The Hustle

🍄 The shroom boom’s next frontier

Plus: An ice-cream cone empire, a capybara enclosure’s surprise guest star, make a soundscape, and more.

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Miners in Botswana discovered a 1k+-carat diamond last week. The massive gem, the seventh-largest diamond ever found, is not a “finders keepers” situation — so if you’re dating a billionaire and things are pretty serious, maybe start physical therapy? That rock’ll be a lot of weight to carry on your ring finger.

In today’s email:

  • If you build it… employees will come (“it” = affordable housing).
  • Ode to Joy: From humble beginnings to an ice-cream cone empire.
  • Shroom to grow: Mushrooms are everywhere, including in chocolate.
  • Around the Web: Go incognito, a cool sound project, a pocket prairie dog, and more.

👇 Listen: How below-market rents are used to combat labor shortages.

The big idea

Looking for an edge in attracting talent? Give ’em a reasonable place to live

Employers, led by school districts, are using affordable housing to combat labor shortages.
2023-08-17T00:00:00Z
Ben Berkley

Why is the US grappling with 36.5k+ teacher vacancies? Part of the problem is basic arithmetic.

Per Axios, in 15 of the largest US cities, since 2017:

  • The cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment has increased 22%
  • The average home price has increased 40%
  • Starting teacher salaries have only risen 15%

So, if you’re living on a teacher’s salary and seeking an affordable place to live… good luck.

  • Very un-fun fact: It’d take the average teacher in San Francisco ~30 years to save up enough money for a down payment on a median-priced home.

One possible solution?

School districts, tired of struggling to attract talent, are literally building in a huge perk: their own affordable housing units.

  • Districts in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Arkansas are among those that have either built, are building, or are planning to build housing complexes for its teachers.
  • Some are tapping federal grants, others are partnering with nonprofits; many are using their own unused (tax-free) land.

While lagging compensation remains a major issue independent of housing, one Bay Area teacher living in district-provided housing told Axios it’s been “a game-changer.”

Can this work for other industries?

The answer is yes, because it already does.

  • By housing ~50% of its 75 employees, a Wisconsin dairy farm brought its turnover rate to under 1%. (For context, the national industry average was 38.8% in 2019.)
  • Colorado is spending $6.5m on employee housing to ease its snowplowing labor shortage.

One such development in Florida even found a way to win over angry “not in my backyard” neighbors: added security. (A new adjoining 24-unit apartment building will exclusively house sheriff’s office employees.)

TRENDING

It’s too cute: Oyen, a stray orange cat, found his forever home… in the capybara enclosure at Malaysia’s national zoo. In a true testament to the power of cats, zoo officials say attendance has doubled thanks to the unusual living arrangement, with “95%” of visitors coming just to see Oyen.

SNIPPETS

Today in AI: Google has reportedly partnered with Scale AI to build a bot that offers life advice, tutoring, and planning help… which makes us wonder if anyone’s been dumped because an AI said so.

Cava reported same-store sales bumped 18.2% YoY in its first earnings report since the Mediterranean chain’s IPO in June.

A tiny violin for lobby groups repping cable, fiber, and DSL companies, who claim the FCC’s requirement to list all fees upfront is too hard. They’d rather just offer a maximum possible amount.

Warner Bros. Discovery is planning to add a sports tier to its Max streaming platform that would charge subscribers extra to access live basketball, baseball, and hockey games.

Vietnamese EV maker VinFast had a big Nasdaq debut, with its market cap exceeding that of Volkswagen and Ford. But its daily reality is less glamorous: It’s losing billions and its new SUV pulled a rough Road & Track review: “Simply unacceptable.”

Grocers and acquisitions: German supermarket chain Aldi will acquire Winn-Dixie and Harveys Supermarket, accounting for ~400 stores across the US Southeast.

TweetDeck, renamed “X Pro,” now requires an $84/year X Premium — formerly Twitter Blue — subscription to use. Twitter acquired TweetDeck in 2011, but it’s remained free until now.

The IRS said it used an $80B infusion to bump full-time staff to ~90k, clear backlogs, and streamline customer service. During 2023’s tax season, average call wait times dropped from 28 minutes to three.

Yikes: New Jersey officials fined Boston Market ~$2.6m and ordered 27 locations to close after a nine-month investigation found workers’ rights violations, including $600k+ in back pay owed to 314 workers.

FROM THE BLOG

Running a successful startup is challenging, but getting the right advice can greatly increase a company’s chance of survival. Unlock new opportunities with startup mentorship.

Video

A peek inside the Joy ice-cream cone empire

If you’ve ever had ice cream — and we cannot stress enough how much we hope this is the case — there’s a good chance you’ve had it served to you in a Joy cone.

Whether you’re familiar with their sugar, cake, or waffle-cone wares, Pennsylvania-based Joy Cone Co. is a legit ice-cream cone monopoly, responsible for ~70% of the cones consumed in the US.

What started 100+ years ago as a small shop with one hand-powered oven now produces 10m cones per day.

  • We’ll say it once more for anyone who just crunched through a waffle cone — Joy makes 10m ice cream cones every day, enough to feed all of New York City.

So, how did Joy come out on top? The Hustle visited Joy’s Hermitage, Pennsylvania, factory to find out, and came away with an all-American business story — from a pivot in the 1960s that saved the business during its lowest point, to its proprietary machinery that sets it apart from the competition, to the acquisitions that keyed its current dominance.

We also, of course, came away with a hankering for ice cream.

Watch the full video →
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Morel victory

The shroom boom is coming to the candy aisle

Already the hottest health and wellness trend, mushrooms now come in chocolate form.
2023-08-17T00:00:00Z
Sara Friedman

If someone offers you mushrooms at a party, you might assume the night is about to take a weird turn.

But shrooms are multifaceted, and brands have been tapping them for more PG purposes. Namely, they’re taking over a sweet new sector: chocolate.

Functional mushrooms are thought to offer an array of health benefits — from boosting your immune system to helping you focus — sans magic.

And they’re being mixed and melted into confections by a crop of tasty businesses:

  • Fungirl’s chocolate bar is spiked with lion’s mane mushrooms, promising mental clarity and decreased anxiety.
  • Wellness brand Alice sells tinned mushroom chocolates for specific needs, from deep sleep to better focus.
  • Vehicle Mushrooms makes coffee and chocolate bars from red reishi, chaga, cordyceps, and lion’s mane mushrooms.

And it’s not only fungus-focused companies: Traditional chocolate brands are introducing mushroom options to their product lineups as well, per The New York Times.

This idea isn’t new…

… In fact, it’s ancient. Mushrooms have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to treat ailments, and the practice of mixing cacao and mushrooms can be traced back to Mesoamerican cultures.

While the science is out on exactly how much mushrooms can benefit our bodies (researchers are looking into it), their growing popularity is undeniable.

Wellness brands are slinging supplements in the form of powders and pills, promising a slew of physical and mental improvements.

The silver, fungus-covered lining? Mushrooms might offer us much more than a good night’s sleep: They could also be an answer to our food sustainability woes.

AROUND THE WEB

🎈 On this day: In 1978, Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman completed the first transatlantic helium balloon flight from Presque Isle, Maine, to Paris. It took 137 hours.

🔎 How to: Remove your personal info from Google using its updated “Results about you” tool.

🎵 That’s cool: Play any of these videos at any time to create a soundscape.

🎁 Cure boredom: Find the gift.

😍 Aww: A prairie dog in a pocket.

Meme

We’re all so close. (Link)

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Today’s email was brought to you by Juliet Bennett RylahSara Friedman, .
Editing by: Ben “Shroom for doubt” Berkley.

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