Earlier this year, I was watching Gossip Girl and suddenly the characters on screen were wearing varsity jackets. I immediately called the office and demanded to know why we hadn’t been the one that made the products. The response? “We were.”
There have been a few other moments like that in the past couple of months but I particularly enjoyed this weekend, when I unexpectedly found that custom letterman jackets and varsity letters from Mount Olympus Awards were once again featured on Saturday Night Live.
It’s an odd thing to be watching a movie or television show and realize that you made money from it. It happens regularly enough now that I’ve become somewhat accustomed to it, but it still brings me joy. The other day, we were watching X Factor and suddenly commercials for one of the local businesses we own started running. I did a double take, looking up from the annual report I was reading because it seemed surreal.
[mainbodyad]The media orders have become so routine that folks at the business no longer thought I’d be interested in knowing when we were going to be on Broadway, television, magazines, movies, or print. It reached the point that we work with some of the prop masters at the major film studios and television production companies so they could get custom jackets and varsity letters produced in as little as 24 to 48 hours in emergency cases. That’s one of the benefits of being well-capitalized and having systems in place to handle the infinite variations that can occur in a made-to-order industry where each individual order is entirely unique.
A few of you have written and asked why I’m willing to share details of the letterman jacket company. “Isn’t that a competitive disadvantage?” is the general gist of the inquiries. For the most part: No. The reason? It is a hard business and most people can’t survive in it long-term. Heaven knows it wouldn’t be my first choice if we had to do-it-over again but we made it work and built it into a platform to fund other investments. The only reason I talk about it (Mount Olympus Awards), and never mention some of our other holdings, is because it was the first company I started, we did it with almost no capital from our college apartment, and it makes it relatable to those of you who have no savings, no investments, and are just starting out in your career.
Plus, unlike some of the other businesses, I don’t think very many people have a snowball’s chance in hell of being successful in it, so I’m not worried as much about the competitive aspect of using it as a teaching tool (we can sell finished varsity jackets for less than most firms can make them, so if a new competitor entered the market and started to take share, we could go nuclear on pricing and still earn a healthy profit because we are the most efficient operator of which I know). It’s just too difficult a way to make money. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly important to me, but it is only one cog in a much larger wheel that we’ve been building over the years. Looking back, I’d go with something that could be done that was more scalable – a payment processing firm, an insurance brokerage operation, or a software development company.
As an example: Just wait until you all learn about the secret deal we’ve been working on for the past year. It’s going to be the biggest thing in my career thus far, yet you don’t hear me talking about any of the specifics or even which business it involves. I don’t know how long it will take to complete but things are going according to plan and schedule as of today. It’s taken so much of my life that I haven’t even picked up the manuscript to my next book, which has been sitting, untouched, in a file cabinet in my office, almost 1/3 to 1/2 finished for the past year. But it’s going to be worth it. So very worth it.