Business on the inside (an Orange is the New Black guide to getting ahead)
I am hoping by now that fans of the fantastic Netflix series, Orange is the New Black are all caught up with season three and now regretting that five-hour binge last Saturday so that they could drag out the magic just a bit longer. That’s the problem with instant streaming, it’s like crack, we can’t help ourselves and before we know it, we’re left waiting eleven months for the new series.
So Litchfield is evolving and we have learnt that it is still no fun being on the Inside. Favourite Nikki learnt to her peril that going into business with the guards will only end badly for half of the partnership (hint: not the one on the government payroll). Our hearts were simultaneously broken when we realised that we were so desperate for the fairy tale of John Bennett and Daya to work out (even though we knew it was never going to happen). And who’d have though back in season one that Pensatucky would turn out to be the favourite?!
So now that we’re on the comedown, we’ve had time to think about the lessons that we can take from the Litchfield crew. Piper, though arguably the most boring character on the show despite being the centre point, really came into her own in season 3. Hardened by months in prison, too many (we’ve lost count) breakups with Alex and Larry and learning that the love of your life ‘dobbed you in’ is enough to turn even the most optimistic of people against the world. Piper is now top dog of the prison contraband but, when in seasons 1 and 2 things were being smuggled into the prison (by Red and then Vee) now Piper has come up with a genius plan to bring the business of Litchfield to the outside world.
I won’t give you all the gory details of her business model but essentially, she uses extra fabric from her sewing job to make knickers for the girls to wear and then sell to creepy men on the outside who are into ‘that kind of thing’. It turns out that there are quite a few men who love women’s unwashed underwear (in the world of Orange is the New Black, at any rate) and so Piper’s business is booming. However, as with any illegal set-up, there are issues, how will she get the contraband out of the prison? (befriend the vulnerable boy-guard) how will she convince the ladies to participate? (offer them food as a reward – they’re not dogs, Piper!).
Nevertheless, in a prison, there’s a fair few crafty criminals afoot and it isn’t long until they realise that Piper is making a killing from her business while they, the workers, are getting the flavouring from a pot noodle. It isn’t long before workers’ rights are on the agenda. But prison isn’t like the outside world and Piper, keen to stay ahead of the game and in charge fired Flaca but ensures that the girls will be paid. There are less-than-subtle references to The Godfather as Piper tells Flaca that she is the Luca Brasi of the group.
Piper’s rise to ‘Godfather’ of Litchfield status was definitely not what we saw coming when she walked into the prison two seasons ago. After her very long and poetic business proposition, she now calls the shots and it is her that the prisoners go to when they need something.
So we’re not advising that you go get yourself arrested and then become leader of the gang in a prison, but what business lessons can we take from this? Firstly, always have your wits about you. When you’re at the top of the food chain, so to speak, there will always be those who will seek to usurp your power (take note, Cersei Lannister). After getting a (not very cool) prison tattoo that read ‘trust no bitch’ from new girlfriend Stella, Piper should have taken the hint rather than let Stella take all of her money. However, it was Stella who paid the heavy price and followed Nikki to maximum security after Piper set her up for a fall.
We have learnt from Piper’s backstory that she has spent lots of time with drug lords and so is wise as to how to deal with those who betray her trust. Though she is not dealing in heroin, the underwear might as well be Class A drugs. Piper’s instinct for business has been formed from a business model that is more than likely going to land you in jail.
But what we can take from Piper’s story is her entrepreneurial spirit. Even in prison she is taking full advantage of her position and exploiting the gaps in the system that have allowed her business to flourish. So no, please don’t sell your used knickers on the black market, but look for opportunity even in the most dire of situations. If Piper can make loads of ‘dollar’ behind bars, imagine what you could do with a great idea, enthusiasm and a small start-up company.
We at Infinite Ideas love popular culture and we love business. What’s that, we hear you say? Why not fuse the two into a gripping read? We already did! If you, like us are not only suffering from the long wait for season of Orange is the New Black but also season 6 of Game of Thrones, why not read our book, Game of Thrones on Business and take some interesting lessons from the Seven Kingdoms right into that next meeting with HR!