Earlier this week I announced that I would be making a big announcement about ITB Insider™.
I had no idea so many people would respond and assume that Foster’s, Nelson’s, Felson’s, or Crowley’s was reopening. I was also surprised at those of you who thought I was running for Mayor or that I was pregnant. You may have noticed that I’ve been working with new editors over the last few weeks and posting more frequently. This all ties into the big announcement.
This summer, I’m going to take my talents to the entrepreneurship game and form a startup company to turn ITB Insider™ into a media empire. There will be more posts, a podcast, a newsletter, new products, books, and other projects that will vastly improve your life. Sorry to disappoint those of you that want me to shut the blog down and grow up. I’m not sure what you have against small businesses and creating #local jobs. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.
If you’re a writer that wants to contribute, if you have an idea for a story, if you’re a company that wants to sponsor or advertise, if you want to make direct deposits to my PayPal account, or if you want me to write for you or about you, e-mail me at my new CEO account firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll introduce these new features over the next few weeks, but let me first tell you why and how I got here by sharing an excerpt from my memoir, “Saved by the Beltline: the WNF IV Story”.
Chapter: I’m Starting a Startup
I’ve had to resort to the world of startups after being told my business ideas were utter failures by traditional ITB investors, my parents. I learned this the hard way at a recent family dinner with my Dad, Mom, and sister.
“Because he’s the hero Raleigh deserves, but not the one it needs right now….,” I whispered into the recording app on my phone as Mom opened the wine and everyone sat down in the dining room.
“Don’t talk to your phone at the dinner table, it’s rude,” Dad said without making eye contact.
“And weird,” my sister said, as she scrolled through countless antique store accounts on Instagram.
“I’m recording ideas for an intro to my podcast,” I replied.
“Just please pass the mashed potatoes,” said Dad.
This was my cue, the chance I’d been waiting for to win my parents over as investors. I’d picked up so many pitch tips over the years from following Young Professionals Network breakfasts on Twitter while I was still in bed. It was time to leverage some leverage.
“What if there were a better way to pass the mashed potatoes?” I asked, as I got up from the antique dinner table and pulled a TV in from the living room to show off my pitch deck.
“Christ, not again,” my sister mumbled.
“Just pass them to your father, please,” begged my mother as she poured a glass of wine.
I continued on past their objections because that’s Sales 101, overcome objections.
“We are the Uber and Netflix of passing the mashed potatoes,” I began.
“You’re supposed to end with that line, idiot,” my sister interrupted.
I ignored her and continued my pitch, “There are 365 days in a year. Most families eat dinner on those days. What if every menu item at every household dinner inside the beltline was available at your fingertips? What if you could use augmented reality to “catch” or “order” your own curated dinner and have it “passed to you” on demand? What if a White Horse driver could pick up your menu selections from any house inside the beltline and deliver them right to your table? It’s like those farm to table restaurants, except this is 18th century antique dining table to 18th century antique dining table. We are Dinn-Dinn, the Uber and Netflix of passing the mashed potatoes, and we’re going to make ITB dinners great again.”
“Are you finished yet?” asked Mom, already pouring another glass of wine.
“With dinner? I haven’t even started.”
“No, with your stupid get rich quick ideas. The Uber and Netflix of mashed potatoes? Do you even hear yourself?” asked Dad.
“Normally I black out during these pitches as a result of my crippling social anxiety and fear of rejection….so no. Did I leave out the part about how we’re developing a cloud based platform to maximize leveraged efficiency and acquire 100,000 customers in the first week? Or how this ties into my other company, “Table to Farmer” where farmers pick up your dirty china, clean it in freshwater streams, and return it before your next dinner?”
My sister interrupted, “Yeah, you left that part out. And this sounds a lot like Appy App.”
“That’s because you went to fashion school and don’t know anything about business. We are totally different. Appy App is on-demand appetizers, Dinn-Dinn is 18th century antique dining table to…”
“Stop. I’m not investing in any of your startup ideas. You have zero experience,” Dad said, cutting me off like normal.
“I have a ton of startup experience. A few months ago I innovated and launched the Raleigh-Durham to Raleigh Chrome extension.”
“What does that even mean?” Dad asked.
“I complained on Twitter that we needed a Chrome extension to solve the problem of outsiders calling us “Raleigh-Durham” in all of their click bait articles. Then someone made a Chrome extension that replaces every instance of that word with “Raleigh”. Then I did a blog post about it.”
“So you didn’t actually start a company or DO anything?” said my sister.
“I’m the idea guy. I’m the Steve Jobs of our ZIP code.”
“Wait, you still do that blog website?” asked Dad.
“Yes. And I still e-mail you the link every time I post something….”
“Why don’t you make money off of the blog? Can’t you advertise on it?” asked Mom, while pouring her third glass of wine.
“Honey, he’s been doing that blog for like 9 years, don’t you think he would’ve started advertising by now. We know he’s lazy, but he can’t be THAT stupid,” replied Dad.
The sharks were circling. I stood quietly, trying to think of my next competitive advantage to wow them with.
“Advertising is when people pay you to put ads on your website,” my sister said, explaining it to me like I didn’t graduate from Broughton.
“I know what a damn ad is,” I snapped. “I just don’t know how to put them on my website. I’m a visionary, I can’t be expected to know how to do everything. I just assumed Netflix, Capital Creations, and La Croix would reach out to me about sponsorships once I became an influencer.”
“Well you might want to reach out to them, because I’m not giving you a dime for Dinner Dinner or whatever it’s called,” Dad said as he ripped the mashed potatoes from my hands.
“What about getting ads from that nice boy who does the wedding pictures thing for your phone? We met him at the Village Subway party last year,” Mom said.
“Mom, his name is Justin Miller and the company is called WedPics. I’m not asking him to advertise after you spent the entire night asking him what his tattoos meant. I’m still mortified from that,” I said.
“Well they were just so interesting,” she replied, finishing her third glass of wine.
“How can you be an influencer? Does anyone actually go to your website?” Dad asked.
This was my opportunity to win back the dining room. I knew these numbers cold. I check them obsessively and define my self-worth from them. “I had over 70,000 visits and 96,000 pageviews from just 20 posts in the last year, so yes, someone is reading this,” I said.
“Twenty posts in a year…that’s less than two a month. And an average of, what, 5,800 visits and 8,000 pageviews each month,” Dad calculated.
“Well, the average is sort of skewed. The site had over 16,000 visits in two days when that Mom had a panic attack and drove her Volvo station wagon up the steps of Hayes Barton Baptist in Five Points. On the other hand, I went months without posting anything. Our Italy trip really got in the way of my workflow, which is technically your fault since you took me on that trip,” I explained.
“I’m not going to apologize for taking you to Europe. The point is, if you posted more you’d get more traffic,” he said.
“True. But blogging is hard and takes time. I’m much more engaged on social media. I have over 4,550 Twitter followers and 1,930 followers on Insta. I’ve had nearly 2 million impressions on Twitter in the last year. And most importantly, BuzzFeed follows me on Twitter.”
This isn’t photoshopped. BuzzFeed seriously follows me. #ITBlessed.
“I have no idea what any of that means,” said Dad.
Just as I was making progress on closing the deal, my sister interrupted, “Maybe if you spent more time getting your real estate license and less time liking your own Instagrams of the same pizza that you get every Sunday you could actually sell a house and stop coming up with get richer quick schemes.”
I was about to lose it.
“Maybe if you spent more time finding a job and less time buying antiques from your friends’ Instagram accounts you wouldn’t be hitting Mom and Dad up for money at family dinner. Your friends are just buying crap at Cheshire Cat Gallery in Cameron Village, marking it up, then selling it to you on Instagram because you’re too busy taking barre classes to go shopping. Ever heard of an estate sale? This isn’t rocket science!” I shot back.
“My friends are providing a service. You’re just jealous because you didn’t think of the idea, and because I’m Daddy’s little girl,” she said, with that shit eating grin she had perfected over the last 30 years.
“If it weren’t for you I’d be Daddy’s little girl!!!” I shouted.
As soon as the words left my mouth I regretted saying them. “Daddy’s little girl”? The silence was deafening as I lowered my head and stared at the platinum rimmed fine china dinner plate in front of me.
Thankfully, Dad broke the silence. “Enough. For some reason that I’ll never understand, you seem to have a following. If you were smart, you would get some editors and start writing more often to increase your traffic. Make some products if people really want to buy them. Start a newsletter and this “podcast” or whatever it’s called. Finish the damn book you’ve been talking about for years.”
“You make it sound so easy,” I replied.
Attempting to sabotage this new business plan, my sister chimed in, “That’s because it is easy and any idiot can do it. Have you been on the internet lately? Anyone with electricity can write a “piece” and get all their friends to like it to stroke their ego. It’s all noise.”
Dad cut her off, “We’ll he’ll fit right in then. I’m done talking about this. I’d suggest finding a mentor to help you with starting a business.”
“Will you be my mentor?” I asked, hopefully.
“I want nothing to do with this,” he replied.
“That Jason Miller could be your mentor,” Mom suggested, opening the second bottle of wine.
“Mom! Stop,” I said, as I rolled the TV back into the living room. It was time to take Dad’s advice. It was time to pivot and put Dinn-Dinn on the back burner. It was time to start the ITB Insider™ media empire.