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Rebecca Watkins: The Spiritual Core of the Oxford Center

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DAYLIGHT  

Cliff Oxford on Rebecca Watkins, the spiritual leader of the Oxford Center, who passed away last week: Out of nowhere but with worldwide accomplishments, Rebecca showed up at Oxford and was a leader as soon as she walked in the door. She was a manager, a mentor and a mother to all of us. She told me my strengths but sensed my shortcomings and walked with me to pick up the pieces whenever I did wrong. She became the go-to person within Oxford for people to make complaints. Members often would tell me, Rebecca loves you and sees no wrong, which was good because what the members were saying about me was mostly true. I needed what all entrepreneurs need, although it is never discussed: enablers of love. Rebecca was my enabler of love, which is why it is so hard for me to think of her now as a memory. So, I don’t think. I just know we are in Rebecca’s heart, and Rebecca will always be in our hearts.

The Watkins family has graciously provided a memorial time for Oxford members to celebrate and cherish the life of a true American visionary who had an amazing ability to take broken and turn it into beautiful. We’ll let you know the time and place as soon as it is confirmed.

THE ECONOMY

The yield curve just inverted for the first time since right before the Great Recession: “The gap between the three-month and 10-year yields vanished as a surge of buying pushed the latter to a 14-month low of 2.416 percent. Inversion is considered a reliable harbinger of a recession in the US, within roughly the next 18 months. ‘It’s clearly a sign that the market is worried about growth and moving into Treasuries from riskier asset classes.’”

The government set a record with a $234 billion deficit in February: “Senior Treasury Department officials said the ballooning deficit was largely due to huge spending increases that the White House and Congress agreed to in the past two years, as defense spending and money for other programs went up sharply. But tax receipts are effectively flat since last year, an unusual phenomenon in a growing economy. That’s because the 2017 GOP tax-cut law has not led to the huge increase in tax revenue that President Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and many Republican lawmakers had promised would eventually occur.”

MARKETING

For those who caught the moving Queer Eye makeover of the Jones sisters’ Kansas City barbecue business, here’s an update: “Mary and Deborah Jones, aka ‘Shorty’ and ‘Little,’ got the full Fab Five treatment, but with a minor twist; instead of making over their homes, the Netflix show’s design guru, Bobby Berk, freshened up their beloved local restaurant, Jones Bar-B-Q. On top of that, the Jones sisters also brought their top-secret recipe to a bottling facility, making it available nationwide. And according to the sisters themselves, sales are already through the roof. …

“‘Let’s talk about the sauce,’ says a post on the Jones Bar-B-Q Instagram. ‘As of yesterday morning, we sold 11,000 bottles. We averaged 1.7 bottles per minute this weekend. … To all our friends from around the world asking for our sauce, we hear you! It is one of our goals to start shipping internationally soon.”

A woman in Duluth, Minnesota, has built an Instagram feed selling “elevated” second-hand fashion that’s quietly changing the way women shop: “Today, some 22,000 people follow the feed. On an average week, it gets more than 2 million impressions …

“For a while, rules like ‘no hashtags, please’ actually discouraged people from finding Noihsaf. ‘I wanted to keep it on the DL a little bit,’  she said. ‘So it’s grown slow and steady but totally organically.’ Women hear about it—via a podcast they love, a style website they follow, a fashionable friend. It’s the answer to the question ‘Where did you get that jacket?’ …  ‘People are really exhausted of being oversold to,’ said Rita Mehta, creator of the website the American Edit and head of merchandising and retail strategies for the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Noihsaf feels different, she said.”

RETAIL

Shinola has implemented a technology solution to facilitate personalized, one-on-one customer experiences at scale—a retail technique known as “clienteling”: “Using in-store iPads, store associates can record details about a customer’s store visit, for example, that can then be accessed on future visits or can be connected to their online interactions. … Clienteling allows Shinola to see the path that a customer takes to making a purchase, which often happens only after multiple visits to the store or website. ‘When you’re buying a $550 watch, that’s a ‘considered’ purchase, and those considered purchases take time,’ said Drinker. ‘It helps me understand how many interactions they really do need before they can convert.’”

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GOING PUBLIC

Unlike most unicorns planning an IPO, Pinterest is not “hemorrhaging” cash; it lost only $63 million on $756 million in revenue last year: “The deep losses afflicting many high-profile startups have cast investor doubts on the herd of companies that are stampeding toward the public market. Lyft recently revealed that it lost $911.3 million last year. Uber previously disclosed that it lost $842 million in the fourth quarter of 2018 alone. PagerDuty, a software startup valued at $1.3 billion that also filed to go public this week, said in its prospectus that it was losing money. Only Zoom, a video conferencing company last valued at $1 billion, showed that it was making money, in an offering prospectus it filed on Friday.”

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

With states willing to write big checks to get the high-paying jobs that often come with headquarters moves or expansions, a Bay Area exodus is building : “On Thursday, Colorado agreed to offer its second-largest economic incentive package ever, $27.9 million, to an initially unnamed San Francisco-based company to create 1,500 high-paying jobs to Denver, according to a report in the Denver Business Journal, an affiliate of the San Francisco Business Times. It later emerged that the company appears to be Checkr.

“San Francisco-based Checkr told the Denver Business Journal that it’s considering Denver for a new office. The company runs 1 million background checks per month for mostly “gig economy” companies, like Uber, Lyft and Grubhub.”

Denver has become a tech town with 22 firms moving headquarters or opening field offices in the Colorado capital. Companies were “drawn by a supply of metro area tech talent that grew by more than 23 percent—some 19,200 workers—between 2013 and 2018 and office space that remains a bargain compared to Silicon Valley and other coastal markets, according to real estate services firm CBRE.”

Sometimes the most successful ideas start off as goofs and that’s what’s going on with the owner of VC Starter Kit who is selling the “essentials” needed to look the part for your Silicon Valley startup. The kits go for $500. It’s “a gentle satire that lets you buy a bundle that includes two of the signature parts of many investors’ daily outfit: A Patagonia fleece vest and a pair of Allbirds sneakers.”

ACCOUNTING

Intuit is tweaking the terms of its online subscription plans for QuickBooksand some businesses are complaining about the resulting price hike: “Starting April 10, Intuit will impose new usage limits on its existing tiered plans. As a result, if you’re a current customer you may outgrow your plan sooner than expected. For example, some customers currently using QuickBooks Online’s highest-priced plan at $720 per year will need to move to a $1,200 per year plan, a 66 percent price increase.”

SELLING THE BUSINESS

Jared Polis, the governor of Colorado, has a plan to encourage employee ownership: “John Kovacs, program analyst for the state’s Employee Ownership initiative, said workers who have an ownership stake earn higher wages, build a higher net worth and are more engaged in their jobs than those who don’t. …

“As Baby Boomers move deeper into their golden years, many are finding that their children and family don’t want to take over. Willing buyers can be hard to find, especially in parts of the state that aren’t seeing growth. ‘This could be a game changer in rural Colorado,’ said EDC director Tara Marshall. She pointed to the example of a family-owned dry cleaner in Trinidad that closed after the owner failed to find a buyer. Seven people lost their jobs and residents of the city are now having to drive 87 miles to get dry cleaning done.”

ZACK ELLER’S DEALS OF THE DAY

Apple has acquired Stamplay, a Rome, Italy based developer of business automation software for around $5.6 million: “One of Stamplay’s main differentiators was that it made it possible to create workflows with relatively little coding. The platform provided pre-built integrations with popular cloud services, as well as a graphic editor that allowed workers to define automation actions using mostly drag-and-drop controls.”

Signify Health Dallas, a home healthcare provider has acquired San Antonio heath care tech company TAVHealth. “TAVHealth’s software helps health care providers keep track of patients’ social needs—such as food insecurity or lack of transportation—the community services they use and the outcomes of their doctor visits.”

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Tesla is going after self-driving startup, Zoox, accusing the company of stealing trade secrets: “Tesla says the four former employees who went to Zoox—Scott Turner, Sydney Cooper, Christian Dement, and Craigh Emigh—‘absconded with select proprietary Tesla documents useful to their new employer,’ … The company claims that Turner, who was a manager at a Tesla distribution center, sent confidential documents containing information about the company’s receiving and inventory procedures, along with ‘internal schematics and line drawings of the physical layouts of certain Tesla warehouses’ to his personal email address with the words ‘you sly dog you…’”

REGULATION

The Texas legislature passed a bill legalizing lemonade stands run by children: “Today is lemonade freedom day,” said the bill’s sponsor, Matt Krause. “It’s a great day for our Texas entrepreneurs.”

And that’s what’s ahead.

Please send comments and suggestions to mattg@oxfordcenter.com and lfeldman@oxfordcenter.com.

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