Norm: Good day Randi and thanks for participating in our interview.
Please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background.
Randi: Norm, thank you for inviting me to participate in this interview. It is always exciting when readers and interviewers want to know more about 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business. As part of my responses, I’ll even include a WOW or two with my answers, just to underscore their relevance.
My first company was called Quarto. I was 25 years old when I
decided to hang out my shingle in my basement with a whopping $57 in
capital. I’d been working for a start-up as a junior designer.
I had decided to deliver only some design services for many companies instead hoping any one company would give such a new designer enough opportunity to create to the level I’d decided I was ready for.
Quarto grew to become Quarasan, a multi-million dollar, nationally recognized, 80+-person educational publishing services development firm. We worked for the nation’s leading educational publishers, creating products that help kids learn and teachers teach.
I didn’t really decide to “become” an entrepreneur; I simply always was one.
From my first baby-sitting job and first freelance business in college to today where I run two successful entrepreneurial entities, I have always been comfortable in the driver’s seat. As a simultaneous entrepreneur, it’s long been my job to figure out what needs to happen to help our clients achieve the success they seek—and then to deliver smart creative results that get them there.
I believe that it’s also my job as a successful, established entrepreneur to help new creative entrepreneurs figure out the challenging lessons of business—more rapidly than I did.
While my formal education ended with a BFA in Graphic Design from Carnegie-Mellon University and was an excellent foundation for running my first business as a creative designer, it wasn’t enough. I learned much more out in the real world—and it wasn’t easy.
In 2012, I was inspired to launch my second company, Teacher Peach for two reasons. First, I wanted to more directly reach kids and help them grow more confident. Quarasan had been a creative product development company in the education space for 30 years, creating core curriculum products for PreK-12 students and teachers. Yet in that business model, we were totally removed from the very people we worked so hard to help—the kids and the teachers.
Second, with a big company like Quarasan, you can sometimes spiral in your own growth cycles, often needing to run after your business instead of run it. When I recognized this in 2012, I also began Teacher Peach to serve as our bridge to a new future—a bridge that took us three years to wisely cross.
Consequently, in 2012 I simultaneously founded Teacher Peach as an online B2C company to reach the teachers and the kids more directly with products that build confidence in both teachers and kids. This shift helped me identify the CORE creative work Quarasan did so well, and to shed the many services we’d offered only to support such a big company and its many attendant expenses. I ran both of these companies until late 2015. It took a great deal of effort to recreate Quarasan into its current agile, energetic and focused creative design agency that delivers on the core of what we always did—hence its name, QuaraCORE.
I now adore running both QuaraCORE and Teacher Peach. Because teachers are some of the most powerful influencers on tomorrow’s leaders and one teacher can reach many students, Teacher Peach helps teachers help kids to be their best. Confidence is about being before doing, which is why we help kids to be their best—so they can then do their best. Every teacher reaches many kids and is in a position to help kids to become confident contributors in school, at home, and out in the world.
Peaches grow from seeds, as does confidence when it’s “seeded” well. This is why Teacher Peach focuses on teachers to help them focus on their students in ways that help us all to raise confident kids. It’s also why we founded the Teacher Peach Seeds fund. We donate 10% of the profits from every product we sell into this fund to give to charities that are focused on growing confident kids. Today, Teacher Peach is one of the top sellers of teacher gift products on Amazon; we still grow and thrive in our busy, not-so-little orchard! Being a simultaneous entrepreneur may sometimes mean I sleep less than I’d like, but it always means that both companies feed and fuel one another—and me. Check out WOWs 62 and 81; they stem directly from these experiences.
Norm: What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far in your career?
Randi: I’ve been really fortunate that my talents combined with an enormous amount of effort have often resulted in positive outcomes. My greatest successes are those that have achieved big results for others. These include projects I’ve had the privilege of creating and concepting with and for clients. WOW 48 is all about taking excellent, creative and consistent small steps towards success, something I do each day.
One major client comes to mind.
We began on one small assignment. The client was open to ideas so I brought many to the table and we created something very different from where we began. Today that client does all of its major conceptual work with our agency—and we’re still bringing new ideas to them. That’s success!
Norm: What has been your greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome in getting to where you are today?
Randi: The biggest challenge was how long it took me to recognize that sometimes, no matter how long and hard I worked to make something happen for my first business, Quarasan, some circumstances are completely and totally beyond my control. I look back and realize I spent far too much energy trying to move some completely intractable mountains. When the educational publishing industry I’d been in for almost 30 years began to change in ways that were not supportive of the business model followed by our product development company and many other similar service firms, many businesses closed or were sold to offshore firms.
Instead, I kept changing to attempt to meet the industry where it was—on my own. I was literally boiling the proverbial frog. After a time, even I who was so close recognized that I still loved my creative work, but I hated my day job. Even though I claimed to hold on in order to create, I was spending my time fighting for nickels instead of creating great products.
Fortunately, I was only par-boiled by the time I realized that I had the power, the ruby slippers, as it were, to leave that industry, and I did. It was the biggest challenge to walk away from everything I knew and produced powerful results. When I stepped away, I built a second thriving business, Teacher Peach, a B2C company for teacher recognition gifts.
After recognizing that I missed the creative aspects of educational product development, I retooled our creative offering, selecting only the work we do so well. It took three years to transition that 30+ year-old business into its new iteration, QuaraCORE. The outcome of this challenge is now two strong companies, Teacher Peach and QuaraCORE, our new creative agency that focuses on our core strengths. I have now returned to education in a brand new consultative way—and I do spend my time creating great results for clients—and now I love both my work and all of my jobs.
WOWs 34 and 61 are direct results of this experience, albeit at both ends of the spectrum. WOW 34 came from my ultimate recognition that I wasn’t yet dealing with the real problem and WOW 61 came to be the moment I realized that what was broken had to be mine to fix—for me.
Norm: How many times in your career have you experienced rejection? How did they shape you?
Randi: Entrepreneurs who claim not to experience rejection and to be shaped by it, are likely not answering this question honestly to you—or themselves. As an entrepreneurial risk-taker, rejection is always on the menu. It is not the rejection that matters; it is what you learn from it, what you change because of it, and what you do next about it. Based on my own experiences, I firmly believe, that we all tend to learn more from the negative events that impact us.
This is how WOWs 28 and 86, in particular, came to be.
Norm: What books have most influenced your life?
Randi: I’ll answer this question two ways. First, I read incessantly, across many genres. From gritty mysteries to power-packed business books, I avidly devour a range of content via audiobooks; I am a walker. One book that influenced me heavily when I was young was of course, Atlas Shrugged. I literally was the Dagny Taggart in my industry for a time, the last one standing, still determined to fix all that was broken. Jim Collins’, Good to Great, was another strong anchor back then. Other heavyweight biz authors on my list of go-to reads these days are anything by Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Grant Cardone, and Alan Weiss. As for mysteries, I’m a Lee Childs fan, I dabble in James Patterson, and I’ll always explore something completely different when audio books go on sale.
The second way of answering this question about books is to state the obvious: writing my own book has had a profound impact on my life. I learned that my mother was right—I literally could do anything I set my mind to achieve. I had never written or published anything, but I knew what I wanted to share, and was determined to make this happen—using my strengths. I have the good fortune of being a confident person anyway; writing 99 Creative WOWs and seeing its impact on others has been a major boost to my own confidence, too. As WOWs 43 and 62 attest, confidence has a lot of power.
Norm: How did you come up with 99 “wows” rather than a lesser or higher number?
Randi: Would you really remember—or really trust—100 of anything? I carefully chose the number 99 because if you’ll look at WOW #54, you’ll see that I truly do live my WOWs. People tend to remember odd numbers more than those numbers that are rounded. Besides, if I’d selected 100 WOWs, you might have wondered which WOWs were simply included to get to 100. I carefully chose and whittled down the options to choose the exact best balance of 99 WOWs.
Norm: How did you decide you were ready to write the book?
Randi: As with most new adventures, I jumped in with both feet. See WOWs 17 and 89 below. (I really do live these WOWs.) I’m not sure that I was ready. I just started on index cards—on an airplane. When the person across the row from me saw all my notecards and colored pens as I scrawled down my WOWs and shuffled and reshuffled the cards, she asked, “What are you doing over there?” “Me? Oh, I’m writing a book.” And I realized in that moment, that I was.
After a lot of “You should put these ideas into a book, Randi; they could help a lot of people” comments, one colleague’s view confirmed my conviction: “These WOWs are familiar to you, Randi, but that’s because you live them. Put them into a book that’s easy to grasp, physically and mentally, and these WOWs you know so well will be new and helpful to many others so that soon, they can live them, too.” So I began to shape this book, an interesting project for someone who had crafted the words of “other authors” for over 30 years.
This time, as both author and designer, I applied my design skills to typographically underscore the meaning of each WOW. This visual, colorful book provides powerful shortcuts and helps readers MASTER and APPLY these concepts FAST, a vital timeline in today’s world.
Norm: What were your goals and intentions in writing 99 Creative Wows: Words of Wisdom for Business and how well do you believe you have achieved them?
Randi: I wrote 99 Creative WOWs: Words of Wisdom for Business to capture—in one portable place—some of the many tough life and business lessons that I learned the VERY hard way. My goal is to help others benefit from my discoveries instead of also having to learn these life lessons on their own as I did.
I wouldn’t trade one moment of my own professional journey, yet a multi-decade itinerary is no longer practical. Today, new and seasoned business contributors as well as sharp creatives and entrepreneurs need to gain true wisdom—NOW. I believe 99 Creative WOWs does provide that rapid-fire jumpstart, no matter the point in life. Recent graduates, seasoned entrepreneurs, and teachers, executives, and even the crossing guard in our neighborhood all seem to value WOWs that make a difference to them—and that makes a huge difference to me.
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing this book and what did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Randi: The most difficult part, as is true with most big undertakings, was starting. I have a busy schedule to say the least and stopping to start was the biggest challenge. As I was preparing for a trip and collecting materials for my backpack, I decided to carry my “book stuff” with me. I knew that once I began, I’d be able to treat it like any other top priority, from start to finish, and it turned out to be a correct assumption. I actually used WOW 10 to kick off the writing and designing process. Once I began, I enjoyed the writing and design work the most. I also discovered I enjoyed getting real-world feedback more than I expected I would. After all, see WOW 53.
Norm: What was one of
the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
Randi: I learned that once I began it was not nearly so daunting a task as I’d first expected it might be.
Norm: Do you hear
from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Randi: Readers connect to this content. Readers relate it to their worlds, their work, their own lives and experiences. Readers confirm how relevant these WOWs are—across all categories. Readers tend to like the organizational structure of categories, too. The categories provide an anchor in many ways.
As the book describes, experience is a most profound teacher. Both direct and indirect experience helps us learn profound, applicable lessons in memorable, quick ways. From experience, we learn what works, what doesn’t, what to repeat and what never to attempt again. We learn from mistakes, missteps and crash landings. As an entrepreneur, I’ve personally experienced every one of these instructional models—often. Each WOW in 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business falls into one of three primary categories: BUSINESS, CREATIVE and PERSONAL and are universal and overlap across all categories.
Readers can browse through the WOWs to discover WOWs that are relevant and pertinent across a range of both urgent and ongoing situations. Because these WOWs are vivid and memorable, readers remember to reach for their WOWs to help them in work and life, finding many options that make them say, “WOW.”
Each WOW could fit into any and all of the three categories—there’s a way to apply each WOW to business, weave it into creative decision-making, and find benefit of each in your personal life experiences. Just try thinking about any WOW in each of the three contexts and you’ll see this really works. WOWs strike resonant chords with readers as they make sense in universal ways.
Norm: Where can our
readers find out more about you and 99 Creative Wows: Words
of Wisdom for Business?
Randi: 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business has its own WEBSITE, which has a lot of background info on the book, the blog, and will soon link to the 99 Creative WOWs podcast, releasing in early March.
I worked to ensure that in
book form, each WOW does stand alone, open to the interpretations of
others—in the context of their work and worlds.
I also took powerful advantage of a range of media to reinforce and deepen the messages. That’s why I am launching a select collection of episodes on the 99 Creative WOWs PODCAST in 2018 on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.
Each podcast episode will showcase one of the 99 WOWs to help readers grasp the universality, benefits, and applications of the WOWs—with ideas for how others might apply the WOW in their world. In these podcast episodes, I connect the dots for listeners.
To help make the messages even more memorable, we have a line of support products for seasoned and new entrepreneurs and creative types alike. We sell a snazzy tote bag that reads: Creativity is serious business. A really cool water bottles read: Creativity. Don’t bottle it up. Really. And because so many people told me that WOWs would make amazing posters, we have three poster collections of the top 10 WOWs, ready to pop into a square frame or tack up on the door, mirror, or classroom wall.
All 99 WOWs products are sold exclusively on Amazon; search 99 Creative Wows on Amazon and everything will pop right up. You can also make purchases via our website right to Amazon. To learn more about our companies, visit quaracore.com and teacherpeach.com respectively.
Norm: What is next for Randi Brill?
Randi: As always, my goal is to make the most of every minute and aligning what I do and how I spend my time with my top priorities. That’s why WOW 1 is first! Family is always first for me. After that, I’m completely engaged doing creative work that I adore and that makes a significant difference to talented people I respect. I’m using my business wisdom and creative talents to help our clients help kids learn and teachers teach—and, to top it all off, I’m lucky enough to be earning money doing so! This will stay on my must-do list going forward.
I’m also very focused on
and committed to helping to get the word out about this book because
I genuinely believe these WOWs will help others to jumpstart their
work and passions to achieve outstanding results and love doing it,
While I’ll likely pen another book in the future, this is plenty even for the oversized platter that I call my current plate. In the spirit of full disclosure however, I do keep my red Randiland notebook and favorite pen close by at all times. I feverishly jot down ideas, plans, and visuals for the next book, the one after that, and of course, and the one after that . . . so stay tuned. I’m really just getting started. That’s what I think true simultaneous entrepreneurs are all about.
Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Randi: I really thought someone would ask me why I didn’t share the stories behind each WOW—in the book itself. This was a question for which I had a really good answer and yet, no one has asked it so far. I’m delighted that you are giving me this chance to share WHY I only put one WOW per page and did NOT include my “journey to each WOW” or how the WOW came to be.
By putting myself in the shoes of potential readers, I knew that sharing the contexts of how I learned each WOW, though relevant to MY journey, would take too long to read to be rapidly helpful—in the moment—to their journeys. I worked to succinctly distill down each lesson into a logical, memorable summary statement, or by its more well branded label, a WOW (Words of Wisdom) lesson, by which I live so others can quickly grasp and embrace these WOWs—exactly when they need them!
Norm: Thank you
so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
It's been an absolute pleasure to meet with you and read your work.
Randi: Thank you, Norm. And now, of course, it’s time for WOW 99.