My Story: I am an entrepreneur, writer and world-traveler, a guy obsessed with creativity. At Gershoni Group, I spearhead new business initiatives and grapple with how brands tell their stories. For 15 years prior to this I operated in the global art world, mostly from New York, Paris and San Francisco.
In the spring of 2002, I was alone on my way up Mt. Williamson in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The sun was bright at about 12,000 feet near Shepherd’s Pass, the air crisp and there was a creek running beneath the field of boulders that I could hear but not see. I stopped to take a nap, and when I woke decided to make a promise to myself. I would open my own gallery by age 29.
I abandoned my attempt at the peak and jogged down the mountain to my car, where I promptly quit my lucrative job before I could change my mind. I had no plan. Somehow, with my former business partner Wendi Norris, we pulled this off and Frey Norris Gallery was open by the end of 2002. For 10 years we ran Frey Norris, a highly respected contemporary art space and “micro-multinational” business. Our networked global community of artists taught me volumes about the creative process and how to connect the public with art in deeply meaningful ways. Work took me all over Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Australia. Art revealed to me a certain kind of transcendence and addicted me to the creative process. Time abroad taught me about the sympathetic exchanges that connect people across cultural gulfs.
For 15 years I had the privilege of hearing and telling stories in contemporary art. We brought art and artists to life for our audiences. In August, 2012, it was time to move on, so I sold my half of the business to Wendi, and went out looking for something new, something outside of my comfort zone. I needed new inspiration. Much of my life seemed a series of responses to opportunities or haphazard whims. The motto had been “Fire! Ready! Aim!” My routine of leaping from cliffs with a backpack and hoping on the way down that it contained a parachute and that I’d figure out how to use it before I hit the deck; well, this had produced mixed results. The new plan was methodical and strategic, to learn about the vocational landscape, to survey and interview as many friends, and friends of friends as the process suggested, to ask them about their work and particularly to focus on transitions they’d made between industries. This was a wandering “discovery process.” At the far end of it, I hoped to live out “Ready! Aim! Fire!”
In total, I spoke with about 80 or 90 people at companies ranging from 3 person startups to multi-nationals like Apple, Adobe, Oracle and Ideo. Not since college had I learned so much in so little time. Notes and ideas from these conversations filled 7 or 8 journals. My friends and I drew a lot of diagrams. Lists of values, ambitions, a revealing experiment in hypnosis; I experimented with all sorts of investigations. What would my still hypothetical grandchildren think of my life’s work? I read the latest in business books, usually those recommended by more than one person or written by friends, did research, took aptitude tests like the MBTI. The process lead to contract consulting work for Norris Communications, and the BLK SHP (Black Sheep), among others.
In one such conversation, with a friend of 10 years, Amy Gershoni, we discussed the pros and cons of working with friends, as opposed to maintaining more professional distance. Amy looked me in the eye and said, “I only work with friends.” A-ha! There it was. I’d been set on the notion of opening distance between work and personal friendship, but what I needed was the exact opposite. I’ve now joined Amy, her husband and co-founder Gil and their brilliant team at Gershoni Creative Group where my work bears a striking resemblance to Frey Norris. Among other tasks, I still listen to and build stories. Gershoni’s portfolio of clients are in a spectrum of industries including Consumer Goods, Food & Beverage, Hospitality, Consumer Electronics and Cloud Services, etc. What I love about this group, is that we are redefining the Agency model, a strike team that combines sharp shooting strategic services with high impact, media agnostic creative follow-through to truly unlock a market. But what really convinced me to jump on board, is that they are people people – true storytellers who live their values, not just in their life, but in the work they do for clients.
And further back? My brother, sister and I were raised in what’s best described as a hippy commune called The Temple of Yoga. Our guru from those days now operates out of the Mount Madonna Center in Santa Cruz and hasn’t spoken in more than 40 years, a vow of silence, though he communicates by writing on a chalk board. If you’ve met me, you probably know that I’ve never really shed those communal roots, always “mother-goosing” a collective of friends towards a new adventure. My other homes have included New York, Paris, Portland, Oregon and since 2000 San Francisco. College studies took me to Tianjin, China, Bodh Gaya, India, Tours, France and Heidelberg, Germany.
I’m a father and am lucky that my family is large, deep, diverse and globally distributed. My daughter and circles of friends and family are the greatest measure of my personal wealth and good fortune, whether related by blood or chance encounter. I currently have the honor to serve on the executive committee at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.