A thoughtful tour of a successful business in all its phases of formation.



Marks recounts his eventful entrepreneurial career and the lessons learned along the way.

Marks was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, part of a middle-class environment where entrepreneurialism was common. As a fourth grader, he enjoyed his first foray into business ownership, selling cinnamon-flavored toothpicks to his peers, a venture that made him briefly popular before it went up in flames. Later, as a newly minted CPA, he bought a parcel of land in downtown Akron at auction, unaware that it came with a building, however dilapidated. In cahoots with his best friend, Harvey Nelson, Marks devised a plan to raise funds and renovate the building and open a retail store on the ground floor, a precondition to capture available low-interest loans and grants. Despite “no culinary inclination or skill set,” they opened a muffin shop, one that would eventually include a wholesale muffin-batter business and collaborations with McDonald’s and Cracker Barrel. The business made $15 million in sales in 2005, and they eventually sold it in 2019. In a charming, unpretentious style, Marks chronicles his experience with the “rollercoaster ride that is entrepreneurship.” For all his success, there were plenty of hurdles to clear, an unavoidable part of the process. “I started to realize that adversity was a common thread throughout my entrepreneurial journey. No one has built a successful business without coming to grips with adversity’s many facets. I learned that I would not be successful by only doing enjoyable endeavors. That just wasn’t realistic.”

The author’s account provides a concrete vision of the life of a business as a whole from its hazy, aspirational inception to the fully formed organism that can be sold. Along the way, he candidly discusses the big and small pictures as well as personal challenges, like the strain the business once put on his friendship with Harvey. Marks synopsizes what he learned over the years at the end of each chapter, summaries he calls “muffin recipes.” The counsel he offers is hardly new or even particularly searching, though it’s inarguably sensible, in fact so sensible, it borders on trite; for example, “Challenge assumptions that you have created,” and “Embrace problem-solving as a necessary and vital part of business.” When discussing whether entrepreneurs are born or made, he presents a similarly unsatisfying response. “I feel that being an entrepreneur requires certain innate traits as well as a lot of life experience that shapes one’s desires, risk tolerance, ambitions, and passion. We shouldn’t ignore the circumstances of good fortune of an individual whose road was paved with ample privilege and opportunity, either.” One can ignore the anodyne advice, however, and deeply benefit from the illustrative example lucidly drawn of a company fashioned out of nothing but entrepreneurial energy. The reader who wants to follow in the author’s footsteps gets a valuable preview of what such ambition requires: a considerable level of commitment, pragmatic adaptability, and forbearance of failure.

A thoughtful tour of a successful business in all its phases of formation.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-73787-140-8

Page Count: 166

Publisher: Parafine Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2021

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Well-told and admonitory.



Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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A satisfyingly heartfelt tribute to a thoroughly remarkable man.


Investigative reporter Franklin recounts the life of the free-spirited millionaire entrepreneur who used his fabulous wealth in the fight to save nature.

One constant in the epic life of North Face founder Doug Tompkins (1943-2015) was his enduring love of the outdoors. The son of a successful antiques dealer, he grew up in the countryside of Millbrook, New York (Timothy Leary was a neighbor), where he cultivated his love of the natural world. His contrarian ways eventually led to his expulsion from high school just weeks before graduation. Tompkins headed West, where he baled hay in Montana, raced Olympic skiers in the Rockies, and took up rock climbing in California. He also “hitchhiked by airplane throughout South America.” Tompkins ended up in San Francisco, where, by the mid-1960s, the skiing and climbing supplies business he started with the help of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard suddenly began to boom. He was a charismatic businessman, and every one of his ventures after that—from his wife’s Plain Jane dress company to his own Esprit clothing brand—was successful. But his Midas touch never changed his passion for travel and adventure—e.g., flying his Cessna, sometimes with his family, but often, to the detriment of his marriage, solo. In the early 1990s, Tompkins bought property in southern Chile and fell in love with its pristine beauty. His outrage over the resource extraction–based nature of the Chilean government’s policies fueled his desire to protect the land. In the years that followed, he became an outspoken, sometimes reviled conservationist dedicated to using his fortune to transform thousands of acres of Patagonia into national parks. The great strengths of this timely, well-researched book lie not just in the author’s detailed characterization of Tompkins’ complex personality, but also in the celebration of his singularly dynamic crusade to save the environment.

A satisfyingly heartfelt tribute to a thoroughly remarkable man.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-296412-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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