Shep Moyle of Shindigz: “New partnerships are forming between large and small retailers”

New partnerships are forming between large and small retailers. We are exploring several for boutique and personalization services in stores that would never have considered the option previously. Retail as entertainment and content. Space will be a commodity, but making the space a destination, an experience and a memorable adventure will define the future course […]

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New partnerships are forming between large and small retailers. We are exploring several for boutique and personalization services in stores that would never have considered the option previously.

Retail as entertainment and content. Space will be a commodity, but making the space a destination, an experience and a memorable adventure will define the future course of retail.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shep Moyle, owner, CEO and Chairman of Shindigz, one of the world’s largest internet providers of party supplies, decorations, and favors serving the US and 55 countries worldwide.

Prior to Shindigz, he worked in Dallas, TX as a brand manager for Frito Lay Inc., and he is the proud father of Tostitos Restaurant-Style tortilla chips.

Shep has been active in the Young Presidents Organization for over 27 years and served as the International Chairman of the Board in 2005–06. He also has served as Chairman of the Parkview Health System, a regional health provider in northeast Indiana employing over 6,000 persons. Additionally, he served 18 years on the Board of Trustees for Canterbury School in Fort Wayne.

He currently serves on the Harvard University Alumni Board of Directors and is a past Co-Chair of the Syracuse University Parents Council. He is the past president of the Duke Alumni Association Board of Directors and he was elected to the Duke University Board of Trustees in 2013 for a four-year term and is actively involved in the university’s Athletics Leadership Board and the Advisory Board on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

In 2017, Shep was selected as a fellow and completed a yearlong fellowship through Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative. He is a 1984 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University with a degree in Political Science and History and he received an MBA with honors from the Harvard Business School in 1986.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After receiving my Harvard MBA, I went to Frito-Lay in Dallas as a Brand Manager in Marketing. I worked on Cool Ranch Doritos, Fritos, Grandma’s Breakfast Snacks and took a declining 90 million dollar Tostitos brand and created Restaurant Style, Bite Size, Lime Flavor and White Corn Tostitos, turning the business into a 1.7 billion dollars brand today. While I loved the corporate world and the excitement, I realized that I would not be sharing in the financial success of my ideas. When my Dad called and asked if we had any interest in buying the family business, we said yes. We were 27 years old, had no experience as entrepreneurs and had just gotten married. Thus, began a 30-year adventure!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

You mean besides eating a live scorpion in China as a part of a business negotiation? I did and I won the negotiation. I believe my most amazing experiences happened as a result of my involvement with the Young President’s Organization. I joined at 29 and became the International Chairman in 2005. During those 18 months, I spent over 245 days traveling to over 85 nations for YPO helping build global engagement and the YPO network. Through the experience, I met Presidents and Prime Ministers; shared some laughs with the Dalai Lama; landed on an aircraft carrier at sea; learned from Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu; and did jungle survival training in the Amazonian jungle, all with some of the leading CEO’s in the world.

In one meeting, I was meeting with the then-President of Colombia Alvaro Uribe in the Cabinet Room in Bogota. I asked him: “What is the most important management lesson you have learned as President? I understand you are known for being a micromanager and calling Mayors at home in the middle of the night?”. Without a word, he stood and his entourage and security detail left as well. My hosts were not too happy with what they perceived to be an impertinent question from the American. After 7 or 8 minutes, he returned, then placed a box in front of me and stood behind me. “Open it”, he said. I opened the box and inside were paper clips, pins, screws, nails, rubber bands and the like. “THIS is my management style. I have learned that if you take care of all the little things in leadership — watch the details, ask the inconvenient questions, know the data better than your Mayors — the big things will take care of themselves. This box of little things reminds that this is what is important as a leader”.

I have always remembered that moment and leadership lesson for life and business.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I was 25 and created a promotion with Jay Leno to place a talking cardboard stand up in grocery stores across the country. The idea was that if you clapped your hands in front of Jay, he would tell you a series of jokes. And there was a promotion to win a 1955 Thunderbird. Sounds great? I was sent to Detroit to meet Jay and do the recording in a studio while he was shooting a movie. I arrived and brought the scripted jokes for Jay (Mr. Leno to me) to record. “What is this #%&?“, he yelled. “I am not doing this”. And off he goes. As any good 25-year-old MBA, I told him he HAD to do it per the contract. He politely told me what I could with his contract and it did not involve Doritos.

After bringing his agent and my boss together on the phone, we agreed to proceed and let Jay write his jokes even though he still thought it was the dumbest promotional idea in history.

I learned that 1. The talent is ALWAYS right. 2. If you start quoting a contract, the relationship is over. 3. Sometimes the dumbest ideas work really well.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

At Shindigz, we are constantly pivoting and changing into new markets and concepts. We have developed a new line of corporate products — holiday party in a box, retirement party in a box, team celebration in a box — all personalized and designed for companies to celebrate their team members both remote and in the office. We are partnering with the “Chasing the Cure” Foundation to support innovative, global research for pediatric brain tumors engaging our customers and community as well as a new initiative with the Confetti Foundation to give away birthday parties to children across the country.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Always have a party and celebration ready. Make the most of small moments. Surprise and delight your team as often as you can. In today’s turbulent world, we all need to smile a bit more. We just finished some Turkey Bowling (yep, it is what you think) and we sent the team out with cash to perform Random Acts of Kindness on the street. And, our day of bringing puppies into the building to play with the team was a great favorite. Every work place needs more fun — that’s why we exist. If we can’t laugh and bring joy and delight to others, why are we doing this?

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My mentor was Terry Sanford, former US Senator, NC Governor and President of Duke University. When I was at Duke and student body president my sophomore year, he took an interest in me. By my senior year, he invited me to have breakfast at his home on Sunday morning if I arrived by 6 am. So, most Sundays I was there and he would cook me sausage and grits and regale me with stories of the civil rights movement, JFK, the importance of giving back and how I owed a responsibility to make the world a better place. He taught me that one of life’s key lessons was on the bottom of a bottle of Coca-Cola — “no deposit. No return”. You get out of life what you put into it for others. Keep giving and life will be full and meaningful.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

What is most important to me is my spouse, business partner and love of my life Wendy and our 3 amazing kids who are each extraordinary in their own way. If I have been a little successful with them, then I am a happy man. I have tried to give back to our community locally, to the world at large and to those projects and initiatives that can change the world. From YPO to Harvard Business School to the Duke Board of Trustees to our regional health system and brain cancer research, I believe if we all give of our time, talent and treasure, we can leave the world a better place.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

— Health care as a retail delivery model will forever be changed by telehealth, digitization and remote practice. Any practitioner or delivery model that does not adapt will not survive.

— A Durham, North Carolina craft cocktail bar has pivoted to on line mixology and pop up cocktail events outside the venue.

— New partnerships are forming between large and small retailers. We are exploring several for boutique and personalization services in stores that would never have considered the option previously.

— Retail as entertainment and content. Space will be a commodity, but making the space a destination, an experience and a memorable adventure will define the future course of retail.

— Redefining the business. For many, it may mean going from high touch to high tech or from product to service. Or transaction to subscription.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?

They will continue to exist, but not as we knew them. Physical interaction with product and experiences will still be important. The merger of online and retail will be the great new frontier. We will use technology to reduce friction and we will use experience to enhance engagement. For me, I love the Amazon buying experience. It is quick and efficient if you know what you want. The magic of retail is in the discovery of the magical and extraordinary. It is the joy of connection and discovery. If we define retail as merely a functional transaction, we miss the delight of retail. The use of the senses, the exploration, moments of emotion and engagement. The retailers of the future who capture this will thrive. They will combine engagement and action and activity with product and emotion when you want it and when you least expect it. We, as retailers, have bought into the least common denominator and we have helped to commoditize our own industries. We need to be brave and imaginative, first and foremost. As NFL Coach Forrest Gregg once told me as part of a motivational speech: “Stop whining and start producing”.

I think he could have been more elegant, but you get the point. Sure, our industry has challenges, but imagine if we partner together. Imagine if we think ten years out, not ten minutes. We can define our new future if we listen to our customers. We just haven’t heard them very well.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

Today’s successful retailers are the ones who have adapted and evolved. They are focused and understand their “why”. Our why is to make life more fun and to delight our customers. Lulu makes super comfortable and well-designed clothing. Costco delivers amazing value to its members. Peloton is a technology company dressed up as a bike company. Alignment with your core values and delivering on the customer experience through detailed data science and insights will drive this next generation of retailers. Trees do not grow to the sky. New innovation and new concepts will emerge for our industry. We just need to be dramatically more imaginative, more creative and to rethink the merger of data/experience/product and experience. What if retail was fully personalized? And then fully realized in my driveway with a food truck concept tailored to my needs? Or what if AR and VR are the new “store” experience and logistics excellence is just a supporting element of the experience? If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us we yearn to be together, we strive to experience life together, and we aspire to celebrate life. I believe the coming decade will be our most creative yet.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

There will always be a cheaper price. There will always be a cheaper product. There will always be a cheaper competitor. Price is one variant of competition and frankly the least interesting to me. I know how that story ends…one winner, scale matters and margins are destroyed.

Let’s compete on a few other elements — personalization and customization at each level; data driven experiences and products that match my emotional needs; high design aesthetic and uniqueness not available elsewhere; community engagement that fits my belief in how the brand should serve the world; great product that meets its defined expectations; and customer delight that makes her want to come back again and again. This is what Shindigz is about — delight, customization, uniqueness and changing the world one smile at a time. We want our customers to join us in our crusade to bring more joy and delight to the world. That’s why I get out of bed every day. Value? Yes. Price? Amazon can have it. I want to change the way the world celebrates.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I spent a year on a fellowship at Harvard studying this question. Without a doubt, it is transforming the process of medical research and its translation to the patient. It currently takes over 10 years and a billion dollars to go from bench to bedside. We have seen with the COVID vaccine what happens when we break the rules, cooperate and work together towards a common goal. We have initiated a new agile research initiative that will start with rare diseases like brain cancer to build a global model that connects the world’s best minds to solve our health challenges now — not in a decade. We can and we will do this.

I also think if we all smile and have one more happy moment in a day, it could truly make a difference.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Check us out at and all of the social media platforms @shindigz. Join our movement to bring more joy and delight to the world.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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