Leon Logothetis: Globe-Trotting Entrepreneur

Photo courtesy of Levine Communications Office

A native of London, Leon Logothetis has always been passionate about interacting with people. He loves the camaraderie of making new friends and treasures the adventure of travel.  So it’s no surprise that he’s swapped his life as a city broker to pursue his dreams of traveling the world. His penchant for travel has taken him around the globe to exotic locations like Nepal, Mongolia & the Galapagos Islands.

Leon’s first foray into the world of television was the Discovery Channel show “Destination Future”.  His involvement allowed him to combine his love of travel and television, turning it into a hit series with him hosting “Amazing Adventures of a Nobody.”  After a fruitful first season, the show was quickly licensed by National Geographic International and aired in over 100 countries around the world, including the United States’ on the Fox Reality Channel and Canada’s OLN.

In every series, Leon travels across countries and continents on only $5 a day. While he’s allowed to accept gifts from strangers and work for food or lodging, he is forbidden to beg for money or go over the agreed $5 per day. Because he can stay in each city for only one night, drama and intensity ensues. For the first season, Leon crossed the UK traveling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, while the second season took him across the USA starting in New York’s Times Square and ending at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Sign.

The third season will see the urban survival expert and his three-man crew take on Europe. Leon begins his journey in the nostalgic city of Paris and will attempt to make his way to the infamous ‘Red Square’ in Moscow.

You’d think Leon might not have time for much else, but he’s started his own production and distribution company called Shankly Productions, based in Beverly Hills.

The company is actively developing two original series, and just returned from the major TV market MIPCOM where they debuted over 2,000 + hours of programming for international syndication.

Leon took the time to answer some of my questions.

Jessica: How do you prepare yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally for your show?
LEON: “THE ONLY WAY THAT I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO FIND A WAY TO DO THE SHOW IS TO DO AS LITTLE PREPERATION AS POSSIBLE. THE ANXIETY THAT TRAVELLING AROUND THE WORLD WITH PRACTICALLY NO BUDGET CREATES IN ME WOULD MAKE PREPARATION TOO MUCH OF A TIGHTROPE OF EMOTIONS. FOR EACH OF THE THREE SEASONS I HAVE THOUGHT AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE ABOUT WHAT I WAS EMBARKING ON UNTIL THE DAY I STARTED THE TRIP. I REMEMBER ARRIVING IN PARIS THINKING TO MYSELF “I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS!!!!’ BUT IT WAS TO LATE…
I PURPOSEFULLY SURROUND MYSELF WITH A GREAT PRODUCTION TEAM SO THEY CAN DO A LOT OF THE ADVANCED GROUNDWORK ON THE PRODUCTION SIDE.”

Do any of these same preparations help with your business life too?
“IF I USED THE SAME PREPARATION TECHNIQUES FOR MY BUSINESS LIFE I WOULD BE IN BIG TROUBLE. I HAVE FOUND THAT BEING PREPARED IN BUSINESS IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF SUCCESS. THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A FAILED BUSINESS ENDEAVOUR AND A SUCCESSFUL ONE CAN OFTEN BE TRACED BACK TO HOW PREPARED I WAS. WAS I FULLY IMMERSED IN THE PROJECT? DID I KNOW WHAT KINDS OF QUESTIONS TO ASK? DID I KNOW WHAT MY GOALS WERE?  How? I MUST SAY THAT ALTHOUGH PREPARATION IS VITAL, BEING TOO PREPARED CAN ALSO TAKE OUT THE SPONATANEOUS NATURE OF CONNECTING WITH THE PEOPLE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TABLE. SO, BEING PREPARED IS CRUCIAL, BUT BEING RELAXED AND ABLE TO GO WITH THE FLOW IS ALSO AN ART FORM IN ITSELF.”

Do you ever get homesick?

“WHEN I TRAVEL ACROSS COUNTRIES AND CONTINENTS FOR MONTHS ON END I DO GET HOMESICK. MY FAVORITE PHRASE SEEMS TO BE “I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!!!” HOWEVER, AFTER I RETURN HOME AND GET BACK INTO THE SWING OF THINGS I GET ITCHY FEET AND DESPERATELY WANT TO GO ON ANOTHER ADVENTURE. SO TO ANSWER THE QUESTION, YES I DO GET HOMESICK; NOT FOR LONG THOUGH!!!”

How do you maintain work-life balance?

“I AM A FIRM BELEIVER THAT WORK SHOULD NOT CONSUME YOUR LIFE. WORK SHOULD BE A WAY TO CREATE YOUR DREAMS AND THE DREAMS OF OTHERS. IT IS THE AGE OLD DILEMMA OF MEN “HOW DO I CREATE SUCCESS WITHOUT LOSING MYSELF”? I FEEL THAT THE ABILITY TO STRIKE A BALANCE BETWEEN WORK AND LIFE IS A SIGN OF A HEALTHY SENSE OF SELF AND A DEEP COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABLE LIVING. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY TIMES WHEN I HAVE NOT FOLLOWED THIS DICTATE AND HAVE LOST MYSELF IN MY WORK.  I TEND TO FIND IT HARD TO BALANCE MY WORK LIFE…I AM EITHER A CRAZED WORKAHOLIC WHO HAS ONLY ONE FOCUS AND THIS URGE FOR GREAT PRODUCTIVITY AND SUCCESS OR I DELEGATE…I THINK I LIKE DELEGATING A LITTLE TO MUCH. DELEGATING TO THE RIGHT PERSON IS A STROKE OF GENIUS. DELEGATING TO THE WRONG PERSON CAN BE CATASTROPHIC. I HAVE EXPERIENCE IN BOTH!!!!”

What would be your number one word of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?

“PERSEVERANCE”

Be honest.  What has been your biggest business failure?  How did you overcome it?

“MY BIGGEST BUSINESS FAILURE WAS BELEIVING THAT MY SUCCESS WITH MY FIRST TV SHOW “AMAZING ADVENTURES OF A NOBODY” WOULD MAKE ME AN INSTANT SUCCESS IN HOLLYWOOD. I DID NOT REALISE THAT I HAD STRUCK IT LUCKY WITH THE AMAZING SERIES AND THAT CREATING THE SUCCESS I CRAVED IN THE TV WORLD WOULD TAKE A LOT MORE HARD WORK AND GUILE THAN PREVIOUSLY IMAGINED. HOLLYWOOD IS A TOWN WHERE DREAMS ARE MADE,. IT IS ALSO A TOWN WHERE MOST OF THE PEOPLE ARE SEARCHING FOR THE SAME DREAMS. IT IS CUTTHROAT, EXTREMELY COMPETITIVE, AT TIMES BAFFLING AND ABOVE ALL
EXASPERATING. I ALSO THOUGHT THAT HOLLYWOOD WAS AN IDEA TOWN. IT TURNS OUT THAT HOLLYWOOD IS PRIMARILY A RELATIONSHIP TOWN. YOU CAN HAVE GREAT IDEAS (WHICH I THINK THE TV SIDE OF SHANKLY HAS AN ABUNDANCE OF) BUT IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE CORRECT PEOPLE YOUR IDEAS STAND LITTLE CHANCE OF SEEING THE LIGHT OF DAY.

THE WAY THAT I OVERCAME THIS BLIP IN MY EXPECTATIONS WAS TO MEET MORE PEOPLE!!!! PERSEVERE WITH MY IDEAS AND VISION FOR THE COMPANY’S TV DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT.”

What business success are you most proud of and why?

“DIVERSIFYING MY PRODUCTION COMPANY INTO A DISTRIBUTION COMPANY. I REALISED THAT CREATING PRODUCT, ALTHOUGH A CREATIVE ENDEAVOUR WAS A FAR HARDER FINANCIAL MODEL THAN OWNING THE RIGHTS TO ALREADY COMPLETED PRODUCTS (TV SHOWS PRIMARILY IN THE CASE OF SHANKLY INTERNATIONAL). I SET UP SHANKLY INTERNATIONAL JUST OVER A YEAR AGO AND WE NOW HAVE OVER 1500 HOURS OF PROGRAMMING THAT WE SELL IN OVER 100 COUNTRIES GLOBALLY. THE ONE DRAWBACK OF THIS IS THAT OTHER PEOPLE GET TO INSPIRE THROUGH THEIR CREATIVE TALENTS (THE ACTUAL CREATION OF THE PROJECT), WHEREAS WE JUST GET THEIR VISION TO THE RIGHT TV OUTLETS.”

Leon is a good example of someone who has parlayed his reality TV appearance into a successful career in the entertainment industry.  Thanks Leon!  I learned a lot and it is my hope that our readers have too.

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Joe Wells: Building a Business on Football Lessons Learned

Photo Courtesy of Fishman Public Relations

Photo Courtesy of Fishman Public Relations

After athletes spend an entire career practicing, competing, and becoming masters of their sport, when it’s time to retire, a lot of them realize there’s going to be a huge paradigm shift for their career.  Former Los Angeles Raider Joe Wells took his experience as an athlete and launched a successful career  offering a high quality line of sports nutrition products and custom athletic apparel. Joe is the founder and CEO of Max Muscle, the nation’s premier franchise in sports nutrition, weight loss and fitness.

During his four-years in the NFL, Joe refused to let the achievement of his ultimate athletic dream blur his vision of the future. Like most professional football players, it didn’t take long for him to realize a career in professional sports was temporary to say the least.  So he started planning for his “retirement”. A lifelong athlete, he gathered a tremendous amount of knowledge about weight training and nutrition.  Joe learned how amino acids enhanced muscle recovery while playing for the LA Raiders, prompting him to formulate one of the first low-molecular amino acid supplements for athletes. It quickly became the top-selling sports nutrition amino acid in the country.

Joe recently took time out of his busy schedule to tell me more about his football career, his successful business, and how he manages it all.

On his most rewarding moment as a Football player:

“As a collegiate player I experienced many great moments. I was a linebacker and believe it or not a kicker. That’s a pretty rare crossover as a player, and it helped me create some great memories. In college I kicked several game winning field goals and I had many games with fumble recoveries, interceptions and a plenty of tackles.  I had a ton of awards, and a blast playing in college.”

“I was never a superstar player after college. It was a fight every step of the way to make it with a pro team. I signed several contracts in the NFL and USFL over a 5 year period. The Seahawks, Saints, Eagles, Raiders and a couple of USFL teams. It was hardly an illustrious pro career. At the time it was downright disappointing.  After 20 plus years of maturing, that entire experience is now one of my greatest memories. I met and played with so many legendary players, like Kenny Stabler, Marcus Allen, Archie Manning, Steve Young and many more. I travelled all over the US and played in some awesome stadiums. It was a great experience, and in fact was my gateway to Max Muscle.  All of this will lead right back to my greatest moment.  I was eating breakfast one morning with the late great player Lyle Alzado. It was training camp in 1984 with the Los Angeles Raiders. Lyle was taking a supplement called amino acids. I asked about them and he obliged with a plethora of information. I was all ears and later when the Raiders released me, I went to work on formulating one of the finest Amino Acid formulas on the market. Having breakfast with a football hero and having that set the pace for the next few decades of my life, that’s truly a great football memory for me!”

On his greatest business success so far:

“When I was in 7th grade I wrote an essay on what I wanted to accomplish in my life. In true seventh grade fashion I had my priorities in line.  Become a pro football player first and secondly own a chain of health stores. I am not really sure where that idea even came from, but for some reason I knew what I wanted.  Once Max Muscle exceeded the 100 store mark, I felt like I could legitimately call us a franchise chain. With that said, I feel that my greatest business achievement to date is actually living my dream of being the CEO of a large chain of stores! As I tell many of our new franchisees, ‘I am living my dream.'”

On traits that are both part of being a football player and business owner:

“I was recently at my 6th grade sons Jr. High Orientation. We were listening to his PE teacher who brought to our attention a poster titled: “I learned how to be successful in life from sports”. It then listed all the similarities like, Sportsmanship, Teamwork, Training, Positive Attitude, How to Win, How to Lose”. You get the picture, sports helps us all in life. But out of all that I can really say what worked for me in sports that I later applied to business was simply, “Work Harder than Your opponent”.  I was not a totally natural athlete; I had to work a little harder than others. I worked out longer to get stronger and I ran uphill to get faster than my opponents. That philosophy paid off in sports and later in business. In my younger days working 12-15 hours per day was just status quo; of course I hadn’t started a family yet!”

On advice for aspiring  entrepreneurs:

“I have 2 things to say as general guides for entrepreneurs. The first is “Believe in what you decide to do. Don’t just do something to make money, really believe in what you are doing. It brings the fire and passion out in you. Secondly “Don’t be afraid! Once you decide what to do don’t hesitate and don’t look back.  Jump in with both feet and be the best at what you do.”

Advice for balancing business and personal life:

“Well some may say that I tilt the scale a little too much for the kids and my family.  That is a luxury that time has afforded me. I have worked hard for my entire life. I have always had a job since I was 10 years old. I have great partners and a smooth running system. I also have 5 kids and if one of them has a baseball game or a concert at 3pm, I will be there. I may hit the computer again at 10pm, but I will never let myself look back and wish I had supported my kids more. It is possible to balance it all; you just need to get creative and flexible with your time.”

The one thing he has yet to do that he would like to do the most:

“I am pushing 50, and there are so many things that I want to do. I see our lives as having multi facets or dimensions.  In business I want to get to the magic number of 500 stores! In my philosophical life, I want to write a best selling book.  In my physical life, I want to win a Gold Medal or do something no other 50+ year old has done. In my family life, I want to see all my kids prosper and become great human beings!  Kind of corny huh, no skydiving or bungee jumping for me!”

Thanks Joe for some great advice and your inspiring story!

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Amos Zereoue: From Football to Fusion

Courtesy of Adam Bourcier

After growing up in Long Island, Amos Zereoue went on to play football at West Virginia University.  After a successful run with the Mountaineers he enjoyed an amazing career with the NFL team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Having retired in 2005, Amos now owns the West African/French Fusion restaurant that shares his last name, Zereoue’s, in New York City.  Patrons enjoy good food, often cooked by Amos himself some days, and great atmosphere at this eatery in the Big Apple.

I had the privilege of learning more about Amos and his success recently when he agreed to talk to me about his experiences, both in football and business.

Jessica: Tell me about your most rewarding moment as a football player.

Amos: That’s hard to answer – so I’m gonna give you a couple of rewarding moments. My first ever college game – to be a relatively unknown player and to have made such an impact was a huge thing for me.  I remember in that first game – it was against PITT, they handed the ball off to me – and I was off, something like 69 or 70 yard touchdown run – that was so amazing – and the best part was that it was fun.  Obviously signing my contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers was a dream come true, I was having fun and getting paid for it – like a kid in a candy store.

J: What would you say is your greatest business success so far?

A: By far the ability to open a restaurant in the food and culture capital of the world has been one of the hardest things to do.  I’m still learning it everyday, but it’s a new challenge, so at least I’m learning. I’ve always enjoyed cooking – I used to cook for teammates all the time – and now I cook in the greatest city and I give them a food they aren’t entirely used to.  It’s all about new experiences.

J: Are there any traits required of both being a football player and being a restaurant owner?

A: First and foremost you need backing.  It’s sad, but so much depends on either your ability to have money or get money (either from banks or friends/investors).  Then you just need to have patience and persevere at it.  The early years are usually pretty bad, but it’s not a sprint, you’re in it for the long haul.

J: What advice can you offer aspiring entrepreneurs?

A: Never give up.  If you have an idea run with it until you can’t run with it anymore. Think of it as photography – you’ll take hundreds of photos, but maybe only 2 or 3 come out perfect – that’s how business is – just keep creating those ideas, fleshing them out, see what works
and what doesn’t and then keep going.

J: How do you balance your business and your personal life?

A: That’s probably the biggest challenge – because your business life becomes your personal life and vice versa.  You have to set priorities, be able to not take things too personal, and just move on.  Take the card your dealt and just play.

J: What’s the one thing you have yet to do that you’d like to do the most?
A: That’s the simplest question out of all of these – travel the world!

Do you live in or plan to visit New York City?  Stop by Zereoue’s at 13 East 37th Street and enjoy some West African/French Fusion fare and who knows, Amos might end up creating the meal for you himself!

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Than Merrill: From Throwing a Football to Flipping Houses

Photo Courtesy of Jessie Schwartzburg Events & Consulting

Photo Courtesy of Jessie Schwartzburg Events & Consulting

Than Merrill, former NFL player for the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is now scoring touch downs in real estate. Than is the star of Flip This House and founder of CT Homes, LLC and Fortune Builders, INC. One of the most successful real estate investors in the nation, he has become one of the most sought after real estate speakers and coaches in the country.

Than buys between 9 and 10 properties every single month averaging a profit margin of $27,000.00 each. In the last few years he has bought and sold a total of over 350 properties nationwide.  As a result his company has rapidly grown into a multi-million dollar business with over 17 professionals under Than’s leadership.

A little known fact? Than is an Ivy Leaguer. He got his degree at Yale University before becoming a professional football player and now a real estate titan. In addition, Than is a national speaker and has shared the platform with some of the top speakers in the country including Donald Trump, Tony Robbins, and Robert Kiyosaki.

Than took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for me recently.

Jessica: Tell me about your most rewarding moment as a football player?

Than: The first time I took the field in my first professional game. It was such an emotional moment for me because there were years of hard work that led up to that moment. Finally, for a few seconds I was satisfied with what I had accomplished. I remember coming off the field in a wave of emotion and having one of the veteran players tell me to get a grip Rookie. It was pretty funny, but something I will always remember.


J: What would you say is your greatest business success so far?

T: My greatest success is the fact that I have been able to build a multi-million dollar business with two of my best friends. I take great pleasure in working with people I enjoy being around. Too many people have jobs they can’t stand and work with people they don’t necessarily like. I love what I do and the people that I work with.

Also, in 2007 my two business partners and I set a goal to flip over 100 homes and we ended up buying and selling 104 properties that year.

J: Are there any traits required of both being a football player and being a business owner?

T: Resiliency! As an athlete you learn to live with failure and rebound quickly. In fact, every practice and game is a series of successes and failures. So adapting to that stress and learning how to come back from failure directly applies to what happens every day as a business owner. This is intuitive for athletes and is something that is a competitive advantage for me as a business owner.

J: What advice can you offer aspiring entrepreneurs?

T: Take one hour every day and lock yourself in your office or a quiet room and focus on educating yourself in some area of your business. I call this my power hour and it has been the best thing I have ever done for my business. As an athlete we have to train our bodies everyday and as a business person we must train our minds. It is no different.

J: How do you balance your business and your personal life?

T: Well, according to my girlfriend not very well! What has worked is when I set aside time, turn off my phone, and focus on other areas of my life. I love spending time with friends and loved ones so I do try and make a conscious decision to set aside time for them. So far it is still a work in progress.

J: What’s the one thing you have yet to do that you’d like to do the most?

T: Start a charitable organization that works with young aspiring entrepreneurs and provides start up capital for their ideas. I believe the two to three year window after college is the most critical time for young entrepreneurs. I would love to start an organization that let’s young entrepreneurs compete for seed capital. We started FortuneBuilders.com with the intention of helping other entrepreneurs succeed in the real estate business and I would like to extend that to other areas of business.

You can catch Than and other Flip This House teams every Saturday on the A&E Channel.

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Jarvis Green: New England Patriot and Restauranteur

Photo courtesy of Destined for Success Management

Photo courtesy of Destined for Success Management

Jarvis Green, defensive player for NFL team, the New England Patriots also happens to be an entrepreneur.  This past September, Green opened a restaurant near his hometown in Donaldsonville, Louisiana.

The grand opening included many special guests: New Orleans Saints Players, Skylar Green, Randall Gay, Seattle Seahawks Howard Green, NY Giants Corey Webster, and many others.

A cozy and relaxing sports-related environment, patrons enjoy southern recipes and a wide array of cocktails, including a wine tasting area.

The Capitol is designed to feel like a neighborhood kind of place, but in an urban setting.

Jarvis took the time to answer some questions for me recently and told me about his business and his football career.  His two most important accomplishments as a football player, he says are, “Winning superbowl 38 and 39 as a New England Patriot. Sometimes it’s not always about the money, it’s about winning championship.”  His greatest business success, no surprise, ” My new eatery the Capitol. In my 7 years of football and the investments that I have made that was good and bad, this has to be the best decision that I have made. It has been a challenge but it made me grow up fast in the business.”

Jarvis added that a trait for both succeeding in football is, “The will I think, because us human beings are so negative most of the time, in my opinion, so I love the challenge when people say or tell me I can’t do it. That’s my will.”

I think I speak for all of us at Sparkplugging when I wish Jarvis a huge congratulations on his new restaurant.  And I love his personal motto:”Everyday means something to someone. So remember that everyone!!”

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Jessica Seinfeld: Mom and Author of Deceptively Delicious

New Line Cinema Premieres

Jessica Seinfeld, married to comedian Jerry Seinfeld, took an age-old idea and turned it into a fun and informative cook book. The cook book’s called Deceptively Delicious and judging by the image gallery on her website, her concoctions look…well…delicious indeed!

Just like mothers and grandmothers everywhere, Jessica started adding her youngest child’s pureed vegetables to her older kids’ meals, sneaking them in to make their entrees that much more nutritious.  As she began experimenting with different recipes, the light bulb went on, and she decided to pursue publishing a book based on her recipes.

With the right connections and the support of friends and family, Jessica soon had a book deal with Harper Collins. She worked day and night devising just the right combination of ingredients to develop the scrumptious recipes she now offers in her book, Deceptively Delicious. Jessica is experiencing amazing success, even Oprah is paying attention.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Sure, if I was a celebrity’s spouse, I’d be able to get a book deal too or get my business off the ground.”Not so fast. You might be surprised at the power of your own network. And power of their networks. If you aren’t already on LinkedIn, you should be, especially if you are embarking on starting your own business venture.

What can we learn from Jessica Seinfeld? Take a common idea, work to make it uniquely your own, and then share with everyone in your personal and professional network.

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David & Victoria Beckham Launch New Fragrance

David Beckham And Victoria Beckham Launch Beckham Signature Fragrances

As if the Beckhams didn’t already have an empire, right?  Recently the dynamic couple and UK imports, David & Victoria Beckham launched the Beckham Signature Fragrance Collection.  This is certainly not their first foray into the fragrance space but this go ’round we’ll be seeing much more marketing in the U.S. I suspect.

This week’s People magazine even has an ad complete with sample insert.  Both scents are strong, hers being a musky floral (I’m not perfume expert so please smell for yourself) and his has more of a watery scent.  I’d say they did a good job choosing formulas that represent their strong presence and mass appeal.

The Beckhams are a great example of a celebrity power couple that have leveraged their notoriety to create and promote product lines.  A phenomenon in the UK, the Beckhams were welcomed into the Hollywood circle of A-listers after moving to the US.  While high-profile here, from what I understand, their popularity in the US doesn’t even come closing to scratching the surface compared to that of their’s in the UK.

David Beckham is best known as being one of the best soccer (or football depending where you’re reading this) players in the entire world.  He currently plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy MLS team. His underwear ads don’t hurt his popularity ratings either.  Victoria Beckham, well known as Posh Spice as part of the late 1990’s girl pop band The Spice Girls and known for her high fashion married David and they now have a beautiful family together.

This power couple is a great example of embracing what made them celebrities in the first place and creating a larger brand as a result.  We can all learn from them in that once you’ve created a brand and want to expand…don’t change your focus, just change the product.

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