Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Breaking Down Barriers for Women in Tech

Dr. Klawe chats with students
     Against a background of persistent high unemployment, tech jobs go begging.  These days even traditional retailers seek engineers to upgrade their websites as online sales skyrocket. Facebook recently announced a major presence in New York searching for East Coast tech talent.  The shortage of graduates in what is  known as STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math, has become a national problem, drawing the attention of the White House last fall  which sponsored its first ever science fair.  But even when brainy high school kids gravitate toward STEM courses, their interest often wanes in college.  One stubbornly undeveloped group who represent a minority in almost all areas of STEM is women.  But a nationally recognized computer scientist, mathematician and educator is determined to reverse the trend. When  Dr. Maria Klawe (pronounced Kla Vay) became president of Harvey Mudd College in Southern California five years ago, she  embarked on a strategic effort, similar to an overhaul  she led at Princeton in her former position there as Dean of  Engineering, to increase the presence of women in STEM fields.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Changing Course But Swimming Back from Katrina

   While disasters often spawn opportunity in their wake, Katrina’s devastation was so profound that it reshaped the psyche of New Orleans residents, including its entrepreneurs.
Suzanne Mestayer of ThirtyNorth
   After the big storm, one Louisiana native, Suzanne Mestayer, who had lived in New Orleans for 38 years, changed professional course.  After racking  up an impressive corporate career, as the ninth woman partner  in Arthur Andersen, president for four markets in Louisiana for Regions Bank, (formerly Am South), and executive vice president for wealth management of First NBC/First Commerce, she decided to become an entrepreneur. The storm, she says, “changed my perspective on what I wanted to do. I just wanted to get back to being closer to clients than my corporate responsibilities allowed.”  So in 2010, she acquired a majority ownership and the CEO title for ThirtyNorth Investments, an investment advisory firm, founded and based only in Baton Rouge. Suzanne moved headquarters to New Orleans, but now has clients in 12 states. For this year alone, she has increased assets under management by 20%.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Post Katrina Entrepreneurs

     New Orleans is coming back strong.  After sustaining the disaster of  Hurricane Katrina, the national economic recession, and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans today shows significant signs of rebounding, thanks to key reforms in education, criminal justice, and local government policies. Among its most noteworthy accomplishments, according to a recent Brookings Institute Report,  its entrepreneurial activity is currently 40% above the national average.
      Not surprised by the flurry of fledgling companies, Tim Williamson, Co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village, a non profit formed to identify, support and retain entrepreneurial talent in New Orleans, says that “when Katrina hit, New Orleans became

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

French-American Entrepreneurial Contest!

Sponsored jointly by the Club 600 and the French-American Chamber of Commerce (FACC), the fourth annual  French-American Entrepreneurship Competition is currently accepting entries through December 31, 2011. Established in 2008, the program seeks to help young French entrepreneurs  succeed in the United States. To apply, entrepreneurs must submit business plans for review by a panel of members with expertise in many industries. Criteria include profit- seeking projects, operating in prelaunch or startup phase, in and for the US market. The 2011 winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize along with a 12-month coaching package, including strategic, legal, accounting and financial advice, from industry experts.  Last year’s winner, Céline Legros, former corporate lawyer and cooking enthusiast, launched  a pastry catering business, Les Canelés de Céline, whose clients now include Louis Vuitton, Clarins, and the Nespresso boutiques.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Training 10,000 Global Women Entrepreneurs

    Recently the 5000th woman enrolled in a $100 million, 5-year campaign launched by Goldman Sachs in 2008 to provide business and management education to 10,000 underserved women around the world. The program was designed in response to research postulating that investment in women has a significant multiplier effect. Senior GS global economist Sandra Lawson, in a report called “Women Hold Up Half the Sky,” concludes that female education is linked to higher productivity, higher return on investment, higher agricultural yields and a more favorable demographic structure.”  Furthermore, Lawson summarizes that narrowing the gender gap in employment in the Bric countries (Brazil, India and China) and the N-11 (including Bangladesh, Egypt and Pakistan) “could push income per capita 14% higher by 2020.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Marketing Musts for Start Ups

Both Anita Brearton and Sheryl Schultz (more below) are seasoned marketing professionals who have devoted their careers to launching ventures.  Below is a distillation, based on several conversations, of the advice they often give clients at the earliest stage of the formation of new companies.
  •   Make marketing central to your vision for your company.  Too many entrepreneurs give little or no thought to a marketing strategy.  They focus instead on products or the size of the market opportunity without defining the marketing strategy and sales plan that will help them capitalize on the opportunity.  When they pitch investors, the marketing slide is an afterthought, and often consists of one bullet point, usually social media. Right from the start, you need a marketer at the table along with the founder and product developer or tech team.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Annbeth Eschbach of exhale
        After a long career of managing high-end spas across the country, in 2002 Annbeth Eschbach noticed a trend.  With more women working in high powered jobs, trying to balance home and work life, she spotted a need for “urban spas,” so that women could de-stress or get fit a few hours a week rather than spending a week at a destination spa. As the daughter of a renowned kidney specialist who devoted his life to healing, Annbeth also wanted to emphasize a “holistic approach to transformation and healing moving away from beauty and pampering.”  She also recognized high level of investor interest in the spa space.  So she put together a business plan and model for a company  called exhale, to offer  relaxation, wellness, and fitness through yoga, core classes, spa therapies and wellness programs. A private equity firm stepped up to fund her; she remains Founder and CEO with a minority equity stake.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Changing Hats: Lawyers Turned Entrepreneurs

           At a meeting in Silicon Valley one day seven years ago, when securities lawyer Ali Wing heard herself criticizing her client’s revenue model, she knew the time had come to change hats.   The daughter of a Montana land investor in a family of nine children, including five adopted siblings, Ali says “we were all raised to conquer the world.” After attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland, she went to work at nearby Nike for eight years, picking up valuable  marketing  skills. Then she left to get an MBA because “I wanted more finance.”  She also thought a professional law degree could help because “I was from a working class family background and wanted every advantage in my pocket.”  At Northwestern she picked up a combined business law degree and in 1997 joined  Silcon Valley  law firm Gunderson Dettmer,  whose clients fund fledgling businesses. When founding partner, now mentor,  Bob Gunderson, first  recruited her, he had told her “I would be happy to have you as a lawyer or a client.”   
Founder CEO Ali Wing
          When Ali first left law for business,  she  became  marketing head  at Gazoontite, a retailer of allergy products, But soon she became  attracted by  the opportunities presented by the growing demographic of older parents. So in 2003 she launched her company, Giggle, in San Francisco, to provide information, organic clothing, equipment, and smarter products for babies,  along with customized services to make it easier when you become new parents.  Now with products and services available both online and in 15 retail outlets around the country, Giggle offers customers personal shoppers, a baby registry, and various gear guides along with, as one recent customer commented, “a very  cool aesthetic which appeals to professional women.”
     Now based in New York, with a corporate staff of 40 and some 120 employees in the field, Ali Wing says “we’re currently in expansion mode building out an executive team.” Results make her point: last year overall sales were up 35%, with catalog and web sales skyrocketing by 70%.   Ali  sees herself as brand CEO  and considers herself “atypically operational.  I’m not a serial entrepreneur, but I do have global domination plans for Giggle. It may take a long time to build big plays, but I have the work ethic and tenacity to prevail,  though I am also quick to delegate when I have the right team.”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Emerging Global Entrepreneurs

   Many years ago in Tanzania when Susan Mashibe was four years old, she remembers watching her parents take off in an airplane while she was left behind with her grandmother. “At that point,” she determined, “I decided if I knew how to fly, I would never be left behind again.”  Years later after getting a degree in aviation management from Western Michigan University and becoming an FAA-certified commercial pilot, Susan planned to get a job as a pilot for a US airline.   But 9/11 intervened, after which the aviation industry contracted and restrictions on hiring non natives tightened. So Susan Mashibe   returned to her home in Tanzania to explore a niche in the airline industry there. In 2002, Susan used all her savings to rent a small office in the Dar es Salaam airport to start her company, TanJet,  which provides technical and logistical support to visiting private jets throughout Africa.  Her first client was Jacob Zuma, currently president of South Africa, who was on a  visit to Tanzania.  In 2007 Susan added a  70,000 square foot hangar in Kilamanjaro where she co-founded the  Kilimanjaro Aviation Logistics Centre, a company that processes landing and over flight clearances for private jets through Africa.  More recently, she opened her third office on the shores of Lake Victoria.  She is also  an aircraft maintenance engineer who can service jet engines. Last spring Susan was selected along with 25 other women leaders from emerging countries to participate in the 6th annual Fortune/State Department Global Women Mentoring Partnership, a public private partnership with the State Dept’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit and Vital Voices Global Partnership.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When Powerful Women in the World Unite!

   "What young entrepreneur would not want the opportunity to mingle with giants in the business?" asks Madiha Sultan, CEO of Lals Chocolates, a luxury chocolate business based in Karachi, Pakistan which she founded with her mother in 2006. Her company has retail outlets in Karachi and Lahore and has developed a successful corporate gift program for holidays.  Madiha was one of 26 women selected earlier this year to participate in the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women's Mentoring Partnership. 

     Madiha's mentor was Kathleen Vaughan, Executive Vice President  for  Wells Fargo Wholesale Mortgage Division, who says one of her motivations in signing up to mentor global women is to show them "the most important factor is not 'me' but the village in which we work, which then becomes a confidence booster. I want these women to see what is possible by meeting with many successful women who manage risk and make tough decisions. Madiha very much wants to be a free woman charting her own destiny in a culture that makes it difficult; we're here to show her options." 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Guest Post:: When Social Media Is NOT the Answer!

Starting her career as a CPA with Deloitte, marketing guru Cathy Eckstein has had 25 years of strategic planning and marketing experience with organizations ranging from startups to global Fortune 500 companies; she has worked  across a variety of industries, including technology, energy, consumer goods/services, retailing and not-for-profits, including such  brands as Kellogg and Clorox. Most recently, Cathy was Chief Marketing Officer of Insight Enterprises, a global company providing technology solutions to businesses and public sector organizations.  She drove development and implementation of the company’s first five-year strategic plan, which, resulted in expansion from three countries to a presence throughout North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, leading to  revenue growth of 60% over three years.   Cathy also served as  Senior Vice President, Marketing at Ingram Micro, a $30 billion distributor of technology equipment and solutions Earlier this spring, Cathy founded Cornerstone CMO, based in Tuscon, Arizona,  to provide project-based strategic marketing to businesses.  Here are her views on social media:

Social Media: Not for Everyone!
These days most business leaders  feel “guilted” into developing a multi-faceted social media strategy, even though it’s not the answer for all of them. Of course, social media can be a very important component of a brand or company marketing plan.  However, like all elements of a plan, social media must be evaluated for its ability to contribute to overall goals and objectives.  In many cases it is not the most effective choice.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Back To School for Startups Too!

Esther from Taste of Crete
    In 2004, Esther Psarakis founded her imported specialty foods company, Taste of Crete, out of her love for Greece. She married a Greek, and very quickly embraced the language, the culture, the religion and the food she tasted on many visits to the family farm on the Island of Crete. Before long, she was importing olive oil from the family’s  olive groves and selling wine cookies named for and based on  her mother in law’s recipe,  both online and in a retail store in Hillsborough, New Jersey.  While the business got off to a strong start within a couple of years, once the Euro soared and the US  recession began to  hit specialty food businesses hard, Esther decided to go back to school for help.  But she didn’t have to enroll to find the answers to her business problems.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why Pitching Investors Sometimes Misfires

    According to a recent report from the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire, women-owned ventures account for 20% of entrepreneurs seeking capital, though only 13 % of them  actually receive funds, lagging behind the overall rate by about 5%.  One crucial step in seeking capital  is “The Pitch.”  Recently two seasoned women investors shared  their experience about  why some pitches don’t persuade investors to write checks.

     A recognized spokesperson for the technological entrepreneurship community in Silicon Valley, Heidi has achieved success both as an entrepreneur and as a venture capitalist.  Currently a faculty member of Stanford University, Heidi served as VP for Apple Computer, and as a co-founder and CEO of T/Maker Company, a developer and publisher of personal computer software. Heidi was a managing director of Mobius Venture Capital which had $2 billion under management.  Currently, She serves on the board of TiVo and Prysm and Springboard Enterprises.
Heidi Roizen

Here are Heidi Roizen’s top pet pitch peeves.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Legal Tools for Entrepreneurs

     Recently the Small Business Administration selected lawyer Nina Kaufman  as its Women in Business Champion of the Year, for the region including NY and New Jersey. For over 20 years Nina has created a unique niche for herself both as a legal advisor to and advocate of women’s businesses. She identifies her professional mission as “demystifying legal mumbo jumbo” for small entrepreneurs so they won’t be intimidated.  A client describes Nina’s mission simply as “preventing small companies from crashing and burning.” 
     With an M.A. from the London School of Economics and a law degree from Boston University, Nina has practiced law for about twenty years but admits her first unsuccessful foray was with a partner who left her holding a significant amount of debt.  “I still have war wounds,” she admits, “but I now view them as a badge of honor, because I have learned to move forward on my own.”
     Because as a sole practitioner, she is limited by the number of hours in her work day, Nina has borrowed a page from the entrepreneurs she counsels.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Last Call for Winning Women!

June 30th is the deadline for the Ernst &Young Winning Women Competition, a  national competition and leadership program designed for women entrepreneurs to accelerate the growth of their businesses.This program is designed to help women entrepreneurs scale their companies by providing them with one-to-one business advice and "insider access" to Ernst & Young's unparalleled networks of established entrepreneurs, high-growth company CEOs, investors and advisors. This includes participation at the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum® 2011, the country’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth companies, November 9-13 in Palm Springs, CA (www.ey.com/us/strategicgrowthforum)

Applicants are women CEOs who have founded their companies within the past 10 years and have reported at least $1 million in revenue during each of the past two. Typical applicant company revenue ranges from $1 million up to approximately $20 million annually. To learn more, how to apply or how to nominate another deserving woman entrepreneur, visit www.ey.com/us/entrepreneurialwinningwomen

Friday, June 3, 2011

GIrl Tech Inventors and Mentors

Hail NYC Team        credit  C Colon
  One night in May the premises of AOL  in downtown  NYC  vibrated  with the chatty energy and nerves  of 47 teen age girls from 17 local high schools  getting ready to pitch their  newly created apps to a group of four  judges from the worlds of both technology and venture capital. The Technovation Challenge pitch night, the first on the East Coast, was the culmination of a three month program, matching high school girls with high tech mentors from local industry and universities to create mobile phone app prototypes using Google’s App Inventor for Android. The teams met weekly for three hour sessions at Google’s New York offices.   Early support for the program came from the US Office of Naval Research seeking solutions to a crisis in recruiting sufficient tech savvy professionals.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Five More Tips for Starter Uppers

In the first part of our conversation, Vanessa Wilson, who after a long distinguished career as an equity analyst on Wall St, became an angel investor with Golden Seeds and also teaches entrepreneurship for  the Athena Program at Barnard College, outlined some first steps for emerging entrepreneurs to consider as soon as they get started.  In the second part of our conversation, Vanessa warns entrepreneurs about not taking on too much too soon. Below is an edited summary of her advice:
  • Actively seek out customers; don't wait for customers to find you
  • Don't try to scale too big too fast
  • Simplify your product; less can be more
  • Create an Advisory Board to Fill Out Your Team
  • Maintain an up to date shareholder register 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Primer for Starter Uppers

Vanessa Wilson
    Whether you are just starting a new venture or have been working on one  for some time, it’s important to go through some very basic exercises.  Recently, angel investor Vanessa Wilson, who teaches entrepreneurship for the Athena Program at Barnard College, shared some of those first steps, based on her experiences with new entrepreneurs.  Before becoming an  investor, Vanessa had a distinguished  Wall St. career at several blue chip firms; as an equity analyst she participated on teams  which led  15 initial public offerings; she was selected a member of Institution Investor’s All Star Research Team for 10 years. Currently, as an investor, mentor and  teacher, Vanessa observes that  all start ups face one overriding issue: accomplishing a lot with  scarce resources.  Below are her five  recommendations, which emerged from the interview on  how to get started on the right foot.

  • Organize a realistic  Personal Plan before you do a Business Plan.  Many  entrepreneurs start up with  great ideas, tons of enthusiasm,  but also with $50,000 of student loans and no plan for how to pay for food and rent!  Start-ups rarely reach cash flow break-even in the first 2 years --- particularly if they are big ideas which may grow quickly.  For an entrepreneur to make the 110% commitment required to get an idea up and running, they don’t have time to worry about how to pay their rent.  Don’t count on outside funding early on; even seed funds often require proof of concept.    

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Winning Women Competition Invites Applications

Are you a woman entrepreneur with big plans and the passion and vision to grow your company?  Ernst and Young invites you to apply to its fourth annual  Winning Women Competition. Winning candidates join an elite business network through a customized executive leadership program; it helps women ready to scale develop effective business strategies, identify potential partners and strategic alliances, strengthen their leadership skills and increase national and regional visibility for their companies. Entrepreneurial Winning Women receive an all-expense-paid trip to the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum 2011, named by Forbes.com as one of its seven “get-ahead executive retreats.” Scheduled for November 9–13 in Palm Springs, California, the Forum convenes more than 1,700 leaders of the nation’s most successful high-growth companies, their investors and advisors to share growth strategies and discuss current marketplace opportunities and challenges. 

Eligibility criteria are women CEOs who have founded companies within the past 10 years with at least $1 million in revenue during each of the past two years.  Application deadline is June 30, 2011.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Newcomers Challenge the Barriers

Maria Lores-Browne, a Colombian immigrant, began dreaming about her own business during her years working as a laborer on construction sites, doing everything from pouring concrete to laying flooring. She asked herself, “How can I do this when I’m 45 or 55 years old?” So she went to school to learn how to operate heavy machinery though she was repeatedly advised “they don’t take girls.” After taking the requisite courses, she qualified to join the Operating Engineers Union, but “they were always reluctant,” she says, “to send out woman to operate equipment so they only assigned me to jobs as a watchman for construction sites.” Maria persisted because “I love running big equipment; I love the feel of the paint, the fittings, the tires, the same way many women love diamond rings.” Last fall she started Berma Construction Company. The harsh New York winter provided her with her first customer. JFK Airport hired her company to plow snow.
Like Maria, who now seeks funds to purchase equipment, the biggest problems most immigrants face is access to capital. What’s particularly hard for them, says Catalina Castano, Director of the Brooklyn Small Business Development Center is that “they are unfamiliar with credit rules. Many have no credit histories, though lenders insist on credit scores. And unlike native born entrepreneurs, they frequently can’t turn to their networks for a ‘friends and family’ first round; they often can’t find a co-signer on a micro loan.” Adds Elisa Balabram, who heads a government-funded Brooklyn Women’s Business Center , “other countries have more informal rules for doing business, so immigrants have to learn about requirements; their language problems can add to their difficulties understanding financial rules and regulations.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

ACA Chooses Company of the Year

HarQen, a voice applications company, whose co-founder and CEO is Kelly Fitzsimmons, was honored as the “most outstanding and successful” company of the year by the Angel Capital Association (ACA) at its annual meeting in Boston last week. Recipient of the first Silvertip Price Waterhouse Cooper Entrepreneurship Award, HarQen has demonstrated its potential as a company “most likely to generate the most revenue growth over the next five years,” says Marianne Hudson, executive director of ACA, with its “powerful disruptive technology that makes voice content readily accessible.”  Its flagship product is Voice Advantage which captures phone interviews so that staffing professional and hiring managers can get a sense of a candidate in a 15-second “listen” instead of an hour-long live phone interview. This time saving tool was recently dubbed one of the “top human resource products for 2010” for its creation of the virtual interview. While other technologies capture voice, they often require special equipment and complex storage capability. By embedding voice back into data management applications, HarQen extracts new information and value from what was formerly disposable content.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

HIgh Quality Imports: Entrepreneurs!

 Overlooked in the recent raucous debate on illegal immigration is the powerful role of legal immigrants on both innovation and job creation.  A few years ago a study by the National Venture Capital Association estimated that nearly half of all private venture- backed companies, and 20 % of private ones, have had immigrant founders. Count among the immigrant-founded companies some of today’s corporate behemoths-- Google, Intel, Yahoo, Sun Microsystems and eBay.
        A regional analysis by the Center for an Urban Future, called A World of Opportunity, reported that “nowhere is the impact of immigrants on urban economies more visible than in New York City. Over the past 10 to 15 years, immigrant entrepreneurs fueled much of the overall growth in new businesses across the city and triggered dramatic turnarounds in neighborhoods all over the five boroughs.” While immigrants account for 39% of the total population, they represent about a half of all self-employed workers.  The same pattern prevails in most major cities.  Technology giants aside, on a local level the majority of businesses started by immigrants are mom and pop retail stores and restaurants. But immigrants also migrate into scalable businesses too, including biotechnology, media, apparel manufacturing, printing companies and food manufacturing.  
    The reasons why immigrants launch their own businesses are as many as the countries from which they come.  Some may be natural risk takers; other come for education, settle here and launch companies. Another group simply seeks a better lifestyle, especially if they have been stuck in minimum wage jobs which allow few opportunities for advancement, especially for women.
    One student who came and stayed was French-born Annie Vanrenterghem Raven who arrived with a civil

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Best Exits Start Early

     Perhaps one of the least well understood parts of being an entrepreneur is how to incorporate an exit strategy.  With all the demands start-ups face, exits often appear low on the “to do” list with the result that CEO’s and their Boards sometimes miss the optimum window. That window often opens before rather than after a company hits its peak because after the peak,  the company’s market value may begin to slip. At least that’s the way investors see it.

     One pro in the exit arena is Jim Estill, who until 2009 was CEO of Canrock Ventures, a technology investment fund where he remains a partner.  Out of 100 angel investments, Jim has been an active participant in about 20 exits. Jim’s advice is to “put exit on the agenda” as soon as you join a board, or start a company. He believes it’s important to start building relationships with potential buyers by courting them at trade shows, for example, and then staying in touch. “Identifying acquirers early,” Jim advises, “provides input for strategic planning to align the company’s activities or descriptive materials with potential buyers’ markets.” He also advises gathering materials to build a selling document periodically by adding anything “helpful to the sale, ” such as financial statements, patent information, legal documents; he also includes links to articles on industry news or sales which provide potentially useful competitive data.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Guest Post: On Company Cultures from Nancy Land

"What started more than 40 years ago as a means to provide myself with a satisfying, creative career evolved into a company with a striking work ethic and unique track record with employees: No employee has ever been fired from Publications Development Company. That does not mean employees have not left, but people who come to work for the company either decide that the work climate suits them or they want or they choose to go elsewhere. Key principles are trust and mutual respect.

To foster mutual respect, I insisted that all new employees spend time learning what others do before choosing the job they want for themselves. This was the way I learned the business so I decided that the best way for employees to learn to respect one another was to teach them about each other’s jobs. In the course of this training program, people discovered some surprising things about themselves—one woman who applied for work in the shipping department ended up  heading the proofreading department; another who expected a position in project management found a far more satisfying niche in the art department. As a result of this crosstraining program, PDC ended up with a tightly knit, mutually respectful workforce able to support and back up fellow employees whenever deadlines were tight or personal emergencies or even vacations intervened.”

After graduating from Bryn Mawr with a major in chemistry and anthropology, Nancy Marcus Land worked as a research chemist at Union Carbide for five years before she developed the germ of a totally unrelated business idea:  to convince New York publishers to outsource publication services, such as  copy editing, design, and composition, to facilitate the publishing process and relieve constant in house bottlenecks. Starting in New York City and later moving to Crockett, a town of 7000 in East Texas, she assembled a team of 20 full time and 20 part time employees who for over 40 years handled contracts from many major publishers, including Random House and John Wiley and Sons. Her business idea spawned a new industry.  Soon every major publisher using outsourced services with the result that more than currently 50 such companies exist.  Nancy reports she always paid close attention to the atmosphere of Publications Development Company as well as the quality of the work. Resisting the current push to resort to less expensive offshore outsourcing, Nancy has now turned her attention to producing and promoting  books for niche authors who want their work published with care and customized attention. Her first product is a novel  on the women of Rwanda, When The Stars Fall to Earthby longtime human rights activist Rebecca Tinsley. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Creating A Company Culture Takes More Than Free Lunches

  When Laura Ching and her two co-founders of Tiny Prints, a Sunnyvale, California-based online customized stationery company, first sat down to create their enterprise in 2003, they were four years out of the Stanford Business School and had all spent time working at big companies. “We saw  an opportunity to create a utopian culture to fix some parts that we saw were broken at  some major corporations,”  Laura says.  “So we set up some  core values, including to instill a passion to win, to nurture creativity, to treat each other like family and to insist that every dollar counts—even building our own IKEA desks because we couldn’t afford anything else” Now five years later the three find themselves  at different stages of their  lives, both personal-- with spouses and children- and professional, with about 250 employees, but  “we still maintain those values,” says Laura, “ though we have to work harder to stay true to them.”
     Company culture is one of those buzz phrases that gets some managers boasting about Nacho Wednesdays and Bingo parties or wearing t shirts and flip flops and   allowing pets in the office, but many start ups find competitive value early on by going beyond bells and whistles to create a productive atmosphere. Flexible hours and competitive compensation certainly help. But Towers Watson workforce strategist Julie Gebauer, author of Closing the Engagement Gap, notes that “engagement” or getting employees to participate in the company culture with heads, hands and heart, “is not about employee programs but about what kind of leaders they have and leadership’s focus and commitment. They care about what their company stands for and their ability to build their own skills.  If you talk only about projects and schedules, there is nothing for them to connect with personally.”  Her observations are seconded by culture guru Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, who says even when you start a company, “everything matters — everything. You are imprinting decisions, values and memories onto an organization.”  

Monday, February 21, 2011

From Neckties to Nuclear Waste: The U.S. Government Is Open for Business

This month it got a little easier to add to your client list the country's biggest spender: the US Government. The Small Business Administration announced its Women-Owned Small Business Procurement Programs (WOSB) which provides greater access to contracts with 83 industries by allowing procurement officers to set aside contracts for women-owned and economically disadvantaged women-owned businesses (EDWOSB). Federal statute already mandates government contracts over $3000 and under $100,000 be set aside for small businesses, with an additional 5% procurement targeted for women-owned small businesses, but results have never met the mark. While department and agency standards vary, in practice, procurement officers can now exclude other bidders once they receive a minimum of two bids from qualified women business owners. Furthermore, the February ruling requires the set asides go into effect in 2011 government budgets with over $30 billion of contracts available to women. SBA Administrator Karen Mills feels these contracts "can provide women-owned small businesses with the oxygen they need to take their business to the next level." 

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Ticket To Global Expansion

Though global business has never been easier to manage, thanks to e-commerce, nothing cements relationships as easily as face to face interaction -- a pricey option for struggling start-ups. To the rescue comes British Airways with its Face of Opportunity program which offered 250 entrepreneurs, selected out of 1500 entries, on the basis of video or written essays, one round-trip ticket to a destination of their choice anywhere in the world to forge new business relationships.
Last week in New York, during an all day program that included networking events and panels on various aspects of doing business abroad, three finalists among the 250 competed for the chance to win 10 round-trip tickets.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New York Cradles Its Entrepreneurs

New York City may have weathered the recession better than many major cities, but it still suffered from a strong hit to the capital markets with a loss of revenue and jobs when some major firms collapsed. But though Wall St. continues to rebound, the city has sought to re-energize its economy by launching sixty-some initiatives targeted specifically at spurring entrepreneurship.
      One major effort has been to develop a series of sector specific incubators to provide valuable office space to fledgling companies at well below market rents. The first to launch is called The 160 Varick Street Incubator, after its address in downtown Manhattan, established through a partnership with NYU-Poly, the NYC Economic Development Corporation and Trinity Real Estate; it offers 16,500 square feet of space, along with equipment, conference rooms and kitchen space for around 30 companies, plus networking and mentoring services. The incubator provides units of 100 square feet of space -- enough for one desk chair -- though often more people squeeze in for $300 per employee per month to companies ranging from financial technology to digital media ventures.