Contentment?

Brad Feld wrote a post on contentment this past week that I continue to think about.  I talked to a reporter this past week who is writing a piece around businesses that are started by people over 50.  She wanted to know if I was seeing more of them and if they are getting funded.  This is a loaded question and the answer is not simple but I am going to tie it back to contentment because we are living in a time where people are looking for more contentment in different ways.

I have funded people who are older that are building businesses but the majority of them (perhaps all) are serial entrepreneurs.  They know exactly what it takes to build a business from scratch.  The truth is some are up for it and others are not when they get to a certain age.  It is mentally, physically and emotionally draining to build a business from scratch and all aspects of the business invade you 24/7.  When you get to a certain age, particularly when you have a family, kids that are teens, other distractions, it is hard to drum up that selfish focus.  It is not for the faint of heart.

I’d also add that as much as parents today who have teens and young adults believe that they are more in tune with their kids than their parents I am not convinced that they really understand their children’s generations connection with technology and how they see the world.   I have talked to so many young adults who are graduating college and the advice that their parents have given them is disconnected from how their generation grew up.  Different priorities and those priorities connect back to contentment.

The sentence that stuck with Brad that evening was“Contentment used to be a virtue. Now it’s a vice.”  I do not necessarily agree unless you happen to be in the start-up craze and are in the 24/7 full-on down in the weeds build a business then contentment is a vice.  People who are 50 and over are starting to think of contentment as a virtue much earlier than the last generation because they realize that it doesn’t have to be a vice.  They can stop striving, they can take a breather and it is accepted.   Many millennials who are more in touch with their emotions and how they want to live their lives are beginning to think that way too.

 

Bolde…a place for women and now cards

Harleen, the founder of Bolde, has put her finger on the pulse of building a community for millennial women.  She came to see me and I was impressed with what she had built with basically no capital and the traction she was getting.  It isn’t surprising if you look back at her career in media that she came up with Bolde.  And yes, I invested in Bolde.

There is now an addition to the community and content…cards.  Bolde’s cards are designed for single women, the fastest growing demographic among women (for the first time ever there are more single women than married women!). The collection includes friendship cards, breakup support cards, and even cards for exes. There’s nothing out there like this. But there should be! The cards are designed to make a big emotional impact on women in their 20s and 30s and they do just that — they are very powerful and absolutely give you a chuckle.

Buy them or if you are a business that wants to add this humor to your e-commerce platform (subscriptions boxes or just e-commerce businesses) contact Bolde.  We’d love to hear from you.

Political Angst is Never-Ending

Government is like an ongoing mess that always appears to be on the edge of disaster.  The party that rules attempts to destroy everything that came before it and then the next party comes in and tries to get everything back and makes the changes that they believe will move us forward.  It is an ongoing roller-coaster of insanity.  Perhaps that is what our founding fathers wanted.  The constant push-pull of different ideas, morals, and values of how the Federal Government, City, and State Government should be run.

The biggest problem is sometimes we (that means me and you) live with repercussions of stupid decisions and political grand-standing.  Years ago, George Pataki, ignored the protests of the city and eliminated the commuter tax.  Why?  The answer is obvious.  He did it because he wanted to curry favor the suburban voters to keep himself in power and his Republican-led Senate was happy to oblige.

Fast forward, that tax is probably worth over $500M a year to the city of NYC or maybe more.  Almost 60% of the people who work in the city come from the suburbs.  They use the public transportation provided by NYC.  The experience continues to get worse.  The cities transportation system has not grown with the population, the areas that people have moved into (Brooklyn and Queens) has exploded. The day to day abuse of the trains is terrible. The technology that can upgrade the system to run faster and be more efficient is there but the capital to pay for it is caught in a battle between city and state.  It is a huge ticket.

In 1981, the city was a mess and could no longer pay for the maintenance of the transportation system.  The state jumped in to help but not forever.  The city owns the transportation system and leases it from the MTA.  Cuomo does not believe the subway is the state’s problem.  Pataki made the idiotic move that we are all living with by cutting the commuter tax and Cuomo should consider bringing it back for all those commuters who are just as frustrated with the city transportation system as the people who live here.

Whether you like it or not, Government manages our infrastructure and those budgets and salaries are paid for by taxes.  It is time to charge everyone who enters this city to pay for a working, clean, functioning transportation system including their seat on the train.

Get Focused On Your Mission, Christine Quinn, Podcast #30

This week’s episode features former mayoral candidate, groundbreaking advocate, and current CEO of Women In Need, Christine Quinn.

I have known Christine for years and we sat down to sat down to discuss everything from her career in politics to coping with failure, and how to bring entrepreneurship into all aspects of life. She has learned a lot over the years and her transparency around all these topics is impressive.  Christine lets us in on some valuable insights into the political sphere and what we can do to create change in our own communities.  She is definitely back on her game.  A very timely conversation.

 

Peach Pudding Cake

We are in the midst of a construction project at the beach so we are renting this summer.  We put aside all of our kitchen essentials when we packed last summer to bring with us this summer such as the coffee machine (god forbid we are without that), the Cuisinart, the KitchenAid, the spices and a few more things.  The baking pans were not part of the journey so we are making due with what we find.

This particular recipe calls for a 13X9X2 pyrex baking dish but we had this pie dish so I went with it.  It was the call.  So although baking is definitely more precise than cooking, sometimes it is ok to wing it a bit.

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temp
3/4 cup buttermilk

4 cups peeled sliced peaches (from about 3 pounds)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter a 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish or a pie dish like I did.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking s, da and salt.

With the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until smooth – and a little lighter.  About 3-4 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time on medium speed, and then the vanilla.

Scrape and mix again.

On the lowest speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of the buttermilk, repeat and finish with the flour.  Scrape and mix again – until all comes together.

Pour the batter into the prepared dish.  Spread with a spatula.

Arrange peaches over the batter – it is OK if some overlap.  I poured the peaches on top and just spread them evenly.

Spray or lightly butter a piece of tin foil. and cover the cake with the foil (butter side down)  – and seal tightly. Bake for 45 minutes covered.

Remove the foil carefully. When I took the tin foil off the top was not cooked and the batter came off on the foil.  It is ok.  Then bake another 40 minutes or so until the top is a nice golden brown and the edges are crusty.  Let cool for about an hour and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  You could probably make this with blueberries too.  Yum!

 

Billie Jean King, commencement

I know people make the rounds with the same speeches but this paragraph from Billie Jean King’s commencement speech stuck with me.  I have heard it from her before but I still love it.

“There are those who think life is a marathon. I don’t agree. I think life is a series of sprints. You get to start over and over and over again, always adapting to the long and winding road in front of you. Along the way, you’ll have failures. But if you choose to see these failures as feedback, it will help you plan your next step. When I used to play, a long time ago, that game of tennis, that sport of tennis: The ball would be coming to me. Each ball is a new opportunity. I have to make a decision so I have to take responsibility, and I have to decide if I’m going to hit it. If I hit it and the ball goes wide, I take that information, I delete it from my computer in my brain, I enter that in my computer in my brain and I’m ready for the next shot. I get that same shot to make a correction. If you think of it as feedback, not failure, O.K.?”

Is it technology or just a new generation?

There is not an industry at this point that has not been touched by reinvention well except perhaps our Government.  Is the reinvention of almost every vertical have to do with technology or just a new generation?

You can go back and history and now read those points where the noise was loud as an industry went down a different path.  The noise on my end is deafening right now.  I have the unique pleasure of investing in a wide range of start-up companies and it is fascinating to see the shifts in every single one.

We are witnessing massive shifts in the retail world.  It starts with the demise of the big stores, the rise of the smaller is slowly happening but not as much as we would like.  They can’t survive with the cost of real estate so we are seeing many people open stores in smaller communities.  There is a drive back to the local.  With that drive comes companies who figure out how to get rid of the middleman who has been the pinpoint for escalated costs in order to keep the margins high enough to pay everyone and create a profit.  All businesses are connected to these shifts because it is always about the end-user no matter who and what you interface with.  Once that change has taken place, to create and curate unique places, the consumer market will react.  It is a draw back to localized as Millennials need to have their own personal brand too and that connects with what they buy, do and experience. Unfortunately, it also leaves a tremendous amount of people without jobs that they are qualified for or not enough physical jobs period.  We can also toss the rise of machine manufacturing into the ring.

There is a dramatic shift taking place that seems to be disconnected from how our Governments are being run and the decisions and laws that they are making.  Each party has created a disdain among their own members and that includes me.  They all seem power hungry with big blinders on about where we are going, how we are evolving, what we need and how they need to Govern.

Perhaps it is technology that has just been the driver of this inevitable evolution that seems to be moving so fast and that is why we have such a big divide around the globe.

 

 

 

Carissa’s Bakery in East Hampton

Bakery’s are having their day.  More bakeries are popping up in NYC and it is a huge bonus to see Carissa Waechter put down her roots in East Hampton.  Her baked goods from the sweets to the bread are delicious.  One thing is better than the next.

Carissa got out east 5 years and began to bake with the ingredients that were being grown at Amber Farms, owned and run by two female farmers.  Carissa had started her baking roots at Daniel Boulud, Eli Zabar and David Berke. Essentially, she is the real deal.

The cannales are just as good if not better than the many I have had in Paris over the years.

Sweet Potato Bread is innovative and soft.

Sourdough is crunchy on the outside and soft in the inside.

Sandwiches are available for lunch including iced teas.

Beautiful cakes.

Divine pies.

And a few tastes for the day.

The ovens are amazing.  She does all of this in less than 1000 square feet.

If you are on the east end of Long Island, get to Carissa’s.  It is a must.

 

Real data on the AARP customers

Amy Millman who is the President of Springboard Enterprises shared this video with me.  It is worth the watch.  Should make everyone think about their brands and where the consumers are.

Wages, work force and cost of goods

The reality of the costs of goods is rarely acknowledged in the eyes of the consumer.   Back in my garment center days, we made a jacket (style number 196) that was one of our best selling items.  The large department stores knew what price they could sell that jacket at all day long.  It was a winner.  The issue was each store had to hit certain margins for them to be profitable and so did we.  The department stores really did not care how we got that jacket to them at the price they needed because their job was to sell it to their customers.  Our job was to make the garment so we figured out how to get less expensive fabrics, beat up our manufacturers for better labor costs down to the buttonhole.

Here is the thing, in order for those laborers to feed their families, pay for a roof over their house, have health insurance and all the other amenities needed to live, they can’t be below a certain price either. Consumers, aka Americans, can’t have their cake and eat it too.  You can’t expect to buy products at extremely low prices that are Made in America and dis employers for not paying their workers enough money.

I am all for paying the workforce the right price for the work done but that first cost bleeds downhill until it gets to the consumer.  That goes for restaurants that now must pay everyone in their staff $15 an hour, including the dishwashers.  The long tail of that is the cost of a restaurant meal is getting more expensive.  This is the same thing with making cars, manufacturing t-shirts, making furniture and more.

There was a great quote from an Omaha roofer I read this weekend when it came to his reliance on immigrant workers on temporary visas.  He summed up exactly my thoughts.  “In my experience, the same people who ask me why I don’t pay my employees more (I’m a farmer) are hypocrites.  If you are buying goods on Amazon or at Costco, for example, you are supporting the lowest-paying employers that produced those goods.  Most often those employers are not even U.S.-based.  You can’t bargain-hunt for everything you buy and then turn around and bash employers for not paying their workers more.  Paul Underhill, California.