69 episodes

Each week Stephen reverse engineers the keys to success that took little companies and built empires. We believe in building empires and learning from those that have already done it.

The Empire Builders Podcast Stephen Semple and David Young

    • Business
    • 5.0 • 8 Ratings

Each week Stephen reverse engineers the keys to success that took little companies and built empires. We believe in building empires and learning from those that have already done it.

    #067: RX Bars – Could you fire your Mom?

    #067: RX Bars – Could you fire your Mom?

    CrossFit and paleo diets lead to the creation of RX Bars. Starting with only $10K, they sold for over $600M.



    Dave Young:



    Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Steven Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Steven's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode word from our sponsor, which is... Well it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients, so here's one of those.



    [BWS Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning Ad]











    Dave Young:



    Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast. Dave young here, along with Steven Semple. And Steven, as our listeners may know, we record these in, well, I don't know if they know it or not. We don't sit down once a week and record, we'll record three or four episodes in a row. And we just got done talking about cookies. And now we're talking about another edible product called RXBars. And I'm starting to get hungry.



    Stephen Semple:



    So it's going to be an early lunch for you. Is that what we're saying?



    Dave Young:



    It might be an early lunch. Yeah. Yeah. So I've seen RXBars. I see them in stores. Wherever your favorite bars are sold, you're going to find these RXBars. What is the story behind the RX brand of bars?



    Stephen Semple:



    Well, it's a pretty interesting story. So RX, which is the letter R, the letter X, Bars, they're



    Dave Young:



    Prescription like.



    Stephen Semple:



    Yeah. Yeah, that's interesting. I hadn't even put that together. So yeah, like prescription, and they're these little energy bars. The business was founded by Peter Rahal and Jared Smith in 2012 in Chicago, and they started with really no money. They invested a few thousand dollars each and no experience. They had no experience manufacturing food. And in 2017, five years after starting, they sold to Kellogg's for $600 million.



    Dave Young:



    $600 million.



    Stephen Semple:



    $600 million five years after starting. Have I got your attention?



    Dave Young:



    What a happy day for those guys.



    Stephen Semple:



    Yeah. Yeah. When you look at energy bars, it's also a crazy, crowded space. Go on Amazon.



    Dave Young:



    They're everywhere.



    Stephen Semple:



    They are everywhere. It seems like there's new ones all the time. So it wasn't like energy bars was like this new thing where there were... No, it was a really, really crowded space. And again, they did this with little money and even less experience. And Peter is an interesting guy. He really struggled as a student and really struggled in business. He's dyslexic, and he was a D student, And he talks about how he worked really hard to get a D. And he found work very hard. And what people don't realize, especially people with severe dyslexia, linear activities are really hard to do. And basically, pretty much every entry-level job is hard. And I heard an interview with him talking about how hard it was to actually even fill out and handle a checkbook because it's this linear activity and anything that's linear is really, really hard. So he even had a really difficult time getting into college.



    Stephen Semple:



    Now, his father was in the food business. They had a family wholesaling business, and the initial plan was for Peter to enter the family business. And he started off doing an internship at a food processing plant, Mondie Foods in Belgium. He did that for about a year, and it really didn't work out all that well. And then he went to Lebanon for a time because that was the family heritage, and he wanted to learn more about the family heritage. And when he returned to the US, he learned that the family really didn't want him working in the family business. He really was not cut out for it. Food wholesaling is a very linear business. As he describes it, failing was not foreign to him because of all the struggles h

    • 18 min
    #066: Famous Amos – We hope he made $100M in the last sale

    #066: Famous Amos – We hope he made $100M in the last sale

    Wally Amos built, sold, worked for, and quit. He got brought back and might have got a return on the final sale just because he liked baking cookies.



    Dave Young:



    Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is ... Well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients, so here's one of those.



    [Tapper's Jewelry Ad]







    Dave Young:



    Welcome back to the Empire Builders Podcast. I'm Dave young, and I'm alongside Stephen Semple. And Stephen, you got the story today of another cookie guy, another famous cookie. This one's really famous.



    Stephen Semple:



    Totally.



    Dave Young:



    Totally famous. Famous Amos.



    Stephen Semple:



    Famous Amos. Yeah. So Famous Amos Cookies was started by Wally Amos on March 9th, 1975 on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. And here's what's really interesting. It is the first, it was the first cookie store in history, and this story is... There's a lot to it. There's success. There's decline. There's return. There's so much going on here that I really don't know what to say other than it's really interesting journey that we're going to go on.







    Dave Young:



    Lots of chapters in the Famous Amos story. When you say the first cookie store, like all the others were just like a bakery where it was other things besides cookies? Cookies, they also had.



    Stephen Semple:



    Right. Yeah. This is the first one where it was just cookies and that was it. It even predates another podcast we did, which was Mrs. Fields' Cookies. It even predates Mrs. Fields by a couple of years.



    Dave Young:



    Okay.



    Stephen Semple:



    Yeah. So first cookie store in history, and it's a really interesting journey because Wally went to school to study to be a secretary.



    Dave Young:



    Really?



    Stephen Semple:



    Yeah, and the first job he got was in the mail room of the William Morris Talent Agency, which is one of the top talent agencies in the world. He worked his way up, and he became the first black talent manager. First one, so he was really groundbreaking on that. And he reached a point where he decided he wanted to leave the agency and set up his own agency to manage his own clients, but this new agency he started was really struggling, and he would go home at the end of the days and he'd feel frankly depressed, and he wanted to feel good about things. So at the end of the day, he would go home and he baked cookies at night. And he'd baked these chocolate chip pecan cookies like his aunt made.



    Dave Young:



    As one do.



    Stephen Semple:



    And he really did this to self soothe. It was never a business idea. It was something he did to make himself feel good.



    Dave Young:



    Just made some cookies.



    Stephen Semple:



    Made some cookies and he'd bring them back to the office. And when clients were in, he'd give them to clients. And one day light goes off. He said, "The one thing that makes me happy is making cookies. Why don't I start this as a business?" He gets on the phone. He calls old clients. He gets an investment from Marvin Gay and a bunch of others. He raises $25,000 from these well known musicians and decides I'm going to start this business. So in March of 1975, he opens the first shop dedicated the cookies in the world called Famous Amos Cookies.



    Dave Young:



    Famous Amos Cookies.



    Stephen Semple:



    Yeah.



    Dave Young:



    I love the fact that the cookies were a form of therapy for him. I mean, it's like a Ted Lasso moment, isn't it? It's...



    Stephen Semple:



    It sort of is. Yeah. Yeah. And so he opens it up in this highly visible location in Los Angeles on the seedy, because at the time very seedy Sunset Boulevard was full of run

    • 17 min
    #065: Dyson – It sucks, but not enough.

    #065: Dyson – It sucks, but not enough.

    That is the prospect’s dissatisfaction.  5,136 iterations later the problem is solved.



    Dave Young:



    Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is well it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those.



    [No Bull RV Ad]







    Dave Young:



    Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast. Dave Young here, along with Stephen Semple. Stephen, when you told me what the topic of today's podcast is, I immediately thought of commercials that they do. And we're talking about Dyson today. So the company that makes the vacuum cleaners and fans, I assume other things. But I've read a little bit about, is it Stephen Dyson? Is that his name?



    Stephen Semple:



    No, it's James Dyson.



    Dave Young:



    James Dyson.



    Stephen Semple:



    You're so close.



    Dave Young:



    You're Stephen. Stephen Semple.



    Stephen Semple:



    I'm Stephen. I really shouldn't make fun of remembering names because I'm terrible at it, so.



    Dave Young:



    He doesn't care. As long as we remember the last name, which is Dyson.



    Stephen Semple:



    That's it. Yeah. So Dyson was founded by James Dyson on July 8th, 1991 and you're right. They make vacuum cleaners, and hand dryers, and air purifiers and all sorts of stuff. And they sell over $8 billion of this stuff. They have 13,000 employees and they're still privately held. They're still a privately held company, which is really unusual, really quite remarkable. They're really best known for their vacuums. And that was the first product. That's what we're going to talk about today, because it's really interesting. And you'll notice this parallel of some other things we've talked about, story about how this vacuum all came about.



    Dave Young:



    So here's a guy, he's British, right?



    Stephen Semple:



    Correct.



    Dave Young:



    Here's a guy sitting, saying to himself, all these other vacuum cleaners suck, but not enough.



    Stephen Semple:



    Correct. That's exactly it. That is exactly it. And the interesting thing is James Dyson did a lot of innovation and he really kind of considers himself this amateur engineer. So yes. And what he means by that is he would look at a product and he'd go, this product is not good. How can I improve it? But you would think somebody who thinks that way and has that background, you would think that he went to university for science, right? Like engineering or math or something along that lines.



    Dave Young:



    And he didn't.



    Stephen Semple:



    He did not. He did the arts and classics in university.



    Dave Young:



    No kidding.



    Stephen Semple:



    Yes. And what drives me crazy, and he'll even say it, so many people frown on the arts and classics in terms of an education, because it's not practical, but he'll tell you a lot of his thinking came from that degree in terms of how he looks at the world. So while he was in university for the classics, he discovered design and in the mid 60s, design was not being talked about at all. And when he was told what it was, he became really interested. So he went to the Royal College of Art and he studied furniture and then architectural design. But at his heart he still considers himself a very much an amateur engineer. Again, he looks at things and he says, how can I make it better? So in 1974, so remember the company was founded in 1991, 1974 he buys a Hoover Junior vacuum. So it's 17 years before founding of Dyson. This is one of those upright vacuum cleaners, it's got the pillow sort of case thing hanging out the back.



    Dave Young:



    Yeah. The big nasty bag that you put in there and



    Stephen Semple:



    Yeah.



    Dave Young:



    Zip it up.



    Stephen Semple:

    • 20 min
    #064: The Jet Business – Close to the money, not close to the airport

    #064: The Jet Business – Close to the money, not close to the airport

    I just had to walk in. Who puts a jet in the front window of an office building in London's financial district?



    Dave Young:



    Welcome to the Empire Builders podcast, teaching business owners, the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode word from our sponsor, which is well it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those.



    [BWS Heating & Plumbing Ad]







    Dave Young:



    Welcome back to the Empire Builders Podcast. Dave Young here with you alongside Stephen Semple, who shares amazing stories about businesses that start really small and do something just crazy, innovative to spark growth and then they become empires. And today you're going to share, are we... It seems like we're jumping the... Are we going straight into like private jets? Because that's not usually where we start with a business, right? It's usually mom and pop and you get some of the kids to work and the jets don't come along till a little later in the story.



    Stephen Semple:



    Yeah. We're going to be talking about a company called The Jet Business.



    Dave Young:



    The Jet Business.



    Stephen Semple:



    The Jet Business and they sell private jets. That's their business.



    Dave Young:



    Well, this is what we call a descriptive business title.



    Stephen Semple:



    That is a descriptive business title. It is.



    Dave Young:



    Yeah.



    Stephen Semple:



    So where I came across this, I was in London, England in the fall of 2021 and I was there speaking at a number of events. I was speaking at Oxford University, Cambridge University, the London Society of Medicine and the London Stock Exchange and I was staying near Hyde Park and the day I was speaking at the London Stock Exchange, I decided to get up early and walk to the exchange. It was about an hour's walk from where I was staying near Buckingham Palace over to the exchange and I'm walking along Park Lane, just beside Hyde Park and right at street level, I see this fuselage of a jet, you know, there's office buildings and there's kind of a retail level on the ground floor and there's this, what looks like a jet fuselage on the ground floor of this office building for this company called The Jet Business.



    Dave Young:



    Nowhere near an airport?



    Stephen Semple:



    This is blocks from Buckingham Palace in downtown London, right across the street from Hyde Park.



    Dave Young:



    Usually I expect people that sell jets to be, you know, located at an airport somewhere.



    Stephen Semple:



    Google it and look at the pictures. I'm going to also post some pictures on the website along with the notes on this so on the Empire Builders Podcast website so you can see some pictures. And since I do work with a private jet business here in Canada called Kreos Aviation, K-R-E-O-S Aviation so if you are in the market for a private jet, check them out, they're awesome. I decided that I would come back later in the week and drop in. I was like, what the heck is this? I couldn't at that point because I had my engagement so I was curious.







    Stephen Semple:



    So later in the week I walk into the lobby and I asked to be shown around and they were really awesome. I told them I work with a competitor in Canada, I'm in marketing. They were awesome. They were cool. They spent a whole bunch of time with me. So in the front of the office, right in ground floor, looking out at Park Lane, they recreated the fuselage of one of their jets and they set it up in a popular configuration so you can walk right into this fuselage, stand up in it, sit down, walk around, see what it's like and you can see this from the street.



    Stephen Semple:



    And here's what I found fascinating. If you think about it, their clients are really select, rich folks.

    • 17 min
    #063: Black & Decker – Making a better drill.

    #063: Black & Decker – Making a better drill.

    How do you turn it on and off without taking your hands off the device?



    Dave Young:



    Welcome to the Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Stephen's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well, it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those.



    [Mother's Brewing Ad]







    Dave Young:



    Welcome to the Empire Builders podcast. I'm Dave Young, alongside Steven Semple. Steven, when you told me today that we were going to talk about the company that we're going to talk about. It hearkened me back to days when I considered myself a bit of a handyman, I still feel like I can do some things, but we're talking power tools today. I believe you're not much of a man if you don't assemble your own flat pack furniture.



    Stephen Semple:



    So you're an Allen Key man now?



    Dave Young:



    That's right. Traded in my Black and Decker for an Allen key, but Black and Decker is what we're going to talk about today.



    Stephen Semple:



    It's an interesting story, because it was founded back in 1914 by Duncan Black and Alfonso Decker in Baltimore.



    Dave Young:



    Well, that's all we need to know, I guess.



    Stephen Semple:



    That's all we need to know. Today they are the largest manufacturer of power tools in America, and here's the cool thing. They even have a drill on the moon.



    Dave Young:



    There's a Black and Decker drill on the moon?



    Stephen Semple:



    The astronauts take up tools for doing the core samples. Black and Decker was the manufacturer of that. And of course, they left it behind.



    Dave Young:



    Are they still making things in the US?



    Stephen Semple:



    You know what? I didn't look into where their manufacturing is. In 2010 Black and Decker merged with Stanley tools. Today, they're part of that fortune 500 company estimated to be worth 30 billion dollars, they're a big deal. Going back to the beginning, when it was just Duncan Black and Alfonso Decker, they met in Baltimore in 1910 while working for the Roland Telegraph company. They were both employed there and they became friends. The thing that's interesting is they both had very, very different upbringings. Alfonso came from a very poor family. He had to drop out of school to take care of his family, but he was always a tinker and he made lots of inventions to get out of chores. You'd love this one, Dave, he didn't want to get up early to feed the horses.



    Dave Young:



    Mm-hmm (affirmative).



    Stephen Semple:



    He rigged up this thing that when the alarm rang, so he'd set up a clock, and when the alarm rang, it would open up a feeder to feed the horses. So he didn't have to get up to feed the horses.



    Dave Young:



    I like this guy already.



    Stephen Semple:



    Duncan Black came from a much more comfortable home. He actually didn't have to work, but they met, and they became friends. In 1914, while at the telephone company, Decker suggested, Hey, he's opening his own company, and he wanted Black to come with him. They decide to open their own business and do their own designs, but they don't have any money. So, Duncan Black sells his car to Alfonso's father-in-law for 600 bucks, and Alfonso mortgages his house for $600. Between them, they've got $1,200 to set up this machine shop.



    Dave Young:



    Okay. So, it's a machine shop that they're opening.



    Stephen Semple:



    That's where they start.



    Dave Young:



    Okay.



    Stephen Semple:



    They focus on manufacturing existing designs and they got some jobs to manufacture candy mixers and pocket makers and things along those lines.



    Dave Young:



    Okay.



    Stephen Semple:



    But business is slow and they decide to take a look at the power drill.

    • 14 min
    #062: Price on website?  We answer the question.

    #062: Price on website?  We answer the question.

    Armadura Metal Roof reveals the behind-the-scenes of putting their prices on the website and the positive change in customer behavior. 



    Dave Young:



    Welcome to The Empire Builders podcast, teaching business owners the not so secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Steven Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector, and storyteller. I'm Steven's sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today's episode word from our sponsor, which is, well it's us, but we're highlighting ads we've written and produced for our clients. So here's one of those.



    [Armadura Metal Roof Ad]







    Stephen Semple:



    Hey, everyone. Welcome to The Empire Builders podcast. This is Steven Semple here, and we're going to be doing something a little bit different. We've given Dave young the day off and instead I have a very special guest with me, Matthew Burns, who is a customer of ours. And I asked Matt to join us on today's podcast for a really specific reason. I've had a lot of people asking the question or having the thought of, should they be putting their price on the website?



    Stephen Semple:



    And what I thought, I could go on my rant about my belief that one should, and instead I thought, you know what? This is a great opportunity to bring on Matt and have him speak about his experience at Armadura Metal Roofing about putting pricing on their website. Because when we first started working with Matthew and Armadura... And you've heard the Armadura ads and they're fricking awesome. But when we first started working with Matthew over at Armadura they didn't have price on their website. And that led for quite an interesting conversation, especially when you look at the background of the roofing industry, because, correct me if I'm wrong, the roofing industry really doesn't like the idea of putting price on website, do they?



    Matthew Burns:



    Oh no. No. That's a scary, scary thing to do, yeah.



    Stephen Semple:



    So before we get into it, tell us a little bit about your awesome product over at Armadura.



    Matthew Burns:



    Armadura Metal Roof was born from a desire to make things easier for the installation guy, the guy who's up on the roof working the 9:00 to 5:00 in the hot sun and the cold winters grinding. Metal roofing is not an easy product to put together, especially if you didn't start in metal, if you started in asphalt and you had to learn the industry, and so a lot of mistakes get made.



    Matthew Burns:



    And the systems out there were built by an engineer in a room that has no idea what it's like to be on the roof. They just know that, hey, if we do these things, it's going to work, but you have to do five times the amount of work.



    Matthew Burns:



    So when Armadura was invented and we went through the engineering of it, we decided, well, let's put more things together. Let's engineer this thing so that when the installers touch it they go, "Wait a second, I don't have to go as slow. Wait a second, I don't have to remember to add clips." So that's how it was born. And then launched out in 2013. We got some really quick accolades for developing something that was really easy to use. Now it had to beautiful. It has to be amazing for the client as well, for the homeowner.



    Stephen Semple:



    It is an awesome product with texture and depth of color. It's beautiful.



    Matthew Burns:



    In R and D we probably spent a year and a half, almost two years just in developing it out, just in making it perfect.



    Stephen Semple:



    And just so people understand, you guys had a background in shaping and forming metal because for decades you've been serving the automotive industry.



    Matthew Burns:



    Yeah.



    Stephen Semple:



    So it's not like, gee, we're trying to figure a whole pile of things out. It's like, no, you already had a lot of expertise.



    Matthew Burns:



    Yeah, 48 years in the automotive industry or stamping for automotive. I mean,

    • 22 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
8 Ratings

8 Ratings

Luis Castaneda ,

For business owners

I love the Empire Builders Podcast because it is insightful, always has a valuable lesson, and is delivered in a short amount of time.

Wes Kronberg ,

Empire Builders

They tell inspiring stories about successfully people and companies. Then they break down the stories to principals that you cam apply.

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