I started life as an entrepreneur when I was 8 years old. I shoveled snow in Rosedale, Queens New York where I lived in the winter and cut grass and pulled weeds in the summer. When I was in the 3rd grade at Saint Clare’s Elementary school I was put on the Principal’s list for being uncontrollable and risked being sent back to the public school. Then the yearly church raffle came up. Buy a chance and maybe win a new Cadillac. The prize for the student who sold the most raffle books was a new bicycle. I sold 64! the closest anyone got to me in the school was 16 books. I got the bicycle and my name came off the Principal’s list. This early success had me hooked on the adventure of generating my own success. And wouldn’t you know it, my successes came few and far between from that point on. I spent the next 15 years failing my way from one business venture to the next. In fact, when I applied to Harvard Business School in 1970 and was accepted, I later learned that they looked at my application, a long list of failed attempts at business since my days in Rosedale, and thought “Well, here is a guy we can actually help”.
After 10 more years of failed attempts at making it big – ventures that included running a waterbed store in Harvard square, converting drive-in movie theatres into discotheques, and being one of the first in 1967 to launch an online dating service, I can say all that failing and starting again was the key to my ultimate success. In 1980, I founded Tweezerman which is now known as one of the world’s most successful beauty tool manufacturers, with more than 40 million customers. I am living proof you don’t need to get it perfect the first time around. I never wanted to be an exploitive capitalist and proved with Tweezerman that you can operate a business successfully that takes care of people (especially your employees) profits and the planet. I’m currently applying this people-first approach as Chairman and Co-Managing Partner of Icestone, where we make countertops from recycled glass in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
I’ve documented my story and the lessons I’ve learned along the way in hopes that it provides some insight for you and your brewing entrepreneurial ventures. Read more in my book, Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Finally Gets It Right.
I hold a BA from Providence College, an MBA from the Harvard Business School and an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government, again at Harvard.