“Yeah, the concrete heats up,” says J, my travel buddy for Las Vegas, when I mentioned that barefoot only works indoors or at night.
“It’s not concrete. It’s plastic,” I answer. The stones beneath my feet are plastic. Plastic heats up more than rock. When yo have bare feet, you can feel the composition of concrete.
There’s some confusion between heaven and hell here in Vegas.
My travel partner isn’t with me. He said he’d come but he wasn’t able to spring for the flight. When J heard about the licensing show, he said it was a great opportunity. The show is free, I told him, and I’ll ask them to switch the one king room to a room with two queens. With J, that makes three.
Vegas is the perfect place for the Licensing Expo.
I came here to do good, to create a brand to empower girls. But that’s not what licensing about. Licensing is about sticking a picture on a shirt and charging five times as much as the same shirt with no picture on it. Licensing is about selling children rocks for lunch.
One of the first things I learn is that when given a choice between a banana and a rock with Scooby Doo stickers on it, children choose the rock to pack in their lunchbox. When given the choice between a chocolate cupcake with Elmo and the same cupcake with the American flag, children choose the Elmo cupcake and say they chose it because it’s chocolate.
Licensing is about forming subconscious ideas, important ideas like: Elmo tastes like chocolate but the American flag doesn’t.
Licensing and branding is a business where popularity talks and everything else walks. Originality is not only unnecessary, but considered risky. What about something for girls which is not in pastel colors? Nope. Pink and purple test well. What about something for boys that isn’t about competition, action and killing? Risky, very risky.
It’s not that these people don’t care. Honestly, I have never met such a great bunch of people at an industry event. People were genuinely caring, straightforward, helpful and decent to one another. I felt no snobbery from those who were successful, and got fabulous advice and help from everyone I spoke to.
But it’s all about the numbers.
Getting the numbers is about time, timeliness and money. The time, everyone seems to think, is 3-5 years, if your content is great, you consistently keep making great content, and your social media or marketing efforts are successful.
That’s a tall order for an artist.
I’m not an artist, but I have something my team and I have worked on for years, and it’s excellent, and with a budget, we could get to the right audience, we could improve what we’re doing, and we could build the audience.
It’s a choice in front of me. Work another 3 years. Find the right partner. Keep investing money and time in Gangly Sister. Keep believing that there are people who want great, non-princess, non-Barbie content for their children.
I’m not doing this for me. I never have been. 3 years of my life so far. Another 3 years of my life ahead of me. All risk.
I used to be an executive at a technology firm, and I could be one again.
Just another choice for the Gladiator. It’s not which direction to go, it’s choosing how to get there.
The hardest part of being the Gladiator is starting over. I have something great, and I’m starting over. For the third, fourth, fifth time, who is counting? Licensing Expo was a new start for something I’ve been consistent and persistent about for what I thought was long enough.
It wasn’t long enough.
I could give up and let children worship rocks. I don’t think they were really going to eat them. They were going to go without a fruit so they could worship a rock.
Look, girls can be dreamers! What? She’s wearing no pants? I have to keep looking at this to remind me why I can’t do anything but what I’m doing.
“We can all say we’d be richer if we’d made X, Y, or Z decision,” says my business partner. “For you it was never about the money, or even finding a market and serving the need. It’s about your mission.”
I am fortunate enough to have the luxury of not just being a dreamer, but of being an achiever, of being persistent, of having the time, the passion, and, more than anything, the resilience to pursue what I believe in.
(If you’re looking for better role models for your girls, ones who wear pants, take a look at Gangly Sister. Get the comics. Join the mailing list. Tell people about it. Prove that there’s a market, so we can change the world together. And so I can eat and pay rent. I’m into that kind of thing.)
J disappears one evening and doesn’t come back all night. J is one of the most responsible people I know. A married, decent guy who works at a law firm, someone who has helped me get my finances in order, someone who texts if he’s so much as 3 minutes late. When I finally find him, Vegas has gotten him, the tables, one too many drinks, nothing serious, something that hasn’t happened to him in over a decade.
Vegas. It can get to anyone.
The perfect place for the Licensing Expo. 15,000 decent, hardworking people who truly care and are as brainwashed as you are. Value is all about perception. That’s what they taught me when I got a big-name MBA, and you know what that costs these days.
Plastic cobblestone and a fake piano bar in New York, New York. There aren’t any cobblestones in New York anymore, at least nowhere I know of. I’ll tell you all about that next week.