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April 03, 2015

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Taking Care of Business: Is Ari Goldberger the Domain Industry's Ultimate Entrepreneur?
Page 2 

In his junior year in high school, Ari stepped his fundraising endeavors up a notch, bringing a live celebrity to town for the first time. “I got comedian Kelly Monteith to agree to come but when I asked the principal of our school to help raise the $3,000 deposit he said no. So, I went over his head to the mayor of our town who got the Board of Education to come up with the money!” Goldberger said. You see what I meant when I mentioned entrepreneurs being tenacious in the first paragraph.   

“I gained a lot of business experience from these ventures,” Goldberger noted. “I have always loved creating these events which are like small businesses.  I learned in high school, after the Kelly Monteith project, that I did not feel truly fulfilled if I was not planning some sort of an event, or on to some new business idea.  I learned then that being an entrepreneur was a central part of my life – and it didn’t matter if I was raising money for myself or for a charity.”   

Comedian Kelly Monteith

Ari’s first real job, where he earned a regular paycheck, came when he went to work for a fast food restaurant called Gino’s at age 16. “We sold burgers like McDonalds as well as Kentucky Fried Chicken. I quickly worked my way up to being the Chicken Man. I was proud to be the guy making the chicken and being part of the team making $2.65 an hour plus meals,” Goldberger said. 

There were lots of other odd jobs along the way, including stints as a mall security guard, vacuum cleaner salesman and beer vendor at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium. There was also a summer job with the city road department where Goldberger one day found himself working side by side with a guy who had done prison time for murdering his wife with an ax. “He had found her in bed with someone else. Hardly said a word to me all day,” Goldberger recalls. A gig as a busboy at the Playboy Hotel and Casino proved more lucrative (and a lot less stressful). “I thought I was rich with $30-40 in tips in my pocket every night!,” Goldberger said. 

Ari worked as hard in the classroom as he did out of it and wound up graduating from Vineland High School with honors. That earned him a place at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (an Ivy League oasis that U.S. News & World Report ranks as one of the top four colleges in America, along with Harvard, Princeton and Yale).  “I was excited when I was accepted to Penn in 1979,” Goldberger recalled. “I started out as a pre-med student, much to pleasure of my Uncle Rudy, who was chief of pathology at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York. He helped pay the tuition which my parents couldn't afford.”

Statue of school founder Benjamin Franklin in front of College Hall at 
Goldberger's alma mater - the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

“College was a shock for me. I came from a small town and Penn was loaded with all these rich kids. One friend’s dad owned a multi-million dollar boating business, the father of another owned AAMCO Transmission. Kids of diplomats, noted authors, you name it. Boy, did Penn warp my sense of reality! I kind of felt inferior because my folks were not of that “upper crust.”  Little did I know then how lucky I was and how special my parents’ unique experience was,” Goldberger said. 

Pre-med did not work out for Ari. When he got a C in Biology 101 he started having second thoughts about his career choice. He took some business courses and did well enough in those that he was allowed to transfer into Penn’s world famous Wharton  School of Business.  “When I got that letter after my sophomore year, I was on top of the world, as I felt Wharton was the key to future opportunity,” Goldberger said. 

With his move to Wharton, Ari’s entrepreneurial spirit flourished. “I ran an ad in Rolling Stone magazine selling “General Hospital” scrub shirts.  I figured that the TV show couldn’t claim exclusive rights to a term like “General.”  I received dozens of orders and checks in excess of $3,000, all made out to “General,” which I assumed I would have no problem depositing in a bank account.  Boy was I surprised when the bank said I couldn’t open an account and deposit checks based on a DBA (Doing Business As) without formally filing with the state. The bank manager ultimately gave me a break and I fulfilled the orders,” Goldberger added. 

“I ran a business with a partner in my junior year at Penn called University Maid Services.  We hired maids to clean dorm rooms and made a profit.  When the help did not show up, we got down on our hands and knees and scrubbed toilets and bathtubs.  I have never minded getting my hands dirty and doing every part of a job of a business I have run. At the end of my senior year, I ran a business called University Movers, which charged a fee to move students to school from their homes in Boston and Philadelphia. I subcontracted movers in Boston and used Federal Express for the first time,” Goldberger said.  

“I took a semester off from school my senior year to expand my maid service to serve Center City Philadelphia.  I called it “The Maid Brigade, a housecleaning task force to meet all your needs in the fight for cleandom.”  I got the phone number 925-MAID.  This was in 1984 and I strongly believed then in the importance of a good name and number for a business – much like the importance of domains today.” 

“Around this same time, my Dad had stopped working for the trucking company and began helping with a kids clothing store my mom was running called Ruth's Kiddie Corner.  The store was in a farmers market called the Pennsauken Mart. It had 250 businesses, mostly composed of small ma and pa stores.  My parents were able to eek out a small living from this.  I started helping them and tried to give the store more of a professional modern look and style."  

1984 flyer for Goldberger's maid service

"It was a big thrill for me that my family had its own store!  My dad was his own boss and no longer had to work for the “man.”  I called the store Kidz and designed a logo, painted the store, bought nice fixtures, helped them expand and negotiate a new lease.  I was so incredibly proud when that new store was complete.  I felt that finally my parents could be on their own and not have to worry about finances, and it was very gratifying to me that I had helped with this,” Goldberger said.

When Ari graduated from Penn in December 1984 he didn’t follow the path a lot of his classmates did. “I still preferred running my own business as opposed to working for anyone, including the Big 8 accounting firms and consulting firms that hired Wharton grads. It just wasn’t my scene,” he said.  

Ari did take a brief stab at it though, taking a job in the associate buyers program at the Hecht Company, a department store chain in the Washington D.C. area. “I didn’t last long there as I didn’t like working for people.  It just brought me no pleasure, and I felt that I should be back with my parents building Kidz into a retail empire. My Dad reluctantly agreed to have me work for them, but kind of gave me a hard time (probably rightfully so) for graduating from arguably the best business school in the world – and working at  “the Mart.”  He didn’t understand the gratification I derived from being a part of my own thing and helping my parents gain some financial independence. I know it pained him for me to not be working on Wall Street or something.  Both my parents are very proud of what I’m doing now and that is extremely gratifying,” Goldberger said with a smile.   

Logo Ari designed 
for family business

“I helped improve Kidz and convinced my parents to allow me to open up a second location in another farmers market.  Boy, was that a failure! I visited the market on a Saturday and it was so crowded I thought it would surely be a success.  Later I learned that the only reason it was crowded that day was because they were having a baseball card show. The market was pretty much dead the rest of the time and the venture was very unprofitable. Ultimately, we closed the store.” 

This was Goldberger’s first brush with failure but as I noted earlier, failures are often the best learning experiences for entrepreneurs who go on to achieve great success. You have to be resilient, keep plugging away at the ideas you believe in and learn from your mistakes, which is exactly what Goldberger did. 

“As store owners, we received free monthly trade magazines touting the latest fashions.  I was amazed that the magazines could get $2,000-3,000 for a full-page ad.  We also attended trade shows which I knew were profitable.  It was 1986 and the VCR had become a staple in everyone’s home.  I thought it would be neat if I could come up with a video concept that was an alternative to both the trade magazine and trade show. The Kids Video Fashion Show was born.  For the next several months I ate, slept and breathed this idea.  I touted it as the first trade show buyers attended from the comfort of their home or office,” Goldberger said.   

“I developed a demo and brochure and shipped it to all the major children’s wear manufacturers.  While there was some interest, I did not have the funding or infrastructure to take it to the next level. The lesson I learned from this was that good ideas were not enough for a successful business.  I decided I did not want to be this guy who just came up with great ideas but had nothing to show for it.”

“Around that time, I was watching the Senate confirmation hearings on President Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork for the Supreme Court.  I was very interested in the Senators’ discussion of constitutional law, and felt that maybe being a lawyer was something I was cut out for.  I liked to argue, defend people’s rights, and it was a profession in which I could work for myself.  I took the LSAT’s and was accepted to a number of schools, ultimately selecting Rutgers in Camden, New Jersey.  I continued to work for Kidz and ultimately took over the business in 1991, doubling the size of the store and renaming it New Kidz at the Mart.”    

Goldberger operated the business until 1993 when he finally gave it up to concentrate on his new life as a lawyer. Of course, life has a way of throwing you curves from time to time that take you to places you never expected to go. For Ari, one of those curves brought him into the domain business.

Judge Robert Bork 
at 1987 Senate hearings that influenced Ari Goldberger's decision to become an attorney.


Continue to Page 3: Legal Battle Leads Goldberger into the World of Domains

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