Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Our Business Post-Katrina

I wrote this blog for client Bruise Relief and I liked it.

Saturday, August 29th marks the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. With three named storms to date and Danny forming in the Atlantic, the threat of another hurricane is always on our minds.

Our own experience post-Katrina was like many others in New Orleans, from evacuation to our eventual return. In fact, Bruise Relief was still in development when the storm hit and we were delayed almost a year before getting back on track.

The delay, the storm and upheaval that followed, what that did to our community was devastating. And as a community we are still recovering. But we are recovering.

How we do business changed as a result of Katrina. Plans we’d made to outsource manufacturing and marketing to other parts of the country, we brought home to New Orleans. In fact, we believe our local partners are even more capable now than they were before the storm. Our manufacturer upgraded equipment. Our advertising firm was revitalized by employees who’d left and come back.

The business community here in New Orleans has been so supportive, urged on by local Bruise Relief fans that literally walked into retailers demanding the product. Imagine CVS and Walgreens calling us for more stock.

As we’ve branched out to other parts of the country, our Bruise Relief ambassadors are also getting a warm reception in Atlanta, Dallas, DC, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami. We know people love the product but we also believe they want to be a part of re-building this community.

We have all of you to thank for our success. Before Katrina, Bruise Relief was an idea. Now we’re a business with products in 7,000 stores nationwide including CVS and SuperValu stores as well as Walgreens regionally. We’re also online at Drugstore.com, Target.com and others.

One of the characteristics of post-Katrina New Orleans is entrepreneurship and a willingness to help other entrepreneurs. This came from the Katrina experience and represents a willingness to be self-sufficient, a great desire to help others succeed and a lot of out-of-the-box thinking…

After all, it’s easy to think outside the box when the box is gone.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened

Here's what happened. I kid you not. I went to this Christmas / Hanukkah party in 2009 and almost everyone there was unemployed. Either they'd been laid off or as freelancers the work dried up overnight.

I was in pretty much the same boat. I had two small clients left but had drained much of my savings. Then I got a call. I was in the library and I got a call from my friend Marybeth who is my friend Lou Lou's sister.

I've known Marybeth since Lou Lou and I were in college together in New Orleans at Newcomb College of Tulane University. I stress the Newcomb part only because Tulane decided to close Newcomb post-Katrina. Now Newcomb is this pretend "Institute" but we all know what happened Scott Cowen, President of Tulane.

Okay I'm getting off track.

Marybeth called and said, "Hey would you be interested in going to Ethiopia?" I think at first she was just trying to convince me to write some copy for her website. Then she said it again, "Hey would you be interested in going to Ethiopia?" And so I did. And so I did.

When I got back from my trip to Kolfe Orphanage in Addis Ababa, I realized I needed to get back on the horse. The freelance horse. Cold calling. Working my contacts. Get some money rolling into my checking account. Then I got a call from my friend Steven Stark, host of said Christmas / Hanukkah party for the unemployed. He had a referral for me. Unlike almost everyone else in the United States, Steven had too much work.

For example, Steven had to write copy for a commercial involving Playboy bunnies and his client Macanudo cigars. Then Steven had to fly to LA to oversee the shoot with the Playboy bunnies. Poor Steven.

So there's Ethiopia and Playboy bunnies and work. Finally some work.

I started as a freelance copywriter on-site. I went to work everyday for an agency writing web copy for multiple sites. It was very strange. Having been a freelancer for about 15 years, the idea of going to an office everyday was strange. The water cooler conversations, rehashing episodes of Lost or whatever the cool show is now. The intrigue, the politics, the hard work. I was in over my head.

Then a funny thing happened. I got into a groove. I made some friends. We went to Subway together. Then they offered me a job.

Working for the man. The man who has insurance. The real kind. With a plastic card and shit. Never underestimate the power of the word insurance. Or IN-surance as they say in Texas where I'm from.

It's been a big adjustment. The only way I can really explain it is to say it's like when I first got married. And I was all, "Whadd'ya mean I have to tell you where I'm going?" As jobs go, it's pretty cake. The people are nice. Like actually nice. Mostly we just work. Very few meetings about nothing. Most days I'm out of there by 5:30. And there's the insurance.

I'm reading this book by Laura Munson called A Story of Unlikely Happiness. So far, so good. I actually read the Modern Love column in The New York Times that launched her career. I could relate.

The thing is I don't know her story. I will by the end of this book. What I like already is that she is a writer. She wrote in obscurity for years - 14 books according to the one she finally published. That's me. Writing in obscurity. Down to about 1 blog per month now that I'm insured. Laura Munson reminded me to get off my ass and keep writing. In obscurity. Ad inifintum. Here I go.

N.B. I was talking to my friend Marc at work and I told him I used to work at The Washington Post. He said, "You worked at the Washington Post? Wow, how far you've fallen." And that's what I love about Marc.

Also I don't have to tell my husband where I'm going. He knows I'm going pee.