Barry Smith: Irrelativity

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

Being an “entrepreneur” is not easy. First of all, it’s an almost impossible word to spell. Really. Try it right now. No looking! It took me about seven tries to even get it close enough that spellcheck would help me. My real breakthrough came when I realized it didn’t start with an “a-u-n-t.” You know – like it sounds.

I understand that this is the key to being an entrepreneur (thank you, copy-paste!) – never giving up. Alas, I don’t seem to have this skill. This has made my entrapraurinal (whatever) journey a very challenging one.

An example? Why not?

Way back in the early part of the century, I had a brilliant business idea. I’m purposely using the word “brilliant” instead of “stupid” because it makes me feel better.

My idea: Well, you know how you can go to a place and have professional pictures taken of you and your family and how sometimes people take their pets to these places and how people also like music videos? Well, what if I were to combine these three things and start a business that makes music videos of people’s pets? And what if I called my business “Pet Video”?

I’ll tell you what – awesomeness.

I don’t need to point out that the concept of a video of someone’s pet is an incredibly popular one. You’re probably watching one right now instead of reading this. But this business venture took place back in the time when the words “you” and “tube” were rarely used in the same sentence, let alone in the same word. I was way ahead of the curve on this one, folks. But these videos weren’t for public consumption – this wasn’t “Watch this! Hilarious! Fluffy bites owner in the face!” – they were meant to be heartwarming keepsakes for the family.

Here was my business plan: I come to your house for a few hours and shoot some footage of your pet(s), and then I head home to my computer and edit together a funny/touching video set to the song of your choice. For my services, I charge $300 – possibly a bit more for multiple pets. Considering how much time it would take me to complete each video, $300 worked out to a pretty low hourly wage for me, so it seemed like a fair price. I mean, wouldn’t you gladly pay $300 to have two VHS copies of a video of your dog?

No, of course you wouldn’t. You’d whip out your iPhone and shoot one yourself and then immediately post it online and watch it get 5 million hits over the next few days. But this was then, people. Things were different then. Back then I thought for sure that people would shell out generously to have their little furry companions immortalized. Especially once they caught a glimpse of my logo.

Look, I was not a business major in college. I mostly took ceramics classes. This may be part of the reason why the highlight of my business plan involved having a cool logo. But wow, I gotta say, what a logo it was. Imagine a video mosaic of adorable pets that curls onto the screen like a turning page. Front and center are the words “Pet Video” because I intuitively knew the importance of branding.

And what did I do next? Fliers? Print and radio ads? Schedule interviews on morning talk shows? A float in the Fourth of July parade? Nope. I figured an idea like this would pretty much go viral without too much effort. Well, I didn’t actually think that it would go “viral” because back then people only used that word to describe the literal rapid spreading of infectious diseases. And who wants that?

No, my marketing plan was from the same blueprint as every venture I’ve undertaken before or since: I’ll do a tiny little bit and then wait for the money to start flooding in. I’ll completely throw myself into it for a full week and a half and then get distracted by my next great business idea.

But in this case, a week and a half was all it took to complete exactly one Pet Video. For a friend. For free. With a logo. And it wasn’t all that bad.

I knew what I had to do next. I had to – wait. What’s this? This magazine ad says I can make money from home stuffing envelopes! Hey, I should totally do that!

Next time: Barry fails to make money from home stuffing envelopes. His column appears Mondays in The Aspen Times. You can watch his Pet Video at


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