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Weeds@Work

Paul Newman and Newman’s Own

Sister Pauline Quinn and Prison Pet Partnership Program

Oprah Winfrey and the Oprah Show’s Angel Network

America’s Second Harvest

 

 




While on sabbatical, between leaving my former job and starting my own company, I purchased a house on a monstrously overgrown lot. As I attempted to revive what had once been a meticulous lawn with well-kept gardens, I often faced the challenge of trying to decide if a particular plant was a parasitic vine, a weed or a desired garden plant.

As I began to pull up, turn under and chop out these annoying renegades in what I hoped would one day be an orderly, controlled environment, a thought occurred: “Who the hell determines what is a weed and what isn't?” I mean, what makes a weed a weed any way?

I felt an affinity for the weeds slated for removal, and at that moment, the reason for my feelings dawned on me. The etiquette of suburban gardening is identical to the hierarchy of politically correct corporate life. Let me explain. If something sprouts up in your flowerbed, that does not resemble the seeds and bulbs you so carefully planted, you immediately rip it out to maintain your flowerbed design.

It is no different in the corporate world. How many times have we seen a newly hired employee, sprouting with fresh ideas, come into a painstakingly organized corporate landscape, only to get pruned back or, even worse, terminated in the name of preserving the corporate culture? So it goes for weedy flora and their human counterparts.

I realized that my affinity for weeds stemmed from years of having my innovative and “untraditional” ideas about business cut back by the corporate powers that be. 

What’s Sprouting at LiNE Zine

To help us all grow a little weedier, to thrive when and where it matters, in the up coming issues of LiNE Zine this column will feature a variety of real-life, human, weeds. But enough about what’s to come! In this issue’s Weeds column, we’ll talk about what it is to be a weed. Who knows, maybe you can be the next featured weed! Not sure you want to be a weed? Read on, and then send me an email to tell me what you think.

Back to the Weeds Column

As a weed in the corporate flowerbed, I had simply wanted to put down roots and grow. I continually searched for new ways to help my fellow weeds grow and thrive in their unusual niches.

Weeds have amazing qualities. They can grow anywhere. They can survive almost anything, including dogs. Yet, when flora of this type creeps into a backyard or garden bed, we treat it like the plague. We wheel out the toxic spray and administer it. Then, just to make sure the weed is truly gone, we mill the weed-and-feed mixture through the spreader on to the oh-so-perfectly-manicured patch of grass.

Why should a weed be a threat? It is a tenacious grower with tremendous power for preservation and survival-of-the-fittest tactics that lay to waste any species of grass. Yet it does not, and will never, conform to the standards for lawn configuration.

Take Tomima Edmark for example. After finding out what it was like to bump her head on the glass ceiling at IBM, she decided to go out on her own. Edmark had an idea about a hair-styling device but not enough money to finance her invention.

So, Edmark wrote a book on kissing and with the money earned from it went into business with the Topsy Tail. Her drive coupled with wise marketing tactics, such as securing spots on the QVC shopping channel, has generated over $100 million in revenue. In my opinion, Edmark has the characteristics of the most tenacious and resilient weeds.

My personal favorite, though, is the weedy decision made by Jack Dowd of Hershey Foods Corp.[ [1] ] In 1981, Universal Studios was filming a movie about the friendship between a boy and an alien. Universal asked Mars for permission to use M&M candies as the enticement the boy uses to draw the scared alien out from hiding. Mars said no.

Universal then approached Hershey's head of marketing, Jack Dowd, to see if they could use Reese's Pieces instead. Such co-promotion deals were not common then. Dowd was uncertain. But after visiting the set and learning the story line, Dowd saw the sprout of a very good possibility and agreed to sign on.

Dowd agreed to sign Hershey on by offering Universal one million dollars in promotions for the rights to use the film in Hershey's advertising. Upon hearing the news, Dowd's staff and former Hershey president Earl Spangler thought Dowd had lost his mind. How could he commit to spending a million dollars on a movie script about a space creature they had not even seen?

Of course, the movie “E.T.” broke several box-office records. More importantly, sales of Reese's Pieces tripled within two weeks of the movie's opening. What a wise decision Dowd made by agreeing to Universal's then-unconventional movie endorsement of a food product.

I assert that a weed is a weed only because someone has said so. Not because it lacks quality, character or true grit, but only because it did not blend into the gardener's landscape design. The enforcers of the corporate landscape weed out great ideas before they have a chance to sprout—not to mention the frequent extermination of brilliant employees through neglect or a pink slip before their skills bloom.

And so, from the tip of my roots to the fullness of my voice, I say to the corporate lawn with their First Lady holly bushes and Presidential peonies (varieties that thrive only in full sun, enriched soil and adequate water): “You may squash us in your patch of grass, but not every lawn has a traditional gardener! We will thrive and live to succeed where mere grass can only fail!”

Know any thriving weeds? Think you might be one? Send me an email and tell me the story! kellee@linezine.com




 

 

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