What’s the Worst Business Decision You Ever Made?

Well, that was a bad idea.
Illustration: Tomi Um for Bloomberg Businessweek

“In my first try at launching a children’s hair-care collection, I wanted to use sophisticated packaging to appeal to moms—a total departure from other kids’ lines. Against everyone’s better judgment, I was dead set on clear bottles. It was impossible to read text on them, and the media couldn’t photograph them. It was a visual nightmare. We had to repackage the collection, which cost $75,000, took 11 months, and led to lost sales. Ten years later, our products are sold at national retailers and look great.”
Cozy Friedman
Creator, SoCozy kids’ hair care 

Illustration: Tomi Um for Bloomberg Businessweek

“When I created 9Round, I found myself blinded by dollar signs and signed agreements with anyone. Many franchisees didn’t fit our brand. They lacked the energy to inspire customers; their subpar attitudes drained the franchise. Now I choose charismatic partners who think about the brand long-term.”
Shannon “The Cannon” Hudson
Co-founder and CEO, 9Round kickboxing gyms

“When I was leading Mother, my advertising agency, I found myself in the conference room of the largest fragrance company in the world, where the walls were lined with celebrity fragrances: J.Lo, David Beckham, Shania Twain, Halle Berry. It struck me as funny, so I opened our meeting jokingly suggesting that they consider launching a Paul Giamatti fragrance. No one laughed. Never underestimate how seriously people take their industry. And no, we did not get the business.”
Andrew Deitchman
Co-founder and former CEO, Mother New York; co-founder, the New Stand 

“In 1995 the ‘it’ children’s game was Pogs, and I wanted to capitalize. I saw a scorpion paperweight and had an aha moment: What if I made a playing disc, called a slammer, with a preserved scorpion inside? I got my hands on 100 scorpions, developed the product in my garage, and brought it to a trade show. A distributor asked if I could make 200,000 more for him. I did and then used the profit from that to order 500,000 more scorpions. Then the Pogs craze crashed, and I had $150,000 tied up in scorpions. Crazes have short shelf lives.”
Carlton Calvin
Founder and president, Razor USA

Illustration: Tomi Um for Bloomberg Businessweek

“After months of interviewing for my dream job at a consulting firm, I was about to accept the offer and move cities. Only then did I discover that the position required 80-hour workweeks, 100 percent on the road. I could have saved half a year of time and energy by simply asking upfront about a typical day on the job.”
Sarah Kauss
Chief executive officer and founder, S’well water bottles

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