I'm still a little woozy - although I admit I like word woosy better: oozy; wet - from BlogHer. Not to mention hungover from all my deep hanging out excursions to downtown purveyors throughout Silicon Valley in the days preceding and hence. (I hardly imbibe; I'm talking over-stimulation-mental-overload-heady.)
So before I start, I've breathed, ate, drank the 10X return in five to seven years tonic to the point of oblivion. (My career's been primarily in high-tech. And start-ups.)
And so naturally I too disparaged those obviously unambitious women that didn't have a clue about leverage, and scaling. The worse thing you could call one of those women entrepreneurs was....shall I dare?
But don't you dare call her a "lifestyle entrepreneur". Though her original goal was to spend more time with her kids, she is also highly ambitious. In 10 years, she hopes to have a $25 million firm "with New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles on the letterhead," she says. - "Bootstrapping: Lesson 3 Work from Home" story on Small Biz Booster, founded by Yvonne Shortt with $865, Inc. July 2006
...is the headline in the Business section of the San Francisco Chronicle. I'm reading that front page this past Friday at the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company hours before I head over for BlogHer Friday night welcome reception.
I notice a thread at the conference - both in the panels and about the conference itself: we're grappling with with the stay-small-don't-sell-your-soul or monetize-it-baby question. Is bigger always better or is small the new big question. The What is success question. The tug-of-war reflects my own internal state of mind lately.
Friday I chat with Teri Hope, the owner of Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company, talking about the recent article "Stanford's Boulevard of Broken Beans." As her lease expired at a Simon Group owned mall her Palo Alto Coffee Roasting Company and Cafe Noir espresso bar closed because Simon, whom bought the mall from Stanford University, only wants national chains with national marketing budgets as tenants. Economies of scale, that's Capitalism 101, right?
"Last year, the first BlogHer convention was patched together by three gals and a slow server, and attracted a couple hundred female bloggers.
This year, things have blown up. In a big way."
Patched together wasn't exactly my impression of last year's BlogHer. Blown up has a many connotations too. Author Justin Berton appears to imply BlogHer's the real deal now - what with somewhere on the order of 700 to 800 women attending. Real stalwart sponsors like GM and Johnson & Johnson. Now that's success.
Towards the end of the session "Is the Next Martha Stewart a Blogger?" a web 2.0 male executive addresses the panel (knitting, jewelry, gardening, food): "[Martha Stewart and] Oprah really managed her brand. It sounds like what you are doing are lifestyle business." Egads. Not yet another lifestyle business. You poor dainty creatures, you're thinking small.
Teri Hope is a woman who trekked 100 miles round trip for a cup of North Beach espresso and coffeehouse discourse in the 70's before creating and running her coffeehouse in 1982. And a Hawaiian coffee plantation: "The vision was seed to cup." No, no, no, she explained, to VCs, financiers and franchisers. Small, purposefully.
At the Martha Stewart panel, Margaret Mason observed the scorn given to women points of view and worldviews ("you doing, what, a wedding blog?"): "Women have shopping blogs, but men have cool-hunting blogs...that's ok, we'll be laughing all the way to the bank."
If mommy blogging (and mothering) are radical acts in this day and age, then let's up the ante and be full-blown revolutionaries. Let's operate lifestyle businesses if we want to. (Not just women here: Metrosexuals, LBGTs, men who live/lived in Europe and renaissance souls value lifestyle and lifestyle biz too.)
BlogHer coorganizer and cohort Jory Des Jardins replies on the heels of bloghersphere conversations ("you gals sold out") on "what does it mean, to "sell-out" and the cusp of a decision to play ball or stay small.
Play ball or stay small is not exactly the choice.
It's not about smaller. It's closer.
More intimate. Human-scale over economy of scale. My favorite ease-of-humanness-imbued Web 2.0 companies include women on top: Caterina Fake - Flickr; Mena Trott - Six Apart; and (not technically Web 2.0) Mitchell Baker - Firefox.
Human-scale: Post-industrial, boutique, artisan, epicurean, handcrafted, hand-wrought, warmth, care, attention, devotion.
The big boys want to play boutique too. I glance down at Friday's Wall Street Journal Money & Investing front page: "The agility of a boutique. The reassurance of a global powerhouse." The UBS Global Asset Management advertisement continues to boutique-ize their copy: "agility, innovation, and personalized service."
To see the future of business, walk into a McDonald's in Columbus, Ohio. In that extraordinarily ordinary Midwestern city (trust me -- I grew up there), Mickey D's has begun rolling out a new look, one that owes to more Greenwich Village cafes than to exurban drive-throughs.
As Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin explained recently "McDonald's is ... transforming its harsh, plastic-heavy interiors into soft, earth-toned places where you might linger with your laptop in an upholstered chair beneath a stylish pendant light."
The Starbucks-ifcation of the golden arches is another indicator of how deeply a design sensibility has seeped into American business. - "Good Investing by Design," Yahoo Finance's The Trenddesk, Dan Pink, July 19, 2006
How quaint, McD's copying Starbucks. It wasn't so long ago that Howard Schultz sat in one of those cozy Milano cafes that triggered the Starbucks epiphany.
Schultz's vision of coffee and community was formed during a trip to Italy in 1983. The espresso bars of Milan and Verona were teeming with people stopping in for good coffee and some company. Bring this to the U.S., Schultz thought, and people will definitely come. - from Sally's Place for food, beverage, and travel
Faun Skyles is opening up a boutique within the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company boutique - a petite grocery & wine-and-cheese bar where today Teri sells beans and coffee-ware at the coffeehouse "offering artisan cheeses, gourment speciality items, charcuttie, sandwiches and featuring local wines!" Faun was previously the wine and cheese manager at Stanford Shopping Center's [also closed post-Simon] Oakville Grocery.
Faun tells me the reasons she enjoys the personal touch of a small business: "You become part of the community. You know your customer's tastes, you watch their children grow, you set roots down in a place."
Before I leave, Teri brings out her collection of now rare books from her market research days in the early 80s including one called Penny Universities: History's Colourful Coffee-Houses and The Romance of Coffee. As I recounted to a close friend, I left wistfully fantasizing how cute it would be to own a petite literary bookshop with a side salon de thé attached. (I'm a tea gal myself.)
Since there is sooooo many boutique stories and stories about boutiques and my pretty little head doesn't know where to begin or end, I think I'm going to share little vignettes for at least the next week. Tres petite vignettes. Morsels, really: Delicate confections enrobed with a kiss.
- 1751, "decorative design," originally a design in the form of vine tendrils around the borders of a book page, especially a picture page, from Fr. vignette, from O.Fr., dim. of vigne "vineyard" (see vine). Sense transferred from the border to the picture itself, then (1853) to a type of small photographic portrait with blurred edges very popular mid-19c. Meaning "literary sketch" is first recorded 1880, probably from the photographic sense.
p.s. If truth be told, the roots thing can freak the Bohemian, vagabond, Americanly-mobile, wanderlust restless side within me. Closer, not necessarily smaller, may mean my tendrils will be inextricably linked and enmeshed in an intricate, inextricable, committed tenderly beautiful pattern.
p.p.s. Maybe woosy is right word when you are weak at the knees because of the charming allure of women's objects of sociability (woos-y: ooze, wet)? And Faun Skyles' Los Gatos Gourmet is tentatively opening September 1st. Don't worry you'll be hearing more...I may most possibly be hosting salons there.