and the journey begins

esperssoWe landed in Rome, picked up our car and got on the road to Il Pellicano.  You never feel refreshed when you get to Europe so we stopped to fill up the car and fill up on caffeine.  You can find good coffee at the roadside gas stations.

roomviewOur first few days are being spent at Il Pellicano where we are literally chilling, reading, sleeping and eating.

shrimp:calamari We got to the hotel and went immediately to lunch with a few glasses of wine on the side.  Fried shrimp and calamari.

saladIl Pellicano salad with mozzarella, tomatoes, greens and avocado.  Perfect.

watermenuTook a long nap and then of course it was time for the next meal.  We ate at the hotel restaurant that boasts at 2 star Michelin rating.  The water menu made me laugh.  We went with vintage Italian still water.

oysterThe olive oil they served at the table was amazing.  Straight from Sicily.  The big question of the night is do we just pick up olive oil bottles at every stop and bring them home?  This starter was hake with oysters and a shiso sauce.

lobsterWe also had roasted lobster with marsala sauce, barbary and smoked potatoes.

pastaWe split a farfalle pasta with cream of crab, orange and confit sea bream.

fishcheeseOur main courses were John Dory with pecorino sauce, fresh fava beans and mint.

fishPoached sea bass with celeriac puree with seafood sauce.

cheeseWe drank a bottle of local white wine and to wrap up the meal we went with the cheese plate.  I hate to say it but the cheese was my favorite.  Each cheese was paired with something from honey to fruit.  Really delicious.

dessertsOf course they bring out the tiny desserts just to push you over the edge.

chocolatesThen something that I haven’t seen before although they do have a chocolate cart at The Modern is a chocolate cart with 3 different types of dark chocolate.

Off to bed and am pretty sure we will be on European time by morning.

Beyond The University, Why Liberal Education Matters by Michael Roth

Yesterday we dropped off our kids at Wesleyan University.  The President of Wesleyan University is Michael Roth.  At the end of the day he speaks to the parents before they all depart leaving their children to begin their life as a student a Wesleyan.   This would have been the third time we saw Michael speak to the parents but the truth is we never showed up for the other two.  This time we went to hear the wrap up.   I am really glad we went. Having the head of the University speak about the experience that your child is about to embark on is powerful.

Michael’s last book which came out a few months ago is called Beyond The University, Why Liberal Education Matters.  A worthy read if you are interested in education.  Bottom line is that many of the conversations we are having today about the worth of a liberal arts education started with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglas and W. E. B. DuBois.  Should we be educating people for vocational instruction based on their economic background or should we embrace the concept of education where your mind can be expanded through several disciplines?

To be able to spend four years opening your mind to anything from opera to art history to computer science is inspiring.  I do believe that a liberal arts education particularly a progressive one instills the skill of being a life long learner.  It is not so much what happens in the four years in higher education but what you do with that knowledge once you have get out and hopefully have been intellectually transformed.

Michael Roth practices what he preaches.  Education is a life long discipline.  It is worth listening to the NPR piece on All Things Considered where he talks about a liberal arts education.

 

A journey and the next chapter

urlI have been preparing for the empty nest chapter for the last 8 years.  Someone told me to look at my daily life and color code each of my activities.  I realized very quickly that a huge chunk of my time was devoted to the family.  That was fine for then but what would happen as each kid started to move out and begin their own life journey.  They would begin to rely on themselves not me and that huge chunk of time would become smaller and smaller until Josh went to college.  So I began a new journey for myself.  I had already been blogging and essentially leveraged that into angel investing, a conference (thanks to Nancy Hechinger) and a variety of side projects.  Fast forward 8 years and I have reinvented myself back into the business world in a way that works for me.  I have been fortunate enough to be able to do this on my own terms.

Even though I was preparing I still always put family first.  When plans were being made over the past 8 years I still thought about making sure I was present until Josh flew from the nest.  This past week I started to get some inbound asks about events to speak at and even some asks for a drink.  I had a huge aha moment when I realized I could make any decision I wanted.  I did not have to be home in time to make dinner, I did not have to even come home until late at night.  I did not have to be present.  I could do a drink, I could get on a plane and speak somewhere if it worked into my schedule, I could go on a quick trip with a friend for four days and not give it a thought.  The only person I have to think about in regards to evening or weekend activities is Fred.  What a concept.

We are entering the next chapter of our lives.  No better way to mark that chapter with a journey.  To go on a trip where there are no rules or restrictions and we can literally be on the road with no responsibilities is what we plan on doing.   Fred and I will be going on a month long vacation through Italy, France, Spain and Portugal.  We are staying on the coasts.  The trip has been in the planning phases for quite some time.  We will be off the grid (as much as humanly possible).  I can’t imagine not answering emails particularly with the businesses that I am involved with but I certainly will not be as quick on the response as usual.  Anything new will be ignored (must be that way).  No board calls either.  I do plan on blogging about the trip because not only do I enjoy recording all of our travel journeys it is a reference guide for life although the kids say I shouldn’t blog at all.  We will see.

The next chapter is going to feel strange but it is the progression of life.  Seeing our kids fly from the nest and become their own individuals who can take care of themselves is insanely rewarding.  I am sure it will feel strange having an empty house but how could it not.  This journey is marking the beginnings of our next chapter.  Having a lot of feelings from bittersweet to excited to I can’t believe it but all and all it feels good and it feels right.

Succotash

succatashLast salad of the season this year was a succotash.  So simple and so good.  You could almost throw anything in to this.

1 whole sweet onion chopped

corn (as many ears as people you are feeding)

frozen edamame beans (1 lb bag)

1 pint and a half of golden cherry tomatoes (you could use red)

handful of basil chopped up

lemon juice

salt and pepper

1/2 cup of more of feta crumbled up

Saute the onions in a pan with olive oil or butter.  I added the edamame in here and stirred until the it was warm (unfrozen).  Grill the corn on the BBQ and cut it off the cob when cool and add to the bowl.  Slice the tomatoes in half and add to the bowl.  Add the basil.  Squeeze lemon juice over the top with salt and pepper and mix.  Right before serving add the feta cheese and mix.  Serve.  Goes with pretty much anything.

Nicole Yeary, Ms. Tech, Woman Entrepreneur

imgres-2As Just Works spreads its insurance plans into more small companies on a daily business I have been talking to the new head of sales to see where I can help.  I have made a few introductions and then he returned the favor by introducing me to Nicole Yeary.  He figured I would enjoy talking to Nicole about her business supporting women entrepreneurs.  I love that he sent me someone that I would should be talking to.  He was absolutely right.   Nicole has built an organization to help women start and scale their businesses in Chicago called MSTech.

Nicole grew up in Ohio, east of Cleveland.  Her father is an entrepreneur.  He owned a boat/auto/tire shop.  Her mother is a systems engineer who would change systems in server rooms.  She worked for Reed Denison that became Progressive.com.  Growing up Nicole spent a lot of time with her Grandmother.  The biggest traveling they did was often was back and forth to Florida.

Nicole wanted to go away for college but her parents convinced her not to.  She started out at Cleveland State but after one year transferred to Purdue School of Engineering in Indianapolis.  When she was in Ohio she had worked part time for Progressive Insurance and wanted to find something else near Purdue while she was going to school.  She landed a job with Golden Rule which is now United Healthcare.  Nicole worked there all through college.  It ended up becoming a full time job.  Her original intent was to go on to business school but she wasn’t able to finish because although young she was in the midst of a divorce.   She had met him when she was 19.

Nicole was at a point where she was reflecting on her life.  She stayed in Ohio for her parents, she went to Indiana for her husband so by the time the divorce was over which was not pretty considering they had property to divide.  She always wanted to travel and it was time for her to do her own thing.   Nicole had been working inside United Healthcare in a small division that was like working in a start-up.  They were moving a part of the sales process on line.  She saw the opportunities.  In six years she had 5 promotions.  They would take the online applications and turn them into sales leads.  She made a lot of commission.   She worked in a mostly male division except for one woman who had been doing it for years who she gives the total nod to.  At one point Nicole became her team leader taking a team of 7 to 150 people reporting to her.  Nicole developed their entire training team.

During this time Nicole had come up to Chicago to give a pitch to the Illinois Consumer Advisory Group.  It is a requirement for health insurance companies that have a residence license in Illinois to present and share products to a group of consumers that would report back to the commissioner.  She fell in love with Chicago and told her boss that she wanted to move there.  She began to commute back and forth for work and then the company decided to lay off a bunch of people.  Her boss suggested she take the package and start a new in Chicago and so she did.

Nicole decided to start exploring the start-up world.  She wanted to take the knowledge she had about why people bought insurance on line and why a broker could keep that information for an entire year but a company could only keep it for one month.  She knew brokers were making money online and wanted to figure that out.  In the meantime she began teaching financial service classes to insurance people to help them get their CE credits.  Nicole also began to explore how to market financial services to women.  Through this she wanted to take all the problems with the industry combined with her knowledge and put it on line and make it seamless.  She became Hipaa certified and was ready to go.

Nicole had $50K of her own money to put into her business.  Although she had this desire to flip the industry on its head and intellectually knew what to do she did not know how to go about executing on it or getting funding.  She could either use this money and hire someone to build out a website or should could first teach herself how to code.  She opted for the latter and took a Stanford program through iTunes and taught herself about building a website.

She now was able to write her own website.  The only VC she knew was at Lightbank.  She figured she should first get into one of the start-up companies and understand how they work before pitching or building.  She took a job with Spotsocial.  It was young, new, local and small and had just raised $3m.  During this time she also went to as many pitch events as possible.  She realized it was more social than anything else.  Nicole decided to launch a Facebook site called MSTech figuring she could use that to at least get people to post small jobs to build their websites for them that were more like brochures.  She enjoyed SEO work and figured that her site could be a place where people would trade for jobs.   She ended up getting a great group of people on her page where they would ghost for each other by trading jobs.  She learned a lot.

That website is what evolved into what MSTech is today.  Now it is an actual company with memberships.  Every time Nicole turned around she felt like she was reinventing the wheel.  She wondered why the people on her site were not sharing resources and talking to each other.  She decided to put structure to the site by creating curriculums in bootcamp style for people starting companies.  She essentially built a virtual accelerator focused on women.  How do you get from point A to point B when you are building a company?  Where can women find a place to develop entrepreneurial thinking even in mid-career?

While she started to figure out what MS Tech would look like she came to NYC to spread her wings.  She looked at the pre-series A’s in NYC vs Chicago. She also looked at how many females were part of the teams in NYC and Chicago.  She saw more females as part of companies in Chicago and decided she would stay there and build something local before doing anything else.

She officially launched this past March.  MSTech now has 1300 members in their forum.  They write a profile called Monday Makers focusing on women entrepreneurs.  They are structured as a social impact organization considering only 4% of women get funded from VC’s.  The curriculum spreads the gamut from how much do I give my head of marketing to how much of my company do I sell to investors.   Many women never even think about raising funds for their company.  She is trying to bring a different group of investors into her company to  look at some women led companies to invest in where they would be happy getting an annual return on their investment vs one large one.  She is going with the mentality that she is helping others who are exactly where she found herself when she decided to live and stay in Chicago.  She is making an impact and that feels good.  Nicole no longer has to take photography or SEO gigs on the side to make the rent.  As her mentor told her, making it through the first six months is pivotal.  You have to make sacrifices and building a business is always hard but it will be well worth it.

I really like what Nicole is doing.  I have found that a lot of the advice that I give to entrepreneurs about their businesses are the questions that most people just pretend that they know the answers to, particularly men as they go with the fake it until you make it much easier than women do.  People do not know from the onset how much of your company you give away, what is the amount of stock a CTO should get, how much is the norm for a PR agency at this time and does it make sense to bring one on now, how should I run a board meeting, how should I talk to my advisors, how should I talk to the investors that I never hear from, should I hire senior people when I can’t afford them.  I could go on and on but those fundamental questions are the ones that help build the foundation of a company.  Without someone to answer them or being part of a group where you feel comfortable asking them can make a huge difference.  I hope that MSTech continues to grow and evolve and we see Nicole branch into other cities and figure out how to make this a bigger arena for women after she figures Chicago out.  You can launch your own collective through their site but my guess is there is an opportunity to here to create a global collective in a very unique way.

Linked-In

imgres-1Linked-in is brilliant.  You can keep your online resume up for the world to see.  You can link with new people and old people.  It is a smart business tool and my guess is it will get even better for different stages of people’s lives from college to volunteerism to retirement.  I would guess that the majority of people who read this blog have a Linked-in profile.

Facebook is a different model that is skewed towards your social life.  I understand them both and they are no doubt the foundation of our times.

Here is the thing.  I have a Facebook page but I never use it.  I have one to so I can see how companies we are involved with use the platform.  I have a Linked-in account for basically the same reasons.  I pretty much let anyone be my friend or connect to me.  As long as it does not flood my email box it is fine.  It doesn’t because I have set it up this way.

If you want to talk to me or reach out to me then email me.  I do not want to answer requests from Linked-in.  I am pretty public because I blog daily.  My email is on my site.  I answer those requests.  Once in a blue moon I will answer a Linked-in request but rarely.  I have taken to ignoring them.  If you really want to get in from of my eyeballs then email me directly.   Otherwise, you won’t be getting a response.   And one more thing…I love Twitter but sending me a direct message with a request won’t get a response either.

Brooklyn Bangers, Phin and Phebes and Foody Direct

brooklynbangersI got an email from Phin and Phebes announcing that they just launched on Foody Direct.   Foody Direct is an online platform where some of the best products from bakeries, meat shops and some specialty food producers can run their ecommerce business without having to build it out.  It is smart.  It is a pure drop-ship platform and Foody Direct gives the consumer access to these products and just takes a piece of the transaction.

We had a bunch of people out so I decided to do a little shopping online.  I bought burgers from Pat LaFrieda, ice cream from Phin and Phebes, Chocolate Babka from Breads Bakery and Brooklyn Bangers.

The master mind behind Brooklyn Bangers is Saul Bolton and Ben Daitz.  Ben is also the co-founder of Num Pang where we are investors.  I completely forgot about that.  Ben shot me an email after receiving the order to confirm it was me before adding an array of dogs to try.  The products are amazing.  Knackwurst, Bratwurst, Kielbasa, Num Pang dog, all beef Hot Dog and more.  I see that beef jerky is coming soon.  Love beef jerky.

We tasted them all and one is better than the other.  The burgers were also top, the ice cream was destroyed later in the evening and the babka was a breakfast favorite.  Nothing better than having all your favorites in your refrigerator.

 

Step by step Paella

Once a summer I make a huge paella.  It is a lot of steps and a lot of chopping and I am not sure I have ever figured out the liquid ratio until I made this batch.  I had an aha moment more on that later.  This is the first time I made it out on the grill.  It was a wise move.  The closing of the grill during some of the steps really works.   I also have yet to figure out how to make paella for less than 15 people.  It is a bit like a stew or soup, the more the merrier.

Ingredients:

Hard chorizo – I used 8 six inch pieces sliced.

4 sweet onions chopped

5-6 peppers ( I used what the farm stand had – purple, green and yellow)

Had a bag of okra from the farm stand so I chopped that up and used it too ( not necessary)

Roughly 4/5 cups of chopped tomatoes.  I used beefsteaks and golden cherries but Italian works too.  I like the mixture

2.5 lbs of shrimp

2 lbs of calamari sliced into rings

5 lobster tails cut into two slices

4 chicken thighs cut into two ( you could use more)

1-2 lbs of mussels

1-2 lbs of clams

4 cups of shrimp stock (a really rich fish stock is the way to go here or you can use a chicken stock and cut it in half with bottled clam juice)  I bought this stock from our local fishmonger.

2 cups of Aborio rice ( I should have used 3)

chorizoHere is the beginnings of the paella.  I heat up a seriously large paella pot and sauteed the chorizo until it was crispy.  Then I took it out with a slotted spoon and set aside.

chickenThen I added the chicken pieces and let them get browned.  They were not thoroughly cooked yet and I set them aside.

peppers:onions:okraNext is the onions, peppers and okra mixture.  I cooked this until it was really soft and starting to caramelize.  About 15 minutes.

riceNow the rice goes in.  Mix it up for a few minutes before adding the stock and tomatoes.

rice:tomato:stockNext I added the stock and tomatoes.  You should have the stock warmed  when you put it in.  If you are doing this on the stove, bring this to boil before taking it down to simmer and putting the lid on.  I put the top on inside the grill and every once in a while I would lift up the grill and pan top and give it a stir.  Here is why I should have used 3 cups of rice instead of 2.  The tomatoes really do count as liquid and it was obvious down the line but still delicious.

shrimpOnce the liquid was almost gone I added the shrimps.

chicken:lobster on grillAt this point I took the lobster pieces and the chicken and set it on the grill on the side.  It allowed those ingredients to start to cook on their own before finishing them off in the paella.

everythingThen came the calamari, clams and mussels.  All the fish does add liquid too so it took a bit too long for the liquid to reduce.  The rice became stickier than drier.

stoveSo instead of letting it hang out on the grill I took the paella inside and got the liquid boiling on the stove.  I finally decided it was done.  Maybe not as non-liquidy as we would have liked but the flavor was amazing.  Next time, more rice.  Nobody seemed to mind.

Moby and Shuko

Every year a few new restaurants open out on the Eastern shores of Long Island where we have a house.  I am always wary.  I have consistently found that the food is pretty good at the end of June, still hanging in there by July and hits the skids in August.   It is a drag but it is a reality.  I end up cooking at home which is fine because the farmers markets are just teeming with so many delicious fresh ingredients.  I had a few meals at Moby’s.  I am happy to hear that they took over this location for the next three years.  They had a pop-up place in Montauk the last couple of years and it was fun.  They did a really great job redoing the space they are in.  It has a very cool beach vibe.  I also like that they don’t try to do anything fancy.  Just simple fresh ingredients and the menu changes based on what is available.  We went one night and it was really good and another night where it was just ok but I will still return, post August. burrataHere are two of the things we had each time.  Burrata doused with olive oil and salt with a few pieces of toast (a little too soft on the toast).   It is a great addition just to have on the table. tomatoesTomatoes of all shapes and sizes with olive oil, basil and salt.  You honestly can not go wrong here.   They have pizzas, grilled fish, chicken, steak, etc. Then there is Shuko.  Shuko is a pop-up sushi restaurant from the former chef of Neta who also worked at Masa.  High hopes here.  Here is the thing, just order what you want, do not order the omikase.  The food is just as expensive as NYC which seems ridiculous but if the food was a good as NYC then perhaps it would not be.  I had been there a few times now and I found the sushi good not great and the salads pretty much the same.  We decided on our last outing to go with the omikase which is insanely overpriced and honestly sub-par for the food.  As Josh put it if the cost was 150% less than perhaps we would have felt differently. tuna:caviarHere are few of the highlights.  The classic tuna and caviar dish.  It was fine but not that omg you get most of the time having this dish. lobsterThis is the lobster dish.  Everything here was overcooked. sushiThis is the sushi plate that comes out at the end.  Kind of what we were all waiting for. I hope that if they return they rethink the concept and price but it appears that we might be the only people ( or at least one of the few ) that feel that way.  I believe they are set on opening a place in the city come September and am hoping that perhaps the sourcing is just better there.

the Telecharge site sucks – a mild rant

images-1Last night I spent more than 15 minutes attempting to buy two theater tickets on Telecharge.  I could be wrong but I believe Telecharge was one of the earlier companies on the web.  Makes total sense.  Why employ an entire group of people to answer the phone when you could build a totally user friendly streamless system online.   You could even have your own account and make life even easier.  Transactions could take place often and quickly.

I do have an account at Telecharge.  Here are the 5 security questions they asked me to get thru the firewall after entering my log- in ID 3 times until it took.

1 – what is your favorite color?  2 – what was the street you grew up on?  3 – where did you grow up?  4 – what was your first pets name? 5 – what is your favorite food?

I want to ponder those questions considering I had to answer them probably over a decade ago.  Hmm.  Favorite color?  I guessed.  I grew up on several streets so I wasn’t sure which one.  I grew up in several places too so that was a reach.  I can’t remember my first pets name.  My favorite food?  Depends on the season and the week.   Who the hell came up with these questions?

Let’s move on.  I finally figured it out and I ended up having to enter numbers 4 times to prove that I was an actual person.  Then I got the tickets and moved forward.  Question before paying was where was I staying and the number so they could reach me if something was changed.  Hmmm.  Well I live in NYC so I put in home and my number.  Did not work.  I put in I want to pick up the tickets at the theater.  Did not work.  Then I entered a random hotel and my cell and that did not work either.  At this point I had been on the site for 10 minutes and decided to call.

I called and got a very snippy man on the phone.  He told me that he could not find the seats that I wanted because now they were locked in the system for another 10 minutes even though I did not purchase them.  OMG.  I told him how frustrated I was with the site so he put me through to customer service.  A super nice woman who understood where I was coming from.  That took some time though because she had to enter everything in.  Arrrghh.

20 minutes plus I got my tickets.  Here is the only bonus.  When she told me that they have a deal with AMEX and they can actually use my miles if I wanted and I loved that.  Have miles that I never use.  Maybe more theater tickets in my future this year but my concern is that my blood pressure will go through the roof having to deal with the transaction.