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Tuesday, 25 November 2014 10:06
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Nothing says Thanksgiving quite like a pecan pie. Sure, the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce are important, and apple and pumpkin pies are more widely made and eat, but pecan pie, with its sweet nuttiness, is the perfect Thanksgiving dessert.

The pie is overly sweet, contains both a crunch, and gooey center, and contains nearly as many calories per slice as an entire plate mounded high with turkey and all the fixings. It’s an over-the-top end, to an over-the-top meal.

In other words, it’s heaven.


Consisting almost entirely of one ingredient (and I don’t mean the pecans), the pie seems like it was almost made to be marketed as candy with a crust. And the truth is, that’s not too far from the truth.

Because for whatever else it is, pecan pie is also a content marketing masterpiece.

And I’m going to prove it to you.

To really understand how pecan pie came about, we have to go back to the beginning. Not to to the first Thanksgiving, when the Pilgrims in their funny hats and buckled shoes shared in the bounty of the friendly American indians, but back to the early days of the sugar refining business.


Sugar!

Americans have always loved their sweets, but they weren’t always cheap.

Historically, the primary sweetener in North America was maple syrup, the sap of the sugar maple tree. Native Americans had long been collecting and consuming maple syrup. As much as 12% of the diet of some northeastern tribes was what they called “tree water.” The Native Americans caught the sap from the tree in hollowed or carved-out logs and cooked it by dropping hot rocks into the collected sap. Early European settlers learned from the natives how to collect the sap, and improved on the refining process. By 1800, Americans consumed 18 pounds of sugar per year, the bulk of which was maple syrup and its derivatives.

Refined cane sugar and molasses were also available domestically, but the fact that they were produced from sugar cane, which only grew in the subtropical latitudes of the Caribbean Sea, and had be processed on-site, made it more expensive to import during the age of the sailing ship.


By the late 1800s, though, the status of maple syrup and cane sugar had switched. By this time, lumber harvesting has decimated the trees, and less than 20% of the northeastern United States was still forested. The steam ship dramatically reduced transportation costs, and processed cane sugar because proportionately cheaper and more widely available. Effectively by the end of the century, cane sugar had become the commodity sweetener and maple syrup had become the luxury item, something only to be used once a week on a pile of steaming pancakes.

By 1900, the average American consumed, 90 pounds of sugar, primarily from cane sugar.

With this century-long rapid increase in demand for sweets, other innovations followed.

Just before the American Civil War, a process was created to extract corn starch from the corn kernel. These starches were primarily used in the starching of clothing in the laundry business, but immediately following the war, in 1866, it was discovered that dextrose sugar could be further extracted from the corn starch. Within about a decade, the process was more or less perfected, and corn sugar, also known as corn syrup, became available for purchase.

Although corn syrup was easy to make, and in some areas of the country very inexpensive, it was sold in large barrels to retailers who’d refill customers’ jugs with a ladle.

The messy process wasn’t ideal, and in 1902, the Corn Products Refining Co. of New York and Chicago, created and began selling Karo Syrup, the first corn syrup packaged in a small container specifically for use at home.

KaroBottles


So what’s all this have to do with the pecan pie? Although most people assume that the pie has it’s origins in the colonial period, because, after all, how difficult could it have been to collect the pecans that fall off the trees and ripen in the fall, and then mix them into a molasses or maple syrup sauce and bake it, it turns out that no written recipes can be found for the pecan pie that date to before 1930. And to understand why, we have to look at how corn syrup, and especially Karo Syrup was marketed in the early 20th century.


karo-1903

Karo Syrup and Their Content Marketing

At first, Karo Syrup was sold as a wonder food. A 1903 advertisement in The Pittsburgh Press reads:

“As a food product, corn heads the list of grains in nutritive elements necessary to human sustenance. The process of extracting and retaining these valuable food properties have made KARO CORN SYRUP “The Great Spread for Daily Bread.” A golden syrup so good, pure and wholesome that infant, invalid or dyspeptic can eat it with safety. It’s a table delight for morning, noon or night. Coaxes the appetite and makes you eat. Sold at grocers, 10c, 25c and 50c tins.”

A dyspeptic person is one who is suffering from indigestion, and consequent irritability and depression. So, in other words, Karo Syrup was originally advertised as a cure for depression.

In the early 20th century, there were no federal laws that regulated the contents and sale of food and pharmaceuticals. Instead, a patchwork of various state laws provided varying degrees of protection against unethical sales practices. But, in 1906, under President Theodore Roosevelt, the Food and Drug Act was signed into law.

The Act prohibited, under penalty of seizure of goods, the interstate transport of food which had been “adulterated or misbranded.” According to the Act, adulterated referred to the addition of fillers of reduced “quality or strength,” coloring to conceal “damage or inferiority,” formulation with additives “injurious to health,” or the use of “filthy, decomposed, or putrid” substances. Another law in 1912 added “false and fraudulent” claims of “curative or therapeutic effect” to the Act’s definition of “misbranded.”


Overnight, the makers of Karo Syrup could not longer market and sell their syrup as a wonder elixir designed to cure hunger and end depression. A new strategy had to be developed.

In 1910, the Corn Products Refining Company launched an enormous, $250,000 ($6.5 million today), advertising campaign to create national awareness and demand for Karo brand corn syrups.

As part of this campaign, the first Karo Cook Book was published. Compiled and written by Emma Churchman Hewitt, former associate editor of the Ladies Home Journal, this 50 page booklet contained more than 150 recipes, most of which contained Karo Syrup, including asparagus soup. The book even cautioned that “to prevent Karo Syrup from burning, drop in three of four stone marbles. The heat will keep these constantly on the move and will not only prevent the burning but will do most of the stirring.”

Surprisingly, pecan pie was not one of the recipes compiled in the first Karo Cook Book. For that, we have to wait until 1930, when according to ACH Food Companies, Inc., the current owner of Karo Syrup, “the wife of a corporate sales executive discovered a new use for corn syrup. A mixture of corn syrup, sugar, eggs, vanilla and pecans baked in a pie shell produced the now classic Pecan Pie. Down South, today, that same recipe continues to be called Karo Pie.”

At the time, most newspapers published weekly “favorite recipe” columns, where female readers would send in their favorite recipes for publication, and other readers would clip them and add them to their recipe books. In a sense, these newspaper columns were the blogs and Facebook of the early 20th century.

Almost overnight, the pecan pie began to dominate these newspaper columns, especially in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

A 1931 recipe for “Karo Pecan Pie” from the Sallisaw, Oklahoma Democrat-America, called for “3 eggs, 1 cup Karo (blue label), 4 tablespoons corn meal, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup chopped pecans or less if desired, 2 tablespoons melted butter, pastry.”

Another, from 1938, called the “White House Pecan Pie” also specifically called for 1 cup of dark Karo Syrup.

This “grassroots advertising campaign” must have worked, because Karo began incorporating the recipe advice columns directly into their market budget in the 1940s.

A sponsored content column in the Big Spring Daily Herald, published in 1941, called “Surprise the Folks with Karo Pecan Pie Tonight…it’s wonderful!” described how to bake this “Texas favorite” with “1 cup of Karo (Blue Label).”

Another paid placement in 1942 described the pecan pie this way: “I have nibbled at the Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie, and have served it to those in whose welfare I took no interest, but being included to plumpness, and having as well a desire to see out my days on earth, I have never eaten a full portion.”

By the late 1940s, when the many of the people who’d remember the 19th had died off, Karo was no longer a sold as a therapeutic syrup, but instead the inexpensive and nutrition-less corn syrup was marketed as the basis for a decadent desert reminiscent of the antebellum pre-Civil War South.

Following World War Two, in 1949, Karo Syrup published a new cookbook, called Karo Kookery, which prominently featured the pecan pie as delicacy of the American diet. Karo also began printing the recipe for the pie directly on the bottle of syrup.


The Abraham Lincoln Connection

Spurred in large part by Walt Disney and television in the 1950s, America began to look back, romantically, at their past. And there was no historical figure that Walt Disney, and America, loved more than Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln was America’s first President to be assassinated in office, having been tragically shot in Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. in April 1865, while watching a play from his private box. Over the years, his story left an impression on countless people including Walt Disney. Walt Disney admired Lincoln greatly, so much so that when Walt was asked to develop attractions for the New York World’s Fair in 1964, he created the first animatronic Lincoln to deliver inspiring words to the throngs of people who came to see it. When the fair ended it’s run, Lincoln was taken to Disneyland and set up in the Opera House to continue his speech for ever.

In the buildup to the hundredth anniversary of his death in 1965, America could be said to have Lincoln-mania. It wasn’t just television and Disneyland that cashed in on this: dozens of new biographies were written, as were more than a few cookbooks of the former President’s favorite dishes.

More than one cookbook relayed that Lincoln’s favorite dessert was a pecan pie that he supposedly ordered, by wagon-load, from The Excelsior Pie and Cake Bakery in Washington, D.C. The included recipes almost always consisted of the standard Karo Syrup recipe, with or without a little include molasses for a some added historical character.

Let me remind you, again, that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, and that the process for extracting dextrose from corn starch wasn’t invented until in 1866 — one year after his death, and that there are no written recipes for pecan pie dating to before 1930.


Today, pecan pie is a traditional pie enjoyed by at least 25% of the population of the United States on Thanksgiving. It is, truth be told, my favorite pie. But there’s nothing traditional about it, unless your definition of traditional only goes back two, or maybe three, generations and is based on the content marketing of one specific company.


Content Marketing Lessons from Pecan Pie

So, what can we learn from Karo Syrup’s content marketing? I see six lessons that you can use.

  1. Don’t Just Sell a Product, Tell a Story. Karo’s brilliant “discovery” of the pecan pie recipe in 1930 undoubtedly saved the company from financial ruin. Without the pie, there’d be nothing to talk about. This article about Karo wouldn’t exist. And most importantly, there’d be no bottle of Karo Syrup on my counter.

  2. Get your customers to spread the word for you. Karo Syrup’s success, in large part, was based on the recipes it’s customers sent into their local newspapers. Sharing information in newspaper columns, and clipping out other columns was one of the primary methods of sharing content in the early 20th century. Whatever method is popular today, get your customers to frame your story such that your customers will spread it themselves.

  3. Add Perceived Value Ounce for ounce, the cost of making Karo Syrup can’t be very high. Consequently, it should probably be priced at, or below, the cost of sugar. But, by connecting it with something decadent and delicious it suddenly gains status, and by extension, a perceived higher value. This equates directly to being able to charge higher prices.

  4. Challenge Conventions to Expand Your Market I’m sort of a health-food nut, and I’d almost be embarrassed to buy a bottle of Karo Syrup. What if someone saw me, and saw it my shopping cart? But include a carton of eggs, a bag of sugar, a bottle of vanilla, and a stick of butter, and I don’t have anything to be ashamed of. I have the makings of a pecan pie!

  5. Package Your Product in Some Excellent Content I would eat almost anything else, before I’d gulp down a bottle of Karo Syrup. But, place a pecan pie and fork in front of me, and I’ll eat the whole bottle!

  6. Nobody Cares About You, They Care About What They Love Nobody loves Karo Syrup. I’d bet that in spite of their 1903 advertising, no one spreads Karo Syrup on their toast in the morning. No one gives Karo Syrup to their babies and grandmothers when they won’t eat. Nobody cares about Karo Syrup and what the company said. They care about pecan pie. Nevermind, that Karo Syrup and pecan pie are one in the same.

 
Tuesday, 25 November 2014 10:06
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Nothing says Thanksgiving quite like a pecan pie. Sure, the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce are important, and apple and pumpkin pies are more widely made and eat, but pecan pie, with its sweet nuttiness, is the perfect Thanksgiving dessert.

The pie is overly sweet, contains both a crunch, and gooey center, and contains nearly as many calories per slice as an entire plate mounded high with turkey and all the fixings. It’s an over-the-top end, to an over-the-top meal.

In other words, it’s heaven.


Consisting almost entirely of one ingredient (and I don’t mean the pecans), the pie seems like it was almost made to be marketed as candy with a crust. And the truth is, that’s not too far from the truth.

Because for whatever else it is, pecan pie is also a content marketing masterpiece.

And I’m going to prove it to you.

To really understand how pecan pie came about, we have to go back to the beginning. Not to to the first Thanksgiving, when the Pilgrims in their funny hats and buckled shoes shared in the bounty of the friendly American indians, but back to the early days of the sugar refining business.


Sugar!

Americans have always loved their sweets, but they weren’t always cheap.

Historically, the primary sweetener in North America was maple syrup, the sap of the sugar maple tree. Native Americans had long been collecting and consuming maple syrup. As much as 12% of the diet of some northeastern tribes was what they called “tree water.” The Native Americans caught the sap from the tree in hollowed or carved-out logs and cooked it by dropping hot rocks into the collected sap. Early European settlers learned from the natives how to collect the sap, and improved on the refining process. By 1800, Americans consumed 18 pounds of sugar per year, the bulk of which was maple syrup and its derivatives.

Refined cane sugar and molasses were also available domestically, but the fact that they were produced from sugar cane, which only grew in the subtropical latitudes of the Caribbean Sea, and had be processed on-site, made it more expensive to import during the age of the sailing ship.


By the late 1800s, though, the status of maple syrup and cane sugar had switched. By this time, lumber harvesting has decimated the trees, and less than 20% of the northeastern United States was still forested. The steam ship dramatically reduced transportation costs, and processed cane sugar because proportionately cheaper and more widely available. Effectively by the end of the century, cane sugar had become the commodity sweetener and maple syrup had become the luxury item, something only to be used once a week on a pile of steaming pancakes.

By 1900, the average American consumed, 90 pounds of sugar, primarily from cane sugar.

With this century-long rapid increase in demand for sweets, other innovations followed.

Just before the American Civil War, a process was created to extract corn starch from the corn kernel. These starches were primarily used in the starching of clothing in the laundry business, but immediately following the war, in 1866, it was discovered that dextrose sugar could be further extracted from the corn starch. Within about a decade, the process was more or less perfected, and corn sugar, also known as corn syrup, became available for purchase.

Although corn syrup was easy to make, and in some areas of the country very inexpensive, it was sold in large barrels to retailers who’d refill customers’ jugs with a ladle.

The messy process wasn’t ideal, and in 1902, the Corn Products Refining Co. of New York and Chicago, created and began selling Karo Syrup, the first corn syrup packaged in a small container specifically for use at home.

KaroBottles


So what’s all this have to do with the pecan pie? Although most people assume that the pie has it’s origins in the colonial period, because, after all, how difficult could it have been to collect the pecans that fall off the trees and ripen in the fall, and then mix them into a molasses or maple syrup sauce and bake it, it turns out that no written recipes can be found for the pecan pie that date to before 1930. And to understand why, we have to look at how corn syrup, and especially Karo Syrup was marketed in the early 20th century.


karo-1903

Karo Syrup and Their Content Marketing

At first, Karo Syrup was sold as a wonder food. A 1903 advertisement in The Pittsburgh Press reads:

“As a food product, corn heads the list of grains in nutritive elements necessary to human sustenance. The process of extracting and retaining these valuable food properties have made KARO CORN SYRUP “The Great Spread for Daily Bread.” A golden syrup so good, pure and wholesome that infant, invalid or dyspeptic can eat it with safety. It’s a table delight for morning, noon or night. Coaxes the appetite and makes you eat. Sold at grocers, 10c, 25c and 50c tins.”

A dyspeptic person is one who is suffering from indigestion, and consequent irritability and depression. So, in other words, Karo Syrup was originally advertised as a cure for depression.

In the early 20th century, there were no federal laws that regulated the contents and sale of food and pharmaceuticals. Instead, a patchwork of various state laws provided varying degrees of protection against unethical sales practices. But, in 1906, under President Theodore Roosevelt, the Food and Drug Act was signed into law.

The Act prohibited, under penalty of seizure of goods, the interstate transport of food which had been “adulterated or misbranded.” According to the Act, adulterated referred to the addition of fillers of reduced “quality or strength,” coloring to conceal “damage or inferiority,” formulation with additives “injurious to health,” or the use of “filthy, decomposed, or putrid” substances. Another law in 1912 added “false and fraudulent” claims of “curative or therapeutic effect” to the Act’s definition of “misbranded.”


Overnight, the makers of Karo Syrup could not longer market and sell their syrup as a wonder elixir designed to cure hunger and end depression. A new strategy had to be developed.

In 1910, the Corn Products Refining Company launched an enormous, $250,000 ($6.5 million today), advertising campaign to create national awareness and demand for Karo brand corn syrups.

As part of this campaign, the first Karo Cook Book was published. Compiled and written by Emma Churchman Hewitt, former associate editor of the Ladies Home Journal, this 50 page booklet contained more than 150 recipes, most of which contained Karo Syrup, including asparagus soup. The book even cautioned that “to prevent Karo Syrup from burning, drop in three of four stone marbles. The heat will keep these constantly on the move and will not only prevent the burning but will do most of the stirring.”

Surprisingly, pecan pie was not one of the recipes compiled in the first Karo Cook Book. For that, we have to wait until 1930, when according to ACH Food Companies, Inc., the current owner of Karo Syrup, “the wife of a corporate sales executive discovered a new use for corn syrup. A mixture of corn syrup, sugar, eggs, vanilla and pecans baked in a pie shell produced the now classic Pecan Pie. Down South, today, that same recipe continues to be called Karo Pie.”

At the time, most newspapers published weekly “favorite recipe” columns, where female readers would send in their favorite recipes for publication, and other readers would clip them and add them to their recipe books. In a sense, these newspaper columns were the blogs and Facebook of the early 20th century.

Almost overnight, the pecan pie began to dominate these newspaper columns, especially in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

A 1931 recipe for “Karo Pecan Pie” from the Sallisaw, Oklahoma Democrat-America, called for “3 eggs, 1 cup Karo (blue label), 4 tablespoons corn meal, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup chopped pecans or less if desired, 2 tablespoons melted butter, pastry.”

Another, from 1938, called the “White House Pecan Pie” also specifically called for 1 cup of dark Karo Syrup.

This “grassroots advertising campaign” must have worked, because Karo began incorporating the recipe advice columns directly into their market budget in the 1940s.

A sponsored content column in the Big Spring Daily Herald, published in 1941, called “Surprise the Folks with Karo Pecan Pie Tonight…it’s wonderful!” described how to bake this “Texas favorite” with “1 cup of Karo (Blue Label).”

Another paid placement in 1942 described the pecan pie this way: “I have nibbled at the Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie, and have served it to those in whose welfare I took no interest, but being included to plumpness, and having as well a desire to see out my days on earth, I have never eaten a full portion.”

By the late 1940s, when the many of the people who’d remember the 19th had died off, Karo was no longer a sold as a therapeutic syrup, but instead the inexpensive and nutrition-less corn syrup was marketed as the basis for a decadent desert reminiscent of the antebellum pre-Civil War South.

Following World War Two, in 1949, Karo Syrup published a new cookbook, called Karo Kookery, which prominently featured the pecan pie as delicacy of the American diet. Karo also began printing the recipe for the pie directly on the bottle of syrup.


The Abraham Lincoln Connection

Spurred in large part by Walt Disney and television in the 1950s, America began to look back, romantically, at their past. And there was no historical figure that Walt Disney, and America, loved more than Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln was America’s first President to be assassinated in office, having been tragically shot in Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. in April 1865, while watching a play from his private box. Over the years, his story left an impression on countless people including Walt Disney. Walt Disney admired Lincoln greatly, so much so that when Walt was asked to develop attractions for the New York World’s Fair in 1964, he created the first animatronic Lincoln to deliver inspiring words to the throngs of people who came to see it. When the fair ended it’s run, Lincoln was taken to Disneyland and set up in the Opera House to continue his speech for ever.

In the buildup to the hundredth anniversary of his death in 1965, America could be said to have Lincoln-mania. It wasn’t just television and Disneyland that cashed in on this: dozens of new biographies were written, as were more than a few cookbooks of the former President’s favorite dishes.

More than one cookbook relayed that Lincoln’s favorite dessert was a pecan pie that he supposedly ordered, by wagon-load, from The Excelsior Pie and Cake Bakery in Washington, D.C. The included recipes almost always consisted of the standard Karo Syrup recipe, with or without a little include molasses for a some added historical character.

Let me remind you, again, that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, and that the process for extracting dextrose from corn starch wasn’t invented until in 1866 — one year after his death, and that there are no written recipes for pecan pie dating to before 1930.


Today, pecan pie is a traditional pie enjoyed by at least 25% of the population of the United States on Thanksgiving. It is, truth be told, my favorite pie. But there’s nothing traditional about it, unless your definition of traditional only goes back two, or maybe three, generations and is based on the content marketing of one specific company.


Content Marketing Lessons from Pecan Pie

So, what can we learn from Karo Syrup’s content marketing? I see six lessons that you can use.

  1. Don’t Just Sell a Product, Tell a Story. Karo’s brilliant “discovery” of the pecan pie recipe in 1930 undoubtedly saved the company from financial ruin. Without the pie, there’d be nothing to talk about. This article about Karo wouldn’t exist. And most importantly, there’d be no bottle of Karo Syrup on my counter.

  2. Get your customers to spread the word for you. Karo Syrup’s success, in large part, was based on the recipes it’s customers sent into their local newspapers. Sharing information in newspaper columns, and clipping out other columns was one of the primary methods of sharing content in the early 20th century. Whatever method is popular today, get your customers to frame your story such that your customers will spread it themselves.

  3. Add Perceived Value Ounce for ounce, the cost of making Karo Syrup can’t be very high. Consequently, it should probably be priced at, or below, the cost of sugar. But, by connecting it with something decadent and delicious it suddenly gains status, and by extension, a perceived higher value. This equates directly to being able to charge higher prices.

  4. Challenge Conventions to Expand Your Market I’m sort of a health-food nut, and I’d almost be embarrassed to buy a bottle of Karo Syrup. What if someone saw me, and saw it my shopping cart? But include a carton of eggs, a bag of sugar, a bottle of vanilla, and a stick of butter, and I don’t have anything to be ashamed of. I have the makings of a pecan pie!

  5. Package Your Product in Some Excellent Content I would eat almost anything else, before I’d gulp down a bottle of Karo Syrup. But, place a pecan pie and fork in front of me, and I’ll eat the whole bottle!

  6. Nobody Cares About You, They Care About What They Love Nobody loves Karo Syrup. I’d bet that in spite of their 1903 advertising, no one spreads Karo Syrup on their toast in the morning. No one gives Karo Syrup to their babies and grandmothers when they won’t eat. Nobody cares about Karo Syrup and what the company said. They care about pecan pie. Nevermind, that Karo Syrup and pecan pie are one in the same.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014 04:41
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Angel investors are often rich individuals who provide startups with capital for their start-up costs. The term comes from Broadway, where it was originally used to describe the wealthy individuals who provided money for theatrical productions.

These investors are often retired entrepreneurs or executives themselves, who may be interested in investing for reasons that not directly related to pure monetary return. These often include: wanting to keep their foot in the business world as a hobby, mentoring another generation of entrepreneurs, and making use of their experience, time and contacts on a part time basis.

According to SCORE, angel investors have invested $23 billion to 268,000 individuals in over 67,000 deals!

Score Infographic Angel Investors

Tuesday, 25 November 2014 02:43
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Two years ago a civil servant in the German town of Menden wrote a farewell message to his colleagues on the day of his retirement stating that he had not done anything for 14 years. “Since 1998,” he wrote, “I was present but not really there. So I’m going to be well prepared for retirement — Adieu.” The e-mail was leaked to Germany’s Westfalen-Post and quickly became world news. The public work ethic had been wounded and in the days that followed the mayor of Menden lamented the incident, saying he “felt a good dose of rage.”

The municipality of Menden sent out a press release regretting that the employee never informed his superiors of his inactivity. In a lesser-known interview with the German newspaper _Bild _a month later, the former employee responded that his e-mail had been misconstrued. He had not been avoiding work for 14 years; as his department grew, his assignments were simply handed over to others. “There never was any frustration on my part, and I would have written the e-mail even today. I have always offered my services, but it’s not my problem if they don’t want them,” he said.

The story of this German bureaucrat raised some questions about modern-day slacking. Does having a job necessarily entail work? If not, how and why does a job lose its substance? And what can be done to make employees less lazy—or is that even the right question to ask in a system that’s set up in the way that ours is? After talking to 40 dedicated loafers, I think I can take a stab at some answers.

There are thousands of articles and books about the stressed-out fraction of humanity, but why has so little been written about the opposite extreme?

Most work sociologists tend toward the view that non-work at work is a marginal, if not negligible, phenomenon. What all statistics point towards is a general intensification of work with more and more burnouts and other stress syndromes troubling us. Yet there are more-detailed surveys reporting that the average time spent on private activities at work is between 1.5 and three hours a day. By measuring the flows of audiences for certain websites, it has also been observed that, by the turn of the century, 70 percent of the U.S. internet traffic passing through pornographic sites did so during working hours, and that 60 percent of all online purchases were made between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. What is sometimes called “cyberloafing” has, furthermore, not only been observed in the U.S. (in which most work-time surveys are conducted), but also in nations such as Singapore, Germany, and Finland.

Even if the percentage of workers who claim they are working at the pinnacle of their capacity all the time is slowly increasing, the majority still remains unaffected. In fact, the proportion of people who say they never work hard has long been far greater than those who say they always do. The articles and books about the stressed-out fraction of humanity can be counted in the thousands, but why has so little been written about this opposite extreme?

Monday, 24 November 2014 10:29
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If you think that tea has to come in tea bags, you’re missing out on a whole world of flavor and experience. Simple Loose Leaf is a tea subscription service that specializes in loose leaf tea, offering subscriptions that the customer is able to fully customize. According to the company, they believe in changing the way loose leaf tea subscriptions are sold and think that every tea lover should have the opportunity to create the perfect tea time experience for themselves and those they love. I recently had the opportunity to ask one of the founders, Andrew Flocks, more about the company.


What’s special about Simple Loose Leaf?

In a word: Choice. There is no other tea subscription service that offers the ability to customize a tea subscription. The other element that makes Simple Loose Leaf different, and perhaps special, is that we do not offer traditional retail services. We sell subscriptions. All non-subscription services, i.e. our Samples, are designed to drive customers to our subscriptions. We do not offer our teas for sales out side of the subscriptions and the samples. We are a subscription service above all else.

Where’d the idea come from?

About 2 years ago we, my brother and I, were looking at different websites to start. One of the concepts that was on the table was a specialty tea-ware website that would feature handmade designer tea pots, tea cups, saucers etc. But it got tabled due to difficulty finding reliable suppliers and the fact that we would enter a market, tea, that was filled with some real heavy hitters. i.e. Teavana and Adagio and David’s Tea, and countless smaller boutique websites that are amazing. So we decided that we could not bring any measurable value into the retail tea market.

Move forward to the start of 2013 and we came back to the idea of tea and added the idea of tea subscriptions. We decided to focus on the part of the tea market that we felt we could bring the most value. And that was the subscription side. From there we looked at what the tea subscription market had to offer and saw that nobody offered a custom tea subscription service.

How does it compare to it’s competition?

All other subscription services offer what is called a Tea of the Month Club. In this club you pay between $10 and $20 per month and the company sends you a tea or teas. Some companies offer great value with these clubs and others offer very sub par value. But none offer the ability to build your own subscription. We currently offer 126 different teas to choose from and offer subscriptions up to 6 months in length.

Who really needs it?

Who needs Simple Loose Leaf? Every tea drinker that loves to explore and expand their love of tea. With the huge selection we offer, you can go for over 10 years and not repeat a single tea.

tea-Apricot-Black

Anyone already using it in any interesting ways?

Yes, we have a customer that has started a 12 month, a 2x 6 month, subscription for her mother-in-law. She is an avid tea drinker and wants to introduce her mother-in-law to new teas. So she is doing a “12 Months of Tea” for her mother-in-law’s birthday.

Where do you see it in five years?

I sat here for 15 minutes trying to figure out an answer to this question. And to be honest in five years we want to have an efficient company that is nimble and energetic. In the next 2 years? We want to have a steadily growing customer base that expands by 10% every month. In the coming year we want to be THE subscription website that everyone sends their fellow tea lovers to. We want to be known for customer service, second to none, and a selection of teas that will make the most stoic of tea connoisseur tear up.

Who’s behind it? (Tell us more about you.)

There are three siblings behind Simple Loose Leaf. I handle most of the day to day operations of Simple Loose Leaf. My name is Andrew Flocks, I attended the University of Arkansas where I received a degree in Economics/Finance. Simple Loose Leaf is my 4th e-commerce store. I also currently own a specialty sandblasting company that specializes in traveling to cemeteries and doing engraving on monuments. (I am not great it talking about myself. If you would like more info let me know.)

Can you describe a typical working day?

The typical day at Simple Loose Leaf can be broken into two different types of days. The days that are close to the end of the month and the days that are not close to the end of the month. The days that are not close to the end of the month are filled with marketing efforts and doing polishing work on the website (A/B Testing and Google Analytics) The days that are close to the end of the month are filled with order fulfillment, inventory management, labeling, mailing and a little bit of sleep in there somewhere.

tea-Blueberry-Herbal

What’s your background?

My background is Sales and Entrepreneurship. Out of college I started working for an HR outsourcing company doing business development and sales. I left that to take over the sandblasting business. During the end of college and starting at the HR company I tried my hand at online monument, tombstone, sales and then pivoted into pet memorials. (Note: Both of those businesses are not very much fun.)

What motivates you to keep going?

Every step I have taken up to this point has been easier. My very first website was rubbish. My next website, for pet memorials, was a diamond in the rough. But I started to get it. My next website, designed to sell high end men’s accessories, was a good website but a bad business. Simple Loose Leaf was an immense amount of work to set up, but it has come together how we originally envisioned it. That is the first time that has happened. Motivation? It is far easier to take the next step than it is to go back.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Maybe start Simple Loose Leaf sooner, but the process so far has been going good. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but it is awesome.

Please tell us a secret…

I do not like tea in the morning. I wake up with coffee and go to sleep with tea.

Anything else you think I should know or ask you about?

Shrug?

Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Seek criticism. The power of an entrepreneur is the power to convince, convince others you are doing something amazing. And more dangerously, to convince yourself that you are perfect. Find the people that do not love you and get them to tell you what you are doing wrong. Your friends, for the most part, are not good at criticizing you so you have to look else where. And if you don’t know where to find criticism, go to Reddit. Redditors will tell you precisely what they think. You have to take their thoughts, filter them, and then improve yourself.

I need a banana after that, I have some hand cramps.

You can find out more about Loose Leaf Tea at their website. You can also interact with them on Facebook and Twitter.

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