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Last Update: Thursday October 1, 2020

Key Idea: Live, Eat, Sleep the Business

Entrusting the vision behind the Sundance Catalog is not for people who want to work 8-5.

Key Question:


Harry said what so many others have said about the startup phase of a business.  You have to tend to it night and day.

When Robert Redford discovered that Harry had launched a successful catalog of children's items, he sought advice from Harry. In fact, Redford wanted to hire Harry, but Harry turned him down. Harry offered to write a business plan for the new business. He then told Redford that the current company did not have the right top executive in place to make the catalog a success.

Isn't Harry being melodramatic?

No! The reason someone has to live, eat, sleep the business when it is born is the same reason a newborn baby has to watched so carefully. You can't just leave the baby for a few hours when you feel like going to a movie.

A new business is vulnerable and needs minute-by-minute leadership. Employees who work a regular schedule can run a mature business like the lodge or the film festival but a baby needs constant tender loving care.

Marty Edelston, founder of Boardroom Inc, told us the same thing. Marty found himself working into the night because he had to do his regular job from 8-5. This is run-of-the-mill for most small business owners. Long hours go hand-in-hand with owning a business. Even when there are employees, the responsibility for hundreds of details fall on the shoulders of the owner. From food preparation to cash register tape, hundreds of detail must be in place so that every customer enjoys continuity from every location.

Why do so many people start a business knowing it will take a tremendous time commitment, especially at the beginning?

A: There are many reasons, but these ones that we hear the most:

1) Many find it impossible to work in a job and be satisfied. In fact, most people who start a business don't do it for the money, they do it because they feel their talents have never been used in a single job.

2) Many simply want to be in charge.

3) Some see that no one is filling an obvious need.

4) Many people start a business because they can't find a job. Immigrants face language and cultural problems and often start a business because that's their only choice.

5) Some even start a business, knowing it will take huge amounts of time, because they would rather work than do anything else. Work should bring pleasure and there's nothing wrong with doing what you prefer to do. The newspapers reported that prior to joining the Clinton Administration, Janet Reno kept a sleeping bag in her office for those times when she preferred to work nearly all night.

6) In today's work environment, most key employees of large organizations work long hours. So, if you're going to work 60 hours a week, why not invest your time in your own business?

Think about it

If you launched a new product or service, who in your organization would commit to sleeping at the office if that was needed to succeed?

Clip from: Sundance Catalog

Meet Harry Rosenthal (above) and Brent Beck

Provo Canyon and Salt Lake City, Utah: In this episode of the show, we go into a pristine part of the Rocky Mountains, a place Robert Redford loved and wanted to preserve. To sustain that dream and help pay for it all, he turned to Brent Beck and Harry Rosenthal to implement an idea he had for a catalog business. Brent knew the products. Harry knew direct mail. But, unlike most of us, these three had a fast start for this business -- they were leveraging the Robert Redford brand.

Business is not easy for any of us. When Redford applied for his initial loan from a bank, he was rejected just like the rest of us.  He turned to investors, bought the land  to preserve it from housing developers, and began thinking of how to turn it into a business. That was in the late '60's.

Even celebrities were once "less than famous" and had to crawl, scrap,  risk... take a flying leap, just like the rest of us.

Go to all the key ideas and video of this episode...

Sundance Catalog

Jessica Basin, Sr. Marketing Manager, Robert Redford, founder

3865 West 2400 South
Salt Lake City (and Provo), UT 84120

Visit our web site:

Office: 801-975-5238

Business Classification:
Catalog, direct mail

Year Founded: 1989

Live, Eat, Sleep the Business

HARRY:  One of the things that you have to have and really is very valuable in starting up any business is someone who is going to get up in the morning and go to bed at night living and breathing that business. That's the main thing that they care about. It helps if that person has experience, but it's more important, in a lot of cases, that they have the drive and the dedication.

And Sundance didn't have anybody like that, and I said, you know, `I know a lot of people in the industry. I can't do it for you because I can't move to Utah. However, I can help you find somebody. But if you're not prepared to do that, you ought to really seriously consider whether you should start out on this path because that's one of the things that's required.' And they said, `Well, let's write the business plan. Let's see.' So we did that. We wrote the business plan and we formed the company, got it capitalized, and then Sundance made a really good offer to me. So at this point, I had to make some decisions about whether, as a business opportunity and as a career opportunity for myself and my family, I wanted to pick up stakes from Manhattan Beach, California, where I was living a half a block from the ocean, where you can see and hear the waves pounding outside the window, and move to Utah, a place I had literally never been.

I had visions of vast deserts covered with salt and sea gulls.

That was really all I knew. I didn't even know there were mountains out here. And I'd never been to the place. But I thought, `Well, it's certainly worth looking at.' I came out here, got familiar with it, thought about the business, and there was a very big difference between Sundance and where I had come from with Right Start. With Right Start, it was three guys named Lenny, Stan and Harry. I mean, if you opened the front cover of our catalog, you'd see there's Lenny, Stan and Harry holding stuffed animals. And, you know, we wanted our faces and names to be there, but we weren't particularly well known.

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