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BUSINESS

Q&A with Louise Phillips Forbes

Mable Yiu

Louise Phillips Forbes (left), host of the 6th Annual Hamptons Ride for Kids to benefit Change for Kids, with Stacey Griffith of Soul Cycle

Louise Phillips Forbes (left), host of the 6th Annual Hamptons Ride for Kids to benefit Change for Kids, with Stacey Griffith of Soul Cycle

Louise Phillips Forbes is a top NYC real estate broker, mother, wife, philanthropist, among other titles. We caught up with her in her Upper West Side development project to discuss the ins and outs of real estate, making a house a home, and how she balances her successful career with motherhood. 

Tell me about how you got started in real estate. 

I fell off the boat from Nashville, Tennessee. I was born and raised there, and I had a scholarship for dance at the University of Tennessee, but my mother got very sick when I was finishing up school. I went to see her in the hospital and told her I really wanted to move to New York and she told me to follow my dreams… and then come back in six months. I moved to New York a year later. I thought my destiny was dance but I injured myself, so I was doing modeling and bar-tending, where I ran into a group of people that used to come in to the restaurant every Wednesday, and the one woman told me that I would be so good in real estate. She gave me her friend’s card, I made a phone call, and next thing I know I’m sitting behind a desk with a license thinking, “What do I do next?” My first year in real estate I made $8,400, wearing my ballet leotard and cowboy boots. That was almost 30 years ago. I’ve been doing it every since. 

What do you love about real estate? 

For most people when they get into the real estate business, they think about the brick and mortar business behind it. For me, it’s about the business of people. Growing up, my mother told me that it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you love what you do. She was a writer, who loved that and to raise money for charitable things she thought were important. I grew up watching her love what she did, and I never thought in a million years I would be as fulfilled as I am today. My home and the way I make even a one-night stay in a hotel room into a home, are representative of who I am as a person, so for me it is a privilege to be in the business of creating homes. 

What makes a house a home?

Where you feel at home. I really liken finding your home, buying your home, and making your home - whether you buy it or not - to a chemistry that happens, the same way that happens when you meet the right guy. I could walk into an apartment that most people wouldn’t look twice at and say, “I don’t know why, but I think I have to buy this.” When you bring yourself into a space, and you own how you live - its what feels safe for you. My family and I travel all over the world, and my kids love being home. Home is where you feel safe. 

What are some elements that every person should look for in a home?

Look for light, but don’t always look for views. Our past experiences prioritize experience how we live and what we need in a home. For example, when I moved here I could only afford a dark small apartment, so now I always feel light is essential and that I’d rather have space in a room than little hallways here and there. I would rather have less rooms and more volume in my rooms. I think each checklist for each person will derive from their personal experience. Most importantly, personality needs to match the home. That’s my favorite part of the real estate process because its like a puzzle. I love figuring out what makes people tick and what makes them fall in love with a certain place. It also helps knowing which walls can come down and which ones cannot. Sometimes if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, construction is the answer. 

Do you think the neighborhoods of New York play into that aspect of personality match-making?

Totally. That’s one of the things I’ve been known for, taking on a project and becoming an anchor for a neighborhood to really reinvent it. I did that on the Lower East Side, and Madison Ave., as well as Hudson Ave, which are now some of the hottest neighborhoods. 

Do you have a favorite neighborhood in New York?

I’m a West Side girl at heart. I would say the West Village would be my second favorite, as I am a native Upper West Sider, and then Tribeca would be my third favorite. I first moved into the Upper West Side when I came to New York, and I knew the neighborhood so well after a while that if I went to the grocery store and forgot my wallet, the cashiers would let me take my groceries anyway. So as a young girl coming from Nashville, I really made NYC small-town. As for the West Village, there’s something very parisian about the way the West village lives, with the cobble stone streets, the intellect, and the texture of the neighborhood - I love the low rises. With Tribeca, there’s something compelling about loft living. 

What are the most fulfilling and most challenging aspects of your career?

The most fulfilling aspect would be the people, and the worlds that they come from. For me to have such a textured, diversity of friends and what are now my family, because we recreate our families when we’re not with them, makes me a richer person by investing myself into learning about their cultures. Through that, my children as well have such an amazing exposure of people in their lives. 

For challenges, I would say not being able to do and be everything for everyone. I don’t want to miss an experience at all, because I do feel it is such a privilege for somebody to have chosen me and my team to help them through this real estate journey. It is such a privilege to be trusted, which is something I do not take lightly. It’s hard for me to not be there for every step along the way, since that is impossible, but the blessing is I figured that out a long time ago. 

How do you balance your home life with your work life - being a career woman and a mother?

First of all, it takes a village. I never had an executive personal assistant until just recently, and now I have no idea how I did it before then. We have an au pair that lives with us and she is now part of our family. I have a team of amazing, dedicated people who compliment my weaknesses with their strengths, and vice versa. To be able to operate like a team machine, but with personal touches, is what I strive to achieve. I still believe I can have it all and do it all. I even had to kiss a lot of frogs before I met my prince, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve experienced a lot of loss in my life, but these losses taught me to live each day to the fullest. I don’t sweat the small stuff and I want to feel like I’m making a difference in the world. The whole balance is understanding that I can’t do it all, and that it takes a village - and because of the village my children have learned so many more life lessons than just my own. I think I am a better mother because I work, because I have such clear autonomy of myself and my work zone, but I look at myself equally as a wife and a mother.

By Emily Allen

Photo courtesy of Jill Lotenberg and Louise Phillips Forbes

Marriage Finances: Q & A with Susan L. Hirschman

Emily Allen

SUSAN L. HIRSHMAN, CFA, CFP, CDFA, and author of Does this Make My Assets Look Fat?, is here to help couples get money savvy even before they say “I do.”

What’s a good first step an engaged or newly married couple can take toward organizing their finances together? 

The most important piece of advice is to “open up.” Discuss money emotions (what does it mean to you and how was it treated in your family growing up?), current balance sheet and monthly cash flow, spending patterns and views of credit, goals, and expenses.

What kind of goals can a young couple establish now that will pay of in the future?

Financial goals are all about a balance between the present and the future. So one must have a detailed focus on what cash is coming in, what cash is going out (fixed costs and discretionary costs), what are your financial/life goals in three to five years, 10 years, and greater than 10 years?

Is it possible for couples to anticipate future spending on children and begin saving for them long before they have kids?

Yes, time is your most powerful investment tool. Separate your goals into must have, nice to have, and aspirational. Say you have an extra $100 a month to save and you are planning on having a baby in two years and also to start putting money away in a 529 plan for your future child’s college education. Since the $100 is not enough to cover both goals, you need to prioritize. What is most important to you? Are both equally important? You are the only ones who can decide.

What are some common unanticipated expenses to plan for?

Unexpected expenses include job loss, job retraining, increase in housing costs, car repairs, unexpected pregnancy, health issues, extended family needs (help to parents, siblings etc.). Create an emergency account that covers at least one month of living expenses. The ultimate goal (though difficult) is to have one to two years of living expenses.

How can couples continue putting aside money for personal pre-marriage passions so that they do not become a burden?

I believe in a yours, mine, and ours approach. What are the joint goals and expenses that you both will contribute to (ours) and after that it is up to each other to spend their “mine.”

What can a couple do early in their relationship to prevent finances from causing strife?

Talk, talk, talk! Compromise is most likely called for. Fights happen when you have competing goals and values. Get this worked out before you commit to each other, otherwise you are setting yourselves up for a life of tension. Everything is a tradeoff. For example, travel versus a second bathroom? Space versus commuting? Be really honest with each other.

By Alexandra Fairweather

Photo Courtesy of Susan L. Hirschman

Joy Mangano & the film, Joy

fairweather enterprises

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with the awe-inspiring American inventor, businesswoman, and entrepreneur Joy Mangano, known for her incredible inventions such as the Miracle Mops, her appearances on HSN and most recently, being the inspiration for the film, Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence.

Joy did not always know that she wanted to be an inventor. But, the early signs were there throughout her childhood. “When I was young, I built a 7 story tree house. I blew up my parents' toaster, because I was trying to make something else. I always tried to create a better mouse trap so to speak. It was a path very unknown. I didn’t know until I was an adult with the Miracle Mop. I had verification that I wasn’t crazy,” explains Mangano.

What advice does Mangano have for entrepreneurs? “First and foremost, a successful entrepreneur is doing what you believe in. Achieve in an arena that you feel you were meant to do” said Mangano. She reflects on how you have to ask yourself, “What is it that you want to do?” She continues, “You finally find that road that feels very natural to you.” And in the case of Mangano, she discovered she would create a career creating products to help people with everyday. Moreover, she suggests that the best advice for entrepreneurs is “advice that reinforces that you are okay,” and that it is okay to “do what you want to do.” For “that supportive advice allows you to have a little bit more courage. It is daunting to start any business,” asserts Mangano.

With a belief in the American Dream and a determination to help entrepreneurs, Mangano is dedicated to her foundation, The Joy Mangano Foundation, which is working with Rising Tide Capital, a non-profit organization to foster first-time entrepreneurs. “The foundation is trying to help young entrepreneurship, whether they be old or young, help them, so whether the struggles I had or somebody else had, they won’t have. This world needs amazing ideas,” smiles Mangano.

In addition to her incredible foundation work, the American inventor gave us a little hint that there are exciting new projects coming up: “We are doing some industry changing things, so look out for those.” I know I certainly will.

What was it like for Joy Mangano to see the film Joy come about? “Everybody has touch points that the movie hits. We all want to be inspired, ignite anything within us that makes everyday a gift. It was like a dream, no matter what Hollywood is Hollywood. The movie is so magical. My introduction couldn't have been with a more beautiful family.

JOY is available now on Digital HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K UHD.

By Alexandra Fairweather

Q&A with Rebecca Lewis, Head Dietitian of HelloFresh

Mable Yiu

In world with fast food chains and convenience stores on every corner, there is a company that is changing the game for “easy” meals. HelloFresh is a company that provides the healthy, waste-less, and tasty meals everyone wants. Delivered straight to your door, HelloFresh boxes contain three meals, easy-to-make, with the exact measurement of every item. The best part? No long, expensive trips to the grocery store! What sets HelloFresh apart from the rest, however, is its true commitment and passion for health. Reading this interview with Rebecca Lewis, HelloFresh’s Head Dietitian, it is obvious that the health and well being of the customer are the utmost of importance for HelloFresh. 

By Kat Jones

As a registered dietitian, and Head dietitian for HelloFresh, I imagine that your job includes being surrounded by a lot of delicious food, but what are your day-to-day roles for HelloFresh?

I love what I do and I couldn’t image a better job that would provide the exposure and influence that working as the Head Dietitian at HelloFresh allows me.  I am passionate about health, relish great food, love having a platform to talk about nutrition, and feel incredibly lucky to be able to do what I do every day

I help drive and support the HelloFresh mission of getting people back in the kitchen and enjoying cooking again!  As their nutrition expert and spokesperson for the health quality of the HelloFresh product, I use my professional background to differentiate HelloFresh as a nutrition thought leader in the food industry.

I have the opportunity to engage and enrich our customers on wellness & food-related topics via email, online resources, print, TV, and social media by contributing to industry articles, guest blogging, answering nutrition-related questions.

I work closely with an extremely talented and creative team of chefs. Beyond the perks of being able to taste the delicious recipes the chefs are testing in the kitchen, I get to collaborate on those innovative recipe ideas and contribute nutritionally needed feedback for any areas of redesign.

I enjoy conducting regular analysis of trends in the food industry and needs of our specific HelloFresh customers.  In an extremely fast-moving environment, I am constantly researching, reading, and collecting data on how to provide the best service that adds the most value to those who struggle with eating healthier.  

I flex my professional Dietitian skills every day in ensuring our recipes meet health goals.  Transparency and accuracy in the health of the HelloFresh recipes is extremely important -every recipe is subject to a nutritional analysis to ensure that it fits into our target nutritional goal ranges

Overall, I have become an active role model for health and wellness both in my company and in my community - helping to shift the general perspective towards one that is more cognizant and positive in regards to the beneficial effects of consuming healthier foods and cooking at home.  HelloFresh is a vehicle that encourages individuals to engage in the kitchen and increase their confidence of preparing meals all while having FUN!

I understand that celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, is your newest spokesperson and recipe-maker, but what is the process like for choosing recipes and how involved are you? 

The process of developing recipes begins an entire season ahead!  The chefs and I collaborate with our procurement team for what will be seasonally available and what cooking techniques reflect the season.  We will also review what recipes scored well with our customers the same time last year for inspiration and direction.  From there the chefs use their innovative minds to create beautiful and delicious meals that are primarily based around fresh fruits and vegetables as well as lean meats and whole grains.  Once a recipe is cooked in our test kitchen, we all sample and provide feedback to one another as to the overall flavor and texture perception.  If a new recipe is deemed worthy, I will nutritionally assess it to ensure it meets our internal HelloFresh nutrition standards (which are based on the 2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines) and provide suggestions for improvement if needed.  

After a recipe is given a go-ahead, I work with our procurement team to ensure every selected ingredient is of the highest quality and as unprocessed as possible.  I review each individual ingredient for allergens and post any allergens along with full nutrition information on our website and recipe cards so that our customers have full transparency as to what is in our meal kits.  The bottom line, is that I ensure our customer’s are receiving meals which are nutritious, wholesome, and well-balanced.  

Being an internationally distributed company, how often does HelloFresh like use local vendors or locally grown fruits and vegetables?

We have 3 distribution sites across the country so that we can source locally as often as possible!  Ideally, we want to be working with sustainable business partners that are able to grow with HelloFresh’s increasing needs.  Additionally, because our menus are seasonally based, we are also sourcing our produce during its peak of ripeness and flavor.  

I know that HelloFresh tries to cater to many tastes and dietary restrictions, but, as veganism grows in popularity, will HelloFresh offer any vegan options or does it currently? 

HelloFresh puts variety at the top of the list when it comes to our meal planning.  Each month we put between 40-60 different types of produce, 20-30 different herbs & spices, and 10-12 different cultural cuisines on the menu.  We have a vegetarian option, and there are occasionally recipes within that selection that are vegan.  Often, the only thing that makes a recipe not vegan is the cheese in a recipe – which our customers can also elect to leave out when preparing the meal!

Photos courtesy of HelloFresh.

Q&A with Vanessa Yakobson, CEO of Blo

Mable Yiu

Vanessa Yakobson is the CEO of Blo, America’s original blow dry bar that is all about the experience, culture, and vibe. She is a visionary who plans to grow the company and expand beyond their signature blowouts. We spoke to Vanessa about her journey of entrepreneurship. 

By Camilla Misiaszek

Blow dry bars have become incredibly popular in the last few years and are taking over the country. What makes Blo unique from all other dry bars?

Blo is North America’s original blow dry bar. We launched this category when we opened our doors in 2007 and revolutionized beauty norms for women. We are experts in this space. The other thing that makes us unique is that every one of our locations is a franchise owned by an entrepreneur. We decided early on that our business would be most successful if we partnered with passionate owners.

Congratulations on becoming the newly appointed CEO of Blo! What’s first on your to-do list?

Thank you! I'm so thrilled to take on this role. Blo is expanding quickly and we are seeing strong growth across all our locations, so it is a really exciting time at the company. My to-do list has two parts: focusing on our guests and focusing on our franchise partners. For our guests, we are working to ensure we are always the best-in-class in terms of the quality of service, the customer experience, and the retail products available in-bar. For our franchise partners, we are dedicated to providing tools and resources to help support their business growth. 

Given that Blo is part of the beauty industry, most salon owners are women. How does Blo encourage female entrepreneurship?

It is true that most - although not all! - of our owners are women. It is such a point of pride for us that Blo provides a vehicle for smart, ambitious women to realize their dreams of business ownership and independence, and we partner with both seasoned and first-time entrepreneurs. The advantage of a franchise system is that it gives people - women and men alike - the ability to be a business owner with a built-in business coach. Our team spends each day encouraging and supporting our Franchise Partners to help optimize their success. 

Can you share a few female entrepreneurs that inspire you and why?

There are too many inspiring female entrepreneurs to single out any one or two of them – and most of them are not well known - although I do admire the success of people like Oprah Winfrey and Sara Blakely, who founded Spanx. I'm inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit in general. I admire people who have the drive and passion to build something on their own. I deeply respect the "don't take no for an answer" attitude and the tireless dedication to pushing a business forward. I also applaud entrepreneurs who take the opportunity of running their own business to create new models of corporate culture and who leverage their business to give back to the community. 

Clearly, blow dry bars are not just a trend and are here to stay. Are there any plans of expansion for the company? What's next for you?

It's true: we are about to celebrate our 9th anniversary so this is definitely not a trend. Blo is on an expansion plan and we will be adding to our location count significantly in the years ahead. We are also rolling out our Blo Beauty Services - makeup, nails and wax offerings - to provide additional value to our guests and to our franchise partners. 

What is some advice you would offer to women facing challenges as they pursue a path of entrepreneurship?

Surround yourself with great people whose skill sets are complimentary to your own - including supporters whose counsel you respect. If you believe in the potential of your business offering, stay focused and don't let doubts hold you back. But don't be afraid to make adjustments along the way. And of course, never forget that a great blow out helps on those tough days! (Wink, wink.)

What is your go-to style at Blo?

These days I'm loving our Pillow Talk - loose, beachy waves that our bloers (aka our stylists) can soften up to give you this season's romantic feel. 

 

Check out Vanessa’s favorite style and 6 other signature styles at two new Blo locations: 

  1. Upper West Side (287 Amsterdam Avenue) — Opened March 18th
  2. Midtown East (142 East 49th Street) — Opening mid-April

 

Photos courtesy of Blo.

Q&A with Andrew Laffoon, CEO of Mixbook.com

Mable Yiu

Andrew Laffoon is an innovative entrepreneur changing the way we tell our personal stories and preserve special memories. He is the CEO and Founder of Mixbook.com, a photo service site offering completely customizable, aesthetically beautiful, and high quality products. Easy to use, yet with limitless possibilities, Mixbook is the place to create an absolutely gorgeous, personal, and unique gift that will be treasured for years to come (especially as Valentine’s day is coming up!). Here, you can see our interview with the man himself, where we talked about inspirations and the future of photos.

By Camilla Misiaszek

What was the inspiration behind Mixbook.com? 

I had made a couple of photo books before: a photo book as a going away gift for a friend who was moving away and a book of my honeymoon for my wife. The books were really cool, but the creation process was so painful. We had a very different way of approaching the market, and we knew we could make the process easier and more fun, so we built Mixbook to solve our personal pain.

In an age where photos are stored on the computer and shared online, why do you think having physical photos is important? 

No matter how much I interact with photos on my phone, it's still not the same as holding them in your hand or seeing them on your wall. In an age when many things are moving digital, the physical things you have left will have more value, and you'll want them to say something about you. The regular books you keep on your bookshelf will be to show friends and family the things you care about. Nothing shows that more than a photo book of your life, brimming with stories that you want to share.

What makes Mixbook unique from other photo services?

Mixbook is all about creating the best user experience for making photo books and telling stories with your photos. The experience is fundamentally different: you can customize every aspect of your product, more than anywhere else. At the same time, it's intuitive and easy, the designs are gorgeous and the quality of service is unparalleled. We all use Mixbook often, so we care more than anybody that it's the best photo service in the world.

Between the prints, calendars, photo books, and cards that Mixbook offers, do you have a favorite?

Photo books. I am a storyteller at heart, and a photo book is the best format for telling the stories I want to share. 

Over the past ten years, smartphones and social media have revolutionized the world of photography—how do you think photos will be different in the future? 

For one thing, all your photos will be organized, easily searchable and synced across all your devices. That will be the bare minimum. On top of that, I think you'll find people engage with their photos a lot more, from printing and sharing to just enjoying them in moments of downtime.

Launching a company comes with many uncertainties and obstacles—what advice would you share with aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Don't give up. Most entrepreneurs give up way too early. Every entrepreneur will have moments of despair, days when you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, when you want to give up. Keep going - the winning entrepreneurs stick it out far longer than their peers, and position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities that inevitably present themselves along the way.

Any fun Valentine's plans?

My wife and I have a date with our 1 month old son!

 

All photos courtesy of Mixbook.com.

Q&A with Alex Devol, Wooden & Woven

Mable Yiu

By Mira Dayal

Fairweather Magazine: How did you get into woodworking? Who or what were some of your early influences?

Alex Devol: My grandfather got me my first workbench and tools when I was about 5; I don't suppose that really counts, but I do remember quite vividly being in his garage and inspecting each tool with immense fascination. Since then I have taken on a variety of roles and worked with more materials than I could list, and I'm not sure exactly how or why wood seems to have won my affection over all the rest, but It has. It’s not just the material that’s responsible for me becoming a craftsman, though. I have a love of ceramics and sometimes think it could have just as easily been clay in my hands. I think it’s just always been important to me that I’m making things.

FM: From a cooking standpoint, how does using wood products differ from using alternative material products— metal, plastic, and glass, for example?

AD: As a designer, I am fascinated by synthetic and engineered materials. I love learning about new technology. I have a background in sportswear and one of the most fascinating aspects of that industry was the research & development. It’s interesting to see how design can push the performance of material to new places, but despite that my personal preference is always the natural one--cotton & wood over polyester & plastic. Most well-stocked kitchens will have a wooden spoon or spatula. It isn’t as strong as stainless steel, it wont wipe clean as easily as ceramic, but it just feels right to use when you’re making a stir fry! Not that long ago, all the utensils in a kitchen would have been wooden. I see why convenience and ease of production has led us away from it, but for pure aesthetics and pleasure in use there is no comparison for me between wood and metal. There is just something inexplicably warm and soothing about wood which can’t be replicated.

FM: How do you choose your woods? Do you have preferred types for different products?

AD: It’s important to me that all the materials I use are responsibly sourced. Most of the green wood I use comes from local trees in controlled areas which needed to be felled. The timber I use comes from local suppliers I trust to ensure that the process is the most ethical and sustainable it can be from woodland, to sawmill, to me.  Different trees bear wood with different properties, and that makes them most suitable for different products. Sycamore is particularly antibacterial which makes it great for chopping boards which come into contact with raw foods and meat. As with any design, to make a good product, you have to consider the properties of the material you’re going to use--the durability, strength, and weight... It’s no different with wood, but there are some idiosyncratic properties like the grain type and smell. Some woods actually retain a lot of flavour even when dried out and so would affect the taste of a hot drink if used in a cup or one of my coffee cones. 

FM: What are some of your most trusted carving tools? Have you been trying out any new techniques or materials recently?

AD: Most of my tools are either hand-me-downs or things I picked up second hand. I’m about 45 minutes from Sheffield, which is famous for crafting some of the world's best steel. While unfortunately most of that industry has vanished in the past half century, there are a lot of great tools floating around. There are still some incredible artists out there smithing tools, though. I’d say my best carving kit is either made by Nic Westermann, who is still independently making incredible tools, or a set of Japanese Oire Nomi chisels which are so beautifully made that it’s sometimes hard to bring myself to use them.

FM: I love the look of the coffee cones. What other designers or art movements inspire your aesthetic eye?

AD: Most of the makers who inform my own work are ceramicists. I struggle to think of a craft that forms a better relationship between art and utility than pottery. It seems to have always held a perfect balance of functionality and ornamentation, and at the moment that’s the same balance my work sits within. Designers are very fortunate these days since we can just look to a screen for ideas, but the people around you provide your best inspiration and I have been fortunate enough to work with some incredibly talented potters this past year: Romy Northover, Clair Catillaz, Takashi Endoh, Jono Smart… There were actually a lot this year, too many to name, and some have since become good friends. To give a nod to a few master woodworkers, though, I admired the work of George Nakashima and the writings of David Pye, both of whom should be remembered for a very long time.

FM: How long do these handmade pieces take to carve? An Italian Olive Eating Spoon, for example?

AD: The quickest thing I make takes several hours, and the longest can take weeks!

FM: How much do you depend upon the internal qualities of the wood? It seems like, by making each piece from hand, you have relative flexibility in terms of tailoring each piece to the wood you are working with, rather than having a single template you impose on each section.

AD: Yeah, wood is a very active material. As a rule of thumb, the more figure and beauty you can see, the more it will want to have a say in what you can and can’t do with it. Of course, you can disregard that and just wrestle with it with hand tools all day until it does what you want, or you can overpower it with machine tools, but I find it’s much more enjoyable and generally gives better results when you learn to cooperate with it. With dried timber, that could simply be selecting your piece of wood to make a particular item based on what you see in the grain, but when working with a fresh log, a lot of that information is hidden inside and so the process becomes much more collaborative as you chop away to reveal new knots and figure. The grain will often try to guide your axe a little as you make cuts. I really enjoy this; you feel like there is a dialogue between your tools and your material, and while I’ve often wondered if this can be noticed by my customers, I can definitely tell when and where the wood had a say in the design.

FM: What's next? Have you considered expanding the business to partner with other stores or businesses? Will you move more into art, as you have begun to do?

AD: I work with a very select few companies who I have believed in and admired for a long time. I try to keep partnerships with stores and other brands to a couple at a time and chose the projects I’m most interested in that have the most creative and honest intentions. If a store's values are the same as mine then I’ll try to work with them, but as only one pair of hands I have to keep it to a few at a time.

As for the future, for the first time I’m trying not to think about it. I’ve been inclined to think too far ahead in the past and start myself on very long journeys with my career and my personal goals. In retrospect, I think being so focused and specific with my plans may have placed a lot of obstacles in my way which might have been otherwise avoided if I had been more fluid. Wooden & Woven, in contrast, has been completely organic and unplanned. I’m enjoying just seeing where things go and am trying not to chase after anything if it doesn’t come naturally. At the moment, opportunities are finding me and it makes for a nice change for me to just loosen my grip off the steering wheel and see how things develop.

All photos courtesy of Alex Devol

Q&A with Rebecca van Bergen

Mable Yiu

Rebecca van Bergen in Varanasi, courtesy of Neil Davenpor

Rebecca van Bergen in Varanasi, courtesy of Neil Davenpor

by Camilla Misiaszek

Rebecca van Bergen is the Founder and Executive Director of Nest, a non-profit committed to helping local artisans sustainably develop their small businesses. She is empowering women, promoting prosperity, and introducing globally inspired designs and materials to the fashion industry. Here, she shares with us her remarkable journey, impact, and travels.

Camilla Misiaszek: What prompted you to start Nest? What was your source of inspiration?

Rebecca van Bergen: I founded Nest when I was 24. It was 2006 and I had just earned my master’s degree in social work from Washington University in my hometown, St. Louis. This was the same year that Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to create economic and social development through microfinance and microcredit. I was drawn to his work, and wanted to explore the opportunities for economic development beyond monetary investment but through training and infrastructure as well. I always knew that as a woman I wanted to support fellow women – I felt and still personally feel, even more so now that I am a mom, that economic independence and family life should not be mutually exclusive. 

An avid traveler, I had noticed that craft was very unique in its ability to create employment opportunities for women while allowing them to care for their children and families. On top of this, the women always seemed to be very happy when working on their craft – it seemed to bring personal joy and the opportunity to connect with others in the community. At the time, sustainable fashion was not a buzzword, so artisans and homeworkers were certainly not a widely discussed issue. I decided to make this my issue. Recognizing that the company I wanted to work for did not yet exist, I entered a business plan competition for social enterprise and to my surprise, I presented my idea for what is now Nest and the $24,000 grand prize funded Nest’s start. 

CM: Please describe how you partner with businesses to provide opportunities for local artisans.

RVB: Nest believes very strongly that change in the artisan sector must come from many directions. Many brands employ artisans and homeworkers in their supply chains. This is incredibly important for artisan groups, because it provides them access to the market, which fuels sales and keeps their businesses strong and growing. Despite how fast-paced and largely mechanized the fashion industry in particular has become, industry estimates indicate that 40% of garment production is likely to be happening in homes, rather than in the four-walled factory setting. Nest is very committed to helping these brands that work with artisans and homeworkers to bring visibility and viability to these complex supply chains. We offer our artisan assessment and programming services to them through a fee-for-service model, and also invite them to source from artisans who have already benefited from Nest business programming. Artisans with whom Nest has assisted have been able to achieve strong sourcing partnerships with cult brands including The Elder Statesman, FEED, West Elm, TSE and many others.

CM: How has Nest impacted local artisans?

RVB: I am so proud to say that Nest’s impact right now is stronger than ever. It grows with each year, and we are just getting started. By bolstering the global craft sector and leveraging a fair capitalist market as the sustainable glue to hold its programming in place, Nest’s goal is to see artisan business growth across all groups reached by Nest programming. In 2015, artisan businesses benefiting from Nest’s services realized an average increase in production of 45% and revenues grew by 76% on average, across the board. Most importantly, this economic growth is trickling down to the individual artisan level year over year. In 2015, Nest artisans saw Nest artisans saw an average increase in staffing of 8% and Nest artisans earn on average 120% more than their national minimum wage. As countless studies show with great proof of concept, when women in developing economies are empowered through employment, they are likely to invest their incomes in family care and community enrichment. For every Nest artisan employed an estimated 20 other lives are impacted including the lives of family members and children as well other people in the craft supply chain.

CM: What is the most memorable place you've traveled to? 

RVB: India has a way of taking hold of something deep within you that never quite leaves. Varanasi in particular is a holy city of death, and yet it is pulsing with life. The food, the colors, the emotions, the passion for family and culture – it is all bold and raw and compelling, just like the craft that comes from the region. In Varanasi, Nest works with handloom silk weavers who have been struggling to keep this 500 year-old tradition alive. Just ten years ago as many as 100,000 Indian handlooms were active, but since the rise of the power loom and the outsourcing of cheap labor to factories, this number has been cut in half. With Nest’s help, we have seen a dramatic increase in awareness and appreciation for the rare handloom technique. Following a design elevation mentorship, our partners in India presented a new contemporary silk collection to luxury fashion brands in Paris, resulting in incorporation of their silks into three Spring 2016 runway collections! It is incredible to be a part of this cultural diffusion and merging of East and West – one of the rare experiences that make Nest’s work so special. While I am able to travel less these days with two young children at home, I look forward to my next trip to India!

CM: What are some of the challenges you've faced as an entrepreneur?

RVB: As an entrepreneur, your company or organization becomes your baby. Your heart and soul are invested in your work, and the lines between personal and professional life can be blurry. By and large, there are meaningful benefits to this synergy. However, I have learned the importance of setting aside time that is reserved exclusively for family and moments of personal repose. I know Nest will always be there waiting for me when I pick back up my work again.

CM: What are your plans for the future?  

RVB: Nest is approaching its ten-year anniversary! As we approach this milestone, we are at an incredible inflection point in our growth as an organization. Over the past ten years, we have learned so much about the complexities of the artisan sector and we have been able to analyze where the greatest challenges and opportunities lie. As we head into the years ahead, we are excited to play a larger role in not only directly servicing artisan businesses, but also in tackling the global sector solutions that plague the craft sector as a whole. These issues include wastewater management during textile dyeing (an issue that creates both environmental and safety concerns), living wage models applicable in the piece rate payment setting, and technology integration for rural or highly decentralized groups. These challenges, and many others that other organizations shy away from, must be solved for the sector as whole in order for the industry to advance. Nest is committed to continually identifying these big picture issues, connecting key industry leaders, and working with these partners to build solutions at scale.

CM: In the spirit of the holidays, what's on your gift-giving list?

RVB: The greatest gift for me is the health and happiness of my family. Believe it or not, that includes my Nest family too – my dedicated team, our philanthropic supporters and volunteers, and the artisans we have the joy of working with. There has been so much pain, suffering, violence, and hurt taking place in the world, that I feel grateful for all the examples of love, compassion and understanding that I encounter daily. Nest stands for these values. 

Nest is also inviting our supporters to gift a $60 holiday donation in honor of someone special for the holidays. All donations will be sent with a beautiful ByBoe 14K gold fill necklace [image below], designed and donated by artist and Nest supporter, Annika Inez. Each delicate necklace is packaged in a Varanasi silk pouch made by our artisan partners in India, and includes a note describing the donation. Handmade in New York, these special gifts fund a 100% donation to Nest, supporting makers around the world. In addition to this, I am always excited to see the holiday offerings from Nest’s partners like West Elm, FEED, and The Elder Statesman, who are committed to a more socially responsible industry and are making gorgeous objects that bring beauty into our lives.

Photos courtesy of Nest.

Q&A with Marc Lore, CEO of Jet.com

Mable Yiu

By Mable Yiu

Business innovator Marc Lore is the face of Jet.com, a new platform destined to revolutionize online shopping.

What gave you the idea to start Jet.com?

I realized that there was an enormous opportunity to create the next generation ecommerce marketplace that empowers consumers, retailers and brands through unprecedented transparency.

What makes Jet.com different from its competitors?

At the core of Jet is our Smart Cart technology. Our technology operates like a real-time trading system where prices drop as an order becomes more cost-efficient to ship. I believe we’ve found an equation where everyone wins. Customers can save by taking actions to lower costs and retailers can fulfill orders more profitably as a result.

I've read a lot of articles stating that Jet.com is aiming to "take on Amazon." Do you think there is a way to coexist, or could you call it "healthy competition?"

It’s hard to believe, but only 8% of total U.S. retail sales take place online right now. The e-commerce space is set to explode over the next decade and it’s not a winner-take-all market. There will be more than enough room for different brands to resonate. 

Do you have any advice for starting entrepreneurs? In your opinion, what are the most important things to consider when thinking about starting a new company?

First, you have to know exactly what your mission and values are — why your company exists and where you’re going, what the vision is. Second, you need to surround yourself with great people — investors, advisors and mentors — and share everything about your idea with them. They’ll help shape your strategy and business model in ways that will take the business farther than you ever could’ve yourself.

Photo courtesy of Jet.com.

Next Generation: iLEAD

Mable Yiu

  Peter Cuneo, Chairman of Valian

  Peter Cuneo, Chairman of Valian

By Alexandra Fairweather

I recently had a chance to sit down with Peter Cuneo, the Chairman of Valiant, who is highly celebrated as the former CEO of Marvel who sold the company for $4.7 billion, and Jeremiah Schnee, the founder of the Wealth and Values Initiative (WVI) and CEO of Next Opportunity Group, known for advising CEOs of some of the most successful private mid-sized companies in industries ranging from aerospace & defense to retail – as well as the legacy families who own them. Cuneo and Schnee shared with me the need to teach the next generation how to become the world’s next great business leaders and how a program the WVI/Next Opportunity Group developed with Cornell University's Johnson School of Business, CKGSB, and US China Partners called iLEAD (Intergenerational Leadership Entrepreneurial Accelerated Development) is doing just that.

“Leadership and culture start at the top. In a legacy family, it is just the same,” explains Schnee. Hence, “in addition to incorporating leading business oriented Professors – iLEAD brings you together with wealth creators, such as Peter Cuneo – who are talking about how to create wealth – a big difference,” asserts Schnee.

iLEAD is a pioneering international exchange and leadership program for high-achieving young business leaders from American, Chinese and other international family enterprises. The idea behind iLEAD is to build a pre-eminent international business network with those who share common values, learn how to conduct business in China and in the U.S, globalize family enterprises, adopt strategies to sustain wealth over generations, grow as leaders, expand entrepreneurship, collaboration and leadership skills, and ultimately understand the relationship between wealth, values and family legacies.

“The economic reality is that the United States needs China and China needs the United States,” explains Cuneo, who decided to get involved with iLEAD to help cultivate the values of the next generation of great business leaders.

“Five years from now, the China economy will probably be the largest economy in the world and we need to sell products and services to each other,” asserts Cuneo.

Cuneo continues, “I’m a huge believer in the wisdom to be gained in understanding foreign cultures. In the worlds of the future, to be truly successful you need to be successful in multiple cultures… In learning a foreign culture, you begin to see that there are people on this earth that view situations differently…this is very important when you meet other people. Learn to be flexible, don’t assume, and learn what they mean when they say, ‘yes.’ This is an example of what you need to learn in different cultures.”

Considering the growing importance of the dynamic between China and the United States, Cuneo and Schnee are seeking to not only create a forum to develop cultural understandings between the two global powers, but to expand networks and develop incredible relationships for iLEAD participants.

Jeremiah Schnee, CEO of Next Opportunity Grou

Jeremiah Schnee, CEO of Next Opportunity Grou

“Starting a new business is not about just understanding a culture, but having close relationships with others in other cultures. Despite what many young people in America think, you can’t do a deal only on the computer. We have become far too digitized in the United States, taking the place of personal relationships. Personal relationships at the end are still what matter in business,” explains Cuneo.

“The program prepares you for the future success of legacy businesses by immersing next generation leadership and wealth creators in real-world applications to foster international, intergenerational business opportunities and the transfer of values and knowledge,” explains Schnee.

iLEAD will offer incredible corporate visits with CEOs of premier companies ranging from Google to Alibaba, experiential learning such as lessons from a Broadway producer on how to present yourself as a CEO, as well as fantastic educational programs and internship experiences.

“The real winners in life in the future are going to be the people who have a real sense and are driven in the real world,” explains Cuneo.

iLEAD consists of two modules – one in the US and one in China:

US Module 1: Sunday June 7 – Wednesday June 17, 2015

China Module 2: Sunday July 12 – Wednesday July 22, 2015

Professional Masters Certificate:

All participants completing both modules in good standing will receive a Professional Masters Certificate from Cornell University and CKGSB.

To learn more and apply for the iLEAD, please reach out to Margaret Poswistilo at Next Opportunity Group.

Tel: +1 212-878-6644

Email: mposwistilo@nextoppgroup.com

http://nextoppgroup.com/ilead

Please Pass the Skimm

Mable Yiu

DANIELLE WEISBERG and CARLY ZAKIN have cracked the code to keeping the news short and sweet.

TheSkimm.com is your one-stop-shop news source for all you really need to know before leaving the house every morning. In an age of 24-hour news coverage, the millennial generation now finds itself suffering from TMI (too much information), a condition only aggravated by the multitude of news sources, blogs, journals, podcasts, etc., vying for a few free minutes of attention from our already jam-packed days. TheSkimm has so far proven an effective remedy to this rampant condition plaguing our generation. Fairweather publisher Eric Goodman interviewed the founders of theSkimm on the who, what, when, where, why, and how of their explosive new(s) start-up.

Why did you decide to start theSkimm?

We both grew up news geeks. We really had a love of storytelling from an early age. We pretty much always had our heads in books or were asking way too many questions. We met studying abroad in Rome, but didn’t put together our love of news and information until later. We reconnected when we were both working for NBC News, where we truly learned from the best in the business. But the ideas behind theSkimm really came from our friends—super smart, highly educated women leading busy social lives. They were short on time and would ask us (who were paid to know what was going on) to fll them in. We saw a void in the market place for news delivered toward this valuable demographic in a way that they respond to or that fits in with their routine.

Who is your primary audience and how are you growing it?

TheSkimm’s primary audience is women 22–34, educated, living in big cities, with money to spend. The great thing about theSkimm, though, is that it appeals to anyone short on time. We are popular with all diferent age groups who respond to it for different reasons—and 30 percent of our audience is men. We are doubling down on growth by working with partners and continuing to put down a great product each day.

Given the incessant flow of news today, how does theSkimm prioritize news articles?

TheSkimm gives weight to what is the big news of the day and what are the stories people are really talking about. We try for a good mix of both. The idea behind the newsletter is that you should be able to talk to someone no matter what industry they work in—so be it finance, education, politics, you have something to say.

What has been the biggest challenge in building theSkimm?

The hardest thing about starting theSkimm is that it’s our first business—so everything from quitting our jobs to launching to fundraising to finding an office to finding a lawyer has been a first for us.

What advice would you give other start-ups?

Make time to sleep. We ran on adrenaline alone for the first six months and it really wasn’t healthy.

What is your favorite part of NYC? Hidden go-to spots?

We love our neighborhood, the West Village. It feels like a true neighborhood in a city where that’s rare. Running along the West Side Highway is one of our favorite things to do in the city. We also love Tartine and Café Cluny.

What do you do in your spare time?

Sleep. And catch up with family and friends.

Giving 100 Percent with Joan Hornig Designs

Mable Yiu

JOAN HORNIG designs stunning jewelry at price points for all budgets, but what she does with the profits is even more amazing, says EVAN HUGHES.

Sure, you could call Joan Hornig a “jeweler to the stars.” After all, her gorgeous designs have adorned the bodies of such Hollywood A-listers as Zoë Saldana, Emma Roberts, Emma Stone, Amy Poehler, Naomi Watts, and Cameron Diaz. But you’d be only half-right. In fact, Joan Hornig’s real accomplishment is that she donates 100 percent of her profts to charity. No, that is not a misprint. 

Browse the tasteful, distinctive pieces—made with 18k gold, sterling silver, and semiprecious stones—on the Joan Hornig Jewelry website ( joanhornig.com) and you might presume that Hornig is smiling all the way to the bank. But the former Wall Streeter has a much higher purpose.

After the tragic events of 9/11, Hornig was inspired to transition away from high finance and put her budding passion—and exquisite talent—for jewelry-making to work helping others. But the Harvard Business School graduate was determined not to follow the conventional charity formula of throwing expensive bashes for worthy causes (where, unfortunately, the nonprofit being supported by the benefit is often an afterthought). 

Instead, Hornig decided to focus on the enthusiasm and passion that many potential charitable donors bring to jewelry. “Jewelry is portable sculpture that doesn’t find a home till it’s worn by a woman,” Hornig says. “As a fundraising tool, it’s easy to transport and store, and because of the precious metals used to craft it, jewelry only increases in value over the years.”

Thus was born Hornig’s philanthropy model: When you buy one of her pieces— available at luxury retail outlets such as Bergdorf Goodman and at joanhornig.com, she donates all of her profts to the charity of your choice.

“We make it easy: Just tell us the name of the nonprofit you want to donate to, and we’ll track them down and take care of the paperwork,” Hornig notes. “And once you’ve made a donation, your charity will go on our online list so others can consider donating to your cause too.”

A quick look at her website will confirm that this is a win-win: Not only are you supporting the worthy cause of your own choice, but you will take home a miniature work of art—often inspired by tribal designs and Hornig’s deep knowledge of art history. And lest Hornig’s beautiful design eye makes you fear sticker shock, know that she prides herself on offering price points from under $50 to five figures. The name of her parent company really says it all: Philanthropy Is Beautiful.