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Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good: The Madcap Business Adventure by the Truly Oddest Couple Hardcover – November 4, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One of the most unusual philanthropic enterprises of the 20th century almost never happened: Newman's Own was the name intended for a restaurant the movie star wanted to open near his home in Westport, Conn. But the idea never went anywhere, freeing up Newman to start a business in the early 1980s with his friend Hotchner, a bestselling author (Papa Hemingway), selling a salad dressing made from Newman's personal recipe. The rest is history. As this breezy memoir recalls, the two broke every rule for launching a new food business, ignoring the failure rate for celebrity-themed products, demanding all-natural ingredients and bypassing nearly every aspect of market research (although they did hold one taste test at the home of local caterer Martha Stewart). Despite all this, they managed to pull in nearly $1 million in profits their first year, all earmarked for charity, and have since launched many more products and donated nearly $140 million. This part of the story doesn't really have a lot of meat to it, but it is an entertaining string of anecdotes, song parodies and wacky customer letters. The book's second half becomes more somber as it shifts focus to the Hole in the Wall Gang, the organization they created to build and run camps for children with serious illnesses. The origins of each of the eight camps are recounted in detail, along with letters from some of the campers. A slew of appendixes, including several recipes utilizing Newman's Own products, rounds out the text.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Movie actor Newman and his writer friend Hotchner broke all the business rules to become significant players in the food industry--and used their profits to open summer camps for critically ill children. They started selling Newman's "home brew" salad dressing in 1982 as a joke, but in the following 20 years they gained national recognition with an expanded product line, allowing them to give away $150 million. Their Hole in the Wall Gang camps (named after the outlaw band led by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, immortalized on film by Newman and Robert Redford), which serve children with life-threatening diseases, became very successful. Noted for strict attention to the quality of staff and operations, the camps have been replicated in several states and in other countries, too. This is a witty and inspiring tale, not coincidentally also excellent public relations for the authors, their food products, and their fund-raising efforts for the children's camps. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; 1 edition (November 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385508026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385508025
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By W. C HALL VINE VOICE on November 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is really several books between one set of covers. The entertaining, highly readable opening segment is the story of two men who didn't just break the rules to achieve business success: they took the rule book, set it on fire, and threw away the ashes. Anyone who has purchased "Newman's Own" products has probably noticed the label notation that all profits from the enterprise go to charity. But have you ever wondered how it all began?

"Newman's Own" wasn't the product of blinding insight or grand design. The story opens in December, 1980, as actor Paul Newman and his neighbor and friend, writer A.E. Hotchner, are hard at work in Newman's barn bottling up a small batch of the salad dressing Newman had created. What had started as a gift for neighbors and friends evolved in a couple of years into a thriving enterprise. We learn how they rejected the advice of the supposed experts in the areas of marketing, production and distribution and forged ahead based on a combination of gut instinct and sometimes blind luck.

As one Newman's Own product after another was added--pasta sauce, popcorn, lemonade--the growth of the enterprise steadily continued, much to the surprise and delight of the founders. For this allowed them to soar far higher with their philanthropic dreams than even they had envisioned.

The tone of adventuresome good humor recedes in the second major section of the book. Although Newman and Hotchner had been, and continue to be supportive of established charities, both felt the need to do something more--and so the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for children with life-threatening illnesses was born. The initial camp soon became a model for others around the country and the world.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on March 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Everything I ever needed to know about successful entrepreneurship I learned from SHAMELESS EXPLOITATION. 1) It begins with a creative product, not in the search for a way to make money (sorry, Mr. Sinatra). 2) It begins with a product that fills a hole in a market (in this case, salad dressing made with fresh ingredients, no additives, conspicuously absent from mainstream grocery store shelves back in 1980). 3) Time-honored production and marketing methods can also be time-ragged and not right for your product. 4) Ask questions of everyone you know. 5) Put out a little venture capital and don't overreach (these guys put out $40,000 and lived within those means). 6) Don't compromise the integrity of your product, find ways to accommodate it. 7) There are other ways to publicize the product other than expensive advertising. 8) A movie star's name means nothing; it's all in the product and the hard work that goes into it (sorry, Frank). 9) You have to love and believe in your product. 10) You have to love the process of getting the product out there. 11) If you build it, they will come.

Everything I ever needed to know about pursuing the common good I learned from SHAMELESS EXPLOITATION: 1) Just do it. 2) Invite everyone to participate. 3) Miracles can happen.

Everything you ever needed to know about this book: 1) It's a fast read. 2) It's an honest read. 3) It's an insightful read. 4) It's an inspiring read. 5) The part about the charities served by Newman's own will blow your socks off. 6) The authors are highly entertaining tour guides of their adventure. 7) There are a few recipes to boot. 8) It is refreshingly free of those simplistic aphorisms that plague most business world books.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good details the almost accidental development of the Newman's Own line of foods, its eventual success, and how the founders, Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner, developed a new kind of charity to allow seriously ill children to attend summer camp. The book is filled with humor, good-hearted fun and a will to do good. Most people will find the overall effect to be heart-warming . . . except for the tendency to self-congratulation.
The book's is one part self-deprecating personal narrative, one part "advanced moving and shaking", one part "legend-making" tales, one part "I told you so" to the corporate "experts", one part funny stories from customers and one part business history mixed with two parts serious stories about young peoples' illnesses, three parts lessons about establishing a new charity, with a dash of recipes and cartoons for final humor. The mixture, while quite unusual, has a zestful freshness that leaves a taste for more.
If you are like me, you've never quite understood how Newman's Own came into existence and became a big success. I've tasted some of the products and find them to be of good quality. But there must be something more than that to it.
I was even more surprised to read in past news articles that all profits are distributed to charity annually. "Where in the world did the company get the working capital to stay in business?" was the question on my mind.
I also wondered how anyone would decide which charities to support and which to shun.
Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good answered all those questions and more for me.
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