True Gault…shoes for your foot

True Gault - Event Nov 21-23 2014 (2)Calling all women who love heels more than heels love them.  On November 21-23 True Gault is putting on an event on E 60th Street to get measured for you shoe.  True Gault is able to measure your foot on an IPad using 3D technology.   Truly your foot.  The beautiful thing about that is when you do get your shoe (picked by you and made for you) it is like putting on the perfect slipper.  Women go crazy for them because you can walk around in a 2″ or 4″ heel with out a care in the world.  As the company grows and more shoes, boots, sandals become available it is a no brainer to order because they have your foot on file.

Essentially, the future of footwear.  And yes, I am an investor.

A late night

saladThe problem with many of the bands we are liking at the moment is that they come on stage at 11pm.  I like the concept of early to bed, early to rise but once in awhile all rule are meant to be broken.

We started out at Uncle Boon’s for dinner.  The bar seat gods were with us because we walked in at 830 and there were two empty seats sitting at the bar.  We have been back a few times.  The food here is excellent and some dishes are seriously spicy.  This is Yum Kai Hua Pli, spicy rotisserie chicken, banana blossom salad with cashews, crispy shallots and a roasted chili dressing.  Heat is guaranteed to come out of your ears.  I highly recommend the short ribs too.

bandNext stop was the Bowery Ballroom which is still one of my all time favorite places to see music.  We had tickets for something there Friday night too but exhaustion set in and so we went with the early to bed mantra that night.  There are many things you learn going to concerts over the years and certainly going back to the same venue.  That is how to sneak up the back and push yourself thru the crowd to get to the end of the balcony so that you have a clear vision of the stage.  Being 5’2″ it is not only great, it is a necessity.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is who we went to see.  Have been listening to them since their first CD came out.  Although we don’t use CD’s but stream our music not exactly sure what else to call it.  It’s a Corporate World and Horsepower came out in 2010/11 and the Speed of Things came out in 2013.  I recommend them all.

The only issue with the late night is that it does not mean that you still don’t get up at the crack of dawn.

Soho Holiday Collective

SohoCollective_OutlinesTis the season for the holiday pop-up.  My friend is behind this group.  She did a really successful pop-up this summer in Bridgehampton and some of the gang is back.  This time in Soho called the Soho Holiday Collective.  Featuring all high end emerging designers, including fine Jewlery, limited edition fine art photography and some men’s products this time. Particularly looking forward to checking out Caffe Unimatic, a limited edition beautiful percolator from the 1960’s found in her father’s storage room by Elisabeth Cardiello, who packages them in their original boxes (the vintage graphics are great), and a pound of her own brew wrapped in a burlap bag.
She’ll be brewing samples most days!

The shop is open starting 11/20 and runs thru 12/24 for all the late stragglers.


Dana Cowin, Mastering my Mistakes in the Kitchen

cowin-mastering_my_mistakes_in_the_kitchenDana Cowin has been the Editor of Food and Wine magazine for 20 years.  I started to get Food and Wine in my monthly mailbox about 27 years ago.  Needless to say I have always been a fan of the magazine and have watched it evolve thru several iterations

I was in London about 5 years ago eating dinner and I noticed that Dana was sitting a few tables from Fred and me with someone.  I wanted to be sure it was her so I got out my phone and did a quick image check.  Of course I knew it was her, I had seen her smiling face every month for the past 20 years.  I felt like a total stalker but I couldn’t help myself.  On the way out I stopped by the table and introduced myself and told her what a Food and Wine fan I was.  She said that she knew of me and my blog and couldn’t have been nicer.  I left the restaurant on air.  I was so excited.

Fast forward, through a friend, both Kate Krader and Dana ask to have dinner with me.  Are you kidding?  Of course!  5 years later Dana and I have become good friends (Kate too) and we have been out for dinner with Dana and even her charming husband too.  We get together a few times a year just solo.

I knew about this book before there was a book.  Just because you are an editor of a food magazine does not necessarily mean you know how to cook like a pro.  And there you have it, Dana does not but she does now as she got advice from the 65 great chefs around the world who were happy to give her a few tips and spend some time in the kitchen with her.

The book is great.  The recipes are too (I happen to know she tested every single one herself until it was perfect) and the commentary is refreshing.

Great cookbook to pick up and actually read.   Highly recommend.  BTW, she is fun to follow on Twitter too.

Hitting the Wall

hit-the-wallI have had so many different careers.  It is probably why I like start-ups because I am always looking to try something new and do something different.  It is also why I like real estate projects.  There is something that thrills me about the start and the growth.  In real estate, I do like closure.  In start-ups I like to opt out when the growth hits that point where the next level of growth is not as much about problem solving but a bit more like intelligent cruise control.  Not the best description but it is the time when it helps to bring in some experienced institutional investors.

This fall we took off for a blissful month.  We realized that we could take it down a notch and could still take the Wilson business on the road.  I am doing a fair amount of traveling this fall and perhaps that is why I am truly starting to hit the wall.  Maybe it is also the beginnings of seeing what life is starting to look like with our kids out of the nest.  Who knows.
Angel investing is something that many do without any involvement.  I do not think I am capable of that.  Yet in the world of angel investing you have to make a lot of bets each year for the model to work.  Maybe it makes sense to start thinking about only doing so many a year with the hopes that the ones from the year before get a little more mature.  I don’t know.  It isn’t like I am talking to all these businesses daily but I am aware of what is going on in all of them, some more than others, and of course I am always available, focused and am happy to help, talk and do whatever I can do for the entrepreneurs I have invested in. I also sit on several boards from start-up to non-profit.
The real estate is a whole other life.  One I rarely speak about but takes up a lot of space in my head.  Growing a portfolio takes time, management and obviously a lot of thought.
This past week I have been wondering am I hitting the wall?  I admit it is exciting to have built a new career and feel like I am making an impact on businesses and women.  That feels great. I have always been competitive and I always like to win but how much do I need to win?
Maybe I am describing something that many others feel but don’t talk about.  It is probably a feeling that most early stage entrepreneurs feel.  That feeling of there aren’t enough hours in the day, I won’t be able to get it all done, am I crazy to be doing all this, how do I take it down a notch, can I take it down a notch?  it feels great to be able to focus on thinking about businesses which I truly do love (start-up, real estate, and the rest) but I think that once this year ends, I am going to spend some time trying for a little more balance.
Practice what you preach, right?

Paris Photography Show

I promised Jen Bekman a year ago that I would go to the Paris Photography show.  She has been going every year for the past seven years.  Her love of the art, business, competition and winning is impressive.  20X200 is her business that evolved after she opened her gallery with a desire to support artists through editions of their work.

She has given younger artists an opportunity to make more income (one thing that is rarely spoken about in the art world) and she has given more mature well known artists such as William Wegman and the Starn Brothers the opportunity to hang in locations of art lovers who can not afford their original work.  Jen set out to make art affordable for everyone.  It has not been the easiest road but as I said, she doesn’t like to give up.
 The Paris Photography show was fantastic.  Besides that fact that there are over 160 booths of photography from modern to vintage the show takes place at the Grand Palais which makes this show even more spectacular.  Some of the new work being done by artists is incredible.  We spent four and a half hours there.  Not only are there galleries and galleries showing incredible work there are booths of art books.  Editions and re-prints from all over the globe.
rogerHere are some of the highlights.  Roger Balken, Galerie Karsten Greve Paris. Dark but insanely haunting but I could not take my eyes off of his work.
christineChristiane Feser, Feldbush Wiesner.  I bought one of these.  I love how there are so many steps to take these pieces.  They have an architectural feel through the cuttings of each photo to see both sides of the work.  I felt lucky to get one.  They were sold out after the show had only been open for 30 minutes to VIP passes.  Someone decided that they had purchased too much and relinquished one to me.
karenknorrThis photograph I took doesn’t capture these photos.  This is sold as a set.  Each black and white photograph has a hilarious saying underneath that captures the photo.   Karen Knorr
windowsThis was an installation of 8 large photographs all of open windows in beautiful rooms overlooking different alley ways of cities, Marie Bovo.
michaelreischMy friend sent me to see this artist, Michael Reisch at Scheublein Bak.  I bought this one.  So beautiful and sexy.
joakumA Swedish artist, Joakim Eneroth.  All photographs of nature with balls in every single one of his photos even ones in the winter.  Don’t love the way they are finished on this fabric but I do like the photos.
sharoncoreSharon Core, Yancey Richardson.  I have been watching this artist for years finally pulling the trigger here.  I really like this new body of work.  Organic and natural.
riverseiresThese were picked up by a museum.  All taken in Tokyo of buildings built over canals.  Naoya Hatakeyama from the Sage Gallery in Paris.
jewsFrederic Brenner took these photographs of Haisidam families in Israel at home, in airports,  I love this piece.
William Eggelston at Gaggosian.  This print had never been made before.  Only one to be bought, the other to a museum.  Classic.  You can see Eggleston’s shadow in the photo taking the shot.
timeoutJulie Blackmon, Robert Mann Gallery is from Missouri.  She sets up photos of children and takes shots.  Kind of like Crewdson but different.  This is called “Time Out”.
martinparA classic shot by Martin Parr.  Still thinking of this one.
photoI hemmed and hawed on this and then pulled the trigger.  These are by Matt Brandt, the second piece we own of his.  He took photos of old instamatic film and then made it look used and old.  It is super cool.  A one off.
yvesYves Marchand and Roman Meffe who took a series of photographs of old large stadiums and theaters.  This is the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn.  So cool.  I picked this up too.
booksAnd the books.  We were so exhausted by then but I did manage to pick up a few great books. A small edition of the works of David Benjamin Sherry, Daniel Gordon, Sharon Core and others.
It was quite the day.  Made our way over to Bones for dinner, my second time and not my last.  The meal was perfect from start to finish.  Had to go back the next day but thinking I might have to return next year.

Just Works

Just Works launched Just Woman and I was the kick-off person for the fireside chat with Amy Cortese.  I love that Just Works is doing this.  The concept is to create a place where the many amazing women in the start-up world, that means anything type of business, can get together and meet.  Most of the women in the start-up community actually do not know each other and it is so important to meet others in your space.  Just Works, that I am an investor in, helps entrepreneurs grow their business by helping their businesses with payroll, benefits and government compliance. HR services for your company and employees.

The talk is about an hour.  Just a fyi, I was feeling incredibly chatty and probably too honest that night.  That is what happens when you walk into a room of women.

It’s Brooklyn

Brooklyn1My first job out of college was running the cosmetics department for Macy’s in Kings Plaza Brooklyn.  I’d drive out there every day instead of taking public transportation which was a subway and a bus.  The hours were long and late so a car was definitely the way to go.  We were lucky that we had one which at one point became so dilapidated that we had to pay a tow truck to take it away and he was concerned that there might be a lean against the car.  But that is a whole other story.

I’d drive through Brooklyn many days instead of taking the main routes back to NYC.  Fred and I would also venture into the different neighborhoods to check them out and at one point lived in Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights.  So many of those neighborhoods were not places you would want to venture into at night or even day. A lot has changed.

I see the Brooklynization of cities across the globe.  The next generation has taken control of areas that needed some serious TLC.  Jonathan Butler Demby started Brownstoner sometime around 2006 when Curbed began.  Brownstoner wrote about the ins and outs of Brooklyn real estate among other things. Jonathan and Eric saw what was happening in Brooklyn and began the Brooklyn Flea in 2012 where they took the concept of a flea market and applied that with food (which was starting to dominate the Brooklyn start-up scene) and created a place for people would go to shop and mingle.  Out of that came Smorgasburg completely dedicated to food.  It is truly was brilliant and in many ways I think of both Jonathan and Eric as the self-appointed mayors of Brooklyn.

Fast forward, they both bought a building in Crown Heights and built a beer hall along with co-working spaces and singular places to rent for companies to put down their roots.  The beer hall is called Berg’n with food from Asia Dog, Mighty Quinns, Pizza Moto Slice Shop and Ramen Burger.  When I first saw the idea I knew it would be a success.  Located in Crown Heights surrounded by big open streets and beautiful brownstones.  The timing was right.

The other spots that have transformed areas of Brooklyn is the Royal Palms Shuffleboard in Gowanus.  An awesome large space with shuffle board in the middle of surrounding cabanas, a food truck of the night and dozens of games that can be used to play that evening.  It is a local community spot.

Another spot is coming to Gowanus is called Threes Brewing.  Besides brewing a variety of their own beers which are fantastic there will be food, coffee and music from breakfast to late night.  Opening 12/1 and certainly local beers at your favorite bars soon.  It is a great space with a big outside area in the back with a bar and a grill.  The building spreads back and forth from one street to another.

We are investors in all three.  It feels so great to know that each of these spots are creating local watering holes for the neighborhoods of Brooklyn.  The neighborhoods are filled with young people, young families and a DIY vibe that stems from the young tech communities and the food purveyors.  It is great to feel apart of
that beat of the street in areas that not long ago felt vacant.

Leith Hill, Ellary’s Greens, Woman Entrepreneur

bio-photo-leithxLeith reached out to me about Ellary’s Greens.  I got on the website and checked out the menu and was impressed.  I have to admit I also had a soft spot for where Ellary’s Greens is located (their first spot) at 33 Carmine Street.  This is right around the corner from where our kids went to school and many coffees, afternoon snacks took place there.  I would have discovered Ellary’s without Leith if my kids were still young. Leith came over and brought an array of goodies to taste.  One was better than the next.  I kept the leftovers for lunch the next day which Alex (the key to our life over here at Gotham Gal) and I split.  Still really good.

Leith, who is a serious ball of energy, grew up in New Orleans.  Six generations have lived there immigrating from England.  They literally came over on the Mayflower. Her name Leith comes from a tradition of giving your children family names.  She had no idea until she was much older that all the names of her relatives were from centuries ago.

As a kid the family did a lot of traveling starting at 9 years old on a bicycle trip through the countryside of England.  Both her parents are attorneys.  Her father is a tax estate and trust attorney who Leith declares an academic genius.  Her Mom stopped practicing when she had children but went on to have another career in the philanthropic space sitting on a variety of boards and always giving friends a helping hand in law.

Leith graduated high school and decided to defer her acceptance into Harvard by one year.  Instead she spent the first year out of high school in Provence at a university.  Harvard did not accept any of the courses she took there so when she got to Harvard she took freshman year all over again.  She spent two summers in France and the others in Columbia and South America.  In Columbia she worked for a guy who was trying to build an aquarium museum and she would dive for fish for him.  She realized quite quickly that he was using that fish to launder money.  She got out, it was 1984, but decided to stick out the summer as every day was a struggle to survive based on what was going on in Columbia.  Looking back it was an adventure and a place where she learned real life survival skills.

After graduating Harvard she got a job with a company who did PR and development for non-profit companies.  One of her biggest accounts was the Girl Scouts.  She realized how much she enjoyed doing something that impacted children.  She became a big sister to a young girl from Columbia who lived in Boston. It was an incredible experience.  She stayed for two years.

Leith’s next move was to go to Boston College to get her masters in child welfare and clinical work.  It was a super intense two year program in the classroom and also in the field.  It was at that time she met her future husband at a bar after a Red Socks game.  He was getting his Phd from MIT and was from England.  That was 25 years ago.  They got married and moved to Long Island where he had landed a job at the Brookhaven National Lab.

Leith landed a job in the area too working with kids in school through a program called Vibes.  She went into a high school doing individual and group work with girls around dating violence, date rape, sexual abuse and harassment.   She’d see the young girls hang out after school hook-up with older boys who had cars, money and cigarettes.  They would then take those young girls under their control.  It was really a tough job opening the girls eyes to what they were engaging in.

Leith stayed for a year and left after she got pregnant with her first.  She decided she did not want to put her kid in daycare.  She wanted to parent her own kid.  Her two sons are now 17 and 20.

While she was home breast feeding she realized that there was literally no where to go eat.  She lived in Suffolk County.  Although there was Burger King, McDonalds and alike there were zero healthy options.  Her father was a huge health food nut way ahead of his time.  In 1935, he was 12 years old and started to do research on heart disease.  He decided to change his own diet and begin to exercise.  He went from a pudgy kid to a lean young man who lived to be 89 staving off prostrate cancer for 30 years with food.  So even though Leith lived in New Orleans they grew up on a totally healthy diet.

So here she is with a kid and starving.  She realizes that someone should come up with prepared healthy nutritious food in a fast food environment.  Whole Foods was still not in her neighborhood and did not arrive until only 3 years ago.  That idea kept sitting in her head for years.

Fast forward, Leith focuses on her kids and the community.  She spends 8 years on the kids school board eventually running it.  She brought in technology, changed the food program and began an endowment.  At the end of her term she was starting to write and wondering what is my next gig.  Food was always her passion.  Her boys were in boarding school.  The idea for Ellary’s Greens was born although it had always been there.

Leith did a tremendous amount of research first.  Then she started to look for the right location.  She decided it was time to move into the city and begin the business there.  She met a man at an event who ends up was in real estate and had the place at Carmine available.  She met with him the next day and signed the lease.

Ellary’s opened in April 2013.  Leith has drilled down on the business plan and no surprises that she is looking to take this on the road.  The food is all natural, organic and there are many gluten free options.  It is really good.  Even the desserts which I am always wary of were delicious.

Trust me, look for an Ellary’s Greens somewhere in your world sooner than later.  I also love that she got off the train with her kids for many years and returned with a brand new career by following her passion.