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KatarinaKojic_Marina Romashko American Immigrant Project silly

I grew up first-generation American. My dad came as a refugee from Serbia in 1956, my mom as a young German au pair. They met in Chicago and stayed. Without extended family in the US, our “family” and community were mainly other immigrants: Serbian, German, Korean, Greek, Armenian, Iranian, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese.

I’ve photographed immigrants for the last decade and was very drawn to the issue of immigration when it became a political hot-button issue with this administration. Our response to the immigration ban was to bring together a close group of immigrant friends and business associates we are proud to know, and photograph them and share the stories of their experiences in a book that’s easy to pass around. What emerged was the American Immigrant Project: Women’s Edition, a project to document their experiences, show people how alike we all are, and honor what women immigrants weave into the fabric of our country and culture.

We assembled a team of people who volunteered their time and expertise to get this done, and the project was completed in just over one month from idea to book in hand. This is our way to share stories and highlight American immigrants. Here are a few of the stories from the book, which draw from interviews conducted and edited by Mindy Raf.

Marina Romashko

City, Country of Origin: Minsk, Belarus

Occupation: Founder, Big Idea Lab

Arrived in the US: 1999

I had no clear picture of what living in the US would be like when I moved here from Belarus. House? Car? Husband? It’s funny the things you think you want or need and what actually ends up bringing you joy.

Now I live in Brooklyn and work at WeWork Charging Bull. I love to surf. I help women and men transform their lives through slowing down and storytelling as a coach and entrepreneur. And I want to build a yurt with a sweat lodge. I am still connected to my Belarus roots, though. In fact, in my photo, I’m wearing our Rio 2016 Olympic team dress designed by Yulia Latushkina. I’ve learned that it takes courage and willpower to go after your dreams. I believe that we grow through struggle, and America provides so many opportunities to grow. There’s that expression here, “You’ve got to walk the talk.” I’m happy to say that I’m living in the US and I’m walking it.

Favorite, Funny Immigrant Moment?

Once, while sitting in the car with a friend, I saw a parrot. So I started yelling and pointing, “Look a carrot! Carrot! Carrot!” I’ve been here 18 years, and I’ve yet to see another flying carrot.

What are you up to now?

I’m looking into scaling my business, Big Idea Lab, and adding the element of mindful productivity. The mission is not just about getting things done, but getting things done without burning out.

Nadia P Manzoor

City, Country of Origin: London, United Kingdom

Occupation: Storyteller, Actor, Writer & Producer www.shugsandfats.tv

Arrived in the US: 2005

I came to Boston to study and work, but really it was because my Pakistani Muslim family didn’t approve of my Irish boyfriend and vowed to disown me if I stayed with him. I don’t need to get away from my family anymore, but living in America has allowed me to embrace myself and find out what truly matters to me. Coming to the US, telling and performing my stories, I have learned who I am, what I value, and why. I have recognized so much about my past and the things I need to face. The creativity I discovered in NYC was beyond my dreams.

Favorite English word, expression or idiom?

“Live from New York… it’s Saturday night!”

What are you up to now?

I sold my web series Shugs and Fats to Amazon with my co-creator and am currently developing the pilot for Amazon. I’m also developing a duo comedy show, and a few other projects are underway. It’s a full-on creative incubation period!

Melanie Wagner

City, Country of Origin: Daejeon, South Korea

Occupation: Founder, Matilda

Arrived in the US: 1986

My parents adopted and brought me to the US, to fulfill their hope of having a family. Living in the US, but most importantly coming to New York, has helped me achieve success. I’m the founder of Matilda, a software/hardware company that does IoT (Internet of Things) devices for hotels and homes. I am surrounded by so many fearless and supportive people in New York. We challenge each other every day. The wealth and value of the US is the people.

Can you share any struggles you’ve had to overcome here?

I always get asked, “How does it feel to be different?” But I only feel different when I’m being asked that question.

What are you up to now?

We started our humble beginnings by shaping hardware and software by hand in our WeWork office. Two years later, we developed an IoT device for smart homes that caters towards the modern consumer that is time-starved. Navigating through a busy day with an overdose of websites and apps continues to be challenging. Consumers yearn for the simplest, most critical information and products, provided in a manner that is seamlessly integrated into their everyday needs.

How has the immigrant projected affected you?

Meeting a lot of women leaders inspired me more with the work I do.

Buy a copy of the American Immigrant Project or read more on the blog. The project will host a launch event in New York on Nov. 15.

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Late one night at his kitchen table, J. Kevin White visualized a solution to a problem he had grappled with for years. He needed a device that would let people diagnose their own vision problems, without an optometrist. Fiddling with a pair of bifocals, he imagined stretching out the the full spectrum of vision adjustments across a single lens, each prescription a different curvature. He grabbed a yellow legal pad and started sketching.

“I designed it in total from that epiphany moment,” says White, 50, who leads the nonprofit Global Vision 2020. Five years later, he can hold the finished product in his hand: USee, a low-tech, low-cost tool for diagnosing vision problems and prescribing glasses without an eye doctor.

The USee reduces the educational and technological barriers keeping an estimated 2.5 billion people around the world from getting the glasses they need.

J. Kevin Smith of Global Vision 2020 demonstrates the USee at the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Zone on Jan. 31, 2018.

In areas of the developing world, eye doctors can be as rare as one in 1 million. The USee reduces the educational and technological barriers keeping an estimated 2.5 billion people around the world from getting the glasses they need to learn, work, and more.

A $72,000 prize from the DC Creator Awards, a WeWork-sponsored competition for innovators, brought White closer to that target by allowing him to produce the USee for the first time, using 3D printed frames and computer-cut lenses. So far, Global Vision 2020 has distributed 6,000 pairs of eyeglasses using their kits, which include the USee diagnostic tool, snap-in lenses, and frames.

In the last year, Global Vision 2020’s efforts have been concentrated in Mozambique, where White estimates 5.6 million people have no or limited access to eyeglasses. In 2016 and 2017, the organization conducted field trials at four of the country’s high schools, using teachers as the screeners and getting glasses to all students who needed them.

Global Vision 2020 Completed Filed Trials in Mozambique in 2017
A student in Mozambique finds his prescription using the USee.

The USee system helps lower the cost per pair of glasses to $4. But White’s goal is to cut that figure in half, a target he may reach this year thanks to his most recent funding boost. In January, Global Vision 2020 made it to the Creator Awards Global Finals in New York City, and White wound up a $1 million winner, standing stunned on stage alongside his two sons, Oliver and Owen.

This will allow us to produce thousands of the device, instead of tens and twenties,” he says. “This is a large capital investment that the $1 million more than covers.”

Eye-opening realization

White first noticed the challenge of delivering inexpensive eyeglasses to developing nations during his 20-year career in the US Marine Corps. As the director of humanitarian civic assistance—which he calls the “coolest job I ever had”—he allocated part of his $16 million budget to giving away eyeglasses in parts of Africa and Eastern Europe. “That opened my eyes to the fact that lots of people can’t get the glasses they need,” he says.

When White was jotting down ideas in his kitchen in 2014, he had been dwelling on two major issues: cost and coolness. Before the USee, the nonprofit, founded in 2009, gave out bulky, adjustable eyeglasses that were $22 a pop. While innovative at the time, young people didn’t want to wear the odd-looking specs. Now Global Vision 2020 sends out the USee device with each kit, along with a stockpile of standard frames and snap-in lenses.

First tested on White’s youngest son Oliver, who’s now 13, the USee uses a lens bar ranging from negative six to positive six, the standard range for vision checks. Each prescription is stated in easy-to-understand color and number combinations. If a user sees most clearly at Red 2, they can then snap corresponding lenses into a new set of frames and walk out the door with new glasses in 10 minutes.

Looking for partners

The first prototype of the USee lens was developed in 2014 with the help of Oxford University researcher Dr. David Crosby, one of White’s connections from his military career. White says few others in the world could have brought his sketch to life. This happens many times over in White’s quest to bring eyesight to the masses: experts in their fields willing to lend a hand for a worthy cause.

The most recent instance came in 2016 at Johns Hopkins University, where White is currently pursuing an MBA. Finding himself at the doorstep of world-class medical research facilities, White connected with the Wilmer Eye Institute’s Dr. David Friedman, who was willing to conduct trials using the prototype developed by Crosby. The trials were completed in 2017, and just this month, peer-reviewed journal Plos published the results.

“I look back on my life and it’s just coincidence after coincidence,” White says.

Photo by Emanuel HahnReflecting on his lucky breaks, White thinks back to his days at the Naval Academy, when a family who hosted him on weekends told him, “Coincidences are the Lord’s way of remaining anonymous.”

“I look back on my life and it’s just coincidence after coincidence,” White says.

Looking to the future, White wants to create more government-level partnerships in countries like Mozambique, where he continues to build relationships with education officials.

“Our goal,” he says, “is for someone to say, ‘Hey, we want 2,000 kits,’ and we say, ‘Great, give us three weeks.’”

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Bitcoin is the inescapable “next big thing” that will reportedly replace the banks and disrupt our entire financial system. While Bitcoin and the technology it’s built on are still in their infancy, entrepreneurs can benefit from being early adopters. (Please note: The following should not be considered financial advice.)

Five essential takeaways for Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a currency built on top of a technology called the blockchain, which I’ll explore in more detail later. Here’s the main gist of Bitcoin:

  1. It allows for a culture of full transparency where all transactions can be viewed by anyone on a “distributed ledger,” a table that lists all transactions occurring on the blockchain. You can see these transactions in real time with a blockchain explorer like Blockchain.info or Blockcypher.
  2. Transactions are irreversible. Once you send Bitcoin, you can’t cancel the transaction.
  3. Transactions are anonymous. To send or receive bitcoin, you need to set up a virtual wallet. Each wallet has a unique ID composed of random numbers and letters like 1NRedxSzhx7r. This is used in lieu of a real-name identity.
  4. There are only 21 million Bitcoins that will ever be in existence, a rule hard-coded into Bitcoin’s software. These coins are generated through a process called mining, which is very similar to mining for gold or diamonds but instead uses computing power to solve a mathematical puzzle. In addition to mining Bitcoin, miners also profit off the transaction fees since their computing hardware powers and connects the blockchain.
  5. It’s both a very volatile, decentralized currency and a storage of value with no central authority calling the shots.

How to purchase Bitcoin

  1. Sign up for Coinbase, which is by far one of the most trusted and reputable exchanges.
  2. In the US, you will need to verify your identity to be accepted to most legitimate exchanges. Once your ID is approved, you can then purchase Bitcoin or a small fraction of a Bitcoin. You can spend as little as $10. With such a volatile new currency, it’s important to only spend as much as you’re comfortable with losing.

What is the blockchain?

CryptoKitties illustrates key points about the blockchain
CryptoKitties is one of the first games built on the blockchain.

The blockchain is the underlying technology that makes Bitcoin work. Think of it as the App Store, with Bitcoin an app built on top of the blockchain. There are many other blockchains and cryptocurrencies. Ethereum, co-created by Vitalik Buterin, is one of the major competitors in the space and uses its own currency, called Ether.

Just like you can build any app and launch it in the App Store, you can build apps, commonly referred to as Dapps (decentralized apps), on the blockchain. Companies choose to build on the blockchain because it allows for full transparency—anyone can view each block on the chain—and accountability, meaning there can’t be any gaps in the chain, as each chain builds off of the next.

One silly but salient Dapp is CryptoKitties, a game where you can spend Ether to raise your own kittens. Companies like Maersk and IBM are working together to use the blockchain for other uses cases, like making global shipping industry more efficient.

Three opportunities for entrepreneurs

  1. Be active, any time. Now that you have your Bitcoin, you’re now a part of a global economy that is active 24/7, not bankers’ hours. You can participate in ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings, explained below), join other exchanges, and trade with other alt-coins. You can even make real-world purchases, like buy furniture from overstock.com. This is where you begin to see the true utility and revolution of cryptocurrencies.
  2. Raise capital. As an entrepreneur, you can launch your own coin and raise money from the public via an ICO instead of the typical seed or angel round. Keep in mind there will be heavy regulations around ICOs. Companies like the messaging app Telegram are raising well over $1 billion in their ICO.
  3. Help bring others on to the blockchain. You can also engage with the blockchain as an entrepreneur by consulting or development services to bring companies, cities, and even your own company on to the blockchain, like ConsenSys did. ConsenSys and IBM are working together to bring the city of Dubai on to the blockchain. Other companies, like Digital Asset Holdings, led by the extraordinary Blythe Masters, are working to bring institutions and exchanges on to their blockchain technology.

Three dangers of the blockchain

Almost anything could be built on top of or migrated to the blockchain—but that doesn’t mean it should. With Bitcoin and blockchain come tremendous upside and risks. Here are a few:

  1. Regulation. Governments around the world are cracking down on cryptocurrencies and ICOs, so be sure to read up on your local laws.
  2. Vaporware and Ponzi schemes. The majority of ICOs are companies that have no real technology, team, or product. Facebook recently banned ads for cryptocurrency and ICOs out of concern for “deceptive promotional practices.” They are designed to take your money if you don’t do your research.
  3. Scale. Dapps are still struggling with scale as small but popular ones like CryptoKitties are slowing down transaction times on the Ethereum blockchain. Imagine what would happen if purchasing came to a standstill because one app slowed everything down.

All hype aside, Bitcoin and the blockchain do have opportunities for entrepreneurs savvy enough to seize them. See where it might take you and your business.

 

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From Shanghai to Nashville, the Year of the Dog is already in full effect at the pup-ready workspaces of WeWork. On Instagram, #dogsofwework has nearly 5,000 posts, and when WeWork brought its dog-friendly workspaces to Japan—a market with more pets than children—it made headline news in Bloomberg. (Thinking about starting dog-friendly policies in your spot? Here’s a ruff guide for that.)

Life’s a gas

Max is a dog of many talents
Katy Conrad and Max in New York City

Katy Conrad + Max

Location: WeWork HQ, New York City

Company: WeWork

What’s the best tip for bringing your dog to work? The best way to make sure your dog is comfortable at the office is to bring lots of treats, including treats to share. Just like us humans need a snack after a long day at the office, having a bag of treats helps make sure Max and his office puppy pals are all enjoying themselves, and able to get through the workday, too. A bunch of snuggles doesn’t hurt, either.

What’s your dog’s superpower? Besides being cute, his ability to end any meeting with his gas.

The office flirt

Fiona Webborn's pug, Nugget
Fiona Webborn’s dog Nugget in London

Fiona Webborn + Nug the Pug

Location: WeWork Spitalfields, London

Company: The Cotton Story

Why do you bring your canine friend to work?

He’s so cute, why wouldn’t I want to spend all day with him? He’s been coming in since he was 10 weeks old and is now really confident and friendly around all sort of people and dogs of all sizes.

What’s important to know before bringing a dog to work?

That everyone will forget you exist and forget your name because they now see you as “Nugget’s mum” or “the girl with the tiny pug.”

“Everyone will forget you exist and forget your name because they now see you as ‘Nugget’s mum.’”

Your dog as an emoji: 😘 Because he’s such a flirt with all the other dogs and members!

What’s your dog’s superpower?

Being able to finish his lunch in under 10 seconds flat.

 

Will sprint for belly rubs

Teddy uses constant reinforcement with his dog Scout
Teddy Connell and Scout in Atlanta

Teddy Connell + Scout

Location: WeWork Tower Place, Atlanta

Company: WeWork

What’s behind her name? Scout is a 6-year-old Blue-Heeler mix from Aberdeen, Mississippi. She’s named after Scout Finch [from To Kill A Mockingbird] and has become a part of the WeWork Tower Place community team.

What’s the best tip for bringing your dog to work? Pleasant interpersonal relationships seem to be the most reinforcing stimulus for a dog. After all, they are pack animals with complex social structures that eventually led to them synchronizing with human society. Always be watching for desirable behavior to positively reinforce your pup with, because they’ll always be watching you.

What’s your dog’s superpower? Asking for what she wants. She has been known to sprint towards members only to then slide on her side to stop perfectly in position for a belly rub.

 

Grumpy but loveable

Herby came from a shelter and is sometimes grumpy, but still loveable
Isabel Borst and Herby in Berlin (Photo by Milon Quayim)

Isabel Borst + Herby

Location: WeWork Hackescher Markt, Berlin

Company: WeWork

What’s the best tip for bringing your dog to work? Willingness to adapt is very important. The members love him, and he loves the attention he gets from them. There were moments, though, that I noticed he was getting quite stressed. I bring him to the office between two or three times per week, and I avoid bringing him if I know it will be a very busy day.

The fun part is that the members have also adapted to him. They know Herby doesn’t like hugs and clapping and that they shouldn’t feed him because he’s trying to lose some weight. At the end, the most important part is to respect his limits and make sure he is not disturbing anyone.

Your dog as an emoji: 😒 He’s both a grumpy man and a good pal.

What’s your dog’s superpower? Herby has the power of finding food in every bush. Normally he finds sandwiches, but last weekend he found a whole pizza.

 

Pastry bandit

Leah Gwin, a member from Inflammo, and her dog Harper
Leah Gwin and Harper in Nashville

Leah Gwin + Harper

Location: WeWork 901 Woodland, Nashville, Tennessee

Company: Inflammo

Why do you bring your dog to work? Instead of sitting at home bored all day, she’s able to come hang out with me, meet other dogs, and get loved on by WeWork members. I also—selfishly—love having her around because her bright, spunky spirit keeps me feeling positive, and she always finds things to do that make me laugh throughout the day.

What’s the best tip for adjusting to the office environment? Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. I have found this is the key to a well-behaved dog at work. Harper is a 1-year-old puppy, so she has a lot of fun energy. When I take her on runs or to the dog park before work, she cooperates way better. We also love taking walks during lunchtime or throwing the ball at the park nearby.

If your dog were an emoji, which would he/she be? 💃  Harper is always the life of the party.

What’s your dog’s superpower? Invisibility. She snuck upstairs at a friend’s house a few weeks ago without us seeing and ate 27 pastries.

 

Quiet cuddler

WeWork Weihai Lu is dog friendly
Bonnie Li’s dog Captain in Shanghai

Bonnie Li + Captain

Location: WeWork Weihai Lu, Shanghai

Company: WeWork

Why do you bring your canine friend to work? We have a lot of dogs in our community, so Captain can make friends here. If one day I don’t bring him to work, lots of members ask me, “Where is Captain?”

How do you know if your dog is ready to be a WeWork dog? The dog should be quiet and under your control, and also less than 14 kilograms or 30 pounds.

Your dog as an emoji: 😳

What’s your dog’s superpower? Being friendly and not barking.

 

Vibe manager

Rufino's Monica Limanto brings her dog Yoji Yoshimoto to work with her
Monica Limanto’s dog Yoji Yoshimoto in Sydney

Monica Limanto + Yoji Yoshimoto

Location: WeWork Pyrmont, Sydney

Company: Rufino

Why do you bring your canine friend to work? It makes the office a happier place. Dogs create instant good vibes.

What’s important to know before bringing a dog to work? Be respectful of the workplace and practice good manners by ensuring your dog is toilet trained, the office door is kept closed, and there is a dog bed, water, snacks, and toys for your pup to keep them occupied and comfortable during the day.

Your dog as an emoji: 💩

What’s your dog’s superpower? Making food disappear

 

 

Dog walker app trainer

WeWork Ipanema member GoDog uses Lexa to train walkers
Julia Aranha’s dog Lexa in Rio de Janeiro

Julia Graça Aranha + Lexa

Location: WeWork Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro

Company: WeWork

Why do you bring your canine friend to work? She makes everyone’s day better. Even though the Ipanema building has only been open for 10 days, Lexa has already become the mascot. We have a dog walking app in our building, GoDog, that uses her every day to train new dog walkers.

What’s important to know before bringing a dog to work? People will “borrow” your dog, so if yours goes missing, it’s probably in someone else’s office.

Must-have toy to keep your dog happy: Toy to chew on.

What’s your dog’s superpower? Help people lose their fear of dogs.

 

WeWork's dog friendly policies have a lot of fans
Nugget and a friend in London

 

 

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How do you set the mood for love? For one Detroit couple, it’s all about ideas, creativity, and entrepreneurship. Fance Logan and Keith Shadwick met last year at the Creator Awards, WeWork’s global competition for innovators. They connected over a love for sharing ideas and starting up new collaborations.

Usually, the Creator Awards’s impact is measured in the $15 million awarded, the 167 winners, or the 170 jobs created. But now they can count one relationship—and one baby on the way.

As Logan, 32, and Shadwick, 27, get ready to welcome a baby boy in March, they continue to follow their passions. For Logan, that’s real estate and fashion events, including the annual runway show, Fashion Massacre, now in its ninth year. Shadwick is developing a new fashion line, Prewave and Co. We caught up with the couple between their startups and side hustles to learn more about how they met and what baby names they’re considering.

Congratulations on the baby! How exactly did you meet at the Detroit Creator Awards?

Logan: At the time, I was just laid off from one of my jobs doing property management. I was downtown, it was a rainy day, and you guys had this glass pitch booth thing [where anyone could come up and pitch an idea for a chance to win money], which was so fascinating to me. The whole setup was something unique. I went in out of curiosity.

The Detroit Creator Awards sets up a pitch booth downtown.

Shadwick: We met at the pitch booth. I saw her walking around while I was pitching my idea. We started asking each other about business and entrepreneurship.

Logan: That’s how me and him started talking to each other, off our ideas. Some of the ideas he had were so amazing. Then we said, “OK, maybe I’ll see you later.” I saw him later that night at the awards ceremony, and we just hit it off. You don’t usually meet people talking about the entrepreneurial spirit. We both had that in common. He was just open forideas and open for creativity.

Shadwick: We ended up hanging out until Wyclef Jean performed, and that sparked something.

Were you hoping to meet anyone?

Logan: It was fascinating how I met Keith. I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone. Keith wasn’t planning to meet anyone, either. He just had a natural curiosity to be part of something. To meet in that element is amazing. It’s out of curiosity, and here I am, eight months pregnant, and we’re soon to be married. It’s a beautiful story.

How did you connect about entrepreneurship?

Shadwick: We started talking about fashion and different things. I was starting my brand, Prewave and Co. I have no design school background. It’s just in my spirit. Fance started talking to me about how to go about branding. She was telling me a certain way to go about it, being really professional about every aspect like consistent artwork, content, and stories behind the fashion.

Logan: We are [also] working on a real estate company focused on promoting homeownership, called Optimistic Realities. Homeownership sometimes seems intimidating to people. We’ve been leasing and are in the process of purchasing a home soon. We’ll buy homes and fix them up and offer programs for people so they could purchase their own home.

How does Detroit influence what you’re doing?

Shadwick: I’m from the westside in Detroit, where there’s violence, but it’s been reported that violence has gone down. This is the time to start doing things. It was a dark time in Detroit, but now there are lots of entrepreneurs, and networking is golden right now. My next collection is called Flourish Detroit.

Do you know what you’ll name the baby?

Logan: Sensei, which means master teacher. We’re putting that into the atmosphere.

How will you teach the entrepreneurial spirit to the next generation?

Logan: Lead by example. That’s the only way to teach someone. When I said me and Keith are going to buy a home soon, we’re doing it to lead by example.

So… would you recommend the Creator Awards as a place to find love?

Shadwick: For sure. It attracts people with a positive light and a mind to create. We all are creators, no matter what we do. Our words create our destiny. To actually create a human from that event is amazing in itself. It’s meant to be.

Photo by Craig Lewis II

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