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The Hustle

Seamstresses in Romania unfurled a 357-foot-long T-shirt, certified as the world’s largest. It was then broken down into 10k clothing items for kids, which was a way better idea than ours (making it into a shirt for the Statue of Liberty).

In today’s email:

  • American cheese: A noble effort to put Kraft Singles out to pasture.
  • Little Mermaid: Will moviegoers fork, er, dinglehopper over cash?
  • Smokescreen: A weed business raised $60m+, but it wasn’t real.
  • Around the Web: Passwords for the “Danger Zone,” a cool Moog site, Instagram marketing tips, and more.
  • Listen: Zack and Sneaker News Editor-in-Chief John Kim discuss the multibillion-dollar, drama-filled sneaker resale market.
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The Big Cheese
grilled cheese

Is American cheese due for a comeback?

“American cheese is the best cheese for a cheeseburger because it melts without splitting.”

That’s what the creepy chef in The Menu says, and he’s right. Yet a lot of people hate it, many of whom argue that it’s not even really cheese.

So, what is it then?

Per Serious Eats, cheese — often a colby and cheddar blend — and other ingredients, such as cream, water, or oil. The key is an emulsifying salt, like sodium citrate, because that’s what makes it gooey.

  • Walter Gerber and Fritz Stettler of Switzerland first mixed shredded Emmenthal with sodium citrate for a better melt in 1911.
  • Meanwhile, Canadian-American entrepreneur James Kraft was perfecting his own version in the hopes of extending its shelf life. He patented it in 1916.

The end result is what the FDA calls “pasteurized process American cheese” (Kraft Singles are a “pasteurized prepared cheese product” due to extra ingredients).

In the last decade…

… sales of American cheese have staggered as millennial consumers moved away from the processed foods of their youths.

Chef Eric Greenspan, author of The Great Grilled Cheese Book, told Eater that processed cheese’s quality has also decreased due to attempts to make it last even longer.

Greenspan co-founded New School to make a better American cheese with as few ingredients as possible. It contains aged cheddar, cream, butter, sodium citrate, salt, paprika, and turmeric — and took five years to perfect.

Naturally, that left us with one option

A cheese experiment. I made a Kraft Singles grilled cheese, then ordered another from Bub & Grandma’s, an LA cafe using New School’s cheese.

Kraft tasted like childhood. New School tasted more like real cheddar, but with that extra meltiness. Truthfully? I’d be happy with either, but purists may prefer the latter. Unfortunately, it’s only available in NYC and LA for now.

Or?: Bon Appetit writer Alyse Whitney suggests Cooper, a sharp American deli cheese with a secret recipe dating back to 1890. You can buy that one online.

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eyeball wearing a hat

Vietnamese automaker VinFast has lofty ambitions for its upstart EV business in America, but it’ll have to bounce back from a rough start — all 999 vehicles shipped to the US last year have been recalled over a faulty dash display.


Debt ceiling update: Is the US economy days away from total ruin? That’s still a maybe. President Biden and Speaker McCarthy found common ground over the weekend, but now must convince members of Congress to back their deal.

TodAI in AI: AI will disproportionately replace jobs held by women, per analytics firm Revelio Labs. Many of the career tracks most threatened by AI — payroll clerks, executive assistants, bookkeepers, interpreters, and proofreaders — are 65%+ held by women.

Meanwhile, a New York lawyer may be sanctioned for using AI to write a legal brief. The issue? ChatGPT’s research turned up several nonexistent cases.

State Farm will no longer issue new policies for California homes or businesses due to wildfire risks and construction costs. Existing customers won’t be affected.

Whatever the opposite of calling dibs is: The FDA has given the go-ahead for Elon Musk’s brain-implant startup Neuralink to test its technology on humans.

Suisse miss: It’s hard to have a better day in court than Bidzina Ivanishvili did. A judge ruled for the former Georgian prime minister, who claimed Credit Suisse was negligent in losing part of his fortune. That fortune will now add $926m.

Nvidia, days after becoming the world’s most valuable chipmaker, revealed several new AI products, including a robotics platform, a service to make more lively video game characters, and a new AI supercomputer.

Marketing trends report: We’re slingin’ you the latest on AI tools, TikTok and short-form video, data privacy, and more. Peep the 2023 State of Marketing Report we created with Litmus, Wistia, and Rock Content.


The business world is changing faster than ever. Help ensure your organization keeps up by adopting agile leadership.

Tail tales
The Little Mermaid chart
Olivia Heller

How mermaids are flipping profits in the deep blue sea

In the trailer for Netflix’s new documentary MerPeople, one interviewee claims the mermaid market has scaled to “a half-billion-dollar industry.”

YouTube commenters debate the veracity of that number: “Half billion dollars industry?! I’m in the wrong business,” writes one. “I’m certain that half billion was a hyperbole,” quips another.

Trying to verify that claim quickly puts one under the sea — of numbers (another estimate came in at $150m annually).

But no matter how much green is being generated in the deep blue sea, it’s safe to say this past week marked the largest wave of attention to mermaids in quite some time.

Diving into the market

Over its weekend debut, Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid reeled in $118m at the box office, the fifth-highest Memorial Day opening in history, per Variety.

  • A secret to its success: While developing the original 1989 film, visual artists saved ~$1.84m (then $750k) by reducing the number of colors used for Ariel from 11 to seven.

Outside of film, the mermaid industry involves everything from competitive pageants to makeup brands, to social hobbyists, to solo performers netting $400/hour — along with the tail manufacturers helping all these merfolk scale up.

For instance, since one grandma started Idaho-based Fin Fun Mermaid in 2009, the company has sold 1m+ tails, ranging from ~$15 to ~$400.

  • In 2016, Fin Fun Mermaid made the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private businesses. To date, its YouTube videos have garnered 50m+ views.

BTW: Want in on the mermaid trend before it becomes a tidal wave? Here ya go.

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Free Resource

Behind the scenes of a ‘Shark Tank’ deal

We’ve got two questions for ya:

  1. Ever wonder what it’s like to cut a deal with billionaire investor Barbara Corcoran?
  2. Do you have a shameless love for lobster rolls?

If the answer to either of those is a hearty, “Hell yeah,” Jon Dick and the founders of Cousins Maine Lobster just discussed crunchtime and crustaceans on the “Shark Tank” spinoff podcast, Another Bite.

They riff on pitching to apex predators, growing after the live show, and how to know if you should go swimming.

How to snag a shark 🏊 →
Rap Sheet
handcuffs and cannabis

Saying you run a business is easier than actually running one

Wanna invest in cannabis? Here’s startup WeedGenics’ pitch:

  • “100% vertical integration” — cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution all in-house
  • “Massive expansion” with a new 150k-sq.-ft. facility on the way
  • “Spending as low as possible” with “exceptionally high profit margins”

Except there’s just one other thing…

… The California-based startup was actually a Ponzi scheme, feds say.

There was “no real company, no product, and no business,” according to the SEC, which shuttered the company last week and will pursue penalties against owners Rolf Max Hirschmann and Patrick Earl Williams.

The marijuana-growing front accumulated $61.7m in funding, allegedly spent on houses, dining, jewelry, and adult entertainment. Also:

  • Hirschmann, under the alias “Max Bergmann,” pocketed ~$15.7m, spending $2.4m of it on luxury cars.
  • Williams used $7.9m of investor money to fund BigRigBaby, his rapper alter ego.

Your takeaways?

You know better than to run a Ponzi scheme — Right? Right? — but there are still valuable business insights found in moments like this:

  • The ol’ “transfer money endlessly” method? Don’t do that. When money came in, the defendants transferred it “dizzyingly back and forth,” per the SEC, until it wound up in personal accounts. Cute — but it doesn’t work like that.
  • Homework’s always worth it: Knowing when you’re being defrauded isn’t easy by nature, but there are licensing and permitting requirements aplenty (especially for cannabis businesses) one can check on; none were met here.
  • When someone shows you what they’re doing with your money, believe them: There’s a particularly telling moment in the music video for BigRigBaby’s song called — wait for it — “Play Fair”; it shows Williams wiping sweat off his brow with a fat stack of Benjamins.
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🚀 On this day: In 1971, unmanned space probe Mariner 9 departed for Mars to collect data. In all, it returned 7k+ photos of the Red Planet.

🎹 That’s cool: In honor of its 70th anniversary, synth-maker Moog launched an interactive webpage where you can check out songs, videos, and Moog history, and play around with synths.

🧠 Video: Instagram often updates features and implements new algorithms. We’re going to walk you through how to find marketing success on Instagram’s 2023 global network.

🔑 Haha: Kenny Log-ins, for when you need a secure password inspired by the musical stylings of Kenny Loggins.

🦮 Aww: And now, a helpful — and well-educated — friend.

popcorn ceiling

It’s never too late to do the right thing, Congress. (Link)


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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen and Juliet Bennett Rylah.
Editing by: Ben “Insert cheesy joke here” Berkley.

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