“What Is A Predatory Market,” And Other Things We Discussed

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The best part about all of this was that I got to watch this video of Deleuze, and write about his work in a context outside of grad school.

Yay, art.

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A Millennial Peggy Olson (Or Something Like That)

CM Capture 1Welcome to my recently-begun search for a full-time job in advertising/brand-building. So far, I know next-to-nothing, although I’m quickly remedying this through hours of Internet research and setting up meetings with everyone I know who works in this sector.

Why, you might be asking, am I looking for a full-time job in the world of advertising? I already have a job waiting tables at a fantastic restaurant, plus I’m not a particularly “materialistic” person (those of you who knew me in grad school surely remember my Marxist phase). Here’s the deal, though: I want a more stimulating job than serving food. I want to work in a dynamic environment that really taxes my intellect, and where I’m surrounded by creative, bright minds. Ultimately, my dream would be to use my skills to support start-ups focused on sustainability (which I already do for the local food consultancy Green Rabbits), but at present I’m just exploring the field of advertising and brand-building to see what’s out there.

So far, I’ve been looking into the “top places to work” according to AdAge, and exclusively focusing on New York City-based companies. Some findings:

  • Big Spaceship emphasizes collaboration as a work strategy; they divide their company into teams – strategy, design, technology and production. They also see themselves as conversation-starters in the ad world and in a general sense, as exemplified by one of their account executives blogging about going a month without a smartphone and the lessons she learned. What I like about Big Spaceship is that they seem to have a sense of humor, but in a very thoughtful way. Big Spaceship seems like one Big Experiment, constantly innovating and iterating, and publishing research and thoughts that emerge from the process.
  • Team One is on the forefront of thinking about demographics, as shown by their approach to campaigns such as the Marriott hotel chain, which was based on “a new consumer base: ‘The Accomplished,’ a demographic comprised of affluent business travelers, who share the mindset of a growing consumer group that wants a luxury experience but doesn’t necessarily need to be waited on hand and foot.” They also made the world’s first collaboratively created stop-motion Instagram movie, for Lexus. Plus I like their team photos, especially the robots, and according to Team One’s website, 85 percent of their employees are in therapy, which either means that they hire really neurotic people or they have an excellent health insurance plan, or possibly both.
  • I finally learned the story behind the amazing Manhattan Mini Storage ads–they were a collaboration between Archie Gottesman, the chief branding officer for the parent company, and a copywriter, and they have evolved to be more political as the years have gone on. They’re so damn good; I would be proud to be the author of these ads.
  • Horizon Media is behind those Geico commericals that always confuse you into thinking they are ads for a totally different product or company! Don’t you wonder how they came up with the gecko?
  • Deutsch had the honor of creating the first iPad ad campaign, and has an office with a 360-degree view.

That’s all I’ve sniffed out so far on this hunt . . . More to come. And hey, if none of this works out, I’ll just write the novel version of “Mad Men,” OK? And on that note, I’ll leave you with the words of Don Draper, in reply to some hippies who have accused him of being part of “the system”:

“Well, I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent.” – Don Draper

Ever Wanted to Publish a Cookbook? – Food Book Fair 2013 Panel Discussion

It was a weekend of panels! After spending Saturday at the PEN World Voices Festival, I went on Sunday morning to the Food Book Fair, for a discussion about cookbooks and publishing.

“Probably the most significant takeaway from the panel was a comment made by Deborah Brody: cookbooks, she said, are ‘a growth area,’ and there ‘seems to be quite a bit of demand’ for them. In precarious times for publishing, it’s great to know that cookbooks are still salable (and perhaps the publication of Michael Pollan’s newest, Cooked, will increase demand for cookbooks!).

But how to get that inkling of an idea for a cookbook to become reality, a published collection of recipes, stories, and beautiful photos?”

Read the rest of my blog post at the Green Rabbits site.

 

Integration and Social Enterprise: A Talk for NYWSE #PSEItrip

Tomorrow I’m giving a talk to fifteen Princeton students on a tour of social entrepreneurship in New York City, which was organized by the New York Women Social Entrepreneurs group. I’m on a panel about media, tech, and other topics.

To collect my thoughts, I’ll outline my presentation here.

I. INTEGRATION: My person vision is about integrating interests/expertise areas that might seem divergent because of the way we are trained in Academia. For example, you might tell me that my interest in food and yoga belongs in a nutrition career, whereas my writing and  journalism form a separate career path, and my focus on social entrepreneurship is a business thing. But they all intersect, and furthermore, where one is lacking in something, the other offers that. I’ll explain.

These are my main interests:

  • FOOD/WELLNESS/YOGA
  • WRITING/COMMUNICATIONS/CRITICAL THINKING
  • INNOVATION/SOCIAL CHANGE/ECONOMIC BETTERMENT

These are presumably separate worlds, but they don’t have to be. In one week, I go from moderating a panel discussion between grass-fed meat farmers, to writing an article about real estate’s impact on the local food world, to teaching a yoga class, to attending a reading for a new novel at a bookstore (and working on my own manuscript). True, this is not a full-time job with benefits; however I am creating my own full-time career where I am integrating knowledge, social networks, and resources from each of these three main interests.

Whether I’m engaged in something focused on agriculture, journalism, or yoga, I’m always looking at how it can bleed into the other categories. The food world, yoga world, writing world, and social enterprise world can all be too insular and introspective, but if we can take one thing and bring it into the other spaces, new potentials open up.

II. SOCIAL ENTERPRISE JOURNALISM: For over a year, I wrote for a website called Dowser.org. Unless you are involved in the social enterprise sector, you probably haven’t heard of it–which is the main issue I had with the site. I found it to be too insular and unable to appeal to wider audiences. And this is not the only case where I’ve seen this. Social enterprise journalism needs to be tied to broader interest stories in order to reach more people who don’t see themselves as social entrepreneurs. In fact, the words “social enterprise” are overused and becoming a catch phrase to symbolize a new kind of non-profit organization that’s just more cool-looking than its older counterparts. We need journalism that looks at social change and innovation from a public interest perspective, giving everyday readers a reason to read these stories about the small start-ups that are popping up everyday with the help of organizations like Echoing Green, as well as more established ones like Acumen Fund.

III. SOCIAL ENTERPRISE COMMUNICATIONS: It’s all about storytelling. Look to companies like IDEO to learn about how to apply storytelling to business-building. The current president of NYWSE, Kari Litzmann, has a web magazine as an integral part of her company, Rubina Design. Consumers want to learn about products and the people behind them, be entertained, and find ways to be engaged beyond giving up their dollars.

IV. THE FUTURE: I would like to see the concept of integration replacing the notion of social enterprise to some extent. How can individuals and organizations break down the barriers between academic disciplines, career goals, and ways of impacting the world?

Rubina Magazine Issue #2 is Out!

Check out the second issue of Rubina Magazine, where I edit and write articles about social enterprise, women’s empowerment, artisan work, and economic development.

In this issue, we have a dispatch from the recent Ethical Fashion Show in Paris, a memoir about visiting a school in the wake of the destructive Hurricane Alla, an interview with the founder of a girls’ school in Kenya, and an interview with a woman who ran for and won local office in Brooklyn about entering politics.

Thanks for reading! We are actively looking for contributors, so if you’ve got an idea let me know.

My e-book: “Social Entrepreneurs Speak”

This summer, I decided to experiment with online publishing. I curated a selection of my interviews, essays, and articles on social entrepreneurship and social change that were originally written for Dowser.org, added an introductory essay (with help from a very astute editor), and made the thing into an e-book. Instead of going with the big mean publisher Amazon, I opted for a smaller company called Smashwords. They were a little slow in helping me with some of the problems I encountered with their production tools, but otherwise the process has been fairly straightforward.

Check out and buy the book here. Below is a description of what the book offers to readers. It’s on sale for $3.99–a veritable steal. And if you care to leave a review, I’ll appreciate that. (Or, I could just hire someone to do it…but I won’t.)

Book description: The media seems to be always stuck reporting on what’s wrong in the world–-an endless parade of economic, political, and cultural crises endangering the progress of history. If these problems are bigger than what the U.S. government, or the United Nations, or even the free market can handle, what hope is there of a solution?  Read more

Rubina Design: Working-On-The-Ground To Launch A Social Enterprise

Rubina Design will partner with this shoemaker for their fall line of purses. Photo by Violette Loosen.

Over the last year, I’ve tracked the nascency of Rubina Design, a social enterprise that aims to address rural poverty and women’s empowerment through ethical, informed consumerism.

When I first met Rubina’s founder, New York City-based Kari Litzmann, she was envisioning the enterprise as a design company that worked with rural artisans in India to expand their sources of income by bringing their products to new markets.

As Litzmann began working with an Indian firm on product development, she worried that the social mission of her company was becoming secondary to aesthetic or commercial factors. Litzmann had been working from New York and the gap in communication, culture, and distance was aggravating.

So she took the leap and made a five-month trip to India, hoping to find a way forward for Rubina that maintained its original emphasis on social impact. It turned out to be the right thing to do; Rubina has made enormous strides toward becoming a business that brings consumers hand-made goods alongside a deeper approach to fair trade. The company currently has some items in the Pratt Incubator store in Brooklyn’s Dekalb Market, and is launching its web platform and a line of hand-painted clutches in the fall.

Below, Litzmann shares details of her recent journey and how it is helping get Rubina going.

RS: What was the context for your trip to India? Litzmann: I went to India for the first half of 2012 to start building relationships with a wide range of traditional women artisans and designers working with them. These partnerships will result in exclusive products designed FOR Rubina BY external designer brands that work with women artisans, as well as suppliers for the Rubina proprietary collections coming out in phase two. There is so much interesting stuff happening in the design + artisan world that we wanted to partner with and promote the work of others that share the same goal of giving women artisans more steady work and preserving their traditional craft.

How did being “on the ground” help you reframe Rubina’s social mission, its structure, its potential value as a company?
First of all, I think anyone doing work in the developing world needs to be “on the ground” for a significant amount of time, if only to connect and establish trust with the artisans. But being on the ground has many other benefits, especially in the design  Read more