hospitals. After seeing an increased demand for nurses in April, and a shift to hiring digitally, the platform has now been able to expedite the hiring process to 15 days or less, compared to an industry standard of 90 days. These conversations are excerpts from our How I Built Resilience series, where Guy talks online with founders and entrepreneurs about how they're navigating turbulent times.
While working long hours as a Wall Street analyst, Melissa Butler started making lipstick in her kitchen as a hobby. But it soon turned into an obsession, costing thousands of dollars. She was frustrated by the lack of diversity in the cosmetics industry, and as a Black woman, wanted to create lipstick colors that complimented her complexion and style. So in 2010, she launched The Lip Bar, with bold colors like green and purple, and boozy names like "Cosmo" and "Sour Apple Martini." Undeterred by a disastrous appearance on Shark Tank with her partner Rosco Spears, Melissa was motivated to pitch her lipstick to Target, and in 2016, launched a new color on Target's online store. Today, The Lip Bar has expanded to 500 Target stores, and has continued to grow a following, despite the pain points of the pandemic.
Father Gregory Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries, one of the largest gang-intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry programs in the world. He speaks with Guy about how the Los Angeles based organization has adapted to continue training and employing people during the pandemic. These conversations are excerpts from our How I Built Resilience series, where Guy talks online with founders and entrepreneurs about how they're navigating turbulent times.
Kenneth Cole launched his shoe business out of a forty-foot truck in midtown Manhattan and quickly became known as an up-and-coming designer with an eye for street fashion. In 1986, he made a bold move by associating his nascent brand with a controversial issue at the time: the AIDS crisis, and the vital need for research. Through the 1990s and 2000s, Kenneth grew the company into a $500M brand, leading it through downturns, department store consolidation, an IPO and a return to private ownership. Throughout, he stayed committed to AIDS research and many other social causes.
In 2006, Drew Houston got on a bus from Boston heading to New York. He planned to use the three-hour ride to get some work done, so he opened his laptop, and realized he had left his thumb drive with all of his work files at home. Drew decided he never wanted to have that problem again. On that bus ride, he started writing the code to build a cloud-based file storage and sharing service he called Dropbox. Fourteen years later, Drew and his co-founder, Arash Ferdowsi, have built Dropbox into a public company worth close to $8 billion.
Guy talks with Varshini Prakash, co-founder of Sunrise Movement, a grassroots organization that's fighting to make climate change a top priority in the US. The group launched in 2017 and has since grown into one of the largest youth movements in the country. These conversations are excerpts from our How I Built Resilience series, where Guy talks online with founders about how they're navigating these turbulent times.
Growing up in 1960's Chicago, Dave Anderson didn't eat much deep dish. Instead, his dad took the family to the South Side for barbecue, and those memories—and aromas—stayed with him. For years, Dave tinkered with his own recipes for sauces and sides while working as a salesman and business advisor to Native American tribes. Finally in 1994, he opened his first barbecue shack in the last place you might expect to find one: the little town of Hayward, Wisconsin. The chain grew quickly—too quickly—and Dave developed a love-hate relationship with the brand he'd created, but never lost his passion for smoked ribs and brisket. Today, Famous Dave's has around 125 restaurants across the U.S., making it one of the largest barbecue chains in the country.
Justin Gold is the founder of Justin's, known for its nut butters and chocolate peanut butter cups. He talks about how he started by pulverizing peanuts in his home blender, and describes how his customers are shopping differently during the pandemic. These conversations are excerpts from our How I Built Resilience series, where Guy talks online with founders and entrepreneurs about how they're navigating these turbulent times.
Do Big Things is a Black woman-led, mission-driven digital agency that works with companies like Google, Etsy, and the NAACP, and has a staff that's 50% people of color. The agency's CEO and founder Cheryl Contee says having a diverse team is a strategy for authentic engagement. These conversations are excerpts from our How I Built Resilience series, where Guy talks online with founders and entrepreneurs about how they're navigating turbulent times.