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Entries in west coast business (6)


Rare Artists, Rare Art, RareInk

One company to me that truly represents WestSide Culture is San Diego based, RareInk. The owners of RareInk, Tim Muret and Dave Sanders, capture art, music, entertainment and culture all in one package. I had a chance to interview them and find out a bit more about their company. 

What does WestSide Culture mean to you?

When I think of West Coast culture I think of innovation whether it is in business, visual arts, or music.  When you look at the history of rap, what Ice Cube and others did was create an entirely new form of rap that was uniquely West Coast. 2pac and others followed in his footsteps. From a visual arts standpoint, the West Coast continues to be a hotbed of some of the top graphic designers, street artists, and other types of art. And on the business side, the companies that are out here tend to dominate the landscape when it comes to technology and innovation.

It seems the West Coast has a history of this, whether it be industries like aerospace or subcultures like the hot rod or car cultures out here, so many huge innovations or movements have started out here.  

How did you come up with the idea for RareInk?

Tim and I both worked at Upper Deck for several years on their sports business and always thought there would be an opportunity to offer music fans unique artwork, both autographed and unsigned, for their walls. If you are a fan of a particular music artist, there really isn’t much out there that is of high quality, artistic, and where you know the autograph is real.

From our past experience in the autograph category, what we see out there for music is quite similar to the sports memorabilia industry in the early 90s prior to companies like Upper Deck coming in and partnering directly with athletes to offer fans authentic items. Almost everything a fan sees on eBay or an online music autograph site is forged. Or, even if it is real, the art isn’t really something most fans would want to put on their wall in their home or office.  So our goal with RareInk is to do real cool art while also partnering officially with the music artist so fans know the signature on the artwork is authentic.

Another component that was important to us is the idea of giving back to important charities and causes so that is why we built it in to our model.  For each recording artist we partner with, a portion of the proceeds is donated to their charity or foundation.

Can you describe the process for getting Ice Cube involved as a strategic partner? Did you have a relationship with him prior to RareInk?

A good friend and advisor to RareInk had a strong connect to Cube through a friend of his. He set up a meeting at Cube’s office and it was instantly a fit. What some people may not know about Cube is that he has a visual background having previously studied architecture so he immediately understood what we were going for with the art and wanted his fans to have the opportunity for cool pieces on their walls. In addition to the art side, he also saw the need to offer a legitimate source for his autograph as he commented how everything he sees online that was supposedly signed by him isn’t real.  

What is your favorite art piece that RareInk sells?

It is tough to choose, but the It Was A Good Day Mural by artist Mark Sgarbossa is a real cool piece as it represents our goal with RareInk and bringing meaningful pieces to fans. The imagery and lyrics that he was able to work into the piece really bring the original music video to life. It is cool to release an art piece that is based on a video that I grew up watching.

The Tupac and Biggie pieces just released from artist Tes One are also a favorite of mine. With the pair titled “Target Demo”, he was able to create pieces that are visually compelling but also have a commentary as to how 2pac and Biggie were marketed and how it possibly contributed to their unfortunate murders.

Artist Tes One working on the Tupac part of "Target Demo". All photo rights reserved by RareInk, Inc.

Who is the best rapper of all time? Tupac, Biggie or Ice Cube?

Tough question. That is more for a music writer or magazine to decide. To me whether it is music or visual art, it is all about how a particular artist speaks to you and what their art means to you. For me, growing up in LA in the late 80s and early 90s, Ice Cube’s music has more personal meaning and sentimentally means more to me.  That is what is interesting about RareInk, is everyone has their favorite artists and then also their favorite moments, photos or albums that they’d like to see brought to life through unique artwork.

Even the box the art comes in is clean and well designed. Do you guys have art or design backgrounds?

While we both come from the marketing side of the business, we have an appreciation for design and small details that make the consumer experience and product value better. I had the opportunity to intern at Mattel while in college and it exposed me to a ton of highly talented designers, many of whom I continue to work with on projects.

So on RareInk, we took a lot of time making sure everything from the art itself to the Certificate of Authenticity that comes with each piece had a unique aesthetic and quality to it.  We also wanted to make sure this carried over to how our pieces were presented online, from how they are photographed to our videos of Cube signing.  

What challenges and obstacles have you been faced with while building RareInk?

The main challenge we face is just getting in front of more music artists and having them see the value in what we are offering to their fans by providing an official and authentic source for signed art, while also raising funding for their particular charity or cause.  

What other entertainers do you have in the works to be featured?

While we can’t release any specifics at this time, we are in discussions with several entertainers currently who have seen what we are doing and want to get involved.  We are also excited about the future releases in the Tupac and Biggie series as we have a number of great artists lined up, including Dave Flores (January) and BASK (February).  


Editor: I encourage anyone who is interested in West Coast culture, hip-hop, graffiti, art, etc. to check out the RareInk site. You will be inspired by the creativity and energy of each piece. It features other artists who do extraordinary work and you will not be disappointed.

All photos are the reserved rights of RareInk, Inc. Please visit for more info.


Don't give up: How to change the world

"Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
- Steve Jobs

We are living in a time of technological revolution, most of which is focused on questions like: How can our lives become easier? How can we change our culture? How can we change the world? Business leaders have asked these over the last ten years. And you know what? They've come up with a few good answers.

Let's change the way people shop.

I just went to Amazon to research a product for WestSide Culture. The Social Network movie, based on Facebook's early years, is $11.99 for Blu-Ray. The place I used to work (I'll go ahead and say it), Borders, used to sell that for $39.99. No wonder they are bankrupt. Even when Borders had the liquidation sale and Blu-Rays were 75% off, it was still cheaper to go to Amazon (no tax). Amazon changed the world. They changed they way we shop.

Let's change the way people pay for things.

Peter Thiel decided one day, wouldn't it be easier to have funds available online where all we need to do is click a single button to pay for items? It would eliminate filling out forms (maybe job application sites should take notice) and regurgitating the same information over and over again just to buy something. Hence, PayPal was born. Another company is making it easy to pay by credit card in person simply by swiping your card into a square plugged into a cellphone, laptop or tablet. That company, Square, was founded by Jack Dorsey, who also helped create Twitter. And speaking of Twitter...

Let's change the way people communicate.

Facebook and Twitter have forever changed who we talk to and how we communicate with them. Today, I was thinking, I should really see what so-and-so is up to. This is someone I haven't talked to in over ten years, still he was one of my best friends, so I looked him up on Facebook. In the old days, I would have needed to remember his parents' phone number (which I still have ingrained in my brain), call them up, if they even still live there and have the same land line (yes, I said land line), just to get so-and-so's number. Or hire a private investigator to track him down. 

Now we can see what almost everyone is up to simply by reading status updates or timelines or newsfeeds or insert catchy web jargon here. 

Let's change what people buy.

Apple one day said, no more buying CDs from music labels. Also, no more blank CDs, which were a result of people needing a place to store music after illegally downloading it from piracy sites. Apple gave us a place to buy music cheaper than the labels and a place to store it and play it. iTunes and the iPod changed the music industry. 

Additionally, why pay $10-$30 for a DVD movie you are only going to watch once at home? Just download it from iTunes for $4.99 and watch it on your TV, laptop, iPhone, iPad or iPod. 

Let's change the way people think.

Walt Disney was told his ideas would never work. He had a dream and was determined to make it happen, even after many failures. Imagine the world without Mickey Mouse, without Disneyland, without animation. Now the Disney organization is training other business leaders how to be more creative with the emergence of the Disney Institure, referred to sometimes as D'Think.

What I've learned from all of these companies and iconic leaders is never to give up. If you have a dream and are passionate about it, you can make it happen. It doesn't matter what others say. In the words of Walt Disney, "It's kind of fun to do the impossible."

What will you do today?


5 Commercials Inspiring Action

In advertising speak, you are a conversion. The goal: get the user to make a purchase. It's simple. Or is it? I'd like to argue that the goal of a commercial is to get a conversion and make the user feel something.

Perhaps you feel desire, excitement, anger, inspiration or motivation when watching certain commercials. Perhaps you feel nothing when watching others. This is where many businesses succeed and fail. You either feel good about a company, product or service or you do not. That's it. There is no middle ground. And if you are a business owner or company and users/consumers do not feel excited about your product, you have failed. 

Let's take a look at five commercials that got it right:

Nike My Better is Better 

Mac V PC Vista

RedBull Vegas

Nike Awake 

4 Hour Body



Turn the Page: Business Books that Inspire Me

In no particular order here are a list of books that represent WestSide Culture to me. Most of them are business books and some self-improvement, although I believe the two categories are interchangeable. 

What Should I do with my Life - Po Bronson 
I read this book just before I decided to start WestSide Culture. In it you'll read the stories of those who discovered their own passion and unique purpose in life. Many are well off, others are still finding their way. Definitely recommend. Inspiring. 

Highly Recommended: Buy this book now at Amazon!Steve Jobs - Walter Issacson
I am currently reading this. Steve Jobs was much crazier than I imagined him to be. He had what many referred to as the "Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field", meaning he'd distort reality until it became what he wanted and needed at the present moment. True geniuses are often crazy, present company excluded. 

Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
At a certain point some movements, ideas, advertising campaigns, and businesses tip. That is the Tipping Point. What makes some companies icons and others fail? Often it is just a few key people who make the difference.  

Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell
What really made people like professional hockey players, the Beatles and Bill Gates successful? They are outliers and cannot be put in the same bucket with others because of opportunities that were given to them.

Blink - Malcolm Gladwell
Our instincts are generally correct. We are much more effective at judging situations correctly and in a split second than when we take a ton of time and do research and analyze data.

Accidental Billionaires - The Social Network - Ben Mezrich
From Harvard to Stanford, Facebook expanded rapidly based on it's exclusivity, much like when a nightclub is impossible to get into. Mark Zuckerberg had an idea and a dream and nothing would stand in his way.

Bringing Down The House - 21 - Ben Mezrich
The true story behind the MIT Card Counting team portrayed in the movie 21. How a bunch of math geeks took Las Vegas by storm and brought casinos to their knees. 

Pour Your Heart Into It - Howard Schultz
Schultz's first book on Starbucks culture and business. This memoir gives insight into how to build your business based on passion, following your heart and hard work. Starbucks started with one store. It now has over 15,000 stores world-wide and is one of the most recognized brands across the globe.

Moneyball - Michael Lewis
How can a team near the bottom of Major League Baseball in payroll compete with the New York Yankees, Boston RedSox and Chicago Cubs, teams with payrolls over 4 times larger than theirs? This story of Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics will show you. Warning: It just might inspire you to greatness.

The Big Short - Michael Lewis
What really happened to the American financial system and the mortgage crisis. Gordon Gecko, the character in the Wall Street movies, said, "Greed is good." Well, in this case, it wasn't.

Switch - Chip Heath and Dan Heath
How to change things when change is hard. 

The 4-Hour Workweek - Tim Ferriss
How can you live the life you've always dreamed of? How about working less? Like, a lot less. Ferriss shares with you how to redesign your lifestyle and do the things you really want to do. He calls it a Muse. I call it WestSide Culture.

A Whole New Mind - David Pink
The author discusses how as we continue to move towards a more creative, artistic society, those who have developed their right brain are in a unique position to capitalize on this momentum shift. Still using your logical, analytical left brain? That's okay, Pink will show you how to be more creative. 

DRiVE - David Pink 
In Pink's newest book, he picks up where Whole New Mind left off. As our society continues to move away from large corporations and towards more nible, quick, artistic businesses, the entire way we are managed changes. People are no longer simply motivated by a pay check and health benefits. It will take far more than that to keep an employee engaged, challenged, motivated and working hard.

Lay The Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling - Beth Raymer
A girl down on her luck and unsure of the direction of her life meets a sports gambler and former bookie. Raymer tells her story of working for one of the smartest gamblers in the business. From Vegas to Rio de Janeiro to offshore gaming sites in the Caribbean, what Raymer finds is herself and a life she never would have imagined.

The House Advantage - Jeffery Ma
Jeff Ma is the real life person behind Ben Mezrich's Bringing Down The House. In the book, it is Kevin Lewis. In the movie 21, it is Ben Campbell. In real life, it's Jeff Ma. After MIT and card counting, Ma took his math skills and started his own sports analytics consulting business, where he provides data for the San Francisco 49ers and Portland Trailblazers among other teams.

What I'll be reading next:

Onward - Howard Schultz
Fortune Magazine's Businessperson of the Year writes his second book, Onward, about saving Starbucks in a tough economy.

Paul Allen - Idea Man
The Co-Founder of Microsoft tells his story in this memoir. Allen now owns the Seattle Seahawks, the Portland Trailblazers and is a part-owner of the Seattle Sounders FC.

Delivering Happiness - Tony Hsieh
Vegas based company Zappos has a new breed of owner, Tony Hsieh. He is to Zappos what Mark Cuban is to the Dallas Mavericks.


Disney Institute: What You Can Learn From Disney

Credit to Mary Tsao of flickrFirst, a disclaimer: It would take far more than a blog post to tell you all you can learn from Disney. I'm giving you a brief overview. 

Control your brand. Go Google "Walt Disney" right now. Seriously, I want you to go do it so I can make my point. Did you go? Most of you probably didn't. Let's try again. Click here. I'm making this easy for you. The first 10 results are all 100% owned and ran by Disney. Granted, 1 of the 10 is an ad, but I bet you Disney has that ad running and optimized at top performance. How's your keyword campaign running?

Persevere. Walt Disney struggled finding work. He decided to start his own business. It failed. His second business went bankrupt so he moved it to Hollwood (ahem, WestSide). What do you think happened next? A $65 billion company was next.

Teach others. Disney is not afraid to show you how to run a business. Clearly they know a thing or two about quality service, brand loyalty and inspiring creativity. At Disney Institute they'll teach it to you. It will cost you. And likely be worth it.

Progress. Don't stay with the same old story. You need to make updates and get better. Take chances. Scroll down to see how Mickey evolves. 

Mickey: A little rough, but a good start.

The first official Mickey Mouse.

A recent version of Mickey.

Disney Corporate doesn't even need to use the body anymore.

Why not?