Changing landscape of entrepreneurs

College graduates today will be more entrepreneurial than ones of the past.  The opportunities are broader than ever before, the ability to start your own company is easier, the variety of jobs where you can make enough cash while figuring out what you are really interested in on a daily basis is available and people now more than ever are looking for ownership of their own destiny.

I spoke with a young woman this past week who had built her own company while going to law school, started her own firm and eventually jumped ship to only spend time in her start-up.  What I loved about her company is that not only has she found product market fit, she is essentially profitable.  She could raise money to grow or just continue to boot-strap by pouring her profits back into the business.  Could the business be a billion dollar business?  Maybe but could it be a business that feeds her lifestyle, absolutely.

The other day I had the pleasure of being a judge for the Tory Burch Fellowship.  Hundreds of women applied to this and they narrowed it down to 10 women.  Each of these women is incredible.  They have each built businesses that are making money.  Some of them have raised capital and others have not.  Their vision and passion are inspiring. What really struck me is how 9 of the 10 businesses were not your classic start-ups.  Most were consumer product focused through products to experiences and most of them were not from your start-up communities.  Each of them is making it and could easily continue onward with their scrappy attitudes to build lifestyle businesses or perhaps bigger businesses.

I seriously applaud Tory for what she is doing here.  She has built a mega-brand over the course of the past 12 years and is giving back to women by giving advice, support and counsel to the female fellows who go through this program so regardless who wins, they all win.  The top winner gets a loan of $50K and $50K as a gift.

Women who rise to the top must do more of this to help give other women advice, perhaps capital and community so that we can create more female-led businesses.  Just a guess but the real winner here is Tory as she must feel quite amazing about what she is doing with her foundation.  She should.

The Grill

The first time I had dinner at the Four Seasons it was one of our tri-annual meals in our 20’s that we would have at our birthdays and anniversary so we could try out the top spots in town.  We had dinner in the pool room.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t love it but what I did get is the feeling of the people of the room.  There is really nowhere else in the world that has that.  Fast forward, the last time I had lunch in the Four Seasons was about two weeks before it closed.  It took place in the upstairs area above the pool room.  The room felt old, musty and decrepit and the food mirrored that.  It was certainly time to exchange ownership to a new generation.  The new generation is here and they are the Major Food Group which includes Mario Carbone, Jeff Zalaznick and Rich Torrisi and what a job they have done.

The menu, the china, the rolling carts, the suits, the hospitality and the lighting.  There is something insanely glam about the place that wows.  Perhaps it is the 1950’s furniture or the 50’s music that plays in the background.  There is even someone at the door who greets you when you walk into the place, just like a high-end hotel, and it feels great.  As you make your way up those stairs and turn into the big open grill room space, with the beautiful constantly in motion gold curtains that resemble a feminine gold chain.  The bar just speaks elegance and cocktails.

The food is a mixture of old school and new school including meats, fish and a variety of starters.  Some are twists on recipes of 1950’s cuisine keeping in the mid-century theme throughout.  That includes the rolling carts that come tableside to make the mushroom omelet.

Or to slice up the prime rib.

Even the pasta a la presse appetizer has a cart that squeezes a variety of meats down over the course of the evening to put out a rich broth that goes over the pasta.  All the carts glow in stainless steel.

Avocado Crab Louis is a salad of yore but works today.  The attention to detail is everywhere including the china.

The steak comes out in a copper pan before hand to show you what they will be making you.

The duck is grilled to perfection with a spicy mustard beneath the duck and a sweet sauce on top.

Even the fries are served with elegance.

These chocolate cookies are a take on old Pepperidge Farm numbers but served along with a coconut whipped cream for dipping.  I couldn’t stop eating them.

There were many issues with renovating this place including pushback from landmarks.  For instance, the wine cellar is landmarked.

The pool room, will open in a few months, and it feels insanely new again.

There is now a bar upstairs from the pool room

Inside an updated room to lounge, eat and drink in where was before it was untapped except for private events.

Yet the kitchen is the one thing that was not landmarked nor should it have been.  What a joy it must have been working on those plans.  It is huge.

There is an open-fire burning oven.

The station next to it.

Tons of toys.  This rotisserie is in the part of the kitchen that has yet to be used and will be the one to service the pool room where the menu will be different than the Grill.  Extremely smart to have different kitchens for different rooms.

We are heading out of town for most of the summer but I plan on dining in the pool room next.  It feels good to dress up for dinner, to sit in a glamorous room and to know that hospitality is first and foremost.  It is what I saw in my 20’s that made me feel like I was a part of the pulse of NYC as if I had walked behind the curtain just for a night to take me to somewhere unique, special and glamorous.  When I was 10, my Grandmother took me to a place in DC for dinner that you walked down an expansive circular staircase to a dining room that had the same hospitality that the Grill has today.  I loved dressing up for that night, borrowing my Grandmothers jewelry and feeling so grownup and special.  I don’t live like that every day but there is something about the Grill that brings me back to that feeling.  I hope that they can keep it up.

the very LOUD minority

The chaos that ensued in the past few months in our country is unsettling.  It has created anger, frustration, and certainly angst.  It is like nothing we have ever seen.  It is always important to figure out how we got here.

There is a conservative force that is well funded by very wealthy white men who want to ensure that they remain in power.  Power includes the agenda of keeping their bank accounts well funded, making sure that women do not have rights over their bodies, allowing a free-for-all when it comes to the environment, cutting back taxes that erode all safety nets for anyone without pockets as deep as theirs and certainly having no interest in empathy towards their fellow person in this country or anywhere around the globe.  There is more but those are the highlights.

In the past, when a new President is sworn in, the country unites.  It is one of the high points of how we transfer power in this country.  That did not happen this time.  We have seen people demean this Presidency in such disrespectful ways that it is mind-boggling.  Not surprising because when Senators dissed Obama on the floor in ways that we once believed to be unfathomable, it opened up a can of worms for everyone.

The majority of millennials and certainly Generation Z seem to be more liberal in their social views.  Some might be fiscally conservative but they believe in gay rights, immigration, weed, income redistribution and that means healthcare for all.  The conservative force has been hell-bent on making sure that their voice continues on to the next generation but it is difficult when this generation tends to socially lean left.   They are not happy about rolling back policies that are in line with the future.

On college campuses, the conservative speakers that have come to give speeches, be it Berkeley or the University of Buffalo are being drowned out by the majority of students.  It is the small sector of conservative students who are fully supported by the capital intensive conservative force that is working on getting those right-wing voices to campus.  The anger we are seeing on campuses is the same type of anger we are seeing across the country.  The majority of people are not happy with the current Presidency.  The polls have proven that as Trump’s approval rating is shy of 38%.  Considering he has only been in office for a few months, that’s not a pretty picture.

The voices that we are hearing are perhaps the voters that came to the polls, the voices of the minority as he did lose the majority vote by over 3m.  The minority, the right wing, the conservative force is loud and vocal.  Loud and vocal takes up too much space in the media.  The media are amplifying the minority voices with deep pocket books because it grabs eyeballs but the silent majority is finally becoming louder.  Our future is not going to be run by conservatives, it will be run by a new socially in tune with the majority of us voice that I hope is a lot more organized than the current Democratic party.  Things must change.  The louder the majority becomes, the less angst, the majority of us will have.

Being Deliberate About Your Path, Alice Cheng, Podcast

Alice Cheng is the Founder & CEO of Culinary Agents, a company that connects food industry professionals to hiring companies and restaurants. Alice’s path to entrepreneurship was anything but linear — in our conversation, she discusses how thirteen years at the corporate giant, IBM, gave her the opportunity to learn the skills she needed for the next phase of her career.

Robert Longo at Metro Pictures

I am a huge fan of Robert Longo’s work.  We have a friend who has two Longo’s of the individual dancers.  They are so beautiful.  I think of them whenever I read, hear or see anything Longo.

I was invited to the opening of this particular body of work that is called The Destroyer Cycle.  Longo was there and he walked everyone through the exhibit and described the thoughts behind the work.  He said that he loves images and that art is his religion.  Memories are photographic and his images could never be photographs.  These pieces are all about the desperation that is happening now across the globe.  It is an International situation and these pieces are political.

The work is made from charcoal.  Each piece is more amazing than the next.  This is called Riot Cops.

Destroyed head of Lamassu

St. Louis Rams, Hands Up

Justine and Juliette, Icebergs

Raft at Sea.  This piece takes your breath away.

Study of Lights Out

Divided Flag

Shattered iPhone Screen

Absolutely worth getting to see.  In September, the Brooklyn Museum, will be having a retrospective on his work with over 40 pieces.  I am really looking forward to that.

Irving Penn, at the MET

I went uptown to see the Irving Penn show at the MET.   It was Tuesday, mid-day, and the museum was packed.  I couldn’t help but think about how poorly managed the MET has been over the past few years to the point where there is not only a significant loss in the endowment but over 2500 people had to be laid off.  The outcome was that the Executive Director resigned as he should have but should he have ever been hired?  Sitting on the board of the High Line, where I am always thinking about sustainability and smart fiscal decisions, I wonder if we will see more institutions who are not forward thinking fall into the same mess.  I bet we will.

Regardless, the Penn exhibit was great.  He might be known as a fashion photographer but these photos that walk us through his journey, show much more.  Someone with attention to detail that had a unique ability to capture someones essence.  It begins with a camera.  The first of many he used over the years.

The next room begins with two still life pieces that I just love.  Still Life with Watermelon, 1947.  Seeing fresh food as  model 70 years ago makes you pause.

After Dinner-Games in New York, 1947.  I couldn’t help but be drawn to this.  It definitely speaks to those times.

These were the twelves most photographed women in 1947.   Walking through the history of many of the models and celebrities of that day shows how things in many ways have remained the same.

Vogue covers, 1948-52

Pastry Chefs, Paris, 1950.

He did a spread called “small trades” for Vogue of skilled trade people.  He did this in Paris, London and New York. This ended up to his largest body of work.

Penn made this photo in 1947 as a reaction to his daily spend with “skinny girls with self-starved looks”.

Pablo Picasso, 1957

Yves Saint Laurent, 1957

The social cigarette that kills in 1950.  Penn hated cigarettes losing a dear friend to lung cancer.

He traveled the world from 1967-71 which was inspired by his time abroad during WWII.  This is from Worlds in a Small World.  Woman in Morocco with three breads.

Ruth, 2002.

Mouth for L’Oreal, 1986.  His work still resonates today.  Photography is changing and there is something truly delightful in seeing all these photos from a different time in a few rooms.  Funny thing is that they could have been taken today.

Mouse turns 20

MOUSE, an organization where I was the first board chair, turned 20 last week.  MOUSE, Making Opportunities in Upgrading Schools in Education, is still a fitting acronym.

Founded by Sarah Holloway and Andrea Rasiej, in 1997, began by getting a group of people from the tech community, actually, 200 people showed up, to crawl through the ceilings of Washington Irving High School, and wire the place for connectivity.  How things have changed.

I came on as a Chair not too long after the first meeting.  I begin to raise the majority of our capital from the private community which gave us an opportunity to test out different programs and see which one was the one that would make the biggest impact.  We had a program with high school girls where they created their own online newspaper and wrote about their top of mind issues.  Those issues were not easy and having a platform to write about them was powerful.  We also had Mouse squad which was the one that stuck.  Hiring students in the high school to become the tech support for their schools.  With the onslaught of technology, we can have those squads start in elementary school.

Now MOUSE also has design program that is online for educators to access these projects to help others grow. There were a bunch of kids at the celebration showing their design projects that use technology as their platform to create.  It is pretty awesome.

There were photos of kids of the past who I remembered and was thrilled to hear that they are productive adults.  20 years later, 40,000 kids we touched and over 90% of those kids went on to higher education.  I am no longer involved with MOUSE but I am humbled by the work that MOUSE has done and the impact that it has made.  I am insanely proud that I was the first Chair.   Seeing all the people in the room celebrating 20 years felt really good.

Who Speaks for You?

These days it appears as if everyone is on the defensive when it comes to politics.  That includes all of the non-profit organizations that are being defunded to the 13 older white Senators who are overseeing their supposed new healthcare bill.

I keep thinking that none of these people speak for me.  13 white men who are essentially Luddites certainly don’t represent my views.  They represent the past and I believe that through my investments, my voice for women and everything else I try to do, regardless of my age, I represent the future.

It is important to look at how we got here in order to move forward.  We got here through a well-planned strategy around using laws to suppress voting and incarcerating generations of black men.  We got here through fueling the fire of change without education of where the world was going but instead shifting the conversation towards anger and blame.  Taking advantage of others to create power for a few to become their ideal of a right wing conservative male dominated society.  Similar to despot lead nations under the demise of democracy.

All of their defense created this anger.  We must change the conversation to the offense.  Sports analogies work. Don’t let the defense shut down your offense.  I’d like to see us have a different response to these 13 old white men.  Instead of lamenting around the changes in their health care bill, let’s figure out how to shift the conversation to educating the voters.  All the non-profits who are being defunded should be marketing all that they do, the changes that they make, the number of people they touch, their KPI’s, their good data, essentially actuate the positives.  For instance, at Planned Parenthood, only 3% of its overall services go to abortion but somehow it is cast as an abortion clinic. I do believe that people want to be positive, not negative.

I believe that people want to be positive, not negative.  Now is the time to change the conversation so that the people who are running our country represent the future, not the past.

Philanthropic conversations

I attended the annual Town & Country Philanthropy Summit this year.   I am still thinking about the speakers.  Strong philanthropic giving can make a change from the outside.  It is particularly important now as the Government pulls out of programs that impact anyone from the underserved to the sick.  Mike Bloomberg gave the keynote.  There are few people who have taken their financial success and channeled the type of capital into cities around public health, education, the arts, the environment and Government innovation using data to make decisions.  I am a huge fan. He talked matter of factly, as only he does, to inspire philanthropy in all of us to engage the public and Government to change.  He just wrote a book with Carl Pope called Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens, Can Save the Planet.  

I liked the way the day laid out.  Each panel had an excellent moderator which is honestly the key to a panel.  One of person gave a short talk before the panel.  It was the perfect way to tee up the conversation.  The first panel was The Case For Arts Philanthropy with Oskar Eustis, Public Theater, Elaine Wynn, LACMA, Evan Bard, US Trust Wealth Management and Sarah Jones, Actor.  The importance of arts in regards to how it makes a difference in people and their lives.  NYC is a perfect example of a city rich in the arts and how it makes a difference in the way we think and behave.

A Family Affair:  The Elizabeth Taylor Legacy was the family members, mostly Grandchildren, who are continuing their work on AIDS.  Impressive how Taylor set up her trust so that her works continues on.  Charlotte Jones Anderson, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, spoke before them.  She got behind the Salvation Army 20 years ago and got the NFL behind the organization.  Her impact has been huge, like Bloomberg, using her power and capital to create change.  These two talks says something about being proactive behind one organization that you care about vs knee jerk reactions to many organizations so that impact can be felt.

Glenn Close teed up the panel that she sat on around What We Talk About When We Talk About Mental Illness.  Close started the organization Bring Change 2 Mind.  She began the organization when her sister was diagnosed bi-polar and her nephew was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  She took her clout and used it to make a difference for others and her family to encourage a dialogue around mental health.

The panel included Mike Porath of the Mighty, Dr. Lloyd Sederer, NYS Office of Mental Health and Close moderating by Perri Peltz.  Really powerful conversations around how this touches all of us and we should be more understanding by creating community and getting rid of the stigmas around this issue.

The last one before lunch was What Does “America First” Mean for The Global Refugee Crisis?  Sandra Uwiringiymana, a Congolese refugee, who came here when she was 12, talked about her journey.  An extremely powerful story of coming from war as a preteen and trying to fit in as an American.  The panel included her and Courtney Cabon Venton, International Development Economist, David Miliband, International Rescue Committee and Zosia Mamet, Ambassador War Child.  The long tail of American politics post WW2 is our spread of democracy, economic empowerment, the English language and so much more by spreading our taxpayers’ money around the globe.  The value in that is huge and seems to be missed these days with our current Government.

During lunch, John Legend and Valerie Jarrett talked about #FreeAmerica, the reality of how the American justice system has incarcerated a few generations of black men and women.  They announced a fund of $500K to support entrepreneurs who are coming out of jail to help them create new paths for themselves.  Very powerful.

All and all, a truly inspiring day.  Every person who spoke is making a difference.  These days it is hard to endure the daily wrath of politics and not get utterly depressed.   Seeing and hearing each person talk from the panelists to the others that attended, it gave me hope that many still do believe, as I do, that with success, it is important to give back to others so that we all can live better lives vs loading up our pocket books.


Katherine Powers, Muses and Marketing, Podcast

This week’s episode features Katherine Power, Co-Founder & CEO of Clique Media Group — a parent company of leading content sites and brands. Katherine shares her unique strategy for inviting customers to be both muses and marketers for their favorite brands, and how that’s led to success across platforms today.