The original deal held that Big Time would supply everything except the specially engineered critters — and the accompanying packets, which von Braunhut would manufacture and sell separately to Big Time, which would then bundle the full kits and handle the sales. Also in the contract was a second deal — to buy the company, including the secret formula. It allowed Big Time to pay a straight-up $5 million fee and then $5 million more in installments. Three winters ago, Big Time called up the widow and announced that it considered its previous payments for the packets to be a kind of layaway deal for the company and that, as far as Big Time was concerned, it now owned the Sea-Monkey franchise. ... Part of what made Sea-Monkeys successful was a scientific breakthrough Harold von Braunhut claimed he achieved in the early years. In 1960, after observing the success of Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm, von Braunhut first started shipping Instant Life — simple brine shrimp that could travel in their natural state of suspended animation. This was the era when a good idea with smart marketing was the dream: D.F. Duncan’s yo-yo, George Parker’s Monopoly game, Ruth Handler’s Barbie. Around the same time, the big-time toy company of the day, Wham-O, started selling a similar product called Instant Fish, which was an immediate dud.
The reaction was understandable given the lofty goals outlined in the Echo's original plan: It envisioned an intelligent, voice-controlled household appliance that could play music, read the news aloud and order groceries — all by simply letting users talk to it from anywhere in the house. ... the Echo's path into consumers' homes was hardly a sure thing. The gadget was stuck in Amazon's in-house labs for years, subject to the perfectionist demands of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and lengthy internal debates about its market appeal. And in the wake of the high-profile failure of Amazon's smartphone, the industry rumors that circulated for years about a speaker product languishing within Amazon's labs seemed like more confirmation that the ecommerce giant lacked the chops to create a game-changing hardware device. ... The story of the Echo's origins, recounted by several insiders, reflects the ambitions and challenges within Amazon as it quietly set its sights on the tech industry's next big battleground. ... The key to getting latency down was to collect as much data as possible and constantly apply them to improve the product. The team did thousands of internal tests and weekly data analysis with speech scientists. Eventually, the team was able to bring latency down to below 1.5 seconds, far exceeding the speed of its competitors.
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Three weeks ago, though, Sports Authority decided to liquidate instead of restructure; a spokesperson told Racked it was "pursuing a sale of some or all of the business." On Monday, the sports giant began auctioning off its assets. The winning bid belonged to a trio of liquidators (Hilco Global, Gordon Brothers, and Tiger Capital Group; Tiger Capital is also liquidating 41 Aéropostale stores in Canada), which will operate the company's going-out-of-business sales at all of its locations. ... Sports Authority isn't alone. Last month, Vestis Retail Group, the parent company of Eastern Mountain Sports, Bob's Stores, and Sport Chalet, filed for bankruptcy. With $500 million in liabilities, the company plans to close 56 stores, including all 47 Sport Chalet locations. Six months ago, the East Coast-based City Sports filed for bankruptcy and closed eight of its 26 stores. Although City Sports is currently being revived by Brent and Blake Sonnek-Schmelz, brothers who own the Soccer Post retail chain ... From the rise of the casual camper to the boutique fitness boom, it can feel like there have never been more people in the market for sports apparel. As of 2015, sporting goods stores in the US were bringing in as much as $48 billion in annual revenue, according to IBISWorld, up from $39.8 billion in 2012. Sports participation is up, too. According to Euromonitor, participation in high school sports has increased from 25 percent to 35 percent over the last 35 years, with nearly double the number of female students playing sports as compared to the 1980s. ... But there's a stark gap between an increasing customer base and many sports retailers — a gap that only continues to widen, no matter how many times companies see new ownership or rethink their businesses.
2015 was, by all accounts, not a great year for GoPro. The company, famous for wearable cameras targeted toward surfers, mountain climbers, and anyone else living on the edge, shipped more cameras than ever, but its revenue dropped 31 percent between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015. ... Over the last three years, GoPro has been building a software team from scratch, cobbling together acquisitions and a few key hires into what is now a 100-plus employee division that makes up about one-tenth of the company. Woodman acknowledges that the trend of middling sales figures will likely hold until GoPro releases a set of new devices at the end of this year, including the Hero 5, GoPro’s first drone, and a spherical camera made for general consumers. Meanwhile the new software team, and what it’s building, will herald in a new era at the company, inspire investors, and eventually attract new customers. ... In the last four months, GoPro bought, rebranded, and relaunched two powerful mobile editing apps called Replay and Splice — opening up GoPro to users who don’t own any of its cameras. And in the second half of 2016, GoPro will release a desktop editing experience that will rival iMovie and a cloud backend that will tie everything — devices, files, and the overall GoPro experience — together into a single ecosystem. ... Woodman is clear-eyed on the fact that the hardware-first chapter of GoPro is coming to an end. Cameras will still be important, because Woodman believes that vertical integration gives GoPro an advantage over software-focused competitors. ... "We’ve sold a great promise to people but we haven’t followed through on it…. We solved the capture side of it, but then we sort of left them hanging with the whole hassle of the post-production."
American Grown, which has exclusive rights to buy diamonds from several undisclosed labs in the US, started selling synthetics (a scientific term loathed by the lab-grown industry, but routinely used in the greater jewelry world) a little over three years ago and now wholesales stones to some 250 stores around the country. ... Though lab-growns have been around for a while, it was only recently that the science of creating colorless, nearly flawless diamonds was finally perfected. ... With technology advancing, and with younger shoppers drawn to synthetic options, the question of whether or not lab-grown diamonds will invade the market is now a matter of when, not if. ... the stones first gained commercial popularity in India, where diamond trading began as early as the 4th century BC. During the Middle Ages, caravans that unearthed diamonds in India's rivers traded them with Western Europe, where they became coveted by the upper class. The world's diamond capital moved from India to Brazil in the 1700s, and then to South Africa, when a giant diamond mine was discovered in the city of Kimberley in 1866. In 1888, British businessman Cecil Rhodes established his mining company, De Beers, in the country, and effectively founded the diamond industry as we now know it. ... A century before this, however, scientists began their quest to make diamonds in a lab. Ignited by Antoine Lavoisier's discovery that diamonds were merely a crystalline form of carbon, the result of pressure deep within the earth, in the late 1700s, little progress was made for nearly 200 years. ... Then came General Electric. Physical chemist H.Tracy Hall joined its "Project Superpressure," and in 1954, after nearly four years of synthetic diamond experimentation, Hall lead his team to a breakthrough. They were able to create small diamonds after heating carbon to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and applying extreme pressure with a heavy hydraulic press — a method referred to as high pressure and temperature, or HPHT.
Her mission was modest: to make a decent pair of running shorts that didn’t make a fit woman look three months pregnant—was that too much to ask? She’d grown the company patiently, intelligently, considering all the brand “touch points” (hang tags, packing tape), choosing her fabrics with care. ... It is tough to overestimate how influential Nike is in the sport of track and field. The company, which made $31 billion last year, has been the official sponsor of USATF’s national team since 1991 and will continue to be until 2040. With the exception of shoes, sunglasses, and watches, national-team runners must wear Nike, and Nike only, at all international events. ... Oiselle did $10 million in revenue in 2015. It’s targeting $15 million for 2016, still tiny compared with Lululemon ($2 billion) and Athleta (part of Gap’s $16 billion empire). Oiselle is not yet profitable, either. But even so, Bergesen has managed to shape it into a small company with huge, like-minded pros. ... professional track athletes on the whole are surprisingly broke. According to an analysis by the USATF Foundation, an affiliated nonprofit that promotes athlete development, more than 50 percent of American track and field competitors who rank in the top ten in the U.S. in their events earn less than $15,000 a year from their sport.
An underdog ethic is still baked into company lore, even though last year Under Armour overtook Adidas to become the second-biggest sportswear brand in the U.S. In May, the company signed the largest sponsorship deal in the history of college sports, paying $280 million for a 15-year contract with UCLA. The company has invested more than $700 million in fitness apps and activity-tracking technology, and it hired the designer Tim Coppens, a ready-to-wear rising star, to help snag a portion of the lucrative “athleisure” market. ... These days, Under Armour looks like an underdog only when held up against Nike, a company that Plank and other executives refuse to even name. “Five years ago, our largest competitor was 12 times our size,” Plank says. “Then it was 11 times, then 10 times. Today, they’re roughly six times our size. But the fact is, they’re still six times our size. So we have a lot of work to do.” He clearly relishes the idea of the world’s biggest sportswear company feeling Under Armour breathing down its neck. ... Plank’s appreciation for the overlooked and underestimated—he’s the youngest of five brothers—is manifest in his affection for Baltimore. On the surface, there may not seem to be much linking the edgy, gritty city of John Waters and The Wire with Under Armour’s performance-bro aesthetic. But Plank sees an affinity between Baltimore’s hardworking, blue-collar past and his company’s relentless striving to be the best sportswear company out there.
Now that she has sold nearly six million copies of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 86 weeks and counting, she was taking the next logical step: a formal training program for her KonMari method, certifying her acolytes to bring the joy and weightlessness and upward-pointing trajectory of a clutter-free life to others. ... In order to be considered tidy, you must have completed the method outlined in Kondo’s book. It includes something called a “once-in-a-lifetime tidying marathon,” which means piling five categories of material possessions — clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous items and sentimental items, including photos, in that order — one at a time, surveying how much of each you have, seeing that it’s way too much and then holding each item to see if it sparks joy in your body. The ones that spark joy get to stay. The ones that don’t get a heartfelt and generous goodbye, via actual verbal communication, and are then sent on their way to their next life. ... One woman in my group who had finished her tidying, Susan, expressed genuine consternation that a bunch of women who wanted to become KonMari tidying consultants hadn’t even “completed tidying!”
Once you leave the giant department stores of New York City and head to the malls of suburbia, Ralph Lauren becomes a few racks of Oxfords, polos, and pleated pants. Reliably found in your local Dillard's, and just as reliably found on sale. ... She likens the brand to Michael Kors — oversaturated and devalued. "I would never buy Polo at full price." ... Most shoppers haven't encountered the totality of Ralph Lauren's world. How could they? Since the early 2000s, Ralph Lauren Corporation has owned and operated at least 25 different brands. ... Lauren has stepped aside to make way for a new CEO, Stefan Larsson — the first person besides Lauren to ever hold that title in the company's 50-year history. The company has been in the process of whittling down the brand list and there are plans to refocus on just three main lines: Ralph Lauren (the new umbrella label for Women's Collection and Purple Label), Polo Ralph Lauren, and Lauren Ralph Lauren. ... At the same time that Ralph Lauren is reevaluating its structure and bringing in fresh leadership, it also has to contend with the fact that the specific style of Americana that's so deeply embedded in every inch of the brand isn't something shoppers are clamoring to align themselves with now. If the privileged, preppy aesthetic that Lauren built his company around is no longer the height of aspiration, what will the future of Ralph Lauren look like? ... Lauren got his first shot at professional tie design at Rivetz & Co., a high-end neckwear company. It didn't go over well. "Rivetz was a traditional firm," David Price, whose father used to own the Rivetz & Co. business, explains. "They were doing all sorts of crazy pinks and oranges and all the Ralph colors, and the industry and the customer base at Rivetz thought it was just atrocious."
The American mall, meanwhile, is supposed to be dying. Many malls are in fact already dead, their gutted carcasses lying dormant on the sides of highways, attracting mild fascination by way of eerie photography and resigned nostalgia. ... Last year, the New York Times put the number of malls suffering vacancies of 10 to 40 percent — an indicator that a mall is not long for this world — at 15 percent. ... In its US Mall Outlook Report from January, real estate research firm Green Street Advisors evaluated mall performance based on sales productivity, assigning grades of A, A+, and A++ to the 198 most profitable shopping centers in the country. South Coast Plaza's self-reported sales volume of $800 per square foot places it smack between A+ and A++, the latter defined by Green Street's report as a mall that boasts "luxury inline and anchor tenants, strong demographics, best-in-sales productivity, retailer ‘waiting list' for space, and strong tourist draw." There are currently 37 A++ malls and 67 A+ malls by Green Street's tally. Together these upmarket meccas account for 44 percent of all mall value, despite only representing about 10 percent of the entire American mall pie. ... The move towards investing in restaurants that are higher quality and unique to the market began percolating about a decade ago, says Marsh. This dovetailed with the emergence of so-called foodie culture, which rendered restaurants of all kinds bona fide destinations, e-commerce-proof businesses that are only bolstered by social media. In the spirit of "experiential living," why eat for sustenance when you can eat for fun and/or for Snapchat?
Ben brags that he’s on track to make $1 million in sales this year just from the normals who shop his collection every day online at sneakerdon.com. “What I make in one day on the website I can’t make in a month with the rappers,” Ben says, but they give him the satisfaction of working alongside his favorite celebrities. Plus, they function as brand ambassadors, offering free, well-placed mini-billboards that float across social media. ... imposed scarcity, not style, is the most reliable driver of value, he will do whatever it takes to get you the sneaker you want — a high-end, single-product TaskRabbit so monofocused on the job of finding the right shoes that he now employs four others to do things like manage his website and ship his goods while he hustles connections with celebrities and distributors.
American Apparel launched in 1988 as a T-shirt business that founder and former CEO Dov Charney ran out of his dorm room at Tufts University. After Charney opened his first retail store, on Los Angeles’s Sunset Boulevard in 2003, the brand quickly became a phenomenon, famous for its local, sweatshop-free manufacturing and notorious for its sexually charged advertising. ... As it became a public company in 2007 (through a reverse merger), American Apparel had 143 stores in 11 countries and was valued at nearly a billion dollars. ... It wasn’t just the merchandise that set the company apart. From the beginning, American Apparel eschewed fast fashion (the practice of copying new runway trends immediately and cheaply) in favor of generating its own iconoclastic staples. Instead of outsourcing manufacturing to low-wage overseas workers, it produced almost everything it sold for wholesale and retail in its own factory in Los Angeles ... Production and design now follow a strict calendar, set by Schneider. "You have to have your raw materials where they’re supposed to be, your bundling down, your product cut up and ready to sew—there are a thousand steps that go into making this run smoothly," Schneider says. "And it’s more complicated [at American Apparel] because you’re knitting your own yarn, you’re dyeing your own fabric, and you’re manufacturing everything here and shipping everything yourself." In part, as a result, niche items that fall outside of American Apparel’s knit-production expertise—sweaters, denim—are now being outsourced to other factories around Los Angeles.
Starting in September 2015, people in the city noticed more planes flying in and out of the airport, loading and unloading those black-wrapped boxes. This March, Amazon announced that it was leasing 20 Boeing 767s from Air Transport Services Group, a cargo company that operates out of the air park. Amazon had also negotiated an option to buy nearly 20 percent of the company. ... Two months after the Ohio announcement, Amazon leased 20 more jets from Atlas Air, an air cargo company based in Purchase, N.Y. Amazon has also purchased 4,000 truck trailers. Meanwhile, a company subsidiary in China has obtained a freight-forwarding license that analysts say enables it to sell space on container ships traveling between Asia and the U.S. and Europe. In short, Amazon is becoming a kind of e-commerce Walmart with a FedEx attached. ... Amazon’s ambitions depend on the continued success of its Prime service. For $99 a year, Amazon Prime customers get two-day delivery at no extra charge. Those who sign up tend to spend almost three times as much as their non-Prime peers. The company zealously guards its numbers, but Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that Amazon had 63 million Prime members as of late June—19 million more than the year before.
If you’ve ever dressed up as a movie or television character for Halloween, the costume you bought was probably made by Rubie’s. The odds drop a little with generic characters like witches or vampires—plenty of smaller companies make those—but with more than 20,000 costumes and accessories for sale at retailers like Walmart, Amazon, and Party City, Rubie’s has probably played a part in your Halloween festivities. What started in 1951 as a soda shop/novelty store in Queens has, over the past 65 years, grown into an international business that earns hundreds of millions. (It doesn’t disclose figures, but the analytics firm IbisWorld estimates $251 million in revenue in the U.S.) Rubie’s has 3,000 employees, contracts with 12 factories in China, owns four factories in the U.S., and runs six large warehouses, four on Long Island, one in Arizona, and one in South Carolina. Rubie’s has also spawned 15 subsidiaries in countries such as Japan, the Netherlands, and the U.K. It sells Carnival costumes in Brazil, Day of the Dead dresses in Mexico, and Easter Bunny and Santa Claus suits around the world. But in America its bread and butter is still Halloween. ... Americans will shell out a record-breaking $8.4 billion on Halloween candy, costumes, and decorations this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That figure has jumped almost 70 percent in just 10 years, making Halloween the second-largest holiday in terms of decoration sales, behind Christmas. ... Rubie’s tries to anticipate Halloween trends a year in advance, but it’s constantly adjusting its plans as expected blockbusters flop (The Legend of Tarzan), beloved actors die (Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka costume will be popular this year), or millions of people get swept up in the Pokémon Go craze and Beige finds himself mass-manufacturing last-minute Pikachu costumes to fill thousands of back orders. ... unlike regular clothes, which are subject to high import duties, most costumes are considered “festive apparel” and can be imported duty-free.
For eight days each year, Basel becomes the centre of the watch universe. The fair’s organisers claimed 150,000 paying visitors and 1,800 brands spread over 141,000 square metres of exhibition space. Admission cost 60 Swiss francs a day (almost £50) ... The show was a celebration of our mastery of timekeeping, and of the refinement and years of training that go into making objects of beauty and accuracy. But it was also a celebration of excess and superfluousness, of watches that exist merely because they can, like animal acts at a circus. ... These days, no one requires a Swiss watch to tell the time – or a watch from any country. The time displayed on our mobile phones and other digital devices will always be more accurate than the time displayed on even the most skilfully engineered mechanical watch, yet the industry has a visual presence in our lives like few others. The storefronts of the world’s big-money boulevards glow with the lustre of Rolex and Omega; newspapers and magazines appear to be kept in business largely by watch adverts; airports would be empty shells without them. The export value of the Swiss watch trade fell by 3.3% last year, due primarily to a downfall in demand from the east Asia. But it is up 62.9% compared with six years ago. In 2015 the world bought 28.1m Swiss watches valued at 21.5 billion Swiss francs. ... the most complicated limited-edition watches sell for £1m or more. These watches have a waiting list, as the world only contains so many squinting master craftsmen who can make them, and even they haven’t found a way to extend the day beyond 24 hours. ... Exclusivity is a key to desirability. ... In 2014, the Swiss exported 29m watches. This was only 1.7% of all watches bought globally, but 58% of their value. ... To classify as Swiss Made, a watch must a) have a Swiss movement (that is, the basic mechanism consisting of cogs and springs that make the watch tick) b) have this movement incorporated in a case that is made within Switzerland and c) be checked and certified in Switzerland.
In the next 15 years India will see more people come online than any other country. Last year e-commerce sales were about $16 billion; by 2020, according to Morgan Stanley, a bank, the online retail market could be more than seven times larger. Such sales are expected to grow faster in India than in any other market. This has attracted a flood of investment in e-commerce firms, the impact of which may go far beyond just displacing offline retail. ... India’s small businesses have limited access to loans; most of its consumers do not have credit cards, or for that matter credit. The e-commerce companies are investing in logistics, helping merchants borrow and giving consumers new tools to pay for goods. ... Amazon wants to make India its second-biggest market, after America. For the time being, though, with just 12% of the market, it lags behind the home-grown successes, Flipkart (45%) and Snapdeal (26%). All three, as well as some smaller competitors, are spending at a blistering rate. ... The prospect of a second market growing to a near-Chinese size attracts those who made a packet the first time round. ... Indian regulations bar foreign-backed e-commerce firms from owning inventory, and so acting as a straightforward retailer is not an option. As a result India’s top e-commerce companies look much more like Alibaba.
The company’s deliberateness and caution may seem out of step in an age when management gurus celebrate a “fail fast” ethos. But for nearly three decades it has been a pace that has seemed to sit well with health-minded and environmentally conscious consumers, who have made Seventh Generation the biggest green cleaning brand in the U.S. market, with some $250 million in annual sales. In a relatively sleepy industry, the company’s revenues have averaged double-digit growth rates since 2006. ... The deal is a bet by Unilever on the continued evolution of a species: the eco-conscious consumer—an alert, premium-paying shopper. Initially that group was concerned only (or mostly) with what they put inside their bodies. Next they became more selective about what they put on them—and finally with what’s around them. In other words, says Nitin Paranjpe, president of Unilever’s home-care business, “it started off first in food, then moved to personal care, and now to home care as well. The entire natural segment is clearly on trend.” ... These shoppers, the theory goes, don’t just want cleaners that sound as though they’ve got a whiff of sage and citrus, but ones that are actually free of ingredients that consumers can barely pronounce and don’t understand. This demand for purity and simplicity, after all, has been one of the biggest drivers in the food industry for the past few years. ... another challenge for Seventh Generation now isn’t getting things clean, necessarily, but changing shoppers’ minds about what clean means. Consumers typically evaluate a detergent based not only on whether it removes stains and brightens clothes but also on whether it leaves them smelling “clean.” The problem is, clean isn’t supposed to smell like anything.
I could go on about the innovations at Domino’s, but Doyle’s most important lessons are about the mindset required for organizations to do big things in tough fields. Two of the great ills of executive life are what he calls, borrowing from behavioral economics, “omission bias” and “loss aversion.” Omission bias is the tendency to worry more about doing something than not doing something, because everyone sees the results of a move gone bad, and few see the costs of moves not made. Loss aversion describes the tendency to play not to lose rather than play to win. “The pain of loss is double the pleasure of winning,” he argues, so the natural inclination is to be cautious, even in situations that demand creativity. ... Leaders who want to shake things up have to be comfortable with the idea that “failure is an option,” Doyle concludes. In a world of hyper-competition and nonstop disruption, playing it safe is the riskiest course of all. That’s a recipe for reinvention that makes for good pizza and big change.
Nordstrom is beefing up its department store portfolio at a time when we are constantly being told the department store is dying. This summer, Macy's announced it was closing 15 percent of its American stores after six straight quarters of declining sales. Since 2014, J.C. Penney has closed 80 locations; Sears closed nearly 300. According to the US Department of Commerce, department store sales have declined 30 percent from $87.46 billion in 2005 to $60.65 billion in 2015. ... Department stores face a grim future, and it gets even gloomier when Amazon, which is set to outpace them in apparel sales, is factored into the equation. Yet Nordstrom is envisioning eight stores in Canada and three more new stores in the US by 2019, including a flagship in New York City. ... This focus on shoppers starts first and foremost with its generous return policy — or generous lack thereof. ... In addition to transparent customer relations, Nordstrom stocks an impressive mix of higher- and lower-end brands, without managing to alienate anyone. ... The changes are small and incremental, and yet they complete a larger picture for the Seattle-based brand. They don't just give the store a contemporary, boutique-y feel — they're clear indicators that Nordstrom has put a whole lot of thought into what a department store should look like in 2016 and beyond.
Costco acts more like a cheerful cult than a hard-driving business. Its executives are proud of the fact that the company promotes almost exclusively from within. Even CEO Craig Jelinek, 62, plainspoken and without affectation, once collected shopping carts at a Costco predecessor, and 98% of the company’s store managers have risen through the ranks. Its top executives have been working together for 30 years, more or less, which makes them family as much as colleagues. It also means there are a lot of gray heads now at those budget meetings. ... And therein lies the concern. At that month’s meetings, there were warm and wistful send-offs for six of those gray heads, all senior vice presidents, now retiring. And even though they would be replaced by younger Costco lifers, the succession raises a question: As the company approaches its 35th anniversary, will the replacements keep Costco as Costco? ... It is the question. Lots of companies brag about their culture. But few are as proud of it or as dependent upon it as Costco is. Morgan Stanley retail analyst Simeon Gutman calls it a “super-culture,” which he describes as, “If we continue to serve and delight our customers, they’ll want to keep coming back.
Lego is an idea as much as it is a toy; if you try hard enough, you can fit the entire story of the last century of child’s play and the hopes and desires of every parent into one of its 9.6-millimeter-tall rectangular plastic bricks. Molded in a thermoplastic polymer, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, Legos are known for their durability, which is why you can pull out the 30-year-old Legos stashed in your parents’ basement and, dated color schemes aside, they’ll be the same as they ever were. Not only will they look the same, but they will fit together with every other one Lego has ever made, even those going back to 1949, when a Danish toy-maker named Ole Kirk Kristiansen made his first plastic brick. Lego calls it the System of Play, and it is both a manufacturing principle, allowing the company to reuse the same molds to make infinite new sets, and a play proposition: The more bricks you own, the more you can build. ... Like all 6,500 Lego elements — cubes, rectangles, octagons, wheel beds, arches, even the tiny semi-circular hands of yellow mini-figures — the standard brick has a variation of just 0.004 millimeters, which means Legos are more precisely crafted than your coffeemaker, your television, even your iPhone. ... By 2003, the company was on the brink of financial collapse, just three years after Fortune had named it “Toy of the Century.” ... In Lego lore, the crisis provoked a companywide soul search. And where the soul was located was in the brick. Henceforth, the brick would be the center of everything it did, toy trends be damned. ... play researchers argued that toys should foster more open-ended creativity and exploration — toys that forced the child to do the work, like Lego.
As so many great entrepreneurial success stories do, the tale of Mike Lindell begins in a crack house. ... It was when he realized that abusing crack and running a business weren’t compatible in the long term and vowed to get better. ... Lindell is sober and phenomenally successful. He quit everything after one final party on Jan. 16, 2009, and presides over an empire that’s still growing precipitously. Last year he opened a second factory, saw sales rise from $115 million to $280 million, and almost tripled his workforce, to 1,500. To date he’s sold more than 26 million pillows at $45 and up, a huge number of them directly to consumers who call and order by phone after seeing or hearing one of his inescapable TV and radio ads. ... He’s an unusual manager, governing largely on instinct and by making seemingly wild gambles that he swears are divinely inspired. … Throughout his life he’d sought the perfect pillow. He never slept well, and things kept happening to worsen the problem. ... When Lindell imagined his perfect pillow, it was micro-adjustable but would keep its shape all night. He bought every variety of foam and then asked his two sons to sit on the deck of the house with him and tear the foam into different-size pieces that they’d stuff into prototypes for testing. ... When desperate, he counted cards at the blackjack table to pay for materials. He was good at it. Eventually, all the casinos within a day’s drive banned him. ... In six months, he grew from 50 to 500 employees and sold almost $100 million in pillows. ... Lindell was losing $250,000 a week. ... What saved the entrepreneur was FedEx. It hadn’t occurred to him to negotiate shipping rates; he just paid retail with a bunch of different shippers.
In the first quarter of 2016, Huawei sold 10 times as many phones as Apple in Finland, according to research firm IDC. And in October it soared ahead of Samsung for the market-share lead. ... Today you can’t stride through Helsinki without encountering a Huawei billboard. You can’t watch Jokerit, one of the country’s top hockey teams, without seeing Huawei’s flower-in-bloom logo. And you can’t find an electronics store where Huawei’s phones don’t outnumber Samsung’s and Apple’s. ... Enter Huawei—probably the most viable contender yet to loosen the giants’ grip. It’s a 170,000-employee company with $61 billion in sales, selling telecom equipment in 170 countries. Since 2014 it has been No. 1 globally in sales of the networking equipment that underpins telecommunication systems, taking the crown from Sweden’s Ericsson. And now its goal is to dominate the market for the phones themselves. It has taken big strides toward doing just that in China and in growing swaths of Europe—helped in those Western countries by side deals with wireless carriers that have not previously been reported.
Among a segment of hardcore big-game hunters, no brand is as revered as Kuiu. The company's high-performance fabrics — bonded fleece and waterproof breathable synthetics — are pulled directly from the mountaineering world, and its distinct Tetris-like camo pattern looks more like standard-issue SEAL gear than the fake shrubbery so common at Walmart. Today Kuiu camo is as much a status symbol in hook-and-bullet culture as Louis Vuitton's monogram is among the Hamptons set. ... Based on its horns, the largest in the group looks like a shooter, but to get within range we have to hike up and over a 13,000-foot peak, then down and around the back side of the ridge where the sheep were first seen. Doing so takes most of the morning, stopping and starting to catch our breath and continually watch the movement of the rams. ... these days, hunting has been embraced by a new breed of devotees: athletic, tech-savvy, ethically minded professionals who like to play year-round in the mountains.
Before the American Dream was the American Dream, it was Xanadu. When ground broke on the site in 2004, hundreds of guests attended a million-dollar party, with martinis in one tent and artificial snow in another. Xanadu’s developer, Mills Corp., completed most of the main building before running out of money in 2006. A second developer ran aground in the Great Recession. The Trump Organization, among others, decided against taking on Xanadu, which sat vacant and ridiculed, having already cost developers $2 billion. ... The Ghermezian family story, the one they don’t often talk about, begins in Central Asia in the early 20th century. Jacob Ghermezian, Don’s grandfather, operated a large bazaar in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, until the Russian Revolution abolished private property. He moved to Tehran and built a real estate fortune whose centerpiece was a complex with shopping, entertainment, apartments, and offices ... In the 1950s, amid political and economic uncertainty, Jacob, his wife, Miriam, and their four sons—Nader, Raphael, Bahman, and Eskandar, who is Don’s father—left Iran for North America. ... Like most real estate developers, the Ghermezians depend on other people’s money to build. The larger the project, the riskier it is to investors, because the steep initial cost comes far in advance of the revenue.