personal-profiles

3 Nonprofit Friends Join Forces to Shine

Working late into the night at the same nonprofit organization, Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi soon became close friends, making happy hour plans and confiding in each other about matters that others might find delicate or overly personal—from credit scores, to how to ask for a raise, to the struggle with “how to not suppress my personality, which I like,” says Hirabayashi, “but also be taken seriously and not be seen as bubbly and young.”

“We gave each other really tactical advice that also wasn’t cheesy, and it felt very empathetic,” says Lidey. “There wasn’t a voice like that out there at scale, and we definitely heard that from our friends, too.”

So when the DoSomething.org colleagues started talking about their own venture together, it’s no surprise that they thought back on the advice they had shared. What if they could offer that same service to other women? Career and life coaching with the same “accessibility and vulnerability” they had with each other?

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“There’s nothing that comes at you directly in the morning that feels like a friend, that sounds like the way your friends talk about, just, the real shit,” says Hirabayashi.

In August 2015, everything finally clicked.

“What about using what we’re good at, what we’ve done for the past four years at DoSomething, which is really focusing on text messaging?” recalls Lidey. “What about a daily text?”

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Their brand would target millennial women, like themselves, but could benefit anybody looking for a little guidance and positivity in their day-to-day life. Known as Shine, it sends users a motivational quote or GIF to their phone every morning at 8:30 AM and encourages them to set goals for the week. There’s also an advice section on the website with articles designed to help further boost users’ confidence.

And they’re reaching beyond their initial target audience. To date, the team has exchanged over 7 million messages with users. Shine’s users are about 70 percent female, and 88 percent are 35 and under.

In April, a good friend, Jonathan Uy, from DoSomething.org, joined the co-founders. The former mobile technical lead at DoSomething.org is now Shine’s chief technology officer.

“These past four months have been the most productive four months I’ve ever had,” says Uy. “It’s cool that I really do get to have a hand in all these things. It’s a feeling that I haven’t had before, where you just sort of directly and concretely see how much of an impact you have on the company that you’re working in. Every single thing that we do has just a weight to it. It’s a really nice feeling. Like the things that you’re doing are significant.”

Based out of Brooklyn’s WeWork Dumbo Heights, the Shine trio laughs wildly when they’re together, and for a company just over a year old, they make starting a business look effortless.

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“I think it helps that we’re friends and we’re obsessed with each other,” says Lidey. “We also have a genuine respect for each other and respect for each other’s niche areas. And we also share a lot of areas—there’s a lot of great foundation to work off of that we’ve built over the past four years, like not even meaning to necessarily.”

Hirabayashi agrees, adding that on “Self-Care Saturdays”—a rare day to recharge—“ I love biking. And I love wine. And I love hanging out with Marah and Uy.”

Photos: Lauren Kallen

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city-guide

Made in Detroit: Why the Motor City is a Great Place for Creators

After filing for bankruptcy in 2013, Detroit famously rolled up its sleeves, and got back to work. This “can do” attitude is what you’ll find behind its booming startup culture and efforts to rebuild one business at a time.

“‘Made in Detroit’ has become a brand in itself,” says Ryan Landau, founder of Detroit startup re:purpose, which matches people with jobs by finding the right culture fit.

“It’s a rare opportunity to be part of the comeback story,” he says. “I think you can see it in the retail, the restaurants, the new businesses, and technology scene that is popping up. In the last five years, each year, the rate of change is exponential.

If you ask Landau, the reason Detroit is so attractive right now is the talent, the resources, and the fact that it’s affordable. Home to one of the country’s most skilled workforces, the 29 colleges and universities graduate more engineers per capita than any city in North America.

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“From a talent perspective, there is a real hustle,” says the Merchant’s Row member, who launched the first business out of WeWork’s new space in Detroit. “People are loyal to this city and trying to make things happen, not only for their individual company, but for everyone. We are all a part of a collective effort to rebuild.”’

From a resources perspective, Detroit is still a big city, but compared with San Francisco or New York, people here, especially in technology, have a bigger piece of the pie.

“From a customer standpoint, you’re not getting lost in the buzz of competition,” Landau explains. “Every new business is a win for the city.”

That means entrepreneurs have access to more capital and more customers than in saturated markets. And that has attracted new brands like Warby Parker, Shinola, and Bonobos, all of whom have made big bets on Detroit.

One of the first people to make that bet was Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans, who moved his headquarters and 1,700 employees to downtown Detroit in 2010, in effect jump starting the urban revitalization.

Today, Gilbert’s businesses employ over 17,000 people. That includes Bedrock, which has invested several billion dollars in local real estate, a major driver behind the city’s ability to attract talent.  With new lofts and apartments opening every day, employers are finding the cost of living is much lower than other major U.S. tech hubs.

Historically Detroit’s economy was powered by aviation, defense, and the car industry. The new Detroit continues to build upon its manufacturing roots, while diversifying into a next-generation hub for technology, creators and makers.

Take Shinola, which has helped put Detroit back on the map as a place for high quality goods with its signature watches, leather products, and bicycles.

“The mission of the brand is to create jobs, and we were 100 percent ready to hire local people and provide that training,” says Bridget Russo, chief marketing officer at Shinola, which opened in 2011 with just a handful of people. “From a people perspective, there is a good vibe here,” says Russo. “They are still open to collaborating and being supportive of new businesses coming in and being helpful.”

That kind of collaboration is also evident in Detroit’s thriving artistic community.

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“When we opened our gallery over four years ago, we wanted to make an impact beyond these walls, with a public art component,” says Anthony Curis, owner of the Library Street Collective, a contemporary gallery located in the heart of downtown.

Curis, and his wife JJ, have been instrumental in Detroit’s downtown public arts scene, supporting the installation of large and small sculptures, paintings, and large scale murals.

“When we heard there was going to be a new, massive parking garage, we were concerned how it may affect the neighborhood,” says Curis. He came up with a plan which would be a game changer for Detroit.

Curis worked with garage developer, Bedrock, to create large scale murals on every floor of the Z Garage, bringing in 27 artists from Detroit to Kiev. Once that was built, Curis pitched the idea for a pedestrian alleyway called at The BELT, a public space that is home to murals and art by local, national and international artists including Nina Chanel Abney, Shepard Fairey and Cleon Peterson.

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Today, the BELT attracts visitors from all over the world and boasts a James Beard nominated restaurant, the Standby, and a seasonal cocktail bar, The Skip.

Russo thinks what’s happening in Detroit resonates with many people because “it’s an emblem of hope that if things can turn around here, they can in places like Baltimore or Cleveland — it’s already happening in Pittsburgh.”

On May 25, Detroit will host the Creator Awards, a global initiative by WeWork to “recognize and reward the creators of the world.” Finalists from the Midwest and Canada will compete for $1.5 million in grants. Over the course of the year, WeWork will be giving out more than $20 million at a series of events taking place in cities spanning the globe.

With two WeWork locations, at Merchant’s Row and soon at Campus Martius, Detroit is the second city to host the Creator Awards, after Washington, D.C.

“Simply put: If you want to be part of the rebirth of a great American city, there’s no better place to live, work, and have an impact,” says Landau. “This isn’t just something we believe. It’s something we’re betting on by locating our headquarters here.”

Photos by Sal Rodriguez

 

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news

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 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

Young Innovators: Alex Niemczewski and Aviva Rosman of Ballot Ready

When special education teacher Aviva Rosman decided to run for local school counsel in Chicago, she called Alex Niemczewski to ask for her support. Her friend, who had always considered herself a well-informed voter, was caught off guard by the upcoming midterm elections. “I didn’t even know there was an election going on,” she recalls. Embarrassed, Niemczewski started to research the entire ballot, spending hours reading news articles and brushing up on policy issues affecting her local Chicago district. “I just basically had this problem I wanted to solve,” says the 29-year-old design consultant.

Niemczewski and Rosman realized they had stumbled onto a much bigger problem. “People know who they want to vote for president, but guess or leave the ballot blank when it comes to local office,” Niemczewski says. That’s when Ballot Ready—a mobile-friendly, online voter guide—was born. Type in your address and you’ll get a personalized ballot with every candidate, race, and referendum in your district for an upcoming election. “We aggregate background information so all voters can make complete, informed choices,” says Niemczewski, a member of Chicago’s WeWork Grant Park. The ballot also includes crowd-sourced information on each candidate’s stance on the issues, their relevant experience, their endorsements, and any pertinent news articles.

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“I used to think being an entrepreneur required a business degree or an engineering background,” says Aviva Rosman. “Instead, I’ve found that being a founder is all about a willingness to radically question assumptions, rigorously test ideas, and continually learn new things.”

For the 2018 midterm elections, BallotReady will be available in all 50 states. About 40 percent of BallotReady users are Millennials, who historically don’t vote in local elections. Niemczewski hopes to change all that, saying that “when Millennial voters have easy access to voting information, all in one place, they are excited to cast an informed vote.”

Photos by Pretty Instant

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personal-profiles

Young Innovators: Brendan Ciecko of Cuseum

Growing up the middle of five children in Western Massachusetts, Brendan Ciecko didn’t spend his early years going to museums. Nor does he have a formal education in art. Ciecko, whose Boston-based company Cuseum connects museumgoers through technology, says his unique perspective comes from his background as a self-taught technologist and entrepreneur. “I started to design and develop technology when I was 11, and I broke into the music industry when I was 14.” At his first company, a music-focused branding and marketing company called Ten Minute Media, Ciecko “learned how to build things efficiently and have a high emphasis on user experience. It laid the foundation for the entrepreneur I am today.“

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“Passion and perseverance are two of the most powerful forces for building a career, a business, a life you’re proud of. Fasten your seatbelt: it’s going to be a crazy ride!”

Moving to Boston in his early 20s, he became involved in the vibrant creative community around Fort Point, one of the oldest artist communities in the country and home to the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Boston Children’s Museum. “Being in this amazing old factory building with 20-foot ceiling and a great industrial vibe is conducive to creativity,” says the We Work Fort Point member. “I like the Jane Jacobs quote: ‘Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings; new ideas must use old buildings.’” Applying that same logic to Cuseum, Ciecko’s cutting-edge technology enables venerable institutions to engage visitors through videos, images, and information on their smart phones. It’s a way to attract younger audiences used to seeing the world through their devices, and help museums solve the problem of decreased attendance.

Photos by Pretty Instant

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