Jesse Potash is the founder of PUBSLUSH Press, a social, full-service publisher that lets readers decide which books get published. For every book sold, PUBSLUSH Press donates a book to a child in need. Jesse’s background is in financial services, but he also has experience in publishing, fashion and advertising. Jesse serves on the PUBSLUSH Foundation’s board of directors, which is committed to supporting children’s literacy initiatives worldwide. He is a native New Yorker, yogi, boxer and avid traveler.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment, we are involved in several industry conferences (speaking, exhibiting, etc.), so we have a busy few months of travel ahead. Beyond that, we are focused on bringing PUBSLUSH through a successful beta phase and scaling it on a national level. We are preparing to launch a professional and collegiate ambassador program that will announce our brand to a much wider audience and engage new users to become part of our social, global book club with a cause. We are also planning to publish our first book within the next few months and introduce some very exciting new partnerships.
Where did the idea for PUBSLUSH come from?
My obsession with Harry Potter and JK Rowling; specifically, her Harvard commencement speech in 2008. I just find everything about Harry Potter amazing: the idea, the writing, JK Rowling’s story and the impact it has had on the world. I didn’t understand how 12 acquisition editors could have rejected such an amazing book. I felt inspired to create something that would be an alternative to the existing talent discovery process. The philanthropic component was introduced because of my human rights experience, my love of TOMS Shoes and my desire to create a concept truly centered around giving: giving a voice to aspiring authors, giving readers the power to decide which books get published and giving books to children who are without access to literature.
What does your typical day look like?
Truthfully, it’s never typical. The constants are: 1) tons of reading and research, 2) meetings with my team, advisers and potential partners, 3) community management like responding to questions, concerns and inquiries, 4) developing and executing business development opportunities and 5) enhancing the site’s functionality.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have an idea journal. When I have an idea, I keep writing until I realize it won’t work or I don’t care enough to overcome the obstacles associated with it. If neither of these things happen, I investigate the industry and the competition and go from there.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
When I worked in fashion, my life was trends. Now, not so much. I guess I like that people are getting more into health and nutrition. Is that a trend, though? I hope not.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Golf caddy. Brief, traumatic experience. I learned that a job should always create value in your life. If it doesn’t, next!
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Nada. Every mistake has made me more perceptive. Some (most) things you just have to learn for yourself.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
For me, the most important thing is to maintain perspective. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and sucked in. Personally, I find that perspective in yoga. My yoga teacher, Kara Kerek, said it best, “we exhaust the body just enough to still the mind.” I don’t think I could function without that regular reset.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Cake pop shop! No, I’m really serious. We talk about it all the time.
Tell us a secret.
My friend and I used to always wait in line for the midnight release of new Harry Potter books. We would read them from start to finish in my car in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble. And then again the next day.
What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?
Skype, Google Apps and Evernote. They make my job easier!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I rarely read nonfiction, but I would highly recommend Mighty Be Our Powers by Leymah Gbowee. I saw her speak at Columbia’s Social Entrepreneurship Conference the day she won the Nobel Peace Prize and it was a moment I will never forget. This woman’s story is so overwhelming, I can’t even describe it. Talk about maintaining perspective, just read her memoir.
What’s on your playlist?
Mariah, The Kills, Aretha, Manu Chao, Adele.
If you weren’t working on PUBSLUSH, what would you be doing?
Traveling much more. Working for Worldreader or sOccket. Becoming a yoga instructor and a pilot. Learning every language. Living in Buenos Aires or Cape Town. Studying film.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- @gawker: News with sass.
- @newinquiry: Innovative cultural commentary.
- @whitegrlproblem: Out of control funny.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I’m always laughing out loud. My team is pretty hysterical. I also constantly crack myself up (probably too much?).
Who is your hero?
What is your opinion on where the publishing industry is headed?
I am a huge advocate of digital. I mean, I love a printed book but the advantages of ebooks are just so undeniable. Also, I think the role of the publisher is drastically changing. PUBSLUSH, first and foremost, is a high-quality (as determined by readers) content discovery, cultivation and distribution platform.
What advice do you live by?
“Whatever you are, be a good one!” Thanks, Abe.
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