Growthink on the Town: The Convergence of Cocktails, Cuisine and Conversation

There's an ever-increasing trend, of late, taking place in the restaurant/nightlife industry.  Surely, those of you in major metro areas - where the hip, retro, and trendy tend to congregate - have seen it: the cocktail throwback to drinks like the Sidecar Martini, the Mint Julep and the Manhattan (yes, please, whiskey and vermouth!); as well as to glammed-out, vintage bartenders - suspenders for the lads, pearls and hair-flowers for the lasses.  

Guys and dolls and gin-lovers, the nouveau speakeasy has arrived!  Sans Prohibition, thank you kindly.

Thus was the theme for an event I attended at LA's Union Station last weekend.  Hosted by Pulitzer Prize winning food critic, Jonathan Gold, the evening centered on the "Cocktail Culture" and its impact on lifestyle; especially with regard to cuisine.  An impressive panel of chefs, venue owners and bartenders weighed in on social and historical trends that are shaping today's restaurants and their food/beverage offerings.  Did you know that there's an Italian guy, named Vincenzo Marianella, who is renowned solely for developing cocktail menus at some of the country's top fine-dining establishments?  

Nor did I.

While it's not surprising that an Italian is whipping up spirits (note: my last name is Moffa), what I found particularly interesting is that - more and more - food pairings are not just with wine.  In today's en vogue dining destinations, cuisine is created with cocktail infusions in mind; and vice versa.  The thought process is around a theme and an experience, from the décor through to every last morsel and sip.  Now, while I use the term "speakeasy" in a tongue-and-cheek fashion, I do see new concepts harkening back to the supper-club days, when a night out was special; when people dressed to the nines and 'painted the town red.'

Having worked for one of the leaders of this "retro" movement - Ivan Kane (owner of Forty Deuce and Café wa s) - prior to joining Growthink last year, I've experienced first-hand the planning and detail that goes into bringing a restaurant to life.  Working since, with many other developers and owners in the nightlife industry, I applaud them for the creativity they bring to cities like Los Angeles; and for the impact groups like 213 Downtown have made on the gentrification of the city proper and the renovation of architectural gems.  Like the cocktails to which we seem to be returning, all of this really emphasizes an appreciation of the past.  It says "thank you" to history, with a twist.

So, I sipped my Manhattans and other bourbon beverages as I took in the conversation and the music last Saturday, reveling in the feeling that - just for a little while - I was suspended in a different era.  What an experience...  and shouldn't that be the entire point of a night out?

Thanks to Zócalo Public Square for organizing the event - to read more about the panelists/sponsors and about Zócalo, which is a non-profit  that builds community by broadening access to civic discourse (where were they during Prohibition?? Kidding!), click the following link:

In the meantime, head out this coming weekend and try something new - there's a cocktail napkin with your name on it and, I'm quite certain, a bartender named Joe.  

Maybe even a soapbox for good measure.
Ms. Moffa on her soapbox: the red carpet! 


Churrasco, Caipirinhas, and Emerging Technology with a Twist, Por Favor!

It’s not often that we at Growthink get to see the fruits of our labors in person.  In today’s virtual, global economy, we conduct business with many small companies whose executives we may never meet and whose base of operations we may never visit.  However, we’ve served a vital purpose in growth planning and/or capital-raising for various clients who’ve paved the way in industry and innovation; and of that, we couldn’t be more proud.  Well, perhaps we could if we were there to see the evolution before our own eyes… to witness a milestone.

Last week, I had the great honor (and luxury, if I might say!) to travel to Brazil with my colleague, Dave Fruhling, and to spend time with a client that is developing a technology with the support of the Brazilian government and its university system.  For those who are not versed in emerging markets, Brazil is at the forefront of grant funding for the country’s entrepreneurial endeavors and inventions; the most notable of which has been airline manufacturer Embraer.  Setting a phenomenal precedent for new developments and technologies, this success has brought credibility to emerging economies like Brazil and has stimulated interest in the incubation of other new companies via federal organizations like FINEP (Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos).  More importantly, the university system (both public and private) provides a great deal of R&D for these companies, working collaboratively to provide validation and even certification of patented technologies.  This is not dissimilar to the United States, but what we found was that the accessibility of IP transfers is much more conducive under the Brazilian structure than it is within our own First World processes.

In the time we spent meeting with university research departments, funding organizations, and client partners, we saw nothing less than enthusiasm for and belief in the company’s ability to be THE NEXT Brazilian technological phenomenon.  It was contagious.  I don’t consider myself a tech guru by any means, but I came away full of excitement about propulsion systems, motors, and velocity.  

Is your interest piqued?  It should be.  This client is on the verge of international recognition over the next 3-5 years, and I had the opportunity to meet the people, see the research institutes, experience the test program, and live vicariously through the company’s champions; of which Dave and I now proclaim to be as well.  Sure, we were leading project efforts from our offices; and doing so with diligence and interest – but this trip made us invest even more.  Our team is dedicated to providing the best guidance to the client, to give them and ALL of their stakeholders a chance to be another Brazilian ‘success’ story.

Throughout all of the above, we wove in a mixture of cultural and team-building activities; most of which included eating, drinking, dancing, and even bowling.  Yes, bowling.  The latter – not surprisingly – is not very popular in Brazil, but the client knew of a club with lanes in the back; said lanes, which we graced until the wee hours.  I witnessed several occasions where the beer consumption-to-score ratio was quite impressive, though for one of the engineers on the project there remains little hope of a professional league title.

At one particular festivity, I was introduced to the Brazilian drink of choice: the caipirinha.  I was warned in advance that this sugar-cane drink was quite potent, so I consumed carefully with each one placed in front of me...  Low and behold, a dancer then pulled me on stage to show his “prowess” and skill with spinning ropes, featuring heavy ball-like objects at the ends that could very well result in concussion or death if they made contact with my head.  Despite the beverage intake, I managed to stand very still and exit the stage to applause and body intact.  Of course, it was quite the demonstration from the client’s perspective – my “hazing”, if you will, that garnered many a laugh and ongoing witty remark.

And then there was the barbeque.

Brazil is famous for its barbeque, or Churrasco, featuring grills the size of my apartment and meats seasoned then cooked to perfection.  Note to self: make proper use of the “on” and “off” markers on the table, lest risk a protein overload.  Topped off with mango mousse, it was all a little slice of heaven south of the equator!

On Friday the group dispersed and I explored Rio solo, reflecting upon the education I received from the experience and thanking a very tall statue of Jesus for the wonder of Brazilian people and culture.  Looking out over the lush mountains and the curving coastline, I could understand how one becomes inspired by such a place; a place ripe with beauty, passion, gusto and Bossa Nova.

Finding myself back Stateside, I vow to return again to stimulate my palette and to witness the next leaps of our client into the broader South American marketplace.


Yellow and the Investor Pysche


What does the girl who rejected me at a dance when I was thirteen years old have to do with your ability to raise capital for your business?  Well, it all has to do with psychology, human nature, and how you can leverage the two to attract capital. Watch the 4-minute video below to learn more:


The DogBall - The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly


Yesterday, I received an interesting package in the mail. I opened it up and inside was a shoebox. And inside the shoebox was "The Dogball." The Dogball, as I found out, is a new toy for dogs, and the founder, based in France, was trying to get me to distribute it here in the United States.

There are actually several important lessons from The Dogball as it relates to your business plan and raising capital. So, I documented them in a video since I had to make sure each of you could actually see exactly what the Dogball is:


Growthink on the Town: Throw Some Shrimp on the Bah-Bee and Take a Cue from the Aussies


All stereotypes aside, I’ve never heard an Australian utter the above words with the exception of the highly-paid voice over artist for Outback Steakhouse.  And possibly Paul Hogan in his notable performance as "Crocodile Dundee" (only the first movie, of course – the sequels aren’t worth mentioning).

No matter where said stereotype originated, what I do hear emanating from Down Under is a keen series of statements reflecting how happy our Australian friends are to be doing business in America.  After two weeks traveling and attending events, all – oddly – involving Australians, I had to wonder why entrepreneurs from south of the equator were more positive about the investment environment than we are:  the ones who live, work, and dream in a Country where anything is possible.  Whatever the reason, I’m inclined to eat a bloomin’ onion for dinner.

The companies with which I’ve been meeting span the industry spectrum, from consumer electronics to video games, multi-media, and entertainment.  In each reside a spirited CEO and management team, all of whom endeavor to make their places in the States.  For many, it will be their first foray into the American investor market; for others, who’ve been building a life here for several years, it is their third or fourth company after several successful prior exits.  And yet, in what we all know is a recessionary economy, all are seeking or continuing to seek opportunities here. 

Nowhere else.  HERE.  Why? 

Because they want the same thing every domestic entrepreneur wants: the chance to fulfill a dream, to create a successful business, and to retire to a large, beautiful island.  Wait… the Aussies already have one.

Nevertheless, my idea-generating friends, the point is that we need to again find our spirit, our confidence, and our joie de vivre.  Entrepreneurs from all over the world know that the United States is the place to come to cultivate relationships and to secure growth capital.  The current economic “ebb” has an effect on the entire planet, yet those who wish to prosper still look to us for guidance.  Perhaps we should not lose sight of that very basic fact.

I think actress Rachel Griffiths said it best, with comedic proportion, when being honored at the G’Day LA gala dinner last week (I do not quote verbatim, since I was wielding flatware in lieu of a pen): “I never thought I would do American TV; now I’m doing a Network series.  I never thought I’d live in America, now I’m married to an American.  I never thought I’d have children in America, now I’m breeding Americans.  And I have to say: I will always be Australian but I’m PROUD to be breeding Americans!”

What does it really mean?  I wasn’t entirely sure at first, but it made us laugh.  And as I sat there, surrounded by her Countrymen, it hit me: as much as I jest above about barbequing shellfish, Ms. Griffiths was jesting as well.  Stereotype or not, Hollywood provided her the opportunity to expand her career.  She seized upon it and is ultimately thankful for what it provided her.  

Many follow the same path – rising star or layman – to this land where those who seek their good fortune have a chance to be thusly rewarded.  It may not be easy, but it IS and will ALWAYS be possible for people with ideas, talent, tenacity, and enough hope to see the light at the end of this tunnel we call a recession.


'Twas the Night Before 2009...


Happy Holidays!  In celebration of the season, and the entrepreneurial spirit, Growthink has created a video holiday card which you can view below:



Growthink on the Town: Rio, Moscow, and Old Berlin… In 36 Hours

Sounds like a lot of territory to cover in such a short amount of time, doesn’t it? Surprisingly, it wasn’t. I managed to do it all… within one square mile or less.

The wonder of being in LA and having clients all over the world is that there’s one particular destination to which everyone is drawn.  In addition, it’s fairly central to travelers doing business in the western half of the U.S.

No, it’s not Fresno.

Las Vegas is a desert Mecca of entertainment, gambling, and business.  The latter is conducted everywhere from conference centers and meeting rooms, to poker tables, bars, restaurants, music halls, and nightclubs.  Low and behold, I found myself in precisely such a scenario last week, accompanied by two Growthink colleagues and a handful of Brazilian clients.  I knew, immediately, that this trip would be ripe for a sitcom episode.

My associate, Tristan, and I must have been dreaming when we thought we could fly in and out of Vegas for a day-long meeting.  “We’ll have a productive day,” we thought, “and then we’ll just have a cocktail or two and head to the airport.”

Cut to 8p.m., when the entire gang of us could be found at Red Square – the infamous Russian destination in Mandalay Bay that features a plethora of caviar and spirits.  Flights of sample wheat and potato, flavored and un-flavored vodkas were delivered to our table; and we relished in tasting each and every one, discussing the bouquet and the lingering effect of the smooth liquor on our palettes.  In the midst of an amplified discussion, Tristan and I announced our impending departure and were immediately harangued into calling Southwest to arrange morning flights.

How can one argue with a handful of handsome Latin American men? Well, that was my excuse, at least – I can’t speak for Tristan!

After securing two seats on the 10:45a.m. flight to LA, we settled back in at the table and proceeded to talk about everything: politics, music, travel, the state of the economy… no subject was left untouched, and no better time was had.  A singer by training, I was urged to perform for the group – which I did, right in the middle of the restaurant!  Only in Vegas would no one give a second thought or a glance to a gal belting out an impromptu showtune.

Carrying on with the cabaret vibe, I suggested we continue the party at Forty Deuce – a burlesque club reminiscent of old Berlin: bawdy but glamorous; fishnets and feather boas; red leather seats and bottle service.  Having worked for the owner prior to joining Growthink (I led corporate development initiatives for the parent company), I was able to secure the best VIP seats adjacent to the stage.  The next two hours found us smiling, dancing, watching the show, and having an all-around amazing time that would not have happened if we weren’t in a place like Vegas.  It inspired a camaraderie, which already existed from prior meetings but was enhanced by an environment of slightly daring opportunity.  I mean, how many times does a one-day business trip turn into a 36-hour excursion?  

When we finally shut our eyes that night, able to find last-minute rooms thanks to the down-season hotel occupancy rates, we knew we had solidified a long-term client relationship.  More than that: we had developed friendships.

The next morning we gathered for coffee in the lobby before heading to board our plane.  Bleary-eyed and tired, but anxious to proceed with our combined business-planning project, we all laughed, shook hands, and bade each other farewell until the next meeting in 2009.

The best part?  That one’s in Brazil.

Stay tuned for a blog about Carnival!


The Most Annoying Commercials of 2007


Every now and then, a commercial comes along that really makes you stop and take notice. This year we saw a good amount of those, and entertaining ads from companies like Geico and Dove made us smile, laugh, and think about our culture at large. Then there were the commercials that annoyed us. Badly.

Some of the following ad spots were a good laugh the first 400 times we saw them, but then we began to pick them apart. Some of them just stunk from the beginning. Regardless of the reasons, here are the commercials we'll be glad to forget about in the new year.



12) Burger King - Whopper Freakout

If there is one thing old men, housewives, and emo kids can agree on, it's that the whopper freakin' rocks. This fact, however, didn't stop Burger King from having a little "fun" at the evangelists' expense.

Apparently, their game plan was:


  1. Cease sales of the flagship product
  2. Place hidden cameras to capture the reactions of the most loyal and frustrated customers
  3. Use the footage to set up a website and craft a national advertising campaign


If that doesn't say "we love our customers," what does?



Want to avoid these types of mistakes?  Speak with a professional business plan writer today.

11) Apple - iPod Nano

Leslie Feist was one of our favorite indie musicians in 2007. For those of you who've been out of the loop, indie songs are supposed to be approximately 50% cool and 50% catchy. That is the balance Apple was looking for when they enlisted "1, 2, 3, 4" to help hawk their new iPod line. Unfortunately, this tune ended up being too catchy, and then, painfully annoying. Now, Feist's microscopic-yet-highly-choreographed prance in tight Canadian spandex is the lone redeeming value to these commercials.




10) Volkswagen - Eos

This is when the otherwise-pleasant Wilco-scored Volkswagen ads jumped the shark. No dude, you are NOT the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.



Are you starting a new business or seeking to grow an existing business?  Contact a Growthink business plan consultant for complimentary consultation.

9) Astelin - Doo Wop Allergens

"Don't let allergens or irritants do you in..." Gee, thanks docs! Oh wait, you're not doctors. You're a barbershop quartet that sings about allergy medication! Hmm, well you do have the Astelin logo unevenly dispersed across your sweaters, so you must know what you're talking about...




8) Coke - Grand Theft Auto Parody

How dare they emasculate Grand Theft Auto with this garbage?




7) Axe - Bom Chika Wah Wah

There were a handful of similar ads from Axe this year, but this one was especially heinous. This girl's mother must be so proud.



Growthink's business plan consultants can help you avoid these mistakes with a professional business and marketing plan. 

6) Target - Hello, Good Buy

Target's commercial featuring the Beatles song "Hello, Goodbye," which repositions the song as "Hello, Good Buy," is the worst thing to happen to John Lennon's music since Yoko Ono. On the other hand, McCartney probably had to make a move to prepare for those gargantuan alimony checks that'll be fueling Heather Mills' checking account: And honestly, who has time to write a song called, "Hello corporate ignorance Licensing Fees, Goodbye Artistic Integrity!"




5) I Know Who Killed Me (Movie)

Um, What? Not only do we not know what's happening in this commercial, we don't want to know what's happening in this movie. Fortunately, neither did the rest of America.




4) Snickers - Super Bowl Commercial

While the goal of a Super Bowl commercial is to grab the attention of the masses, this spot is just slightly less controversial than: "Don't Be Gay. Eat a Snickers."

The agency that put this commercial together did wonders for the Snickers brand, which will now and forever be associated with chest hair antics and mild homophobia. Good job, gang!




3) HP - The Hands of a Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld is an American Treasure. There is no amount of celebrity, however, that makes it ok for him to repeatedly drench us in a river of shameless self promotion. Ok, we get it: You're wife has a cookbook and you made an animated movie about bees. You're life is awesome.

All we're saying is, next time Seinfeld is on screen for more than a minute, it better be as part of a Seinfeld reunion show.



Growthink's professional business plan writers can help you avoid these types of mistakes. 

2) Redenbacher - Orville returns?

Really? A dead guy with an mp3 player... selling popcorn? That it seemed like a good idea to anyone, let alone a team of people is the surprise of the year. We got chills every time we saw this creepy, creepy ad. To say that it was in poor taste is a gross understatement.




1) Cingular - IDK, My BFF Jill?

Cingular's commercial was pretty funny for a week or two. If we hear one more person say "OMG", "INBD", or "IDK my BFF Jill," though, we just don't know what might happen.




As 2007 draws to a close, we can only hope to say farewell to the Astelins, Whopper withdrawal, and overhyped bodysprays. Who knows what the New Year will hold for us in commercial land? There will undoubtedly be branding faux-paus, moments of poor taste, and scantily-clad attempts to seperate us from our hard earned dollars. Just remember advertisers: we'll be watching.



10 Famous Product Failures And the Advertisements That Did Not Sell Them


Everyone makes mistakes. When big business makes mistakes, however, it’s typically after they’ve spent millions of dollars on marketing campaigns to let us know about their flawed products.

Here we present the advertisements for ten of the most infamous product failures in history.



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