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March 27, 2009

And just a touch of Attitude...

IGC member, Joan Reilly of Life of Reilly Organizers recently sent me this article from Crain’s NY about Betty Zimmer of Bath Junkie. The article was awesome. Admittedly, I had not heard of Bath Junkie before but reading the article left me itching to visit the new store in New York and anxious to meet the entrepreneurs behind the curtain. Bath Junkie concept is simple and compelling – safe (for you and the environment) bath products designed by you (add scent and color). The concept is also proven – there are already 70 Bath Junkie retail outlets around the country. However, the article focuses on octogenarian Betty and sister-in-law Judy’s (also the franchisor) courageous decision to open a new store in one of the toughest retail markets (NYC) in the toughest retail climate (um, now…in case you hadn’t heard).

The interview highlights and questions Betty & Judy’s drive and determination to succeed despite the economy. And clearly, they are ready for the challenge of wooing cash-strapped, cautious customers. The website touts slogans such as “the economy stinks, you don’t have to”. And the personality doesn’t stop there! The website is littered with other catchy-hip phrases and slogans, which is both refreshing and unexpected. With this kind of energy and chutzpah, how can you resist conspiring to help them succeed?!

ps, new NYC location is on Mulberry between Prince & Spring.

posted by Adelaide

March 26, 2009

Need Seasoning? Pass the Mentorship!

Traditionally, we think of mentors to be those that are older, wiser, and have gone before us. However, now, many companies, including Walt Disney, are looking to partner more "seasoned" workers with younger workers who offer a different set of desired skills and expertise, for example technical knowledge. You might say these older workers are thereby receiving a little seasoning of their own.

This got us thinking about how it might be helpful to reframe mentorship...Perhaps it would be better to segment our "development needs" and find mentors who are accordingly suitable rather than look for "the whole package" or a carbon copy of your desired future self.

Instead of trying to identify where you want to be a few years down the line, locate someone similar, establish contact and a relationship, and twist their arm to give you lots of free advice and time, we could all focus on matching various mentors with our varying needs. The former seems daunting and a tall order, the latter seems actionable and pragmatic.

Instead of "Who do I want to be like", we can ask "Who can best teach me to have difficult conversations?" or effectively manage a project? or be more comfortable making an initial sales call? (Of course these are prompting me to ask myself what skills I would like to get mentoring around....what about you?).

What might it look like to work with these folks? Could it be a simple as casual correspondence? A few coffees? Can we engage with people who aren't even aware that they are mentoring us? What about those that even don't know us? (For example can I learn to interview better by listening carefully to Terry Gross?)

I would imagine that these answers will vary alongside each of our learning styles, but regardless it does feel quite exciting and liberating to think of all the people that we can very specifically learn from.

It is important to distinguish between bartering and the type of mentoring that I am suggesting...because there is a big difference.

With bartering you are exchanging your ability to do something for someone (very often it is something that you would otherwise get paid to do) in return for their willingness to do something for you. While, on the other hand, mentorship is about teaching skills and abilities. Mentees should have learned something new in the process that they are now able to leverage and employ. They leave the relationship changed, different, and more "seasoned".

And there is an equally large difference between services you should pay for and places where you can look for mentorship. On the one hand, there is no need to learn to do everything yourself (keep the accountant and the tech consultant for example!), and on the other, there are things that you should learn to do yourself and learn to do them right, by using a professional.

For goodness sake, don't ask for mentorship from someone who would otherwise get paid to share the expertise you are seeking. And make the necessary investments by hiring professionals where it seems appropriate...but I'd encourage you to think of a couple things that you want to improve and can learn from others...think about what they are and who can help and how. Consider how you can "season" yourself with the experience and wisdom of others...

March 25, 2009

Ecko-ing Success

Admittedly, Mark Ecko is a cultural icon that I admire and find intriguing. A white Jewish guy who has cemented himself as a central hip-hop/pop culture figure with a competitive business empire. He got his start as a graffiti artist (in 8th grade) and has spent the time since then growing his brand and market presence. What started as t-shirt art has now become a veritable lifestyle company rivaling the likes of Polo and Sean John (both companies that Ecko admires and learns from).

Ecko's story is found in an interview in the March issue of Inc. Magazine. What I love about this interview is that you can clearly see some of the thought processes behind key decisions at the Ecko company - for example the origins of the Rhino logo, and ruminations over the company name. He plainly talks about his initial aspirations and how he got started (love that he mentions writing his first business plan!).

Additionally, Ecko talks about how the message and meaning of his brand has really driven the direction of the company. His growth has been fueled putting the 'Ecko' spin on current events and by engaging the public in a manner reflective of the Ecko brand - thought-provoking, revealing, publicly informed and influenced.

What is interesting is how dramatically these brand-building, public discourse activities have impacted Ecko's retail growth though there is often no obvious link.

Ecko also discusses the decision to appeal not to the editorial fashion community, but instead to the "buying community". He wisely states "The gatekeepers aren't the goalkeepers"...Seems worth thinking about...

* Who are your gatekeepers?
* Who are your goalkeepers?
* Who do you try to appeal to?
* What drives the growth of your business?
* What fortifies and advances your brand?
by Adelaide

March 23, 2009

Lemons to Lemonade

I was thrilled to get this email from DailyCandy this morning (the Philadelphia edition - for those that don't know, that is where I live). It seems that a new initiative is allowing artists to use abandoned retail space on popular South Street (only a few blocks from me) instead of letting the space go empty. The artists don't need to pay rent, just cover utilities, and make the space their own.

Not only I am personally excited (since I will get to peruse these spaces) but I am also impressed with this creative solution to a community problem.

With a little more digging, I learned that the initiative is being arranged by the south street business district. I also found a list of other donors and soon-to-come galleries.

I am excited to see all the change and innovation that results from the chaos of this last year. In this case, repurpose seems to be the name of the game!

posted by Adelaide

March 16, 2009

IGC Book Club launches!

* Stressed by all those business books you feel like you “should” read?

* Curious about what books are really worth your time?

* Want to discuss what you are reading with other smart women?

* Eager to apply new learning to strengthen your business?

.......Join the IGC Book Club!

As always, we started our book club due to member suggestion. Our reading will focus on interesting and informative books about business, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

Our first book?

A Sense of Urgency by John Kotter

Our first meeting? April 14th from 3-5:30 pm.

During the first meeting we will also have an opportunity to discuss further book club initiatives, books, and details.

Joining us?
igcrsvp@gmail.com with Book in the subject

March 15, 2009

IGC Members Step Up!!

A couple weeks ago, IGC hosted participants of The Step Up Women's Network's Pathways to Professions programs at IGC. The program allows college-bound girls to visit and learn about various business settings and careers.

We had a blast talking about entrepreneurship!

Several IGC members took part in this initiative, including Eden Abrahams of Clear Path Executive Coaching, Karla Lightfoot of Ladies Who Launch, Anne Kilcullen of Blade, Annie Lansing of Ann Lansing Designs, and Emily Wolper of E.Wolper Inc.

These IGC members shared their thoughts on and experiences of entrepreneurship with the group and talked about how and why they started their own business.

The Step Up gals were great, and by the end they were able to brainstorm and create businesses of their own. We were so impressed by their ideas and were glad to see the socially conscious components integrated in each of their desired ventures.

Thank you Step Up for this great opportunity! Thank you Eden, Karla, Annie, Anne, and Emily for sharing your time and experience! See us all hard at work below: