Unconventionalism Gets You To Where You Want To Go

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hürriyet Daily News

May 27, 2009

Last week, many marketing and communication professionals gathered in the Marka conference. For me, Marka is a truly inspiring event. I don’t go there to learn anything new, but it lifts up my spirit, unleashes my creativity and ignites my passion for entrepreneurial activity. As always, the conference had many great speakers, two of which were more memorable. One Gerald Ratner, an infamous british business man, who was a victim of a communication crises, and who could rise above all sorts of challenges that most wouldn’t be able to survive. Two, Ora-Ito, a french designer, who changed his name so he could find success and fame not as the son of a famous designer Pascal Morabito, but as Ora-Ito, a no name, who would reach stardom by creating fake products for well known brands like Luis Vuitton.

“Business is unpredictable” is how Ratner summed up his business-life experience in all honesty. Born into a wealthy family, Ratner quits school and starts working at the age of 15. His passion was to make his family business Ratner Jewelry, the world’s number one. In 1991, as the CEO, he gets much attention from the biz circle as during an economical downturn, the fact that he manages to run a perfectly healthy growing business, makes him one of the most interesting men to follow. However, in 1991, at an after dinner speech, he makes the mistake of a lifetime; cracking a joke, which turns into a gaffe, makes people think that the jewelry he sells is “total crap”. That mistake costs him £600 thousand a year salary, and business value loss of £500m. After being publicly humiliated for 10 years, and literally without a job, he turns his luck by advertising a health club in oxfordshire and signing up 850 customers, even before the health club was built. He gets rejected by 7 banks, and the 8th decides to provide funding because the bank manager’s wife happens to join the club. In 2001, he sells the club for £3.9m. Since his passion is in jewelry, he goes back to jewelry business in 2003 and runs an internet business on geraldonline.com

Ora-Ito, gets kicked out from design school, and decides to survive on his own. At age 21, after sending his resume to his favorite companies and never even once getting a response from them, decides to create fake products for various brands and puts them online. “If the internet didn’t exist, I woudn’t be here today” says ora-ito, because the fake products he has created starts to get queries and orders from customers. Eventually, he gets noticed by these big brands such as, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Apple, and as Ora-Ito says “It was my way of taking revenge”
His presence on stage strikes you, his broken English coupled with his French accent is just lovely. His energy is endless, and it is obvious that he gets it from the passion he deeply feels about what he does. He is not pretentuous, just like Gerald Ratner. He is just him, purely.

Ratner, a 60 year old business man, Ora-Ito a 31 year old man has something in common despite the generation difference. Both are extremely successful business man. Both have gone through difficult times. Both have just “tried” and “experimented” with options, using their creative talents until one of the options have presented a light at the end of the tunnel. Both have an incredible amount of passion for what they do, and persistence to achieve their goals in unconventional ways that most aren’t willing to do.

In those times of global economic donwturn, where lay offs are coming one after another, I wanted to give you two examples of people who managed not only to survive thru the hardships but also achieved tremendous amounts of fame and success. I wanted to remind you that there is not one way to reach your goals, find a job, or excel in your career. Life offers many opportunities. To grab them, learn to explore and experiment with the new and the unknown. What seems to be an intimaditing thing to do today, might open you the doors of an unexpected and unpredictably wonderful future.

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