Archive for March, 2011

“This is like watching a fat guy make out with my girlfriend…on National TV.” – Trevor

Well said my man.

Such was the feeling last night, while watching America’s Next Great Restaurant on NBC.  The show debuted after months of hype, and was meant to showcase the “next billion dollar idea” in the Fast-Casual Industry. They were looking for entrepreneurs with a story and a spark, a fresh idea that fills a new need in the industry (read, no more sandwich/burrito concepts). They were looking for someone with the charisma and energy to pull it off. In case you haven’t been keeping up…they were looking for Sabi Sushi.

Instead what they found was an alarming collection of recycled old ideas, or incompetent entrepreneurs. A meatball concept “Saucy Balls”, a Waffle and Chicken Wing restaurant, and a Grilled Cheese Sandwich concept are the early favorites…Now I’m normally not one to discourage one’s idea or ability, but we dedicate ourselves to this 24-7, 365 days a year – and then we have to watch “Saucy Balls” live our dream on national TV? It’s hard not to shake our heads in disgust.

It’s sad to think how far we could have gone in this show. The winner not only gets a large momentum boost by being featured on a prime time NBC show, but also has two of its judges, Bobby Flay and Steve Ells (the creator of Chipotle), invest in their concept – while immediately being handed 3 prime locations in Hollywood, NYC, and Minneapolis. Contrast that to the incredible battle we’ve fought in securing our first location out here in Boulder, CO, and it just sounds too good to be true.

The worst part is, someone had even informed us about the show during the time it was casting in Raleigh, just 15 minutes away from where we lived at the time. When you work with honest intentions, with clear eyes and a full heart, you rarely encounter the dreaded word: “Regret”. A word that describes my disappointment that we didn’t fully explore this show’s casting opportunity. A word I never want associated with Sabi again.

Maybe that’s what this was meant for. To make us hungrier.  I can’t lie and pretend it didn’t hurt to watch that show last night. But at the same time, a part of me feels that it’s good we didn’t get the fast-track to fame and success. We’ve been fortunate with many things, winning the Duke Start-Up Challenge, having the support of the Duke Basketball Team, finding key mentors and having the chance to sit down and talk for hours with the founders of huge brands like Chipotle and Noodles and Co.

However, it’s easy to shine when the lights are bright. When the stage is set, when everyone is watching, it’s easy to work hard – to do your best. Anyone can be motivated when the prize is in sight.

The true test of success goes back to one of my favorite phrases: “dance like nobody’s watching”. For us -. We have to work while nobody’s watching. The ideas and progress we make now, when it’s just the three of us in one tiny apartment, sleeping on air mattresses for the last 6 months, sharing one bathroom. This is the test of our character. How hard we work before our store opens its doors, before the TV and Press opens its arms….now, now is the time.

So to the contestants on the show right now – consider yourselves lucky.

And if there’s a Season 2 – game on.



[update: Charlie Sheen officially broke the Guiness Book of World Record’s “fastest to 1M followers on Twitter” doing it in only 25 hours. Additionally, it’s been reported that he’s making $25,000 per tweet…that’s $156 per letter. If I was getting paid the same rate, this blog post would be worth $722,000..#winning!]

Have you been swept up in ‘The Sheen’? Whether it’s his radio rants, a 20/20 special, or the Today Show – Charlie Sheen is Winning. Everywhere.

Charlie Sheen is everywhere. Even here.

First, consider these absurd facts

1. At $2,500,000 per episode, Charlie Sheen is the highest paid TV actor…of all time. Oh and by the way, he’s demanding a raise. Now, there is rarely a precedent for this. Not only have his off-screen antics jeopardized the family sitcom’s viability, but he’s asking for a raise to $3M per episode for the “mental and psychological anguish” that this ordeal has caused him. So just to clarify, Charlie Sheen gets hospitalized/arrested for a ridiculous cocaine binge, and then rants on public radio against his boss….then asks for a raise!! Has anyone in the history of human nature been better at the – “I know my crazy actions caused this disastrous situation…but its your fault, you owe me!” than Charlie Sheen?  Oh wait, how could I forget the godfather of this routine, Ronnie from the Jersey Shore.

2. ‘Two and A Half Men’ is a corny show, that causes me to feel embarassed if I happened to be watching the show when someone else walks in the room. – This fact is merely to demonstrate how absurd Fact#1 is. This show is terrible, but it doesn’t matter. The Sheen has become that ridiculous.

3. Charlie Sheen might break the internet. Not since the days of AOL CDs, dial-up connections, and being one accidental telephone pickup away from being disconnected- have I been so worried about the internet’s well-being. This man has unleashed a Lawerence Taylor like blitz on the media over the past 72 hours. As the SHEEN himself said, “drug tests don’t lie, scoreboard don’t lie.’

Absurd Charlie Sheen Internet Dominance Stats

3a. Just hours after saying in an interview “god shoot me the day I’m on twitter”he joined Twitter. was born, and amassed 700,000 followers in the first day…before he even published his first tweet. This begs several questions. First, why was nobody squatting on the domain (and who is squatting on….you jerk.). Secondly, 700,000 people followed the man who had yet to say a word. That’s like me (and 699,999 other people) picking up our phone’s simultaneously with the hope that Charlie Sheen might be on the other line to say a word to us.

3b. At one point in the afternoon, he was responsible for 9 out of the 10 trending topics on Twitter (to most of you good souls who don’t know (or want to know) anything about twitter, this is an unbelievable feat). His phrases #Winning , #Tigerblood , #AdonisDNA , #unemployedwinner, and even his brother (Emilio Estevez, or as I know him, Coach Gordon Bombay from The Mighty Ducks) somehow made the top ten. His charismatic interviews have spawned a whole new set of catchphrases.
Now the question – why am I devoting a whole blog post to Charlie Sheen? Am I just another groupie, swept up in Sheenmania (admittedly, yes)? Or am I simply taking note of the greatest viral internet blitz of all time. A huge mistake that many businesses take, is that they only learn from other businesses. In trying to replicate Apple/Disney/Nike’s success, you end up looking like a second rate-wannabe rather than an original. This is why its necessary to look elsewhere for inspiration, or elements that you can draw from in order to have success in your field.

From Charlie Sheen we learn to harness public attention through the fact that we as a society love to watch trainwrecks. Charlie’s current sober sheenanigans are simply the calm before the storm, as the public can’t wait for his next outburst, or even better (for newsworthiness) a relapse into druguse.

Now what has Charlie done, rather than hide from the spectacle, or retreat in hopes of privacy, he has come forward, and capitalized on this moment.

Think about it – how can an admitted drug user, 3x divorced due to assaulting his wives, known prostitute user (to the tune of 50k a night), and certified mad man have such a rabid following. His popularity has never been higher. He’s crossed the threshold of “everything that’s wrong in society” to “everything that’s entertaining in society”. Imagine the box-office/TV ratings he will draw in his first public appearance. He is somehow driving up his $ value at a time when most celebrities would be crushed by this PR nightmare.

Not only that, but he’s done it using elements that any marketer should appreciate. He’s created his own vocabulary for his followers to harness (winning! Tigerblood! etc..). He’s manufacturing word-of-mouth through these outlandish statements that fans now use as their own inside jokes.

He’s been bold, and passionate in what he believes, and as radical as his opinions are – if he can back them up and lead a successful sober life from here on out, then he’s only added to his mystique. This is what all brands strive to achieve, spreadability, likeablility, known for being bold, and passionate about what they believe. He is a brand whose slogans are “Winning!” and “Defeat is not an option!”, and he is the embodiment of those values –  a public persona that is emblematic of a lifestyle choice, moreso than a particular product. He’s embracing the do what you do mentality. He’s doing his PR his way, and being bold about it – and the results are piling up – his message (as misguided or bizzare as it may be) is being spread with unbelievable effectiveness.

Charlie Sheen, you may be self-destructing as a human, but as a  brand, you sure are winning.