Building Zazzle

November 30th, 2007

Here’s an interesting podcast from Stanford’s Entrepneurial Thought leader’s forum by the founders of Zazzle. The efforts they go through to create great customer satisfaction in traditionally anonymous web transactions are very admirable.

Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Lecture

Richard BransonAll aspiring entrepreneurs could do well to study up on the life of Richard Branson. This Wikipedia entry is a nice introduction to him. His book, Losing my Virginity is a great autobiography and very inspirational. Richard Branson


Tay Zonday of Chocolate Rain fame has hit the big time for a YouTube star - making money. He’s released a new video sponsored by Dr. Pepper featuring an update to his song. This is a great gimmick for all parties concerned. Dr. Pepper gets a hip Internet meme, Tay gets some cash.

Of course YouTube being what it is, not all parties are happy. I just saw this comment and had to laugh:

“So yeah pretty much sold out. I mean you invested a lot of time into your lyrics to make your original “Chocolate Rain” song. But hell who cares about your original message when you can make money and get syrup dumped on you. Or is that right?”

Um, yeah. This puts him in league with Michael Jackson, Beyonce, the Rolling Stones and other “sell outs”.


Tesla Motors behind the scenes

November 29th, 2007

The folks behind Tesla Motors are a very interesting bunch. They seem to be doing a lot of things right. This video by Veronica Belmont of shows the Tesla in action and gives some insight into this cool company.

Steve MartinThis originally appeared on

Get this book. It’s one of the best show biz biographies I have ever read. Definitely the best one that ever mentioned Dariel Fitzke’s Showmanship for Magicians. Actor/comedian/writer/art collector/banjo picker/magician Steve Martin details his journey from aspiring young magician to the biggest comedian of all time (he was the first comedian to sell out 45,000 seat venues).

It’s an amazing story with details that fellow magicians can appreciate. He includes show notes from when he was a young man describing presentation of the Square Circle and the Hippity Hop Rabbits. Think about that one for a moment; one of the greatest movie stars of all time got his start doing Hippity Hop Rabbits. He talks about making the leap from behind the magic counter at Disneyland to the stage of nearby Knott’s Berry Farm.

You’ll find out that his overnight success took ten years and only then happened when he decided to go his own path. Despite the frequent bookings on the Tonight Show, fame and headliner status eluded him for a long time. He’d been demoted to performing only on guest host nights for a long period because Johnny wasn’t in to his act. When he slowly found his way, Johnny became his biggest fan.

I sat down with this book to just read a chapter and couldn’t put it down. I read the whole thing in one sitting. I’m getting the audiobook next. It’s an amazing story of how a performer struggled and grew in his art. It’s the best analysis I’ve ever read of what it takes to be an original and how hard it can be to get acceptance for that.

I could go on about this book, but you should really just be reading the book. So I’ll end this right here: Go get this book!

Identifying a need

November 28th, 2007

Every product I’ve ever released has been based upon satisfying some need that I observed. This became pretty easy after I published my first book. People flat out told me what they wanted. In unsolicited letters and email my customers told me what they liked and didn’t like. When I received several inquires about magic tricks about making yourself float, I released a booklet based on just that. It was my best selling magic booklet ever.

If you have an interest in a special niche, the best place to start with market research is yourself. Look at your shelves. What are you buying?

When I first got interested in filmmaking I started reading a few beginner books, but mostly biographies of filmmakers I found interesting. I also started buying DVDs of independent films that were like the ones I expected to make.

After I made my first film I decided to write a book about the experience. I realized that there really wasn’t anything out there about making independent films with digital video that didn’t read like a cookbook or boring how-to manual. I wrote the book that I wanted to read when I first got started. I had learned plenty of information that wasn’t in anything I read. Most books assumed that you were going to be shooting on film and had $100,000 to spend. My audience was people like myself who wanted to get into film but didn’t want to get a second mortgage to do so.

I followed the same formula I had followed in the magic business. I created something for myself. I solved one of my needs. It’s hard to go wrong with that. You’ll be your most critical customer.

Focusing within a niche

November 27th, 2007

What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles is the top-selling book on changing careers of all time. What many people don’t know about the book is that it was originally written for a very narrow audience; Episcopalian ministers who were losing their jobs in a budget crunch and were looking to find new jobs.

He wrote the book based upon his experiences with his own job situation and self-published it. Other people heard about the book and realized that much of the advice could apply to them and the book started selling outside its original niche. Millions of copies have been sold and it still sells over 100,000 copies a year. Not bad for a book written 30 years ago for a very narrow audience.

Richard Bolles saw a problem Read the rest of this entry »

Richard Branson interview on CBS

November 27th, 2007

Here’s a CBS interview of the Multimedia Empire’s favorite eccentric entrepreneur: 

The big four niches

November 27th, 2007

There are four major areas that content producers continue to tap into time after time. Every major publisher has divisions devoted exclusively to publishing books in these areas:

  • Dieting
  • Exercise
  • Finance
  • Relationships

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Finding your niche

November 27th, 2007

Before my foray into publishing, the first niche I tried to exploit had mixed results. When I was in high school I decided I wanted to become a professional magician. There are many different directions a magician can take. There’s the general performer who does shows locally for parties and special events. There are close-up magicians that work in restaurants and private parties. Then there are trade show magicians who specialize in working with large companies that can make as much as the CEO’s they’re hired to entertain. I decided on performing big stage illusions; so the obvious choice at the time was to work on cruise ships. Living in Fort Lauderdale made that an easy choice. I got off to an excellent start. At least I thought so.

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