paula1-200x300Paula Froelich knows a thing or two about women traveling solo. You might find Paula riding camels in Egypt, skiing in Afghanistan, or behind the scenes at the Miss Universe pageant. Paula is the free-spirited editor-in-chief of Yahoo Travel.  She is a travel writer with a video series based on her blog A Broad Abroad and an award-winning journalist writing about politics, travel and pop culture.

1. Statistics say that the 32 million single women are traveling solo, and that number exceeds men traveling solo. Why are more women traveling alone?

There are a bunch of stats out there – according to  32 % of women said they travel alone to “give myself the chance to truly relax and unwind, while 30% said they do it to “escape my every day life.”  Forty-four percent (44%) said they would travel alone to truly get time to themselves.

But I  also think that – 1. women get more independent as they get older, 2. with technology it is safer and easier to feel more connected while you travel, and 3. solo travel allows women – who are usually the caretakers – to truly relax and not have to worry about anyone else. It’s a rare opportunity to be alone and enjoy something you like to do – where and when you want to do it without feeling guilty or stressing over someone else’s good time.

2. What is the most fascinating learning you have gleaned about women traveling solo? 

I thinks it’s interesting that women, as they get older, are more fearless. I’ve traveled a lot for my blog A Broad Abroad, Yahoo Travel and my show, A Broad Abroad, and the majority of people traveling right now are women of a certain age… and it’s not to all the usual places like Europe or Canada… they are taking trips to Timbuktu, skiing in Afghanistan, trekking through Vietnam, you name it. A huge part of it is the feeling of “Well – I did what I was supposed to do. I got married, had kids, worked at the right job and now.. I want to do something for me.”

3. What kind of female-friendly amenities do women look for when they travel? What do they expect in technology?

I know what I look for: hotels with women only floors, or at the very least, hotels that won’t stick me on a ground floor. WiFi is also VERY important – and it really irks me when hotels charge for it. If Howard Johnson’s ain’t charging, why are you?

4. Are there certain countries that women are not accepted as solo travelers?

I wouldn’t say not accepted but some countries are more difficult than others. Traveling solo in parts of the Middle East can be challenging, but then again, so can traveling in Italy, where it’s very traditional and men are aggressive. I had a friend who looooves Paris and goes several times a year, but this last trip really upset her – traveling alone she was beset by unwanted offers and even went so far as to post this quote from Rhian Sasseen’s essay in Aeon magazine to her Facebook timeline: “A woman alone, unwatched, unchaperoned and without children is impossible for us to process.” When I asked her about it she said, “women in France aren’t able to ever be alone. Even if they are, it’s considered an invitation for a man to come up to her. Incredible.” So, yeah. There’s the obvious (Middle East) but also, frankly, many places in Europe and the West are still annoying. You just have to be able to go with the flow.

5. What are some fascinating travel trends for 2015 that women travelers have embraced?

Just the super uber trend of solo and adventure.  The average adventure traveler is a 47 year old woman, not a Red Bull swigging 27-year-old dude – and women are all about culture and experience. And again, women are traveling either alone or in small groups where they don’t know anyone in advance of the trip.

6. Where in the world does Paula want to travel this year?

Oh I am hyped up about going to Mongolia, Japan and hiking the Ho Chi Min trail in Vietnam.

Joanie Flynn, a true travel professional, helps us understand the new challenges of consumer behavior, the sharing economy, review sites and the growing number of marketing channels.  Joanie, Vice President of Marketing for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism along the Alabama Gulf Coast, has spent her entire career working in all phases of travel and tourism marketing with major players Hilton, Four Seasons, Resort Quest, and Gaylord. 
1.      How has destination marketing changed in the past five years?  
There are a myriad of ways that destination marketing has changed in the past five years.  Some of the changes include the behavioral changes consumers are undertaking by searching travel topics and destinations online, visiting review sites and blogs as well as being more active in social media, and valuing family and friend travel recommendations on sites like TripAdvisor.  Our destination is dominated by vacation rentals even as our hotel offerings expand, so we are facing the need to educate customers about our lodging inventory while also learning to deal with changing dynamics of social sharing economy companies like HomeAway and AirBnB. 
Our world is more data driven than it was before.  We communicate with our past visitors and potential visitors in a host of ways.  We serve a different customer each season, so our communications are segmented too.  As a result the marketing approach has to be more integrated and cut across all the distribution options and channels where a potential customer might be active and engaged.  We spend time creating and re-purposing content, striving to always be relevant to our customer’s needs. So our team and its skill sets have broadened.  We still do print, TV and radio advertising plus produce both print and digital vacation guides annually in addition to all the social, email, content and digital marketing we carry out.  We have content calendars, send emails, create banner ads and content campaigns, and search for new ways to present our 32 miles of sugar white sand and turquoise water in appealing and engaging ways.
So it used to be an EITHER/OR world – run an ad or send a direct mail piece.  Now it’s become a BOTH/& world where we have to undertake all of the above to service our guests and meet our destination marketing needs.

 2.      Tell us about your target audiences.  Are women still making the travel decisions in their households?

Our audience is primarily families based on what our destination offers – a great and safe beach experience with a host of lodging choices, lots of restaurants and attractions to help families relax, reconnect and make wonderful vacation memories.  Families make more joint vacation decisions today – the kids definitely have an influence on the WHERE and WHAT decisions.  We find that the woman brings up the WHO, WHEN and HOW issues of trip planning, while the men often have concerns to be addressed about COST.  Many of our families that travel here are multi-generational, pursuing a host of activities and interests.  The extended family will break up to sample activities and then come back together for beach time, swimming, meals and evening activities.  Mom or the baby boomer grandmother usually is the research gatherer, and then everyone gets together and gives their input.  The female is still our influencer.

This is still true too for couples get-aways and girlfriend getaways.  And the wife in our many snow bird couples figures prominently in the winter stay visitors that we host, though her husband wants to know there will be plenty of activities to please him too.  The guys tend to research and plan their fishing and golf getaways, but often deputize one of the guys to do the research and serve as the booking coordinator.

We have a few new segments, namely home-schooled families and nature travelers.  The former finds all the nature, history, cultural and arts activities in our area make for a great edutainment vacation where some curriculum goals can be met while the family still finds time to relax.  The latter group is discovering our bike and hiking trails, our canoe and kayak blueways as well as our fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving attractions.  Increasingly we see all visitors making decisions based on the broad roster of events that happen throughout the year in our destination, from culture, arts, music concerts and live music venues, culinary, shopping, sports events, history and nature events – there is something to draw interested parties every month of the year.  So one of the biggest changes is that, while summer is still our biggest season, we are becoming more of a year-round destination over time as we showcase and draw people based on their needs and interests.

3.  What is the most interesting marketing initiative you have implemented recently?

In 2014 we undertook a special content distribution campaign with several content distributors that helped underscore the value of content – articles, blogs, photography and video.  With some we created the content, while with others we worked

with some of their writers to create the articles that were placed.  The articles were made visible based on the search terms that people used.  Our articles would appear next to their normal search results in a “you might also be interested in these” 
section.  That drove a lot of new qualified visitors to our brand new responsive design website.  Once there, people explored and found out more about what we have to offer; many decided to book a visit!  Once these people visited our website, we also re-
targeted them with special ads to bring them back to our website to explore more.

At the heart of making this a successful venture was relevant, engaging, interesting content that met a host of audience needs and interests.  We have also learned how to take content that has proven itself and to push it out via promoted posts on Facebook or on different of our social media platforms, of course, adjusting and making it appealing and engaging for each platform’s audience.  All of these strategies and tactics have pulled our entire team into becoming content creators and specialists in repurposed content.  To accomplish this we had to be highly focused; we had to understand our customers wants and needs, and many on our team had to become better at understanding website flows, consumption and metrics.

4.  How does storytelling become part of marketing a destination?

Storytelling has become the price of admission to interacting with a potential visitor.  We truly became convinced of this once we integrated our library of blogs, that had lived on a separate site, into our new website.  The organic search traffic from that step alone has driven an incredible rise in our destination site visits.  In many ways it is how people find us now, and once they do, we can retarget them.  And each time they come back, they can engage in great content, view a digital version of our vacation guide or register to receive a mailed printed copy.  Some people decide to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter with the inside scoop on events, seasonal offerings and great things to do.  It doesn’t hurt that at every touch point, they can see beautiful, scenic photos, watch a short video, or maybe share a blog post or a social media post with anticipated travel companions.  Once you create the stories, you will figure out ways to weave it all together in a unique tapestry of discovery,  If you do it right, you will be creating a customer for life. 

5.  What are you still learning in your career?

 I learn every day and always will.  Marketing changes all the time; the skill set has to expand.  I learn about my destination and what our visitors appreciate about our destination.  Media and technology habits are changing all the time. The audiences we serve are changing all the time too.  It is a lot to keep up with, so it is important to invest in reading – newsletters, blogs, books – and attending conferences and professional development seminars to network, see what’s working for others and what is on the horizon.  You have to sharpen your toolset continuously or you will get rusty and out-of-date.  And you have to remain inquisitive in every definition of that word.  It energizes me because travel is my personal passion, and helping visitors have a wonderful, relaxing and memorable vacation is my professional passion!

 6.  Is a Monday at the beach still better than a Monday anywhere else?

Definitely!  Even it is raining or cold, the beach and its many moods will never disappoint.  There is always a new sunrise or sunset to savor.  Or a new walk to take.  Layer in the nature interactions that help to bring the beach alive, and there is nothing that compares.  Hurry on down for a visit; we would love to show you around our little corner of paradise!

IMG_0288Some say the food can teach you everything you need to know about a culture.

Research shows that 39% of travelers say the key reason they recently took one or more trips was the availability of culinary activities. Chef Paulette Licitra, an Italian cooking instructor in Nashville, has combined that special love for food and travel by leading “live like the locals” Italian cooking adventures.  Paulette’s trips take small groups to experience Italy as an Italian.

She has taken women to Rome, Venice, and the Amalfi Coast.  The groups stay in apartments, shop outdoor food markets, visit butcher and produce stores, and then bring it back to their local kitchen to try their hand at local specialties.  Beyond cooking, they visit popular attractions and go on wine tours.

She shares a recipe with us that she found in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast from a local chef.  Buon Viaggio & Buon Appetito!


Simmered Cod in Acqua Pazza (Crazy Water) with Tomatoes, Garlic & Parsley.

2-3 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely diced

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

A pinch of hot pepper

1/4 cup minced parsley

salt & pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups water

4 Cod fillets

1/2 loaf baguette, sliced

In a large sauté pan, with a cover, add all the ingredients, except the fish. Cover and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for about 30 minutes. Take the cover off and let liquid reduce to at least half. Add the cod fillets. Season fish with salt. Cover partially (askew), and cook until fillets are done and cooked through — about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the bread slices. Serve a toasted bread slice to each person with a cod fillet and juices.

Paulette Licitra teaches cooking classes, and leads food-focused tours in Italy, Nashville & New York. Paulette completed her professional culinary studies at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in NYC. She was Chef at Rustico Cooking in New York, cooked in Mario Batali’s restaurant Lupa, and her catering company Chez Paulette specialized in appetizer parties for private and corporate events. Paulette has traveled extensively in Italy for culinary research, and studied with home cooks in Lazio, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Piemonte, Campania, and the Veneto. She can be seen on Nashville’s Channel 4 WSMV’s “More at Midday.” Paulette is also the publisher of the online food journal, Alimentum.

miller_janet_colliers_bigDuring her time as chief development officer for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Janet Miller saw the creation of 93,000 new jobs and the recruitment of some 275 companies to Nashville.  Janet Miller is now the CEO and Nashville Market Leader for Colliers International.  She tells Brand Wise why Nashville is hot, and we are not talking chicken here!

1.  We have heard you say that Nashville is a powerful brand. Why do you think so?

I do think that Nashville is a powerful brand, and I think it is one of the few cities in the country that have such a powerful – and AUTHENTIC brand.  Where ever you go around the country, when you tell people that you are from Nashville, they break out into a smile.  People love this place.  And the Music City image is an amazing brand to have, and serves us well, even if we are ‘pitching’ the city for other things like business relocation.  Because people recognize that at the root of all things Nashville is creativity – companies and people crave creativity.  And Nashville has it in spades

2.  Do other powerful brand associations make our city brand stronger?  What are they?

There are literally hundreds of other powerful brands that call Nashville home that reinforce that authentic, creative, genuine spirit of Music City.  Brands as widely divergent from each other as Jack Daniels, Goo Goos, the Grand Ole Opry, Gibson Guitars, and the Bluebird.  And in recent years, you have enormous international brands like Nissan, Bridgestone, even Beretta who are calling Nashville home.  The common theme – authenticity, quality, not trying to be something that we aren’t.

3.  Tell us a little about the amazing growth that is going on in Nashville.

So Nashville has been a bit of a rocket ship for the past three or four years.  We have led the nation in job growth for three of the past four years; over 30,000 new people every year decide to pack up their lives and their dreams to move into this place.  And we continually rank in ‘top tens’ – no matter what the category.  Friendliest cities; best cities for careers; best travel destinations; best cities for young professionals; best cities for tech jobs; even “manliest cities in America”.  Not too sure about that one, but we’ll take it.  Oh – and best looking cities in America.  We just ranked in the top ten for that one too.

4.  What has made Nashville and Janet Miller such a good couple?  How has Nashville shaped your career?

I am a big believer that if you can find the intersection of what you are passionate about, what you are good at, and what you can make a living at – that your life will be successful.  And my life has exceeded my wildest dreams because I found a job for 21 years – heading up economic development for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce – that sat right in that sweet spot.  I moved 4 months ago to become CEO of Colliers International Nashville office – one of the largest commercial real estate brokerage firms in town and in the nation – and, shall I say………lightning has struck twice.  I cannot think of a more fun, challenging way to impact Nashville’s growth than being in the thick of the real estate development wave.

5.  Is Nashville a good place for working women?  

My belief is that if you are smart and work hard as a woman in Nashville, the sky is the limit.  My role here at Colliers is a pretty non-traditional role for a female.  In fact, a lot of media noise was made when I moved to this role because it really hadn’t been done in one of the large brokerage firms here before.  But this is a town that embraces hard work and creativity, and I can name 100 amazing women right now who are SHAPING this city.  It is super exciting to be in the midst of that.

6.  What excites you about your career at this stage?

Every day I am learning something new in this new position, and I get to be part of building an amazing culture.  I care about making Colliers the place in town that people are banging the doors down so that they can come to work here every day.  And that excites me.

7.  What makes a good vacation for Janet Miller?

Pure relaxation, the ability to get unchained from my “handheld device”, the companionship of my husband, a good bottle of wine, a great bed, and perhaps the sound of the ocean crashing outside the window.  I’m headed to Mexico soon, and plan on seeking out every single one of those items, and maybe even, a shot or two of good tequila.

D961F5F9-A144-46A3-A979-45A2AAC03CF2Have you listened to This American Life podcast hit “Serial”? Well, since “Serial” debuted in October 2014, the series has experienced some 40 million downloads and launched a new popularity in podcasts.  All of a sudden, podcasts are cool!

Our friend Dave Delaney knows a lot about podcasting.  He started podcasting back in 2005.   Now he’s hosting a weekly podcast about business networking and teaching others how to make podcasts part of their marketing arsenal.

We asked him to tell us a little about podcasting:


“Jamie kindly offered me a little place in her newsletter to talk to you about podcasting. If you haven’t downloaded an Internet radio show yet, you will soon. According to the Washington Post, podcast downloads passed the 1 billion mark last year and monthly podcast listeners reached 75 million per month.Around 20% of Americans listen to podcasts once a month. That may not sound like a lot, but consider traditional radio reaches 240 million people each week. As podcasting increases in popularity, the early adopters will reap the benefits.
I started podcasting back in 2005. I hosted one of the first parenting podcasts with my wife, Heather. We received coverage in an article on podcasting in USA Today and we were featured by iTunes and Yahoo, back when podcasting was in it’s infancy. Now, I host a weekly podcast about business networking called New Business Networking Radio, I’d love for you to give it a listen at Since 58% of Americans own a smartphone and Apple’s iPhone now comes with their native Podcasts app installed, you can bet that podcasting is only going to become more popular this year.
Jeff Brown from the Read to Lead Podcast and I have created a full day workshop to help you learn everything you need to know to launch a successful podcast. Visit to learn the details and use the code DAVE100 to save $100 on the workshop. I hope to see you there.”

UnknownGoo Goos are as much a part of the Nashville scene as the Grand Ole Opry and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.  In fact, Goo Goo Clusters just opened a new store in downtown Nashville.   Beth Sachan, director of marketing for Goo Goo Cluster, recently told us about the new popularity for one of Nashville’s oldest treats. In 2011, the iconic candy celebrated its 100th Anniversary, but don’t think of it as old.

Keith Urban and the Walking Dead don’t think so.  Recently Keith Urban made quite a stir wearing a “What a Cluster” Goo Goo t-shirt on American Idol, and of course, the t-shirts immediately sold out at Goo Goo.  A Goo Goo bar also had a cameo in the mid-season finale of the popular TV series Walking Dead.  Character Morgan Jones stops inside a church to pray, leaving a rabbit’s foot, a bullet and a Goo Goo Cluster on the alter. Beth said “It wasn’t completely a surprise, but it was somewhat a surprise in how it was used. I was a bit surprised it had such prominent placement. …That was pretty cool.”

It seems that the Goo Goo Cluster has become an iconic southern product. When a person visits Nashville, eating a Goo Goo is almost always on their ‘Must Do’ list.  These days Goo Goo Clusters can be found in retail stores across the United States as well as online.

Beth says the story of how the candy came to be named comes in many versions, but the true story is that Howell Campbell, the inventor of the Goo Goo Cluster, was announcing to fellow passengers on a streetcar his newborn son’s first words and a schoolteacher made the connection with the candy. She suggested Mr. Campbell name his treat Goo Goo! It is so good, people will ask for it from birth.

beth headshotBeth has been with Goo Goo since 2011.  In that time, Beth has overseen the marketing efforts behind the company’s 100 year anniversary celebration, coordinated sponsorships with the Nashville Sounds and Predators, launched successful retail campaigns at retailers like Walgreens and Kroger, and managed all PR and advertising for the newly opened Goo Goo Shop in downtown Nashville.

In addition to her role at Goo Goo, Beth is the creator of Eat. Drink. Smile., a successful food & drink blog, and a freelance writer that has contributed to The Tennessean, Nashville Lifestyles magazines, The Guardian and Expedia. Last year, Southern Living listed her personal Twitter account (@betheats) as “One of the Nine Southern Twitter Feeds You Should Be Following”.


ooey-gooey-goo-goo-barsEverywhere we go, we see an homage to the Goo Goo Cluster. Trendy Southern restaurants are serving everything from pies and brownies to ice cream using the famous Goo Goo as an ingredient. Beth Sachan shared this decadent, easy recipe for you lovers.  And who doesn’t like to say, “Oh, I just made a batch of  Ooey Gooey Goo Goo Bars!

Ooey Gooey Goo Goo Bars

Makes 16-20 bars.


1 18.25 oz box of yellow cake mix
3 eggs
6 Original Goo Goo Clusters, chopped
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
4 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 300 and spray a 9×13 dish with cooking spray. Mix cake mix, melted butter and one egg to a soft dough. Press into the bottom of the pan. Spread chopped Goo Goo Clusters evenly over the dough.

Mix powdered sugar, softened cream cheese and remaining two eggs until smooth, about 1-2 mins. Pour on top of Goo Goo Cluster pieces. Bake at 300 for 45-50 minutes until top is golden brown. Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

paula1-200x300At our Lipstick Economy blog, we talk a lot about the Single Women market in the United States and how often they are being overlooked, in favor of the nuclear family.  Back in February, we visited with our friend Paula Froelich, now Travel Editor at Yahoo!, about this growing single women market.  And it turns out she wrote this fabulous Newsweek article about Advertising’s Untapped Market:  Single Women.

Paula describes this group:   “Women over 35, unmarried, with no children and – most important from an advertising point of view – successful. With apologies to Helen Reddy, theyshould be too big to ignore. Single Indies spend around $1 trillion each year…and there are 28 million of them. Yet, in both advertising and media, this pocketbook powerhouse is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent.”

And our little contribution:  “People don’t realize what a large group of people were talking about,” says Jamie Dunham, president of the branding and marketing company Brandwise and a self-described “reformed advertising executive.” “This is not a small group. The Single Indie is almost a third of all adult women. And she has disposable income: She’s traveling, she’s buying things for her home, she’s getting a nice car because she doesn’t have the expense of a family household.”

More from the article:  “Last year, NBCUniversal’s Integrated Media group found that Single Indies were not just successful (accounting for 59 percent of master degree holders), they spent $22 billion on vehicles (five times more than independent men), $20 billion on entertainment, and $50 billion on food.”

So for marketers the message is clear.  You might need to move  from Real Housewives and focus on these highly independent, successful women who are buying for themselves and their extended family.




Luke Duncan

Luke Duncan

We asked Luke Duncan to tell us a little about marketing an artisanal brand and what we got was the “vent size” explanation of what goes on in small food marketing.  Here is what Luke told us:

I make and sell a line of premium, small batch cocktail mixers here in Nashville under the brand Eli Mason.  As a small business owner, I love networking with other small food businesses and finding ways we can work together to collectively grow the market for artisanal goods.  But I’ve noticed that sometimes I have trouble giving or receiving advice from other food manufacturers. It’s not that I don’t trust their experience, intelligence, or motives. It’s just that we’re playing in very different fields.

For example, if you make a family-friendly salsa, your path to success may lie in finding a few key distribution partners (including brokers) who can place your product in mid-level grocery stores across the region. You then advertise heavily in 3-6 states and try to push competing salsa brands out of your customers’ pantries, eventually ramping up to a national advertising campaign and truly mass production. Your margins are thin but you make it up in volume on a longer timeline.

Whereas if you sell a super-premium chocolate product, you may rely more on smaller retailers, special promotions, and storytelling to convey a sense of exclusivity. You can command higher margins per piece, but your volumes are much, much lower, and you can never sell in the big chain stores for fear of damaging your reputation.

In the world of premium cocktail mixers, I would be more likely to trade advice with the chocolatier than the salsa maker. Not because the chocolatier is smarter or better. (The salsa maker may be on track to sell their brand for $100 million in 5 years.) It’s just that our approaches are more closely aligned. Close, but not the same.


I’m beginning to suspect that one particularly important axis of differentiation among small food producers is how we understand and implement Blue Ocean strategy.  Simply put, “Red Oceans” are industries in which the rules are well known, the major players are established, and the markets are crowded. There’s blood in the water from so much competition. Examples include packaged breakfast cereals, frozen pizza, mass-produced candy, inexpensive coffee, dairy products, peanut butter, and rice, beans, and other staples. Even in a Red Ocean, there is still room to differentiate yourself on quality or service, but you will mostly be competing on price.

“Blue Oceans” are markets that have yet to be developed. Deploying into a Blue Ocean requires vision, innovation, and lots of time spent educating your customers. Because very few companies are playing in this space, you get to define the rules and market expectations. But your potential customers may not even know they need your Blue Ocean solution. It’s your job both to educate them on a problem they didn’t know they had, and to show them why your solution is best. Blue ocean strategy is more about differentiating yourself than simply competing on price or service, though price will always be a factor to most buyers.

In the food space, examples of Blue Ocean products include kombucha, alternative sweeteners like agave or stevia, gluten-free mixes, and Greek yogurt, which is currently exploding into a Red Ocean space (and making early-mover Chobani very wealthy).

The energy drink category is a notoriously Red space right now, but when Red Bull got started almost 30 years ago, those waters were Blue. So their long-term strategy hinged on educating the public about what it means to live the Red Bull Lifestyle: Parties, motocross, BASE jumping, skateboarding, etc. They built a marketing vision around this lifestyle because educating the public was critical to gaining marketshare in this new area of consumption. People didn’t always want more energy. They first needed an outlet for it, a way to put this product to use to further their own personal brands and lifestyles.

No market is completely Red or Blue, but you often must choose which strategy to pursue. For a marketer, your approach depends on where you’re competing.  Every mid-sized American city has a jam/jelly maker, a granola person or two, a premium chocolatier, a few innovative bakeries, three BBQ sauciers, and a half-dozen coffee roasters. And every town thinks theirs is the best. This is not a bad thing at all. If you make one of these products, your customers probably already use them. You can start selling your wares tomorrow without having to educate your (potential) customers about how to squeeze them into their culinary lives.  But you will also be limited in your growth potential unless you can truly differentiate yourself through quality, branding, storytelling, and more.


Eli+Mason+Full+Lineup+2014Eli Mason is a Blue Ocean product. Sure, cocktail mixers have existed for years (usually in the form of corn syrup, dyes, and artificial flavors), but premium concoctions for mixing up classic libations are a relatively new invention. A spirit-forward Old Fashioned in a bottle?! It’s the most delicious heresy.

When I work the Eli Mason booth at artisan food shows, I often get confused looks from customers. I bring them in with the promise of a free sample and then begin educating them about this category and how Eli Mason approaches it. It’s not enough to say, “Premium, hand-crafted cocktail mixer.” I also must explain that our products are spirit-forward (accentuating the base spirit, not covering it up) and use pre-Prohibition ingredients like Gomme Syrup for a rich mouthfeel and smooth finish.

In a Blue Ocean marketplace, everyone you meet is probably experiencing your product and brand for the first time. One of my retail partners likes to say that Eli Mason must be sold before it can be bought. That is, nobody comes in the door thinking, “How can I make a Mint Julep more easily?” But once they try it and find a place for it in their home bar, they usually come back to stock up. And when Derby season rolls around ….

If you want to compete in a Blue Ocean marketplace, you’ve got to be humble and always ready to learn. You’re a teacher now, and your job is to learn the best way to help others learn. You’re constantly experimenting and finding new ways to connect with potential customers: Videos, recipes, demonstrations, samplings, sponsorships, and so much more.

There is no inherent superiority to the Blue Ocean approach. The strategies you pursue and the markets you enter are more about your style than your IQ.  Competing in a Red Ocean marketplace is more about solving problems related to logistics, production, and growth.  Competing in a Blue Ocean is more about solving problems related to communication and branding. How to help someone see the value of your product. How to help them use your brand to further their own personal brand and become an advocate for your cause.

Do not get confused, however, about which marketplace you’re competing in. I’ve seen more than one artisan become frustrated when they keep solving Red Ocean problems and expecting Blue Ocean results.

tory-burch-coverThe improving economy is encouraging many women to start their own business.  Entrepreneurs like Tory Burch are helping with programs that support the economic empowerment of other women entrepreneurs.  There are nearly 9.1 million women-owned enterprises, employing nearly 7.9 million workers and generating over $1.4 trillion in revenues.

But women owned businesses are not able to grow at the same rate as male owned businesses. Businesses owned by men are three and a half times as likely to reach $1 million in annual revenues as are businesses owned by women. Investment is one struggle that women-owned businesses face.  The number is still small but nearly 20% of angels in 2012 invested in women-led businesses.

Burch is one who is trying to change things.  She began her own fashion house in 2004, and in ten short years, she has been listed as the 79th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. In 2009, Burch founded the Tory Burch Foundation, which supports the economic empowerment of women in the U.S. through small business loans, mentoring and entrepreneurial education.  In 2014, the foundation launched Elizabeth Street Capital, an initiative with Bank of America, with an initial investment of $10 million in capital to provide women entrepreneurs with access to low cost loans, mentoring support and networking opportunities. The initiative is named for the location of the first Tory Burch boutique. The foundation also offers an entrepreneurial education program in collaboration with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and Babson College. Burch’s stores sell products whose proceeds support the Foundation’s work.

If that doesn’t make you want to buy a new pair of Tory Burch flats, I don’t know what does.