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Entertaining Richard Branson: Day #4 – Marbles, Hershey and American Girls Stores

Concept for a new social media and networking center

Concept for a new social media and networking center

What do Chicago’s Marbles the Brain Store, Hershey’s Store and American Girl have in common? According to Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore of the best-selling book, “The Experience Economy,” they are a big part of the economy. Pine and Gilmore add that almost nowhere else in the world is there such a powerful aggregation of this economy. So why do we need another “experience store” in Chicago or anywhere?

Seth Godin, who’s been blogging a lot about the end of the independent book stores, explains it extends with Borders gone and Barnes and Noble on a similar path. Yet Starbucks stores inside Barnes and Noble’s are doing well. Why? They keep reinventing themselves. They are, as Seth would point out, that book stores should be “hubs or connectors.” Books need connection centers!

Pine and Gilmore would probably add, the more the connection and engagement, the more you can charge. So what can current companies do and what am I proposing that will reinvent retail and the sale of learning? Center on entertainment!

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In Chicago, we have over 300 theaters. I’ve been lucky enough to have married a cultural creative — both of us second marriages four years ago this September 5th! — and we are passionate about theater. Therefore, we see hundreds of shows a year. I’ve seen more musicals in the last six years than I saw in 25 years before I met Craig, my husband. I have also seen amazing, one-person shows, ensembles and unique fantasy shows at places like The Lookingglass Theatre with one show that had lots of water pools on the stage. My question has evolved to, “What can we incorporate from these heavily engaged live shows and create a new kind of learning experience where people are willing pay?”

The retail store I am proposing with my team would have:

  • People who entertain, connect and teach you the many fascinating and latest facets of social media.
  • Concierge who help you grow a sustainable learning plan so you stay at the cutting edge of social media for jobs, career development and just plain fun.
  • An evolving community of people who can help you expand your horizon of what is possible for you and your family.
  • A place you will go back to again and again, each time saying, as you walk in, “Gee, I love it here!”

For me, I have been dreaming of this place for 10 years — I can’t not keep thinking about it! It doesn’t exist yet, but it will. Whether I get support from Richard Branson or other investors, this WILL BE A REALITY. Why? It’s not about me — it’s about us.

Remember the song? There’s a place for us:

Vision: This center will offer a business accelerator that will provide established and growing businesses with tech and social media mentorship from social media experts and Chicago’s top university students. For every paid learning session, we will provide one gratis learning session to a student in need. Sessions will be focused on social media literacy and entrepreneurial mentoring. 

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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