Wally Amos, aka Famous Amos as in the Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookie founder, was perhaps the most colorful entrepreneur I’ve met to date.
I remember him on stage at the Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs beaming with tons of energy, flashing a huge warm smile, and wearing this outrageously colored, fully embroidered, denim-jacket glittering with patterns of sequins that were all things cookies and chocolate chip cookies at that. It was one of those jackets that you’d expect to find in a Broadway play like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and not your typical three piece navy or gray pinstriped suit jacket worn by most panelists.
Before Wally started to give his presentation, he turned to the audience and explained the honor and joy he had in wearing his embroidered cookie jacket — because his wife had made it for him.
Wally went on to explain how important it is to have family support when embarking on entrepreneurial paths and his jacket clearly indicated his family’s enthusiastic support.
Before starting his cookie business, Wally was in the music business out in California as an A&R guy. At the time, he could not read or write and had less than a skyrocketing career, although he did represent some famous talents – e.g., Helen Reddy.
Apparently, whenever Wally called on clients and prospects, he would always bring along some homemade chocolate chip cookies to leave behind with his appointments. It was his grandmother’s recipe and Wally loved to share the cookies he baked with everybody in the business.
Prospects would teasingly say, “Hey Wally. Sorry I can’t use your services, but those cookies – they’re awesome. You should really think about opening a business selling them. They’re incredible and any chance I can get some more next time you swing through the area? And, I’ll pay!”
And so with the support of family and friends (e.g., Helen Reddy as early financial investor), Wally launched into the cookie business.
The one sad note about Wally’s story was with respect to intellectual property rights. Turns out when Wally sold his business, unwittingly to him, he also lost the right to use his own surname to promote any new food products. I recall a court battle and being appalled that his counsel did not give him better advice when he signed the sell agreement but I digress.
In the end, Wally conveyed encouragement to follow one’s passions, gain the trust of family stakeholders and friends, then go for it. And if lucky enough to collect any awards along the way, not to hesitate to wear true colors – on sleeves, back, front pockets, chest, etc. – viva the Chocolate Chip Cookie DreamCoats!