Bobby Makes Better Gin Than You

Hey, look, it's Bobby looking out the window

Hey, look, it's Bobby looking out the window

Bobby Finan is not your average 25-year old. At 21, he left the NYC finance world to start his own distillery. This is where you put in the obligatory story of a hero entrepreneur rejecting the six-figure starting salary to pursue his passion. Bobby flatly rejected that narrative, though, and told us the real (and simpler) story. He was just really bad at working for other people, so he didn't want to do it. Lucky for him, he's good at making gin. 

Bobby is co-founder of Tommyrotter distillery in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. After he graduated from Hamilton College, Bobby worked for year in what was then a 2-man distillery in Central New York. After cutting his teeth there, he found an investor and partner to help him open up his own craft distillery in Buffalo. Named Tommyrotter to celebrate a band of rebellious craftsmen and artisans, Tommyrotter has been growing quickly since 2015. Fourteen months after its founding, Tommyrotter's "Cask Strength Bourbon-Barrel Gin" just won Double Gold and Best in Show at the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition. 

By the nature of talking to successful business that have been around for a while, most of our interviewees are not of the millennial generation. Bobby is a great story of building the foundations for a successful business as a millennial. His story is also an example of the relentless attitude required to make that happen. 

Thank you to our sponsor Mailchimp. Also to another Hamilton College alum, Em Leeds, for the introduction. 

Also, here is the list of our favorite episodes that we talked about at the end of the show: 

Episode 2: Jim Andalaro, Sheet Metal Manufacturer

Episode 21: Aaron Draplin, Draplin Design Company

Episode 13: Ashley Albert & Jonathan Schnapp, Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club

Episode 12: Michael Miqueli, San Antonio Broker Services

Episode 5: Robb Rivera & Elias Soriano, Nonpoint

 

PROBAR: Jeff Coleman and Jules Lambert

probar

The story of PROBAR is the unlikely story of an East Coast real estate developer and a Mormon salesman building a hugely successful vegetarian food company. Jeff Coleman, the developer, picked up an interest in healthy eating after moving out to Utah. Jules Lambert, the salesman, converted a chance meeting with Jeff into career. Along the way they worked out of a closet, lived in an RV, and gave away "samples" at events that may or may not have been the production remainders. 

While Jeff and Jules are passionate about building their business they clearly care about also using it as a vehicle to make people healthier, which is cool to see. We had a great time talking with them and think if you're interested in sales and selling in new markets you'll be particularly interested in this episode.

Thanks to Jules Lambert, Jeff Coleman, and our sponsor MailChimp.

The Logistics of Chaos

At 19 years old, Robert Mermin ran away from home to join the circus. Armed with $50 in his pocket and a homemade clown nose, he found an apprenticeship that began a lifetime of involvement under the big top. After 18 years as a clown, mime, juggler and other sorts of entertainer, Rob founded his own circus and called it "Circus Smirkus". It failed catastrophically, and the clown lost his shirt. 

A year later, he tried again. With the help of a friend and some literal back-of-the-napkin financing, he built the current version of Circus Smirkus. On one hand, a traveling group of professional circus performers. On the other hand, a camp for youngsters who want to learn how to perform in a circus. 

The circus industry is one of the most fascinating that we've had a chance to talk about on the show. To some, it may conjure up images of campy tents and tacky props, but really the business is about logistics. Circuses travel with a village of people and equipment. In addition to the "big top", the stage, the animals, etc circuses need to include their own medical staff, chefs, sometimes even a post office. 

It takes a special kind of person to manage that chaos in an industry that doesn't get the respect of some the other performing arts. Rob is definitely that person, and it comes across in this one of my favorite new episodes. 

Simple But Not Easy

jason fried

In 1999 Jason Fried started a design consultancy with a few friends. They called it 37signals and their launch consisted of publishing a page that listed 37 things they believed. 17 years later they're still in business, though their company looks totally different. They've shifted to building software tools and have renamed 37signals after Basecamp, a project management tool which is their most successful product.

Jason recommends people keep things simple - e.g. spend less than you make - and avoid trying to optimize every component of your company, which can be tempting, especially in software. His perspective is refreshing and his advice is simple to understand but not easy to follow without discipline.

Jason recommended a few books in our conversation:
Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace Paperback by Ricardo Semler

The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter F. Drucker

Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet

Thanks to Jason Fried, and our sponsor MailChimp.

"Patty Boy" Doesn't Want any Friends

Almost any time you walk into Piccolo’s Restaurant in Hoboken for a cheesesteak, you can hear Patty lumbering around, coming out of the kitchen every once in a while to curse out his favorite customers. In his restaurant, his regulars call the 60-odd year old “Patty Boy”, a vestige of the time when his father ran the restaurant and Patty was the boy helping out in the back. Now the boy is very much a man, but keeps the 61 year old restaurant operating in a very similar fashion to the way his father used to do it. No menu, and the options for the cheesesteak are “with” or “without” onions. But the city around Piccolo’s is changing, and in Patty’s words, “the restaurant will die with me”. There is no succession plan.

Piccolo’s is situated in the south of Hoboken, where his father bought the plot of land where the restaurant sits for $1,000 in the 1950’s. It started out as a late-night spot serving the bar next door that used to host acts like The Temptations while they were still trying to make a name for themselves. In the 1960’s it became a daytime spot that became known for the cheesesteaks it still serves today.

Patty isn’t the most successful character we’ve had on the show. His marketing wisdom can be summed up in 3 or 4 words: “I don’t know”, with “fucking” being the optional one. But if there is a paradigm of the old-school restaurant owner, who loves his customers as much as his restaurant, Patty is the guy. In a building that may one day be a Jamba Juice or a Chop’t, the foul-mouthed, unapologetic Patty is going down slinging cheesesteaks.