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At Encore, Mobilizing Baby Boomers for Social Change

Millennials may be the current obsession of business and the media, but the older generation isn’t going anywhere soon. A 2014 Census report notes that the percentage of the population above 65 years old will double by the year 2050.

“In many instances, that’s been portrayed as a problem,” says Marci Alboher, vice president of marketing and communications at Encore.org.

But Alboher—a writer, speaker, and community organizer—wants to turn that perception on its head. Her organization is helping seasoned professionals discover what’s really meaningful for them—and for the world—in their later years.

“There are many, many people who are trying to reframe aging,” Alboher says from her office in WeWork Soho West. “Our specific take on it is: ‘How do we leverage the talent in our aging population to solve social problems?’”

Founded as Civic Ventures in 1998, Encore’s mission is to build “a movement to tap the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world.”

Alboher says that the nonprofit organization works in three ways: by raising awareness in the media; through programs that connect people and opportunities; and through events that foster leadership in the movement.

One of the organization’s major successes is the Encore Fellowship, which creates partnerships that connect individuals nearing traditional retirement age to opportunities with nonprofits.

“We call it an internship for Baby Boomers,” Alboher says.

Encore Fellows may have a lifetime of experience in their chosen discipline, she says. But they may have little experience or knowledge in the nonprofit or social sector.

“They’re learning,” says Alboher, “and they’re these storehouses of talent at the same time, but they’re humble.”

Encore hosts a national conference, last held in San Francisco in 2016, along with smaller events nationally and globally.

The organization also curates the Encore Network, which seeks to help organizations learn about and connect to “encore talent”: individuals seeking new opportunities later in life.

“Our target audience,” Alboher says, “is leaders in all sectors who may be incubating programs of their own.”

Baby Boomers change the rules

As the Baby Boomer generation enters retirement age, many people see a coming crisis. But Encore is betting that the solution, at least in the United States, might be found in the very thing that aging people have been conditioned to leave behind: work.

According to a Brookings Institution analysis, “phased-retirement”—in which people stay in the workforce longer, even part-time—would have the effect of extending the tax contributions of older individuals, bolstering social and medical benefit programs and adding to overall economic productivity.

But for Encore, the question is not even so much about what to do with our aging workers. The question is: what do our aging workers do with themselves?

In his book, The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, Encore founder Marc Freedman notes that our notions of both retirement age and what constitutes retirement are due for an overhaul.

The original retirement age of 65 was established in 1935. Freedman notes that it was considered, at the time, to be the age at which people were “beyond productivity” based on assessments of mortality risk.

But increasingly, this is not the case. In addition to the general age demographic shift associated with aging Baby Boomers, life expectancy is going up, which means that people are remaining productive later in life.

“We’re headed not toward the ‘aging society’ as is commonly conceived,” Freedman writes. “We’re instead witnessing an extraordinary explosion of the population between the middle years and late life.”

Freedman says that clichés like “sixty is the new forty” don’t capture the changes that are taking place.

“Sixty is not the new forty, fifty, or eighty—it’s the new sixty,” Freedman writes. This group…is neither old nor young nor some oxymoronic coupling of the two. They promise something new entirely.”

Encore’s key message is that this “new” population segment has energy, ideas, and tremendous experience to contribute. Not only will our society and our economy will benefit, people themselves will benefit from greater well-being, associated with social connection and sense of purpose.

Young people can learn, too.

Alboher notes that creating opportunities and rebuilding healthy relationships across generations can start in the workplace, in places like WeWork.

“The important thing is that we need to run into each other more often,” she says.  “We need to make sure our workplaces and our living situations aren’t segregated.”

“You’re not going to hear us get excited about retirement communities, because age-segregated places are these artificial environments where you don’t bump into people in other parts of the life course.”

She also adds that respect needs to run both ways. Young people should regain appreciation for what hotelier and author Chip Conley calls “Modern Elders.”

But it’s also important, says Alboher, “that older people value what younger people bring.”

“We need to be allies,” she says. “To quote one of my heroes, Ashton Applewhite, ‘We’re all future old people.'”

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At New WeWork Services Store, One-Stop Shopping for Businesses

Everyone knows WeWork provides workspace for creators of all types, from solo entrepreneurs to teams from global corporations. But Co-Founder Miguel McKelvey says it’s always been more than that.

“When we first started WeWork, we thought about it as a holistic solution,” says cofounder Miguel McKelvey. “Our goal was to think, ‘What do you need to be successful? What are all the things we could do for you?’”

Unveiled this week, the WeWork Services Store marks the next chapter in the company’s evolution. This integrated hub for business services — similar to an app store — gives members the tools they need to better run their companies. It streamlines the process of finding, managing, and purchasing the various services that a growing company needs.

WeWork Services Store“We are going to make it easier for you to operate,” says McKelvey. “We are going to save you money, packaging services that can all be billed through one invoice.”

WeWork is partnering with more than 100 top providers, including Slack, Amazon Web Services, Office 365, Salesforce, and GoDaddy. Members will have discounted access to these and other services, which they can handpick to meet the needs of their company. The services include tools for everything from hiring and recruiting to accounting and invoices to marketing and website creation. Think of it as one-stop shopping for your business needs.

“What we are saying is, ‘These are software tools that we really believe in, that we feel are the right ones for you,’” says McKelvey. “We are consolidating them all into one place, so with one click you can have all the software you need to run your business.”

Ron Gura, the company’s senior vice president of digital products, says his team did a lot of research so they could “really understand what would be the most meaningful offers” for WeWork’s 100,000 members worldwide. The store launches in the U.S. this week, and will roll out globally in the future.

One of the members that the digital products team reached out to is Teresa Tsou, the president of Pipcorn, a snack company that makes hand-seasoned mini-popcorn.

“One of the things about WeWork that’s great is that they really do understand how businesses and entrepreneurs work,” says the WeWork Dumbo Heights member. “And so with the WeWork Services Store, to be able to find recommendations on applications that make sense for businesses our size is invaluable. It allows us to really focus on what we love — which is popping popcorn.”

The store includes recommendations from fellow members about what products they use, helping streamline what can often be a confusing and time consuming process.

“Bringing a curated selection of things that are relevant to you, and are trusted by people like you, is exactly what you want when you are trying to build something,” says Clark Valberg, founder and CEO of InVision, a platform for planning, designing, and building apps.

Valberg says the last thing entrepreneurs and creators want to think about, and spend time on,  is what marketing email or accounting software to use; “So getting clarity on that decision super fast, and knowing the people around you feel the same way, and actually love the product, is incredibly liberating for people starting a business.”

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personal-profiles

Hip Haberdasher Donovan England’s Style Suits Everyone

Donovan England is in a hurry. He’s wrapping up a phone interview with a reporter while he and his friends speed to the airport to board a private plane. His destination for the weekend? A bachelor’s party in New Orleans.

“Things are going pretty fast,” England admits.

The 34-year-old entrepreneur’s business—an eponymous line of bespoke suits—is also going places. Just take a look at his Instagram account, where nearly 90,000 followers look forward to his next post—usually shots of him wearing one of his own smartly tailored looks.

Donovan England 2There’s nothing off-the-rack about what Donovan England offers clients. Every suit is custom made to reflect each client’s personal taste. And the fit is impeccable, with England himself taking 23 different measurements to ensure that cuffs and lapels look perfect.

And can we talk about the fabrics? There’s a wide range of colors that go far beyond the usual black and navy blue.

“The fabrics are from England and Italy,” says England. “We looked at 100 different manufacturers before we found the right ones.”

England started out in institutional banking, but he realized that he wanted to work for himself.

“I’ve always been an entrepreneur,” he says. “I’ve started a lot of different companies. Some make money, some lose money.”

It was a couple of poorly fitting suits that convinced him to start his own custom clothing line with an initial investment of just $550.

“I figure that when you have a lot of money, you’re going to spend a lot of money,” England says. “We were able to do it with a lot of trial, and a lot of error. But it was all worth it.”

For six years England worked from home, but now he’s based at WeWork Uptown in Dallas. At his office, look for leather furnishings and a gleaming bar cart with top-shelf spirits.

“Our space that reflects what we’re doing with the brand,” says England. “We’re going for that haberdashery feel.”

Photos by Megan Weaver

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start-your-business

5 Tips for Creating a Newsletter People Actually Read

If you think email newsletters aren’t important for your business, think again. In fact, niche-driven, carefully-crafted newsletters engage audiences and create a customer base that grows by itself. Take the New York Times, who for years had newsletters that were essentially an extension of their newspaper. In an effort to increase traffic, they shifted from newsletters driven by automatic feeds, to ones heavily curated by journalists, expanding to over 30 newsletters, which span a diverse set of topics including cooking, politics and parenting. The new strategy created a noticeable jump in open rates and subscribers. Their current email open rate is now 50 percent, double the industry average. Are you hoping to do the same? Here are five tips for creating a newsletter people will actually click and read.

Offer original, useful information

This may seem obvious, but your content is the most important part of your newsletter. It needs to be creative, thought-provoking and original. Many sites miss the mark by creating newsletters that simply rehash old material they could find on their website. You will add value by creating content that requires research, or is based on information that is hard to find.

Your newsletter should remain consistent in order to draw in readers who care about the topic for months, rather than days. This will help you build readership.

Make sure it looks good

Again, this might be obvious, but your newsletter’s design is an important part of ensuring readers click on, read, and come back to your newsletter.

This also holds true for written content, which should follow a consistent style. Make sure your newsletter’s layout is visually engaging and highlights your creativity by using high-resolution photos, illustrations, an appealing color scheme.

And don’t forget to build your newsletter with mobile capability in mind. Over 53 percent of all emails are read on mobile devices. If your newsletter doesn’t format properly on a phone, chances are it might not get read at all.

Treat it as a stand-alone product

Quality writing attracts and retains readers, plus it creates a word-of-mouth marketing campaign that can expand your readership. A great example of this is Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter, a newsletter that has half a million readers and a 70 percent open rate.

Newsletters like Lenny Letter and those from The New York target specific kinds of readers. For example, Dunham, a Millennial feminist, has a largely, young female audience. By doing this, they establish real value in their writing that is difficult to replicate in marketing.

Market your newsletter

A newsletter can’t have impact until people sign-up for it. To get your hard work in other people’s hands, you must market the existence of your newsletter. Even though you’re probably creating a newsletter for the sake of marketing, you still need to get the word out.

Tell the world about your newsletter by creating simple banner ads online or marketing it through your existing social media channels. The New York Times did this when they started to diversify their newsletters and it was very successful.

Be consistent

If you’re interested in creating a consistent base of readers, keep them satisfied with scheduled content. Stick to a publishing schedule and build a pool of creative content you can pull from, if need be, repeatedly. Set a schedule that works for you. Whether that’s weekly or monthly, what’s most important is that your build trust with your readers with a regular, high quality product.

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personal-profiles

At Eat Offbeat, Refugees Run the Kitchen

When Manal Kahi moved to New York City from a small town in Lebanon four years ago, she wasn’t happy with the options at her local grocery store.

“I was a bit disappointed with the hummus,” she admits.  So she started making her own special recipe, which sparked an idea from her brother, Wissam, a graduate of Columbia Business School.

Having left Lebanon, where they witnessed people fleeing from the civil war in Syria, the siblings had a though: Why not sell hummus and other authentic food made by refugees?

“I came here as a student, but it was in the midst of the refugee crisis in Lebanon,” explains the WeWork Soho West member. “I wanted to do something about the situation, bring great food to New Yorkers, and bring good job opportunities to refugees.”

In 2015, Kahi founded Eat Offbeat, which delivers home-style meals made and delivered by refugees living in New York. The chefs are referred by the International Refugee Committee, a nonprofit that helps displaced people resettle and rebuild their lives.

Eat Offbeat 2“The chefs suggest the dishes, which Chef Juan Suarez de Lezo helps them develop,” Kahi says. “It’s what they cook at home.”

Together they work out of a commercial kitchen in Long Island City, Queens. Eat Offbeat then delivers meals to Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

What started with chefs from three countries—Eritrea, Iraq, and Nepal—has blossomed into a food delivery service with full-time chefs from 11 countries, including Syria, Guinea and the Ivory Coast. All but one are women.

Dishes include potato kibbeh, an Iraqi dish made from potato croquettes with beef and onion stuffing; veggie momos, savory dumplings from Nepal; and chicken shawarma, a Syrian-style chicken in a rich, tangy sauce.

Now Eat Offbeat is raising money to create a cookbook as a way to reach people outside New York.

“We want people to see them as chefs first, refugees second, and see it doesn’t matter what type of visa you have,” says Kahi.

Eat Offbeat launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the writing of the cookbook. The campaign easily surpassed its goal of $50,000.

“Our motto is ‘where adventurous eaters find refuge,’” Kahi says. “The way we see it, refugees are helping us New Yorkers discover something new, not the other way around.”

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