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Jeff Ferguson: From Rubber Chicken Salesman to Digital Media Agency Head
In The Better Business Book, Vol. 3, Jeff Ferguson describes how starting a small company at an early age propelled him forward in the world of digital marketing.
At TheLatest.com, we're always on the lookout for new ideas, entrepreneurs, startups and the like.
I just bought a copy of The Better Business Book, Volume 3.
In this book, one hundred authors each write a short chapter giving advice on marketing, financing and all the things that go into making a business work.
One chapter jumped out at me: "The House That Rubber Chickens Built", by Jeff Ferguson.
In a moment I'll tell you why this chapter grabbed my attention, but first I'll provide a synopsis of Ferguson's chapter.
Back in 2001, Jeff Ferguson, while working for Kimberly-Clark and Hilton Hotels (as head of digital marketing), was getting his MBA on the side.
In one course, students "started their own business" -- on paper, anyway.
Students would pick a project, write a business plan, do the financials and figure out how to market the startup.
Most students picked a project that might benefit their employers, Ferguson picked a project very much out of the mainstream.
Ferguson became aware of a magic shop at Disneyland that carried items like whoopee cushions, fake vomit, rubber chickens and the like.
The Internet was, by now, taking off and Ferguson thought there might be an opportunity to sell gag items online.
As it turns out, he was right, and next thing he knew, he was spending all his time filling orders.
A few years later, Ferguson sold the company and re-entered "the real world" as an Internet marketer.
Soon enough, he started his own digital marketing firm, FangDigital.com, where he's been for seven years.
The point Ferguson makes in his "rubber chicken" chapter is that having experience in a small startup helps consolidate, very quickly, all the lessons learned in the classroom.
As head of a startup, one must "do it all." Ferguson says having this startup experience early on enables him to now more readily see how all the pieces need to come together.
The reason this chapter leaped out at me is because, at age 26, a business school classmate, George Rohr, and I had a very similar experience.
We came up with the idea of peddling "Executive Underwear in the Briefscase," a pair of men's boxer shorts whose design that looked like the stock listings page out of the Wall Street Journal. The shorts came in a briefcase-like box.
This novelty gift item went on to become the number-one item in the Bloomingdale's Christmas catalog that year.
We did it again the next year with "Skylab Protective Helmets."
Then I started my corporate career in newspaper marketing. Like Ferguson, my startup helped me see the big picture in ways I thought many senior executives couldn't.
Soon I was VP of marketing at the Kansas City Star.
How many people peddle rubber chickens, fake barf and novelty underwear? Membership in a club like this has to be very small.
So I reached out to Ferguson, who lives in LA.
We're having lunch Monday. Watch out, world!
These are the things you have to be in the trenches of entrepreneurship to know.