From humble beginnings in Amarillo, Janet Coffman’s candles travel great distances, destined to be burned by customers around the globe. “They go crazy for our candles in Switzerland,” Coffman says. The former art teacher and bookkeeper works by herself—with her four beagles and one mutt rescue underfoot—in a tiny home studio just off the laundry room, producing as many as one hundred candles a day.
David Norris still remembers staring in disbelief at the 2008 tax bill for his conference-and-event-center company. In 2007 he’d paid the State of Texas $157. A year later, the number had soared to a staggering $21,000. That increase wasn’t the result of an uptick in revenue. It was a consequence of the state’s new business tax, which had just taken effect.
To say that it’s been a bad time for SeaWorld since the 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish, which featured interviews from trainers and former employees as part of an extremely critical look at the theme park’s treatment of orca whales, would be something of an understatement: in 2014, profits fell by a staggering 28 percent, attendance was down nearly 9 percent from the same period in 2012, and the company’s stock price these days is around half of its pre-Blackfish high. California, where SeaWorld operates its San Diego park (the others are in San Antonio and Orlando), recently considered legislation banning the use of orca whales in performances.
The bad press the company has been experiencing, in other words, is a very real existential threat to the company itself. And SeaWorld has treated it like one, by responding harshly to critics.
The ongoing struggle to figure out how to incorporate tech-based transportation entities like Uber and Lyft into the regulatory tapestry that governs similar businesses is one of the prominent challenges facing cities right now. Those companies clearly represent a growing marketplace demand, but they don’t fit within the framework that currently exists for the types of businesses that provide similar services. You need to buy a permit to drive a pedicab in Austin or a taxi in San Antonio or otherwise operate a transportation company, but Uber drivers just need to download an app and plug in some information.
Willie Nelson’s entrepreneurial spirit has been well-documented. He launched a biofuel company back in 2008, owns a pair of Texas Roadhouse locations, and of course runs the small business that is his songwriting/recording/performing career. But the most obvious commercial venture for Willie Nelson didn’t become a reality until this week: now, finally, he’s opening his own chain of marijuana dispensaries around the U.S. (in states where that sort of thing is legal, of course).
Willie told the Daily Beast about his plans to launch his own brand, and his own stores, at his annual SXSW event at his ranch in Luck:
The destruction of Jumpolin, the East Austin piñata shop that was demolished overnight last month, continues to make waves. The story blew up to national proportions shortly after the Lejarazu family, which owned the shop, first found the ruins of their store on the corner at which it had previously resided. The building had been bought by Jordan French and Darius Fisher of F&F Real Estate Ventures, two Austin entrepreneurs with both real estate holdings and tech industry businesses, who had the building demolished despite the fact that three years remained on Jumpolin’s lease.
French quickly became the face of the PR counteroffensive launched by F&F, insisting that the family was delinquent on their rent (the Lejarazus later released video of themselves paying their rent, a precaution that the Austin Chronicle reports they took after F&F had claimed they were in default). French also insinuated that the Jumpolin owners may have been selling drugs on the premises and gave a bizarre interview in which he compared the business owners to cockroaches.
East Austin is a place of controversy these days. If it’s not landlords demolishing their tenants’ pinata shops without warning and calling the business owners “cockroaches,” it’s anti-gentrification pranksters putting “exclusively for white people” stickers on local businesses. And if it’s neither of those things, then it’s this: A pizza place is hiring its staff exclusively via Snapchat.
In a listing spotted by eagle-eyed Eater Austin editor Meghan McCarron, forthcoming East Austin pizza joint Pizzabelli has taken to Craigslist not to actually recruit the staff that will serve what they claim will be “the largest selection of toppings, crust, prosecco and Italian cocktails in the country,” but merely to inform prospective pizzamakers and servers that if they want a job that will presumably pay them somewhere in the neighborhood of what every other friggin’ restaurant pays, they need to apply by sending a video to the company’s Snapchat account.
Taylor Mowrey Burge and her husband, Austin Burge, are having a baby in September. That’s an expensive proposition for anyone, but especially for people who work in the service industry. Taylor works with Coté Catering. Austin runs a coffee business that sets up shop at farmer’s markets and other events, and he does landscaping on the side—and they’re going to pay for all of their baby-related expenses with money that they make during SXSW.
“Next week, I’m going to write a check to our midwife to pay for everything up front,” Taylor says as she walks down Sixth Street to a space above El Sol Y La Luna that, for an 8-day stretch of SXSW, is the Camel Lounge. “Otherwise, we’d be setting up a payment plan.”
As the substantial roar of SXSW Interactive and SXSW Film give way to the sustained, yowling, five-day-long, banshee-like shriek that is SXSW Music, the question, “Is SXSW 2015 a tipping point for the festival” starts to sound downright silly. Take a look at the streets of Austin, which have been packed for the past four days and will only get busier over the next five, and the question really becomes, “Does it even matter?” Kanye’s coming back, y’all—how can SXSW’s health be in question when you’ve got Kanye?