business, entrepreneurship, legal, technology

This just in: I’m in love with

I highly recommend
I highly recommend

I had the best customer experience that I would like to shout from the rooftops. After completing my taxes for 2014, I’ve decided to continue freelancing as a writer and consultant as an individual while conducting a full-time job search in D.C. There’s no tax advantage to keeping my company as a legal entity, Chasing Down the Muse Inc., for my freelance work so I decided to dissolve it. The dissolution process is long and arduous to do on my own so I just Googled “can anyone help me legally dissolve a business?” was the top result so I called them.

Steven, one of their fantastic customer service agents, walked me through the steps that took all of 3 minutes. When their process is complete, I’ll get a receipt. That’s it. There’s nothing else I need to do. The customer service agent was wonderful, helpful, and kind, and LegalZoom saved me days of frustration and work. And they are also incredibly affordable. My whole dissolution process is less than $200 and that includes the $60 fee to the State of New York as well as the shipping of the forms to all of the state agencies that need them. I’m thrilled!

If ever I decide to set up another company or need any legal work put together, will be my first stop!

business, courage, environment, nature

This just in: Nature and George Carlin show us how to live our best lives

George Carlin - an advocate for biomimicry
George Carlin – an advocate for biomimicry

“I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s so f*ckin’ heroic.” ~George Carlin

Plenty of businesses utilize biomimicry, the art of using nature’s adaptations to create superior products. For example, swimsuit material that replicates the skin of a shark as it efficiently glides through water. George Carlin gives us a different way of looking at biomimicry—replicating the bravery and courage of nature to grow and flourish in a place that seems unlikely if not impossible.

No one tells a flower it can’t grow in a crack in the sidewalk. No one tells a trickle of water that it can’t wear down a stone over time. Nature just finds an opportunity to spread its wings, and goes for it. There’s a lesson from nature we should all take to heart.

business, writing

This just in: Use negative experiences as fuel

Geraldine Weiss - an investment leader for the past 50 years
Geraldine Weiss – an investment leader for the past 50 years

Yesterday I wrote an article about the most successful women investors. It’s a subject that doesn’t get much attention, and I’m impressed by the foresight of my editors to assign it. After doing my research, I’m tremendously inspired by these women and what they’ve accomplished in a heavily male-dominated industry. They received plenty of hate mail, discouragement, and flat out sabotage from male counterparts, and they didn’t let it stop them. Instead they used it as fuel to reach higher. I’ll be very excited to see this one published, share their stories, and inspire others. I’ll post the link when it’s live.

business, environment

This Just In: Is there a sweet future in honey for me?

A sweet life in honey
A sweet life in honey

Yesterday I went to a class called “Gardening for Native Pollinators and Honey Bees” at Leu Gardens in Orlando. Now that I have the physical and mental space to actively participate in environmental conservation, I decided to take my first tiny step with this class.

I don’t have a green thumb, but I am fascinated by honey bees and their role in our world. Without them, we would have a difficult time surviving. No chocolate, coffee, or  just about every fruit and vegetable you can think of. They all rely on bees for pollination. Their survival, and ours, is endangered by the rampant use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers. So with our future on the line, I figured I better learn about them and see what I can do to help.

During this class, some ideas started brewing based on the information I learned:

  • As a society we need honey bees to make sure our food production meets the needs of our growing populations
  • As a largely agricultural state, Florida needs more beekeepers to raise and nurture placid bees to convert the wild, aggressive hives (believe it or not, this isn’t difficult to do!)
  • Florida needs more job opportunities, especially for disenfranchised youth and those in lower socioeconomic levels

So why couldn’t there be a company in Florida with a many-fold mission centered around honey bees, honey production, and the many healthy derivatives of honey that meets all of these needs? The wheels in my head are turning…

business, community, technology

Inspired: Movie theaters, senior living, and farmers embrace technology to foster community

Seniors who met through a virtual community take in a movie together
Seniors who met through a virtual community take in a movie together

It’s exciting to see a plethora of companies across industries scooping up new technology and innovating to grow and enhance a sense of community. Here are some of my favorite recent examples:

For a long time I’ve wanted a subscription to a movie theater that would give me unlimited access to one of my favorite pastimes. I came up with all kinds of ideas why this wasn’t possible – impossible to predict when / if a movie time was sold out, crowd control, and the question of profitability all came to mind. Much to my surprise, and delight!, AMC Theaters is giving it a go with MoviePass. Starting in Boston and Denver, the movie chain will offer a movie-a-day subscription for $35 – $45. I can’t wait for them to get to my city. With my movie going habit, this subscription will be well worth it. Of course the chain hopes that this type of program will lure people out of their comfy homes and back into the immersive world of big screens. I hope so, too!

The sharing economy
We have a number of services that allow us to share durable goods such as cars, lawn equipment, and power tools. But what about delicious, local, and healthy perishables? Is there a way to reinvent the barter system of food among farmers so common in the markets of a long ago age? Crop swaps are popping up from the Bay Area to New Haven, and they’re growing in popularity. Coordinating events online, farmers, professionals and hobbyists, swap their homegrown goodies, stories, and tips, and delight in a homemade life.

Senior living
If the idea of a nursing home or a retirement community makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Now that so many seniors are healthier much further into their golden years, they want to stay in their homes. But they also want companionship and purposeful ways to spend their time. Enter Virtual Villages—robust online spaces that have a relatively low yearly membership fee for seniors to meet other seniors who are interested in getting together in the real world, to get advice, and to find resources that can help with tasks like walking the dog, getting the gutters cleaned, and weeding the garden.

These examples provide ways to think about technology, new and not so new, as a means to build community, drive revenue, and delight customers. Technology is a catalyst for change. With insight and the genuine desire to serve, it can be used as a force for good for all.

business, career, community, work

Inspired: When in Rome (or Orlando)…be proactive and build relationships

Orlando skyline at night
Orlando skyline at night

This week, I started my research on Orlando’s business community. When I lived here a decade ago, the idea of an Orlando business community was a bit of a pipe dream. What a difference 10 years can make. I don’t know much about the landscape here so I started with a simple strategy—I contacted all of the companies on the “2014 best places to work in Orlando” list published by American City Business Journals. (They probably have something similar for your city, too!) I sent off a simple email that explained my interest in what they do and a bit about what I do.

Within 10 minutes, I got a response back from a business owner and we set up a brief phone chat. His company wasn’t the right fit for a content creator like me, but he gave me the names of 5 other companies that he thought would be. (Incredibly generous on his part!) After our brief chat, I immediately emailed all of the contacts he gave me. 24 hours later, all 5 had responded positively asking to meet me, set up a phone chat, or refer me to another company they felt would be a good contact for me.

This same strategy has worked for me as I’ve slowly but surely worked my way through the channels at a certain very large and highly-matrixed company that has *just a few* theme parks here in Central Florida. I’m in the midst of the (very long) interview process though all of those contacts have been made by directly emailing leaders at the company whose work interests me, not by applying to any public postings.

For me, the lesson has been clear: whether it’s freelance work or a new job, we can’t wait for postings. Being proactive and highly engaged is the name of the game, especially in a new city. If someone writes something, builds something, or talks about something that interests you, reach out, connect, and see if there’s a way to collaborate. It takes some effort, but is ultimately much more fruitful than endlessly sifting through job postings. Don’t wait for the job, or collaborative business partner, you want to become available. Create your own opportunities.

adventure, business, career, creativity, entrepreneurship, fear, learning, work

Inspired: We learn best by doing

Jump and build your wings on the way down
Jump and build your wings on the way down

We can’t learn to sail from the shore. We can’t learn to fly from the ground. To learn how to build a business of any kind, we must be in business. Business is an art form just like playing the piano or painting a picture. It takes practice, and chances are we will create some really awful work as we learn to make great work. So don’t be so hard on yourself if your first attempts are less than shining stars of success. Honestly, it’s better if they’re not. Go further than you think you can. Give your wildest ideas a whirl. Get crazy. That’s where the learning is, and learning is the best gift you can give to your future self. Don’t be afraid. Just do it. Go have an adventure.

art, business, choices, community, decision-making

Inspired: Living a life at the crossroads

Alice: the girl with all the questions
Alice: the girl with all the questions

What we do with our days is of course what we do with our lives. I used to think that crossroads were a few times in a lifetime experience. Now I see that my whole life is a daily series of a crossroads, especially as an entrepreneur and a writer.Some crossroads are larger than others. Certain times of year, like the end-of-year holidays, magnify them.

At the moment, I’m at a pretty significant crossroads in every area of my life. Moving to a new city, and subsequently setting up a new life, brings everything into question because life literally becomes a blank slate. All my old habits and patterns are gone. I could start something completely brand new, re-jigger what I’ve already got, or continue along the same path in a new way.

I don’t have any definitive answers yet, but I do have three key questions that I’m spending a lot of time with now. If you’re in this same place, I hope the following questions help you, too:

1.) Internal question: Look in. Take money out of the equation; we’ll put it back in later. What would make you excited to hop out of bed in the morning and get going?

2.) External question: Look out. What’s happening in your city that sounds like something you’d like to be a part of? Whether it’s a community of hobbyists of some kind, a certain activity, or a place where people come together, what’s already there that you could build onto rather than starting alone completely from scratch? If there’s already a conversation happening, or a group of people have assembled around a particular interest, then there’s some indication that there’s already some level o forward momentum that you can leverage.

3.) Blended question: Move the two answers above toward one another. Where’s the overlap? Where’s the disconnect? The answer I’m looking for lies not in the internal, nor the external, but where the two come together.

Like the start of a new relationship, the start of a life in a new city (or even in your same city) is filled with a jumble of feelings: trepidation, confusion, excitement, joy, and uncertainty. Let the wild ideas flow. Building is messy, but it’s also fun. Enjoy the ride.

business, creativity

Inspired: The low-tech lesson I found in a Moonjar

As someone who loves and writes passionately about technology, I love that Moonjar is a low-tech solution to a big problem. Kids need to learn strong financial habits early, and most of them don’t. Moonjar easily teaches kids to divide their earnings into 3 parts: spend, save, and share. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s effective. It got me thinking about other problems that we have in our society that could be solved by low-tech ingenuity and creativity. It also inspires me to get back to building and making as I continue writing. Time for me to chase down that muse, too.

business, entrepreneurship, writer, writing

Inspired: Yoda’s advice on owning who you are

Ever feel like this? Don't. Own who you are and who you aspire to be!
Ever feel like this? Don’t. Own who you are and who you aspire to be!

I spoke to two friends this week who just started their own companies. We chatted about how difficult it can be to feel authentic about new roles, especially if we create them ourselves. When I first started telling people I was a writer I felt like a goldfish with a shark fin strapped to my back.

As Yoda would say, “Own we must.” Know who you are, what you do, and why. Don’t flinch. You did a lot of work and put in a lot of time to make your own opportunities. Stand proud and say it loud: “I’m a (fill in the blank)”, and smile.