If you've listened to some of the early episodes of this podcast, you'll remember Marcus' first job was at a "real" bagel shop. Well, we've finally found someone who not only has worked at a similar style shop, but it was also her first job, to boot! This week Marcus sits down with Chrissy Robinson. Chrissy runs Landshark Promotions here in Mobile. She has a passion for getting you exactly the item you want. Even if she has to hit the streets to look at local shops just for your perfect pair of slippers to have embroidered with your logo to give to an employee as a gift. That's probably enough about the headache we gave her right before Christmas, let's jump into our chat with Chrissy Robinson.
Chrissy: Hey, I'm Chrissy. I'm the owner of Landshark Promotions. We are a promotional products company based in Mobile, Alabama.
Marcus: Awesome. Well, welcome to the podcast, Chrissy.
Chrissy: Thank you so much for asking me.
Marcus: Yeah, I know. We've been doing business together for quite some time and I love what you're doing with your business. So it's actually really cool to have you here.
Chrissy: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Marcus: Tell us a little bit about your story. Are you from Mobile, where did you go to high school, college, are you married? Just tell us a little bit about Chrissy.
Chrissy: I am originally from Mobile. I've lived here my entire life. I went to Murphy High School and then from there went to the University of South Alabama. I studied there for a couple years and, funny enough, I went for sport and event marketing. When I went into college I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I went for sport and event marketing. I was there for almost three years and got a job working for Crown Products which is one my suppliers here in Mobile and quit going to school. I worked there for eight years and just decided it wasn't for me. Left there and started my own company. So here I am now.
Marcus: Very cool. How would you characterize yourself as a student? Were you all A student, honor roll all the time and knew exactly what you were going to do or where you kind of could take school or leave school, how would you characterize yourself as a student?
Chrissy: I was a really good student. I was in honors classes and made really good grades. But high school was way too structured for my personality. But, yeah, I was a good student, I did really well, but I was glad to be out of school. I'm glad that that part of my life is over.
Marcus: I had a thought the other day about going back to get my MBA and I was just like, "I just don't know if I could do that to myself." But anyway, we digress. What was your first job and were there any lessons that you still remember from it?
Chrissy: My first job was working at Broadway Bagels-
Chrissy: ... a bagel shop on University and Old Shell where Mellow Mushroom is now. I started working when I was 15. My Dad told me that I had to save up $1,000 and he would buy me a car. We ate in there a lot and the manager just came up and was like, "Hey, you're in here all the time. Do you want a job?" So I got a job at 15 and made like $800 and then my Dad bought me a car. But when I was 16, when I finally got my car, I was one of the store managers so I was opening and closing the shop. I was there some days at 6:00 in the morning and sometimes there until 7:00 at night or later. But, yeah, I had a lot of responsibility at an early age.
Marcus: Nice. Now was it a water bagel shop or was it these-
Chrissy: It was.
Marcus: ... crappy places like Panera where you go in and it's proofed up like bread and stuff like that?
Chrissy: No, it was the legit bagels, yes. We rolled them out.
Marcus: I wish we had one of those down here because I don't think many people in this area have had a legitimate New York style bagel. I know we're kind of going off on a tangent, but basically, once the dough is proofed up, in a New York style bagel, they slide them into a vat of boiling water and then they sling them on to these things that they put them into the oven on and then they flip them over about two minutes after they've been in. The only reason why I know this is because my first job at age 15 was also at a bagel bakery called Chesapeake Bagel Bakery right outside of Washington DC. That's pretty cool. I've never met anybody that ... did you do any of the baking or the mixing or anything like that?
Chrissy: Oh, gosh, yes, all the time.
Marcus: You still have the-
Chrissy: All the time.
Marcus: ... the tenderness in your fingers from-
Chrissy: I know. We had all different flavor bagels. That job taught me a lot about customer service, and how to treat your employees, how to treat your customers. Yeah, I learned a lot from working at an early age for sure.
Marcus: Very cool. Now how did you get started with Landshark Promotions? Is there some sort of story there or was it just, "Hey, I think I'm going to do this." Obviously, you had experience on the promotional side of things, promotional product side of things, but that's not a ... it's easy to go into, but it's not easy to do well. So how did you get started?
Chrissy: I started working at Crown like I said, I worked there for eight years. I started at a very entry-level position. Basically, if a customer wanted a sample of something, I would pack up the sample and I would ship it out. That's what I did. And I did that for a couple years and then I worked my way up to customer service. Actually, when I got to customer service, I applied for the job and I was turned down because I was told that I was too young for the job. That manager left and another manager came in, the position came open again and I applied again. The owner of the company, who is by far one of the smartest businessmen that I've ever known, he said, "Okay, I'm going to give you this opportunity," and this was his company, this was his baby. He's like, "I'm going to give you this opportunity, but no one has come close to having this job at this age," because I was so young and everybody else was in their-
Marcus: How old were you?
Chrissy: ... 40-
Marcus: Do you remember?
Chrissy: I think I was 19 when I started in customer service. Yeah, he said, "No one has ever had this job this young." He liked to hire people in their 30s, 40s, and older, but he was like, "I'm going you a shot." Yeah, I had the customer service job and I killed it. Then did that for another six years or so and they offered me the customer service manager position. At that time, my husband and I were trying to start a family and I had two miscarriages and so I wasn't sure if it was just the stress of the job or what it was, but my husband was like, "You know, we need to make a change. What if you leave and start a distributorship?" At first, I was shocked, but I did it and now we're here.
Marcus: I didn't catch, does your husband also work in--
Chrissy: He does, yes. My husband still works at Crown Products.
Marcus: Okay. Very cool. I thought that might be the case, but I didn't know for sure.
Marcus: So you started Landshark, do you remember the first moment, or the first sale, or the first experience that you had that made you think there might be something to this? That may seem like an odd question to people just listening, but oftentimes, people start businesses, I know this was the case of my own, I was just, "Well, I'm going to start this and see how it goes." Then usually there's some point along the way where it's like, "No, this is legit, I'm going to be able do this."
Chrissy: My main fear with leaving my job, of course, was security. When you start a company, you don't know if you're going to have clients, if you're not going to have clients, if people are going to like you, if they're going to hate you. Yeah, my "aha" moment was in my first year of business. I got an email from a customer and they're a really, really amazing client of mine now, but she emailed me and is like, "Hey, we're working with this other promotional company and we just don't like them. So can I send you my business from now on?" I was like, "Yeah,"-
Marcus: Dream situation.
Chrissy: ... absolutely. So that was like, "Okay, well, if other people are giving bad service, then maybe I can capitalize on that," so that's what I try to do.
Marcus: Very good. Now if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Chrissy: I would tell them that the work doesn't come easy, that you have to put in long hours, you have to go out there and grind to make it work. Being a business owner does not come easy for most people. It's not just handed over, especially when you're starting something from the ground up.
Marcus: Because you're wearing all the hats. You are the accountant, you are the bookkeeper, you are the customer service rep, you are the salesperson, you're fulfilling the orders, packing the boxes.
Chrissy: Oh, yeah, you are everything. So that's what I would say, if you were going to start your own company, just be prepared to work.
Marcus: Yeah. It's interesting to me because I had a conversation with somebody on Twitter about this the other day. There are some people in my industry that are eschewing the hustle mentality, they don't like it. They think that it shouldn't be like that, it should be balanced, and this that and the other thing. The funny thing is, the people that are having those thoughts are millionaires that have products that are generating ridiculous sums of money that allow them or afford them that creature comfort of being able to do that.
Now for the rest of us, we're having to work those long hours. I guess the point that I was trying to make as part of that conversation was just that businesses have ebbs and flows so there are times where I'll take a week off and I know that I have a team that can handle things for me. That's a great thing or maybe I have to leave early because I've got to get one of the kids to soccer practice or something like that, but then there are also nights where I don't go to sleep until 1:00 because I'm still up here at the office making sure that I'm getting something done for a client.
Everybody makes it out to be like it's either going to be, "I'm going to be sitting on the beach drinking rum drinks and checking the bank account to see all the cash roll in," or something along those lines. The truth is quite far from it. There is quite a bit of work that goes into owning your own business.
Chrissy: Yeah. And I saw that conversation on your Facebook the other day where someone had talked about hustling, or however they put it.
Marcus: That article was what kicked off that conversation.
Chrissy: I don't see, especially when you're a business owner trying to make it, that hustling is a bad thing.
Marcus: I think the point is that hustling for the sake of hustling, just for the appearance of it, is bad.
Marcus: But if you're hustling because there's actual work that needs to be done, and there are things that you're accomplishing, and there are goals that you're meeting, and that's where it's not hustling. You're just working, baby.
Chrissy: There have been so many nights where I have been up still working at 1:00 in the morning, but, like you, then there are times where I'm answering the phone, "Landshark Promotions" on the beach in Mexico. So it's like you've got-
Marcus: I know we've texted a couple of times, I'm like, "Where are you," and you're like, "Mexico on the beach." I'm like, "I'll talk to you later. Goodbye."
Chrissy: So there's both sides of it. You do have to hustle, you do have to stay up late and work those long hours that that leaves you to answer the phone on the beach in Mexico. There's both side of it.
Marcus: That's funny. Are there any books or podcasts you've listened to, people that you've been mentored by, or organizations that you're a member of that have been helpful in getting your business started?
Chrissy: Absolutely. Talking about people that influence you, and I mentioned him before, his name is Bob Bickert. He is the original owner of Crown Products and he just took me under his wing and showed me that not only being a woman and being young that I was smart and that I could make something of myself. He was really a large driving force behind me starting my own company. I looked at him and thought, "If he can do it, why can't I do it?"
As far as organizations, I'm a member of BNI here in Mobile and that is definitely huge for me. We meet once a week and it's a group of local business owners or managers and there's only one seat per chapter so there's only one promotional person, there's only one digital marketing company, there's only one chiropractor, and we all refer business back and forth to each other. Yeah, that's been huge for my business because that's 26 of my salespeople that I see once a week.
Marcus: Right. That's very cool. Are you a member of any other chambers or anything along those lines?
Chrissy: I am. I just joined the Saraland Chamber so I'm going to start going to those meetings. Actually, there's one in a couple days.
Marcus: Very cool. I know Bradley Flowers is Mr. Bigshot, Mr. Bigtime in the Saraland Chambers.
Chrissy: I gotcha.
Marcus: What's the most important thing that you've learned about running a business?
Chrissy: Oh, man, that is a really great question. The most important thing that I have learned about running a business is that the customer might always think they're right ... No, let's see, what's the most important thing I've learned about-
Marcus: Being flexible or how do you stay motivated?
Chrissy: There are so many, I could sit here for an hour and talk about this. I'm trying to think of the-
Marcus: There's no limit to the-
Chrissy: ... most important thing. For me, it's about enjoying what I do, making sure that that shows through in my products, making my customers feel like they're important to me not matter how small their order is, having a good time with my employee and not feeling like it's a job. I want to come to work, I love coming to work. And I want anyone that works for me to want to come in and not dread coming to work. So I feel like the most important thing to me is making sure that I am not working all the time and hating what I do. And I'm not trying to just look forward to the weekend. I want to enjoy life and I want the people there around me to enjoy life as well.
Marcus: That's really cool. Do you have any hobbies or things that you like to do in your free time besides travel to Mexico?
Chrissy: Yeah. We love to travel, we do a lot of traveling. We're going back to India in February, I'm going to Vegas in a couple weeks. We have a boat, love to go on the boat. Have a pool, love to swim. Really just spending time with my family, with my children. I love the beach. I love the warm weather, it's way too cold today.
Marcus: I know. For those of you that are listening to this, this will probably be released in January, but this is early January and we've just had a cold front come through and it's like 13 degrees outside.
Marcus: No fun. We literally had to put tape down the cracks of our doors in front of the building because there was so much air coming through the 100-year-old doors that it was causing us to lose feeling in our fingers and stuff like that. It's quite sad.
All right. Tell people where they can find you.
Chrissy: You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, the internet.
Marcus: So just search for Landshark Promotions?
Chrissy: Oh, yeah, search for Landshark. Almost all of my clients have my cell phone number so they can text me at any time. I like to think of myself as being super accessible to all of my customers. Yeah, just online, social media.
Marcus: It's funny because we just did a video for your business, for Landshark, and the whole premise of the video is that somebody else dealing with another promotions company is having to fax in orders and then never hears back. But my experience, and not just what we portrayed in the commercial, but my experience with you is literally, at any point in time in the day, evening, whatever, if I text you then you're replying back. I just think that's phenomenal. I don't know where that comes from, but your customer service has always very much impressed me.
I'll come to you with these lame ideas like, "Hey, what about this," and you're like, "Well, let me get you some options." I'm asking right now, I'm asking for polo shirts, but I don't want the golf, you know, thin golf shirts because I just can't wear those. You're like, "Well, what about this option, or that option," so it's not just-
Chrissy: One thing in my life is I hate when things are the same all the time. When I did have a desk job, I would constantly rearrange my desk because I just like change. And I embrace change in a big way. Yeah, if somebody asks me for something that's different or that I don't do all the time, searching that out leads me to other things. So yeah, bring it on.
Marcus: I'm going to rave about her one more time and then we're going to wrap this up. Varduhi, our designer, made some passing comment about how she was waiting for her Blue Fish slippers and Chrissy ordered some slippers in from a supplier, but they looked like they were made for men, they were just huge. And of course, slippers, if you're going to have them embroidered, they have to be able to open so that you can get the flap into the machine and actually do the embroidering, and then all that stuff. Well, I know you said that you searched no less than like half a dozen different stores. And it wasn't like these stores were all next to each other. I can literally see you and your team driving around Mobile trying to find these slippers.
Chrissy: Yeah, we really did.
Marcus: That just goes to show how much you care about ... Of course, I think you also thought it was like a cool idea because you knew why I was doing it. But at the same time, most companies would just be like, "Yeah, I don't think you're going to like these. You might have to find some other option," and pushed it off. But you didn't and that just meant so much to me.
Chrissy: Thank you.
Marcus: I just want to say, "Thank you," and I'm sure Varduhi is thankful as well. She's got normal shoes on right now, but she has been known to wear her slippers around the office.
Chrissy: One thing that I try to do is, if I told someone that I'm doing something, no matter what it is, if a friend calls me and is like, "Hey, what do you feel about going on a girls' weekend in March," and I say, "Yes," I'm going to do, I'm there. I don't like to say, "Yeah, I can do that," and then not do it. Yeah, my word is my guarantee. I'm going to get it to you one way or another.
Marcus: That's cool. If you're looking for a promotional products company, certainly give her a shot. She's got access to all kinds of stuff, I mean, it's ridiculous. I asked her for some options in polo shirts and I think she showed me half a dozen different options.
Chrissy, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Chrissy: I just wanted to say again, thank you for inviting me. I really appreciate it. It's an honor for me, really, for you to ask me. Whenever you text and said, "You want to be on the podcast," I was like, "Me, yeah, I would love to be." Just thank you so much. I really take note from you in a lot of ways of how you, like if I do something for you, you post it on Facebook and you share that with everyone. I definitely have taken note in that, the fact that you give credit where credit is due. I really appreciate that in you.
Marcus: Well, you do an awesome job so we want you to succeed because if you don't succeed then I've got to go find somebody else and I don't want to do that.
Chrissy: I don't want you to do that either.
Marcus: Chrissy, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you.
Chrissy: Thank you so much.