As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Rise of the little guy

I’m in the emergency room with my son. Skateboard spill gone bad. As long as he does not move his arm he is comfortable. So much for his movie with friends (The Social Network). So much for the adult dinner and play. So I’m eating a banana, and a strawberry Oikos yogurt. My son knows it’s made by Stonyfield Farm.  He just commented, “I feel sorry for Chobani. Everywhere I go I see Oikos where I used to see Chobani. And I bet Chobani is way better because Greek yogurt is all they do.”

My consumer anthropologist ears picked up. His simple statement was HUGE. Why? Because not that long ago, a 15-year-old would likely have believed the yogurt from a big company was better. And given that Stonyfield Farm is as progressive a large food company as you will find, my son’s assessment was all the more dramatic.

I think about how hard it is for an institution or a business to retain trust when it achieves major growth. This levels the playing field for the little guy. That’s good, but we need trustworthy big companies that don’ t get written off too.  I’m going to seek Stoneyfield Farm’s point of view on this issue. It has to be top of mind in this era that is starting to dramatically favor David over Goliath.

6 Responses to “Rise of the little guy”

    • Jules Pieri

      Hannah, I’m glad you called the article Hyperbolic. I have a distaste for press and books that are created solely for gaining readers and sales. That is my impression of this article and the books it covers. Yes, there are some fundamental issues with kids having TOO easy access to information and missing out on learning physical life lessons, like tying shoes. But the article had very little balance in addressing the topic.

  1. Karl Eberhardt

    Being a extreme athlete myself (however not a teenager by a long shot) I can relate to your sons latest endeavor…we had 8mm to record our death defying feats… now I have all sorts or digital helmet cams etc to record every success and well not so success.

    But to the point…. David & Goliath….. weird…I was just composing a draft for a social media PR last night for my online company…and that was the exact reference I used in it. I have created a “David” company (just barely 1.5 yrs old) that fills a HUGE gap for automobile owners (who care about their car) with regard to taking care of their paint finish (scratch removal). I developed a superior step-by-step system, videos, personal VIP email support and telephone coaching. There is NO company that even comes remotely close to this type personal attention to their customers in this niche.

    Big companies typically only look at customers as a “numbers game” and a big hassle to care about each and every customer, and look at that as an expense….not an investment.

    If more big companies spent just a tiny fraction of their multimillion dollar advertising budget on “hooking up” existing customers and paying attention to them… they could CRUSH their competition. That’s what I do…but I’m just a little “David”… hooking up my customers in my own little way with unexpected goodies…and acknowledging that they matter to me (which dosen’t cost a dime)…thus creating customers that beg for me to bring out new products and say they “love” my products…in a market that is SATURATED with corporate brands from Target to Pep Boys. My products are expensive too. I am starting to also get a following of women… and they are a segment I feel are MAJORLY under served in this niche.

    There are precious few really large companies that have managed to nurture consumer trust with major growth …Zappos is one stand out, whom I admire and had the honor of hearing Tony Hsieh speak…truly inspirational. But precious few…and for the most part these forward thinking companies are the brain child of younger entrepreneurs with a completely different view of how a company and life in general should be….”social” and the line between the two have blurred. Its all part of a revolution fueled by the internet…and I welcome it with wide open arms.

    I’m not 20 or 30 or even 40 nope…just turned 53 and proof that you can start a company at any age and just be cool to your customers…. Now how do you transfer “ coolness “to the board room …maybe that should be the new position for big companies “Director Of Coolness” or “Director of Good Karma”….and when you say “there will be a board meeting today” that means…see you at the beach…surfs up! (I’m a San Diego born & raised surfer dude) My dream…to grow my company into a Zappos of Car Care, where customers have a personal relationship built on trust with my company and most importantly they are treated like family.

    • julespieri


      I so loved reading every word of your comment and learning your story. I am going to take a closer look and hope to include you in my reference case studies when I speak and write on this topic. I want more concrete examples of David success stories that are not (yet) Grommets. We are surrounded by them! Funny…I cite Zappos too (and Apple and Whole Foods) as an example of how a company can scale while also building trust and even intimacy…great thought. I believe it is because they are values-based companies. VERY different values and focus in each one, but people know what they are getting when they deal with them. Just like when they deal with you. I will write a post on that soon. Thanks for taking the time to weigh in with such depth and insight.

      And, having just been in San Diego….I can relate to how you define a Board Meeting…in a whole new way.

  2. Dan Weinreb

    Cheryl and I did a blind taste test. In both cases, they only had fat-free, which is usually less yummy. We got strawberry fruit-on-the-bottom as that’s my favorite. Both of these affect the experience a lot so “your milage may vary”.

    Overall they are the same style (Greek) so the differences aren’t large. Okios was wetter and looser in texture; Chobani was firmer. Cheryl says Chobani had a bit of a “chalky” flavor but fat-free yogurt is usually like that. Okios’s flavor was stronger and tangier, which is what I prefer, but that’s mainly the strawberries.

    And I realize that this whole blog article is about the concept, not the yogurt per se. It’s just that we helped out with the caviar grommet, and we’re foodies, so…


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