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October 23, 2014

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Zappos CEO appears on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’

The contestants

The "Celebrity Apprentice" contestants this season, and their teams, are:

Women — Poker champion Annie Duke, Playboy playmate Brande Roderick, "Deal or No Deal" model Claudia Jordan, comedian Joan Rivers, reality show star Khloe Kardashian, TV host Melissa Rivers, golf champion Natalie Gulbis and R&B singer Tionne Watkins.

Men — Champion ice skater Scott Hamilton, R&B singer Brian McKnight, country singer Clint Black, basketball star Dennis Rodman, Heisman Trophy winner Hershel Walker, entrepreneur Jesse James, comedian Tom Green and comedian Andrew Dice Clay, who has been fired.

"Celebrity Apprentice" had a particularly interested group of viewers in Henderson this week.

The Sunday night episode of the reality show, which features real estate magnate Donald Trump telling one contestant a week, "You're fired," also featured Zappos, the Henderson online retail company.

The challenge of the night was to create a comic book character that Zappos could use for marketing.

Tony Hsieh, the company's chief executive, appeared on the show to explain Zappos' needs to the two competing teams — one of seven men, the other of eight women. Hsieh told the groups that the company's core values are customer service and having fun.

Hsieh joined with a couple of dozen of employees watched the two-hour show on big screen TVs at the Hot Rod Grill.

"Overall, both teams came up with good ideas," said Hsieh, who spent just over a day last fall in New York to tape the show.

On the show, the teams presented Hsieh their ideas, complete with a costumed model and story boards.

The men's character was named EEE, for Everywhere, Everything, Every time — a tactical blunder that got ice skating champion Scott Hamilton, the project manager and author of the name, fired.

"Anyone with a business idea would know to use Z," said Christa Foley, who recruits for Zappos. "At work, anything we can put a Z on, we do."

The group applauded when Trump said, "Scott, you're fired."

Hsieh said he loved what the women's team, led by Khloe Kardashian, did with the letter Z. The women's character, Mizz Z, had a large Z on her costume and carried a lightning bolt shaped like the letter.

"We have the opportunity at Zappos to own the letter Z," Hsieh said.

The show-watching party, one of a handful throughout the Las Vegas Valley, was the first time Hsieh had seen the work that went into the character designs, he said.

"It was interesting to see what was presented to me live versus what was on TV," he said, noting he spent 30 to 45 minutes with each team explaining the company. Those segments were edited to about 30 seconds.

Hsieh said the exposure for Zappos was nice, but he really enjoyed the networking he was able to do with the celebrities. He's kept in touch with golfer Natalie Gulbis, poker player Annie Duke and Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump.

The loss was the second for the men's team on the show, and Zappos facilities employee Rachel Pearl said she could see the problem with the team.

"Too many chiefs," she said.

Jean Reid Norman can be reached at 990-2658 or [email protected].

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