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Watch designer and entrepreneur Robert Verdi chat with tastemakers and business leaders about what they do, how they got where they are, and what keeps them inspired.
Intro: This is, How did you get here? A series about entrepreneurial business leaders, what they do, how they got here, and what keeps them inspired. Right here from Emerge 212, New York City’s premier, fully serviced office suite
Robert: Hi, I’m Robert Verde. Welcome to, How did you get here? Today I’m joined by Marisa Acocella cartoonist and graphic novelist. Let’s find out how she built her empire.
Robert: Yours is one of my favorite stories because there’s a real watershed moment for you. Deciding that working for other people was not gonna be something…
Marisa: Oh my God, I hated it.
Robert: You hated it.
Marisa: It wasn’t advertising. It was in bad-vertising.
Robert: What’s that moment that you know, I can’t do this another day?
Marisa: I was like crisis time. I took my sketchpad and I started drawing and I drew myself with a gun in my mouth with the line, she was a little upset during the meeting.
Robert: Now once you created that character, it was you, but it was millions of women.
Marisa: Yeah. Cause she’d said things and did things that I wish I could have said. I was writing about being frustrated, being in the workforce. I was writing about women’s empowerment. I definitely feel like I struck a chord at that point.
Robert: You publish this book, Just who the hell is she anyway? And then what’s the trajectory of your career after that?
Marisa: From that I started cartooning for the New Yorker. There was Mirabella, Elle, Harper’s Bizarre.
Robert: Correct me if I’m wrong. You were the first cartoonist to have a cartoon panel in the New York Times.
Marisa: That’s true.
Robert: You have a series of really amazing accomplishments, but you meet a big tragedy in your life. Tell me about being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Marisa: I’m about to get married. I have a cold and I go visit my doctor. As he’s like checking my chest with a stethoscope, it bumped into a lump and he said, why didn’t you tell me about that? And I’m like, oh my God, what about that lump? I did get the diagnosis, breast cancer diagnosis, and I didn’t have health insurance and you know, I wound up paying for my own mammograms and my parents helped me get a lumpectomy and I wound up getting married and I did get insurance from my husband. It was pretty traumatic.
Robert: One of the things that I think is incredible is that at this moment in your life, which is just so emotionally overwhelming, you got back on the drawing board.
Marisa: Glamor Magazine asked me if I wanted to write about it. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to or not. At that time, nobody really was. I was walking down Hudson River with my friend Bob Morris, and he said, you know, what are you going to call your Glamor piece? I said, I don’t know. And he said, “Look at you. You look like a victim. Where’s my vixen?” And then he said, that’s what you should call it, Cancer Vixen. So I went home and I drew myself as a vixen basically kicking cancer’s ass, which became my book cover. And that drawing was on my drawing board the entire year.
Robert: I mean you really take all the challenges in your life and you channel them creatively and passionately into success.
Robert: What are the lessons that you think you learned along the way?
Marisa: I think the very worst thing that’s going on in your life could be the very best story of your life.
Robert: That’s all I’ve ever had to hear to continue living from here on. That’s it.
Robert: Thank you so much for telling me your story. Thanks for sharing that and telling us how you’ve got here.
Marisa: It’s a pleasure being here.
Outro: For more information on how you can get here, go to Emerge212.com.
Robert: Hi, I’m Robert Verde and welcome to, How did you get here? A series where I’ll be talking to tastemakers and business leaders about what they do, how they got there and what keeps them inspired. Today we’re joined by Jonathan Adler and we’re going to find out exactly how he built his empire right here from Emerge 212, New York’s premiere operator of offices suites.
Jonathan: I started as a potter, 25 years ago. It is my 25th anniversary and so I found a pottery co-operative shared pottery space in this hippie-dippie pottery co-op commune.
Robert: Was it nearly as glamorous as Emerge 212?
Jonathan: it was never on 212 par. In that shared space I started to make pots and then the old potters helped me sort of like with invoicing and all that kind of stuff and then just very, very slowly and organically, kind of just figured it out. Being unemployable is a really good thing for me because it gave me no choice. Like I had to be resilient or else.
Robert: Do you still think of yourself as a potter? Do you not think of yourself as a designer or an entrepreneur?
Jonathan: Well, it’s so funny. I was at dinner recently and someone said, what do you do?
Robert: Welcome to New York.
Jonathan: I say, I’m a potter, and they’re like, that’s humble brag. You’re being so modest. And I’m like, well, I’m not going to say, I preside over an eponymous lifestyle brand. I really am a potter. I mean, that’s what I do. I’m like covered in clay half the time. My kind of pursuit of my career has been sort of a noble pursuit, in that, all I really care about is the creative. That’s truly all I care about. The business is purely a means to an end.
Robert: What are the three things you’ve struggled with building the business?
Jonathan: I don’t know where to begin because I’m not a business person. I am an accidental business person. Like any business owner, I am constantly dealing with the minutia and the daily stuff, while in the back of my mind also trying to float above it. The duality of my nature sets me up to actually make the stuff I make. Because to conceive of a foot, a giant purple acrylic foot, you need to think like, I want giant purple acrylic foot. You sort of need to think of it and be like, that’s what this table needs, that I need to somehow work on and craft and sculpt and torture into being a great idea.
Jonathan: I get a lot of inspiration when I’m on my paddleboard on Shelter island and I just like go out paddle boarding for like, you know, two hours. Lone wolf, man at sea.
Robert: So you have had this incredible learning curve to get to where you are. What’s the one takeaway that you feel you would be able to impart on another emerging potter?
Jonathan: I would say take risks, but be extremely, extremely tight with the purse strings.
Robert: All right, Jonathan, thank you for being here. I’ll see you guys next time on, How did you get here?
Intro: This is, How did you get here? A series about entrepreneurial business leaders, what they do, how they got here, and what keeps them inspired, right here from Emerge 212, New York City’s premier, fully service office suite
Robert: Hi, I’m Robert Verde. Welcome to, How did you get here? Today we’re joined by Brett Heyman, founder of the lifestyle brand, Edie Parker. Let’s find out how she built her empire.
Robert: Okay. Let’s talk about the genesis of this brand, Edie Parker. What were you doing with your life that made you want to bring this challenge in?
Brett: So I was working in fashion. I had worked at Gucci for a number of years. I’d worked at Dolce and Gabbana. I went back to Gucci and I was the PR director covering all categories, but I really knew accessories because I had worked on accessories the most in my career. And I had been feeling a little antsy, like I wanted to do something creative and then I had a baby and I thought, well, I made a human, how hard could a handbag be. And I have collected these bags, the original bags from the fifties and sixties since high school. And every time I wore one someone would say to me either, that’s really interesting, can I see it? Or there was this great sense of nostalgia like, oh my mom has a bag like that, my aunt has a bag like that. And so I felt like there was room to kind of remake this style for a new generation.
Robert: Why did you feel it was right to bring these back? Because these are complicated to make. These are expensive to make.
Brett: The truth is, I was stupid. I mean all the things you said are right. They are incredibly expensive to make and they are incredibly impractical and I didn’t know any of that. I figured people haven’t made these since the sixties. This will be so easy and it’ll be inexpensive, et cetera, et cetera. But in fact, we make them in a factory in America and they’re made the same way that they were made in the fifties.
Robert: Is there an advancement to the technology that allows it to come back in a completely new way?
Brett: Not completely new. We use lasers to cut out the sheets when we do all the very complicated in lays. But other than that, everything is made the same way. You know, we use these flat sheets of acrylic, they’re about five by five and we cut them out and we put them together like a puzzle.
Robert: What’s the culture like in your office? What’s the mood? What’s the spirit?
Brett: The office is small; the team is small. So it’s really feels much more like a family than anything else. I like to have a joke and a laugh and be nice and it should be fun.
Robert: Did you learn that working for Gucci and dolce, two mean brands?
Brett: You know, I worked for some of those famously mean fashion women and I thought not only were they horrible, but like it was ridiculous. Don’t be mean to people. They’re here, they’re doing a job, they’re working hard. So I learned that I never wanted to be like that, but it’s also just not my nature.
Robert: What does the office look like? Is it designy?
Brett: Designy on a budget. We love color and we love fashion. So it’s designy for what we could have afforded and it’s chaotic in a happy way.
Robert: What makes Brett get up every morning and recommit on a day to day basis to making this happen?
Brett: A lot of things. I mean, I’m a mother, so I am aware that I am setting an example for my children. I love creating. So I really truly love what we make. And I believe when I unwrapped them, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Nobody’s making anything that looks like that. But I think also most importantly, like I have a staff, I have a team of people that said, we’re ride or die with you. And I have to get up front of them to like they’ve committed; they want to make this work. They’re passionate. So I have to be more passionate.
Robert: Tell me what’s the advice you would give anybody who wants to step into this world and start a business?
Brett: Don’t do it. Just kidding. My advice would be if you want to start something, try to fill a need. But that’s hard because there’s been a lot that’s created, but you don’t need to do everything all at once. Start by doing one thing well and do it really well and get a customer base and be known for something and then you can do other things.
Robert: I love this. Thank you for being here and telling me, how did you get here.
Brett: Are we done? I think I could keep talking to you all day.
Intro: This is how did you get here? A series about entrepreneurial business leaders, what they do, how they got here, and what keeps them inspired right here from Emerge 212, New York City’s premier, fully serviced office suites. Hey, I’m Robert Verde. Welcome to, How did you get here? Today we’re joined by industrial designer Harry Allen. Let’s find out how he built his empire.
Robert: Okay, Harry, you have a very interesting career and I want to know what you were doing at the moment that you thought, I don’t want to be doing this. I want to be doing my own thing.
Harry: That entrepreneurial moment takeover happened when I was a little bit older when I got out of school and so I just went straight there. I always wanted to work for myself, that I knew from the get go. I work more like an artist in a way. At the core of industrial design is making, and I just always found myself making things and wanting to bring new objects into the world, and that’s where it starts for me.
Robert: How big is the business at this point? Do you run a one-man shop or do you have…?
Harry: It’s pretty much me at this point. I have a lot of peripheral people, but on a daily basis it’s me in my pajamas. I myself; not quite.
Robert: When you are thinking about products, objects, is there a space, a category that you’re constantly coming back to?
Harry: What I’ve really gotten well known for is live casting. It was just an idea I had that it would be interesting to take like a live cast aesthetic and apply it to functional objects. The signature piece is the piggy bank.
Robert: Is it your most successful product to date?
Harry: It’s what I’m best known for. I have probably earned more money off of other products, but it’s the one that I’m most associated with. The bang bottle that I did for Mark Jacobs…
Robert: Which is one of my favorite bottles.
Harry: Yeah. You know, like that you’re paid very differently for that. It’s like an advertising fee or something.
Robert: When a brand comes to a designer who’s highly recognized like you and they are highly recognized brand, that intersection could be toxic because you have designed in style DNA and they have designed in style DNA and you have to kind of make those two things work together.
Harry: I mean, I sort of liked the idea that you’re coming from completely different places and then the mashup ends up in the middle and it’s something really new and different. But more often than not, someone’s thought about it and thinks, oh we’re, you know, we’re like parallel in some way and that I’m going to bring something to them that they don’t have. But it’s not, you know, you’re not gonna move it way off course. It’s just going to be like a slight shift of direction.
Robert: What is your office like?
Harry: I very often work at home even though I have a very nice studio. For instance, the last three days I’ve been in the studio making things. So I’m just like they’re making stuff. I have all the resources and I have big tables I can work on and I use it a lot, but I don’t have to be there. That’s the key.
Robert: I think that at the place you are, you probably have a lot of wisdom and a lot of experience that you can impart. What’s the advice you give an entrepreneur in design?
Harry: I often tell young designers that you should come up with a goal and keep your mind on it because life steps in and wants to drag you away from design. So this idea that you come up with a goal and then every decision you make is towards that goal, it’s the way I managed to actually keep my career on track, like being on my own and having my own studio. Just like, I know that’s what I want. How am I going to get there?
Robert: Harry, thanks for coming by and thanks for telling us how you got here.
Intro: This is How did you get here? A series about entrepreneurial business leaders, what they do, how they got here, and what keeps them inspired. Right here from Emerge 212, New York City’s premier fully Service office suites.
Robert: Hey, I’m Robert Verde. Welcome to, How did you get here? Today we’re joined by Matthew Malin and Andrew Goetz of the eponymous beauty brand Malin and Goetz. Let’s find out how they built their empire.
I’m really excited that you guys agreed to sit down with me because you have built one of my favorite brands.
Both: Thank you.
Robert: It’s not just a beauty brand, it’s also a beautiful brand. What was your life like at the moment that you decided we’re going to start a beauty brand?
Andrew: It’s a bit of a long story, but I’ll try to tighten it up a little bit. Matthew is the doyenne of the beauty world and I came from the design world. So literally what happened is, what if we pooled our collective worlds together, the world of beauty, the world of design, and made a line that was really based on simplicity and ease, something very modern. There wasn’t anything modern in the industry at that time, not only from a packaging standpoint, but from a formulation standpoint.
New Speaker: It’s interesting because it’s also something that’s never tired. It also looks very fresh and new every time you see it.
Matthew: That’s great to hear because we worked so hard to create something that felt really fresh and modern, but was classic.
Robert: You have that moment where it starts to crystallize. What’s the first step?
Matthew: It took a long time.
Andrew: Yeah, it was in the back burner brewing for a while and then we sort of just both jumped off the cliff. We had everything in place. He quit his job. I left my job about two or three months after we launched the store and it’s been go, go, go ever since.
Robert: So you launched with the store, also brave in this space?
Andrew: We launched with not only a store; Barneys New York, Liberty in London, Fred Segal in LA and our ecommerce site. As I like to say, we had the Air Force, the Army, the Marines and the Navy, all employee to win the war.
Robert: How many employees are there now?
Andrew: Well, in total like 150.
New Speaker: That’s a real business.
Matthew: Yeah. Yeah. That’s what they tell us.
Robert: So what is your office culture like? If you guys are a couple, I almost feel that that brings like a familial, like energy to the office.
New Speaker: Yes. Most of all, I think we love people with passion. If they really love the brand, it’s apparent almost immediately.
New Speaker: Is there like a little desk in the back that everybody’s working from?
Andrew: Yes. In the back of the store we sort of had a little cordoned off area and there was this long three-meter desk and it was literally Malin and Goetz. Malin sat at one end of the table and Goetz sat at the other end of the table. And when a customer would come in, we’d wait on them, we’d pack our boxes off at Barney’s and Liberty in London. Whatever it is, we were doing it. And, and then eventually we got an intern and she sort of sat in the middle and it grew in a group. But for the longest time it really was just the two of us.
Robert: When somebody is starting a new business and they have the benefit of knowing you, what’s the advice then? Would you guys give the same advice?
Andrew: You should really love what you’re doing and be willing to work harder than you ever have in your whole entire life.
Matthew: The other thing that I would say, which I know you hear all the time, is that you should stay really focused to who you are as a brand. And it is truly an asset to do that and to just stay the course. You reap the benefits long-term.
Andrew: I would also add that one of the greatest advantages that we had was not only being in New York, but that we had a very limited amount of funds. When you really are looking at the books and you think like, God, what are we gonna do? How are we going to get through that next hurdle? The amount of creativity that is spurred is so inspiring and the whole team benefits from it because everybody’s thinking. So I love that part.
Robert: That was awesome. Thank you guys for coming in.
Matthew: Thank you for having us, it was great. Really nice to see you.
Robert: I felt like it was therapy for me.
Outro: For more information on how you can get here, go to Emerge212.com.