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Don't be afraid to be not for everyone.
Last week, we lost a friend. John Wrestler was the owner of the local brick oven pizzeria, Scratch,  where Jay worked for several years. But John wasn't just an employer; he was an entrepreneurial hero, to both of us. He built exactly the kind of business he wanted, in exactly the way he wanted, no matter what it took. 
 
We've been talking a lot this last week about the lessons that John taught us about business and life, and they are so related to what I know you struggle with, as a maker and an artist, that I had to share it with you. 
 
(This is also a great reminder that you can find business lessons ANYWHERE. Truly.)


Persevere. 

There's a sign outside the pizzeria that says just this: Persevere. It catches your eye every time you drive down the street (and I drive down this street twice a day). For John, it summed up his entire business model: Persevere. Start working and don't stop, no matter the obstacles. 
 
After owning a grocery store (in Chicago) and a restaurant, he  bought a falling-down house on a busy corner and began building a brick oven. 
 
He rebuilt the house, by hand. With (huge) river stones that he chose from the rock pile (it's a thing), carted to the house, and laid, rock by rock. In the meantime, he worked at chain restaurants (like Golden Corral) to learn everything he could about baking. 
 
All this, while living in the falling-down house without running water (and thus, indoor plumbing.)

Take a second and let that sink in. 
 
Before it was a real (legal) "bakery", he bootlegged the bread. He called it "breadlegging".
 
(Where do you need to apply a bit of perseverance? Are you willing to lay river rock by hand, without running water, for a few years to have your dream?)
 
 

Don't be afraid to kill your darlings. 

It took a few years, but eventually the brick oven was up and baking (and the water was flowing). He sold brick oven bread for years, but struggled to break even. (5 years ago East Tennessee wasn't quite ready for "artisan" $4/loaf bread.)  He threw a pizza in every now and then and people loved it. So he offered it more often. 
 
It was soon clear that pizza was the money-maker and bread (which required 14+ hour shifts to stoke the fire and bake) was out. Just like that. All done. When asked, he would say, "People don't buy bread! So we don't make bread!"
 
Bread was his passion (he used a sourdough starter that was over 100 years old, that he got from a local grandma while building the oven. He kept it alive all those years.) And yet, he cared more about building a business that was sustainable than about doing what he wanted. No matter what, he HAD to stay in business. There was no question. 
 
Failure was not an option. 
So he got rid of bread and moved on to pizza. 
 
(What are you holding on to, that you need to let go of to build something more sustainable?)
 

Not for Everyone. 

Hanging right smack dab in the middle of the door is a big sign that says "Not for Everyone" (if you haven't guessed, the whole place is covered in random signage).
 
And Scratch is really, really not for everyone. There's a giant record collection and a real record player (like this, whippersnappers) and customers could change the record to whatever they wanted. (Employees were known to hide the Beatles, because you can only take so much.) 60s R&B, 70s folk, 80s rock...well, it stopped there (Official rule: Nothing after 1993). That alone is enough to send people running for the door. 
 
And you know, that's the best possible result. Because having the don't-love-it people leave, means that the people who do love it REALLY love it. It means that people who love the handbuilt vibe (it's a converted house, remember, and it never really lost that falling-down quality), who love records, who love brick oven pizza - these people could become unfettered, raving fans. Loving Scratch (like loving any "not for everyone" brand), said something about you, as a person. It was a kind of social capital. It meant you stood for local, fresh, handmade, not-fancy, uncomplicated good food. 
 
I use this as an example in my marketing class, because your products need to be "not for everyone" in order to be for someone. They need to speak directly to the right person, so that the right person can become a raving fan. 
 
(How is your work not for everyone?)
 
 
I'm delighted that I got to experience these lessons while enjoying delicious pizza. I hope that they inspire you to dig deep into what only you can do, and offer it, ever more shiningly YOU, to the world. 
 
Perserveringly yours, 
Tara
 
 
PS. The Starship is open right now. More than half the spots are already gone, so if you have any questions, hit reply and ask! It closes on next Wednesday (at the latest), so this is the last email warning you'll get about it, unless you're signed up here
 
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