just procrastinating

Thursday, January 15, 2004

From this story on Kenneth Cole, a common theme with entrepreneurs:
In 1982, he left to start his own company, then called Kenneth Cole Inc. He designed a line of shoes and hired an Italian factory to make them. That fall, he wanted to show off his wares at the industry's main trade show at a Hilton hotel in midtown Manhattan.

Designers had two options for showing off their products, Cole says. "You could be one of about 1,100 companies that took a little room at the Hilton. But that wasn't a great way to define yourself. Or you could set up a fancy showroom near the hotel. I clearly didn't have the money for that." So he hit upon the idea of borrowing a friend's tractor-trailer, parking it in front of the Hilton and peddling shoes from there. Unfortunately, that required a permit, which only the city could issue.

"I called the mayor's office and said, 'How does someone get permission to park a 40-foot trailer on the street in New York?' And they said, 'The answer, son, is that they don't. This is New York. There are only two exceptions -- if you are a utility company doing service or a production company shooting a full-length motion picture.'"

The next day, Cole changed the name of his company to Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. and filed for a permit to shoot a full-length motion picture called, The Birth of a Shoe Company. "With the mayor's blessing, I opened for business on December 2, 1982. I had two New York policemen as my doormen, compliments of the city. I sold 40,000 pairs of shoes in less than three days."
What is interesting to me is the common theme that seems to run through these success stories. Most people would probably just give up, realizing that they could never get a permit. But the entreprenuer, in this case Kenneth Cole, didn't hear the word "no" he heard "yes if". There is a certain kind of optimism that you need to be able to hear that.

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