A Budding Entrepreneur Says 'I Quit' to Her Boss as Millions of People Watch
Employees who dream of being entrepreneurs often play the moment out in their minds -- the moment when they bid their bosses adieu and deliver those two oft-fantasized words: “I quit.”
How would you do it? Maybe you'd dance across the conference table or break out a bottle of bubbly in an all-staff meeting. Maybe you'd email the entire staff a video of you lip-syncing to a Pat Benatar song.
For one newly-minted entrepreneur, her “I quit” moment played out last night in front of millions of Super Bowl watchers on the big screen.
Gwen Dean told her boss she was outta there in a commercial in the first quarter of the big game. The longtime machine engineer says she's excited to start working full-time as a puppeteer.
“I know there are other people just like me. There are other ‘Gwen’s’ out there that are holding down the fort at a job that is probably sucking the life out of them and they have this other thing that they have always dreamed of doing, and I hope they recognize themselves,” she says.
The 36-year-old has been a licensed machine engineer for nearly two decades. Her most recent job was fixing and maintaining the large, industrial-sized heating and cooling systems for office buildings in New York City. Prior to that, Dean served in the Coast Guard as a machinery technician.
Dean’s love of puppets started early (she loved when her father pretended her Paddington bear could talk), but the idea that she might be able to make a career out of puppeteering came with the confidence she developed as an engineer. “Engineering skills are so translatable,” she says.
It was when a friend put on a puppet show at a hospital that Dean first began taking puppeteering seriously. The hospital had its own closed-circuit television program so that kids confined to their beds could be entertained. Dean helped her friend produce the show and said to herself, “'I could do this! And I could probably do it better! And from then on I was so hooked.”
Dean began performing at birthdays and kids parties and had been thinking of ways to turn puppeteering into her full-time job when she happened upon an ad on her phone seeking someone who would be willing to quit their job publicly on a television commercial. Dean responded to the commercial request, initially unaware that it was for a commercial for the Super Bowl. Later, Dean learned that the commercial was an advertisement for tech company GoDaddy and would premier in front of millions of viewers.
In the weeks leading up to the game, when the commercial was under production, Dean had to keep her plans to quit in a Super Bowl commercial top secret. Dean did tell her father ahead of time, as she didn’t want him to suffer a heart attack from the surprise of seeing his daughter on the big screen. Otherwise, nobody -- aside from a handful of journalists (including this reporter) -- knew of Dean’s big announcement.
The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based website domain registration company that sponsored the commercial has been attempting to rebrand itself. For years, GoDaddy was known as that tech company that nobody really understood how it made money, but did know it always ran super controversial Super Bowl commercials. Now, GoDaddy is positioning itself as the web service provider for super small (as in four employees or fewer) businesses.
“Gwen is a ‘spot on’ example of the customers we serve … the go getter who wants to turn their passion into a thriving business,” said Blake Irving, the CEO of GoDaddy, in an statement. “The fact Gwen listened to her own inner-cheerleader, as she puts it, and took ‘the big leap’ while 100 million people were watching just seemed like an awesome way to tell her customer story.”
The commercial is one of two spots that GoDaddy ran during the Super Bowl last night. In addition to Dean’s “I quit,” commercial, GoDaddy also ran a commercial featuring racecar driving legend Danica Patrick and a pack of beefcake muscle builders. Patrick herself had also been made to look super beefcake. The group of very muscular athletes run directly towards a woman standing in her tanning salon. The spot is to promote GoDaddy’s “Get Found” website product that helps drive customers to a small-business owner’s website.
Between Danica Patrick as a muscle beefcake and Gwen Dean the puppeteer, GoDaddy is featuring a, ah-hem, different female leads for its SuperBowl commercials this year than it has in years past. Need we remind you of the, um, kiss?
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.