“This is Capitalism: CEO Stories”, the intersection of the free market and entrepreneurial success stories. Here we speak with leading CEOs, academics, philanthropists and up and comers on their contributions and perspectives on the American economy. This podcast is a part of “This is Capitalism”, a branded content series sponsored by Stephens Inc., aims to educate and inform the public about the free market. Stephens Inc. is a full service investment banking firm headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. Since its inception in 1933, privately held Stephens Inc. has served a broad client base which includes corporations, state and local governments, financial institutions, institutional investors and individual investors throughout the United States and overseas. For more information, visit www.stephens.com or www.thisiscapitalism.com. Member NYSE, SIPC.
CEO Stories with Brian Lipton, Cititour.com
I’m Patricia O’Connell for This is Capitalism. Today I’m talking with Brian Lipton, who is the Chief Theater Critic for Cititour.com and the former editor-in-chief and currently a contributing editor to TheaterMania.com. He is going to take us behind the scenes at Broadway and give us a little bit of a look at what’s going on with Broadway, the return to Broadway for both actors and theatergoers.
[:29] Patricia O’Connell introduces Brian Lipton, a theater critic for Cititour.com and contributing editor to TheaterMania.com, and welcomes him to This is Capitalism.
[1:01] What does the closing of Phantom mean after 35 years? Is it just time? It has made its money back so many times that its lead producer, Cameron Mackintosh, could run it as long as he wanted to. With its closing notice, its grosses have soared to their highest in years. Winter is not the tourist season, and COVID-19 is still a factor.
[3:01] All Broadway shows are capitalized, which is really the amount of money it takes to put the show on from start to finish: rehearsals, scenery, rent, and things up until day one. For a large musical now, $15 to $25 million is not an unusual capitalization. You have to make that money back during the run to get a profit.
[3:38] Then you have the weekly running costs. The set’s already done, but you still have to pay rent, actors, and union people every week, and make that money back. For a musical like Phantom, that’s estimated to be in the $750,000 to $1 million range because Phantom is a very elaborate show to make every week just to break even.
[4:17] If you’re doing a limited run, it’s often built in that you need to be running at pure capacity. Into the Woods is still at the St. James, but it was originally scheduled for an eight-week run, and the only way that could’ve made money at eight weeks is if, for eight weeks it ran 100 percent. It did come close to that, but it’s no longer coming close.
[4:45] The longer the run goes on, sometimes the less you have to make that 100 percent. But you can’t do badly; you have to still pack a fair amount of the house at full-price tickets if you’re going to meet your running costs. And the minute you don’t do that, you run the risk of being in the red.
[5:05] Discounting tickets is a major factor. If you’re selling 1,000 seats at $60 or $70, you’re making $700,000 a week instead of $2 million a week. The Music Man doesn’t discount, so it is taking in over $3 million every week. That will help it to be profitable by the time it closes. If they discounted by 50 percent, they wouldn’t have a chance.
[5:51] The Music Man had the option of running after Hugh Jackman decided to leave. And he is staying a few weeks past his contract. This has been done before when you have a star who is so powerful. Maybe the wisest business move, even if you could still make money — it’s an expensive show with a large cast — is to take the money and go.
[6:23] Hugh Jackman is one of those rare people who is a true movie star and a true theater star even though he has only been on Broadway three or four times, most notably, of course, in The Boy from Oz, his big Broadway debut. But he has created a huge following. Some people go back to see him four to six times.
[7:04] There are shows that have always done stunt casting. You’ll see, for example, Pamela Anderson doing Chicago. She was quite good. But more to the point, she brought in business. She had the highest grosses for Chicago in many months, if not years. And that was a perfect example of the right way to do stunt casting.
[8:08] A lot of Broadway will be dominated, especially straight plays maybe more than musicals, by star casting, whether it’s stunt casting or not. In a lot of cases, they’re going to look for that star power to motivate the box office.
[8:27] Now conversely, the musical, Some Like It Hot, stars Christian Borle, Adrianna Hicks, and J. Harrison Ghee
Kathryn Tully, Freelance Journalist on the Art Market
The art market is big, unpredictable, and endlessly fascinating, not just to potential buyers and sellers but to art lovers the world over. The art market is also big business. One estimate put the sales number for 2021, the third-best year for sales on record, at $65.1 billion. Here to paint us a picture of the intersection between art and commerce is Kathryn Tully, who’s been covering the art market for 15 years.
Listen in to learn about the fascinating art market and how you can be involved in it.
Key Takeaways: [:21] Patricia O’Connell introduces Kathryn Tully, freelance journalist, and welcomes her to This is Capitalism.
[1:14] Kathryn has been a financial writer since she graduated from college. Fifteen years ago, Kathryn started writing about the art market, around the time when she started freelancing.
[1:30] Kathryn holds that too much of the press coverage is about big auctions of multi-million-dollar artworks sold in New York. It suggests prices always go up, which is not the case. The art market is a pretty difficult investment market.
[2:02] Kathryn felt that writing about the art market enabled her to put non-nonsense articles out there that aren’t being written otherwise.
[2:20] The multi-million dollar works that sell for high prices comprise a tiny sliver of the art market. There is incredible art being produced all the time that you would love to have in your home. Most art produced is not going to be sold for a profit. The art you buy devalues by 90% when you take it out the door, so you will not resell it at a profit.
[3:03] You read about Basquiats, Warhols, and art that’s sold at a profit between high-net-worth individuals at auction, for transparency. You would have to spend $500 thousand or more to get a good shot at reselling art for a profit. Most art doesn’t have a release value. For the art that does, the art market is not brilliant, considering the risks.
[4:40] Commercially-valuable art can take months or longer to sell through a dealer or an auction house. You’re not guaranteed to find a buyer. It’s not just an illiquid market, it’s a tiny market. In 2021, the third-best year for the art market, the overall sales were $65.1 billion. Compared to the daily trading volume of stocks, that’s tiny.
[5:18] There are holding costs in owning art. You have to pay for insurance and storage and there are buying and selling fees. Art is a good investment if you buy something you love and you find that it’s gone up in value. Kathryn’s friend bought a signed Banksy screenprint in 2003 for £150. In 2020, a dealer estimated its worth at £150K.
[6:55] Kathryn’s friend didn’t buy the print because she thought it was going to go up in value. She fought it as a gift for her husband. Pricing in the art market is very subjective. No two artworks are the same, except for prints and multiples. Artworks are unique objects. Artworks from the same artist can sell for different prices. Pricing is subjective.
[7:54] Artists go in and out of favor. The Banksy print market goes up and down. There’s a very thin part of the market, with a very small amount of transactions, that generates the most value. Are you going to find a buyer? There may only be ten people in the world that are interested in buying your expensive Warhol or Basquiat at a certain price.
[8:49] The print market is an area where you can acquire artwork by those artists at a cheaper price point. There is a bit more data about prints and multiples because of their higher volume, and because they aren’t unique; they are one of an edition. You can see what they are selling for. You can get a sense of what the resale price may be.
[9:34] The art market is opaque, besides art indices that show the records of public art sales at auction. Auctions are the most successful part of the art market. The majority of global art sales don’t take place at auction houses but through galleries and dealers but through galler
Gabrielle Kurlander, CEO at The All Stars Project
Like a lot of aspiring actors, Gabrielle Kurlander came to New York City at 18 with stars in her eyes and a dream of making it big. It turns out, there were stars in her future and she did make it big, though her dream got a rewrite along the way. She’s still active in theater but the best part she’s ever played is as President and CEO of The All Stars Project. The non-profit teaches young people from disadvantaged backgrounds how to use the power of performance to help them navigate new experiences, such as summer internships or interacting with a group of people they’re completely unfamiliar with. Gabrielle joins us on This Is Capitalism to talk about The All Stars Project, why she’s a big believer in non-government-funded programs, and the true meaning of philanthropy.
Listen in to learn about the partnership between corporations, donors, and teenagers working toward a path for growth.
Key Takeaways: [:21] Patricia O’Connell introduces Gabrielle Kurlander, CEO of The All Stars Project, and welcomes her to This is Capitalism.
[1:23] The All Stars Project is a national non-profit for youth development, using a performance approach on stage and in life, to help young people growing up in places of poverty, go on and pursue their hopes and dreams, learn more about the world, and create a place for themselves in it.
[1:59] Performance gives you a way to create new versions of yourself. Young people who are growing up without a lot of opportunity, and without much experience of things outside of their neighborhoods need a tool or mechanism to build confidence and get over obstacles. Performance helps to do that.
[2:42] Gabrielle uses the example of applying for an internship. Use performance to practice how you meet the interviewer and behave in the interview. In performance, you can make mistakes. There’s no right or wrong. It helps free people up. In The All Stars Project, young people are directed in creating new performances to recreate their lives.
[3:28] The All Stars Project uses old-fashioned grassroots outreach to bring young people in. They walk through their neighborhoods, even the most violent neighborhoods, and talk to young people. They bring other young people to the neighborhood to create a performance there.
[3:57] Young people can join The All Stars Project, regardless of their grades or how they are doing. If they are looking to grow as leaders and experience new opportunities, they can come in and The All Stars Project will use performance to help them to grow.
[4:15] The All Stars Project specializes in upper teenagers, 16 to 21, and even into their early 20s. There are some opportunities for people after graduating from college. There are performance programs for kids in middle school and grade school.
[5:03] Gabrielle shares her experience growing up. Performance helped her be a successful and confident person. She moved to NYC to pursue acting when she was 18. She met The All Stars Project as a grassroots project with no funding and she became the founding CEO. Being a performer helped Gabrielle do new things.
[6:12] The All Stars Project is 100% privately-funded. Gabrielle had never asked people for $50K or $10K. She used her performance background to invite people to donate. The same performance skills help the youth. The All Stars Project is a partnership between caring, affluent adults and young people from underserved communities.
[7:02] It’s about doing. With performance, you can start right now. Performance gives you the freedom to act as you will. You can take everything that you are and also try some new things. Performance is a freeing mechanism.
[8:03] Gabrielle tells how she created her approach to potential donors. Being a CEO in her 20s was intimidating to her. Performance helped Gabrielle create a version of who she wanted to be as a CEO that was true to herself.
[8:54] The All Stars Project does the same thing for young people. It’s an important key
Kait Hill, Founder and CEO at Rock City Digital
Kait Hill faced a tough decision in 2021 — finish college or start her own business after two years of doing corporate sales. She chose to start her own business, and thus was born Rock City Digital. The digital marketing agency leverages its young staff’s familiarity with new ways of creating and consuming content to help companies and individuals build brands and create identities that resonate in today’s dynamic market. Kate joins us on This is Capitalism to share her journey from working in politics to going into sales to being her own boss, and why the future will belong to content creators of all kinds.
Listen in to learn about digital marketing.
[:22] Patricia O’Connell introduces Kait Hill, Founder and CEO of Rock City Digital, and welcomes her to This is Capitalism.
[1:23] Kait started working when she was 15 years old. At age 20, she had her first corporate position. She saw a lot of issues with how things were run and cultures weren’t tended to. When she was mistreated at the agency at age 21, she saw she could run a company better, so she started one.
[2:05] Before starting her business, Kait was going to school online and working. She wasn’t learning a lot and wasn’t giving her all at work, so she made the decision to quit school and the job to start a business. She had the passion and drive and knew what she wanted to do so she decided to start the company.
[2:51] No one ever told Kait she had entrepreneurial traits, but she has been finding ways to make money since she was eight years old, so she sees she has always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Her first “job” was a lemonade stand. She also helped her neighbor with their garage sales on commission.
[3:35] Kait explains how she went from political science and politics to digital media. She had convinced a man in the media to sign a petition. In their conversation, the man introduced Kait to digital media and later helped her get into it. Kait had wanted to get paid for being a high performer, and digital media sales was a good way to do it.
[4:44] Kait put out applications and one agency didn’t reply to her. Her new friend advised her to find out who was the person in charge, call them, and ask for an interview. She did and ultimately got a job with that agency.
[5:13] Kait has been running Rock City Digital for about seven years. The most surprising thing to her is how much time you spend handling problems. There’s always something you have to learn. The biggest lesson she has learned is that developing yourself is your best investment. With training, you can handle anything.
[6:10] COVID-19 was an unsettling time, not knowing if they would lose clients. Kait’s clients decided how they would work, which also meant how Kait would work with them. Kait worked on the finances, and if anything needed to be cut, she got rid of it. She met with other business owners and compared notes. Everyone was willing to share.
[7:09] Rock City Digital has always been a remote office, so that was a leg up that was extremely helpful during the pandemic.
[7:38] Kait started developing herself after reading The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod. Following the practices listed in the book, she started meditation, exercise, reading, affirmation, visualization, and journaling. These practices helped her find clarity to handle hard conversations and see the root causes behind problems.
[8:41] Kait finds the time for her morning practices by waking up early. These practices improve the way she lives her life. Her clarity helps her move forward and not return to old routines and old ways of thinking that are not beneficial.
[9:31] Kait talks about current conditions in B2B marketing, including TikTok. Which led to YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels, and Facebook growing more videocentric. TikTok has niched down how video is offered to you. Their algorithms show you what you want to see before you know that you’re interested in i
Laura Swanton, Founder at Laura Michael Wines, Inc.
A couple walks into a real estate office in Napa Valley, looking to buy a second home. If you guessed the next sentence would be, “And instead, they bought a winery!” you’d have the story of Laura Swanton, owner of Laura Michael Wines. Laura, a former high-tech exec, knew nothing about producing wines back in 1999 but she did know what it took to make and sell a product. And that’s what she’s been doing ever since, with her award-winning cabernet and zinfandel. In this episode of This is Capitalism, Laura talks with Patricia O’Connell about her journey from wine lover to wine producer. She shares the mistakes she made on the way, and how she arrived at the sweet spot in the volume of sales for Laura Michael Wines.
Listen in to learn about running a small winery and producing premium wines.
Key Takeaways: [:24] Patricia O’Connell introduces Laura Swanton, owner of Laura Michael Wines.
[:39] Laura, a former high-tech exec, knew nothing about producing wines back in 1999 but she did know what it took to make and sell a product.
[1:03] Patricia O’Connell thanks Laura for joining This Is Capitalism, the podcast, extraordinary stories of extraordinary people.
[1:33] Laura shares how she got into the wine business. She and her second husband purchased a winery on an impulse, then added a second property! Laura continued in tech while her husband quit his job to run the winery. After three harvests, her husband left so Laura bought him out. She left her career to become a winery owner.
[3:10] Being a single woman winery owner was unique at the time. Laura married again, and they run the winery as a couple. Self-funded winery owners, as opposed to a multi-generational business, are also rare.
[4:09] When Laura was working in tech in San Francisco, she only got involved in the business on the weekends in the tasting room. When her second husband left, in August of 2002, the first harvest was coming in “like a freight train,” and she had to be there full-time for that.
[5:09] Laura’s high-tech career of 17 years, with manufacturing, had taught her about product distribution. Her college degree in organizational management taught her how to run a company. The big difference for Laura was that it was wine.
[5:53] Her first hire was a consulting winemaker, through a local winery. He taught Laura all about growing grapes and making wine. Laura has been training on the job for 20-plus years.
[6:20] In the world of wine, mastery is something you hope to achieve, but there is so much to it, you are always learning. Laura manages the relationships and farming practices of the places she purchases fruit from, while her husband manages their vineyard. They produce wine and sell it directly to consumers, not to distributors.
[7:57] Only one of the producers Laura buys from is 100% allocated to her. Laura contrasts the competition in the high-tech world to that in the winery world. Napa Valley growers believe that helping each other and maintaining a high level of product quality benefits the entire valley. Patricia comments that a rising tide lifts all boats.
[9:16] For eight months of the year, Laura is a farmer, and she shares workers, soil, air, water, and intelligence with everyone around her. If you’ve got a blight or pest, it’s not going to stay in Napa. It’s going to travel to the neighboring counties. Everyone needs to be very cooperative with each other to maintain the health of the industry.
[10:09] Laura talks about the humility and hard work that both sets of her grandparents showed. Her paternal grandfather was also a farmer who kept a large garden. Laura helped her grandfather in that garden. That background has helped her stay humble.
[11:04] Laura explains how she deals with natural problems. She tries not to worry about things she can’t control. She mitigates as much as she can any negativity that comes because of drought, wildfire, or a bug. The plants are resilient enough to ge
Thanks to Warren Stephens for doing this. I love the entire series. Everyone could benefit from hearing these.
Not enough info about savings at Wal*Mart
This podcast does not deliver near enough information on CAPITALIZING on savings at my local big-box retailer, which is Wal*Mart, the home of low prices. Please, in future episodes, feature information on savings available to me, the American consumer, at my closest Wal*Mart store. Thank you god bless you goodbye.