Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs Means Business

13 Jan 2012, the 2012 Entrepreneurship Winterim met with UCLA alum Richard Pink, owner of Pink’s World Famous Hot Dogs, headquartered in Los Angeles. During the session, I probably wrote about 6 pages of notes–put simply, he had so much insight on topics ranging from employee compensation, to product differentiation, to family business conflict management, to business risk diversification, that I couldn’t help but try to accurately capture every word Richard spoke. I was especially impressed with the frankness in which he spoke, and the sincerity in helping educating future businessmen and women. And just as an aside, he has a law degree, practices real estate law on the side, and teaches at USC. I won’t hold that against him, but I do not agree with his decision to attend USC post-grad after being a Bruin (my parents are both UCLA alums). His parents, while not college educated, were very wise. They bought a hot dog cart towards the end of the Great Depression, figuring that “everybody’s gotta eat” and “people like hot dogs.” We can call hot dogs a consumer staple good, which, if priced correctly is basically recession proof. At the same time, they didn’t put all their….

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5 Lessons in Business from Kimberly Fowler of Yoga and Spinning (YAS)

On the #eWinterim, Kimberly Fowler, of YAS, told a very motivational story of changing her career, mid-career, after being a CEO of a large corporation (and previously working as an attorney). After sustaining a substantial climbing injury, she could no longer continue as CEO during her recovery period, and therefore found herself unemployed when she had healed. While her friends advised her to simply go back to basic practicing law, as she was doing prior to being a CEO, she decided to focus on what she loved–Yoga and Spinning. At the time (1999), the Yoga craze had already begun, and there were also separate spin studios that were quite popular. But nobody thought to take the two and make a combined product–a studio consisting of Yoga and Spinning. Without the support of her family and friends (they thought she was crazy), she put her entire savings on the line to invent and create this hybrid industry. That’s lesson number one–if you think something has potential, no matter what anyone else says, take the risk and go for it (with proper research and execution strategy, of course). In almost every entrepreneur’s story, there is also an insane element of luck and….

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Winterim Day 4: Part 1, Dr. Richard Merkin, FasterCures

On 12 Jan 2012, the Tbird Entrepreneurship Winterim (#eWinterim) visited with Dr. Richard Merkin, of FasterCures, and Kimberly Fowler, Founder of YAS (Yoga & Spinning). Both came from very different professional backgrounds (Richard, trained as an MD, and Kimberly as an attorney), but ended up as entrepreneurs in areas they are passionate about. The commonalities in their stories relate to the “do what you love” theme, and also that prior educational and work training positioned both of them to apply themselves in new and relevant ways as entrepreneurs later in life.  My first in this two-part blog edition covers Faster Cures, while part two of two will cover YAS. Richard’s session focused on several problems currently existing in the healthcare industry, and how he has set out to solve them. The first issue revolves around motivation in the healthcare industry. What motivates doctors? What motivates patients? What motivates hospitals? What motivates insurance companies? Well, apparently all different things. But in theory, the motivations can and should converge–this convergence of disparate incentives and motivations is one of the key goals that Richard’s business, FasterCures, focuses on. As an example, on the doctor side, the input, the way money is managed, greatly….

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Day 3 of Entrepreneurship Winterim #eWinterim

The night of 11 Jan 2012 the 2012 Thunderbird School of Global Management Entrepreneurship Winterim was in for a real treat.  A tasty treat.  A hot dog treat (and hamburgers, turkey burgers, turkey dogs, AND veggie dogs), with all the fixins that only Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs (http://www.pinkshollywood.com/), an LA local favorite, can serve up.  The owners, Gloria and Richard (both UCLA alumni), were kind enough to host twenty Tbirds at their flagship restaurant in Hollywood (709 N. LaBrea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90039). In business since the Great Depression (1939 to be exact), Pink’s was founded by Richard’s parents, Paul and Betty Pink. as a hot dog cart in the same location where a quick-service restaurant now stands in Hollywood.  Other than the ever-expanding menu, which has countless items designed, ordered, and consumed by celebrities, not much has changed over the years.  Pink’s value proposition is still quality and service. According to Gloria, the food creation process is not a cookie cutter process–it is really made to order, giving the customer the ability to customize in many dimensions. There is even a vegan option. As Gloria put it, “we want to have something for everybody.” As I see it,….

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Day 2 of Entrepreneurship Winterim #eWinterim

On Tuesday, Jan 10 2012, the Tbird 2012 Entrepreneurship Winterim group (#EWinterim on Twitter) visited some exciting companies in the San Diego area, all involving a Tbird founder or driving force. First we met with Zuumcraft President, Jim Scott, who talked with us about his product (an electric scooter that is between the scooter and electric bicycle space) and gave us a demo. He already has a product built, and is leveraging a manufacturer he met through a third party to produce the initials, with investment from friends and family. He is currently in the fundraising phase, and has some interesting thoughts on the type of investors he wanted.  For Jim, one big donor is the ideal situation, rather than lots of smaller donors. The obvious benefit of one big donor is removing complexity introduced by adding stakeholders to deal with and report too, but the chief negative is the likelihood of that one donor to want to meddle in the day to day issues of the company (not that the small donors wouldn’t also have a propensity to meddle). However does it really matter where the money is coming from? Sure, it is good to target a specific type….

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