Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • How to be a place everyone wants to work

    What does it take to be one of the best startups to work for in America? Wharton School management professor Peter Cappelli has some ideas based on two decades’ experience studying business cultures. So the office furniture and design company turnstone invited him to weigh in as a judge for its Best Young Companies to Work For contest.

    To find candidates, turnstone tapped a wide network of industry leaders and peers, partners, customers, and other professionals who had witnessed small companies’ success in building a place where “everyone wants to work.” Owners or employees could not enter their companies in the contest; instead, outsiders—consultants, venture capitalists, small business organizations, co-working spaces, and members of the media were invited to propose nominees with a “positive work culture, forward-thinking leadership, talent retention, business innovation, community outreach, and an intentionally designed workspace.” Contestants could be no older than 10 years old and

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  • Furloughed? Try freelancing on Fiverr

    It was 2009 and the global Great Recession was wreaking havoc on the job market when Micha Kaufman and Shai Wininger conceived the idea for Fiverr. The free agent lifestyle had long been hailed as the future of work, and platforms to enable freelancing such as oDesk and Elance had already been around for years. But Kaufman says their idea was “out of the box and very disruptive.”

    It was to flip the conventional approach to worker-contractor deals. Kaufman and Wininger rejected the “reverse-auction,” whereby sellers try to underbid each others’ prices to win a contract, and the buyer who manages the bidding process often gets what he pays for: the lowest quality for the lowest cost. That process involves “too much friction,” Kaufman says.

    Instead, they “wanted to make this demand for talent come together in a marketplace that is going to eliminate frictions tied to freelancing.” In other words, Kaufman and Wininger set out to build a task outsourcing platform that would simplify the

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  • Artisanal entrepreneurs get their own industry magazine

    MAKEWAY Team

    With all things artisanal and “do-it-yourself” emerging as the zeitgeist of our day, it was just a matter of time before the anti-big-industry movement had its own industry magazine.

    Kyle Studstill is a founder and executive producer of Makeway, a new media company that aims to empower artisanal entrepreneurs through a content platform. He and cofounders Mitch Kapler and Caleb Kramer write that, on New York’s Lower East Side, “we’re witnesses to an exuberant class of entrepreneurs filling our community with diverse cuisine, fashion, art, and business. Despite the frightened media perception, creative business men and women are harnessing technology to deliver a meaningful brand and a superior product, with fewer resources.”

    As marketing consultants to Fortune 500 brands, Studstill says he and his colleagues “started to see small businesses able to compete and thrive on the level big brands were.” As they became fans of “the business owner who is driven by purpose and passion and premium

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  • A Year After Sandy, Is Your Business Ready for Another Storm?

    After losing electricity—and the ability to run my home office—for a week after Hurricane Irene in 2011, I waited in a long line at Home Depot to buy a $500 generator. The next year, during Hurricane Sandy, the generator kept the lights, my computer, and the cell phone up and running during another weeklong blackout, but my Internet service was out. I have no way to file stories or get paid without the internet, so I spent three days accessing Wi-Fi from my laptop parked in my car outside the EMS office in my town. Now I have discovered how to convert my phone into a wireless modem with a mobile hotspot service.

    This month marked the peak of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which lasts through November and, according to NOAA, is still on track to be “above-normal” with a 70 percent chance for 13-19 named storms.

    With my generator and Wi-Fi hotspot, I think my home office is ready for another storm. But according to FEMA, “Research on personal preparedness indicates that individuals

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  • A Branding Guru Shares Wisdom with Women Entrepreneurs

    Rather Be In ChargeIf there’s anyone who knows how to package a brand for success it’s Charlotte Beers, former CEO of advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather. During her lengthy career, which included a post as Undersecretary of State to Colin Powell, Beers was widely considered one of the most powerful women in American.

    Author of last year’s “I’d Rather Be In Charge,” a guide to achieving “pride, power, and joy at work,” Beers now offers 5-day “X-Factor” seminars across the U.S. and Europe to give women tools she says they need to “take charge, find pride and power at work, and learn to never miss a moment to lead.” Beers says she’s on a mission to help women find the power they have within and to exercise it, and that her book can help anyone become a masterful communicator.

    At the OPEN for Women: CEO BootCamp at the American Express World Headquarters in New York recently Beers shared some of her wisdom in an hour-long session called “Authentic Leadership Breeds Confidence.” At 78, the supremely poised and

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  • AmEx BootCamp teaches women entrepreneurs “three pillars of success”

    Melinda Emerson the SmallBizLady“We know we run better businesses than men, we just need the revenue to prove it.” Those words of encouragement, delivered in good humor by Melinda Emerson, better known to her 236,000 Twitter followers as @SmallBizLady, were among many that drew applause from an audience of nearly 300 women business owners at the American Express global headquarters in New York on Friday.

    The diverse group of female entrepreneurs had gathered for “OPEN for Women: CEO BootCamp,” an all day-summit that kicked off a national series of live and online events hosted by American Express OPEN, the financial services company’s small business division, that promises to teach women entrepreneurs “the fundamental pillars for successful ventures: confidence, competence, and connections.”

    OPEN executives say they shaped the program based on needs identified in a recent “mindset survey” of 300 female owners of companies with fewer than 100 employees. The data reveal that, while most women surveyed ranked themselves

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  • How TechShop is spawning individual industrial revolutions

    TechShop Laser“It took the U.S. and Europe 150 years to go through the Industrial Revolution. Now, you can go through your own personal industrial revolution in 90 days,” says TechShop CEO Mark Hatch.

    That’s not hyperbole from the former Green Beret with an MBA and spiked silver hair. In an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Small Business on Friday in New York, Hatch, who was in town for the World Maker Faire, relayed numerous near-overnight manufacturing success stories that have emerged from TechShop facilities around the country.

    Since the company’s founding in 2006  in Menlo Park, Calif., locations have sprung up in San Francisco, San Jose, Detroit, Austin, and Pittsburgh. Members pay around $125 per month to access $1 million worth of advanced machinery and design software, 7 days a week, 9:00 am – midnight.

    TechShop’s $60 million investment offering announced today—perhaps the first to leverage new fundraising rules enabled by the JOBS Act—will help expand some existing facilities and establish at

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  • Go global for growth, says economic competitiveness expert

    When it comes to global sales, the U.S. ranks alongside Rwanda and Tajikistan with 17 percent of GDP coming from exports. Germany’s export-to-GDP ratio, by comparison, is 52 percent. So it’s little wonder that Nilmini Rubin,senior advisor for global economic competitiveness of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, believes there are huge opportunities for U.S. businesses to increase their competitiveness.  

    Fewer than 1 percent of the 30 million companies in the U.S. export, and 60 percent of that 1 percent export to only one country, she says. Those data, she says, point to “a massive incentive for increasing our exports.”

    Rubin, who leads technology, trade, finance, and energy legislation work for the committee, spoke at the Techonomy conference in Detroit this week. Techonomy CEO David Kirpatrick asked Rubin to explain how the U.S. can stay competitive and, “What should we be thinking of as a priority as we see countries around the world redoubling their focus on making jobs, building

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  • A firefighter’s plan to save lives and employ brothers

    Being named Ohio’s “entrepreneur of the year” in April was enough to confirm for Zach Green that quitting his job as an Eli Lilly brand manager to start his own business was the right move. But seeing the announcement of his award in the paper alongside the news that his former employer would layoff 30 percent of its sales force “was the ultimate validation,” he says.

    With a high-paying job and a promising future on the team that had launched Cialis, Green faced with a tough decision two years ago. 

    In his spare time, he’d been inspired by a TV show about photo luminescence  technology to mix the compound into a silicone band for his volunteer firefighter’s helmet. 

    “Most people don’t know what true darkness is,” he explains. For an emergency responder it can be when “someone’s hand is four inches from your nose and you have no idea how many fingers they’re holding up.” A glow-in-the-dark helmet would let his fellow firefighters see him on the job, or find him if he fell through a floor.

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  • Their Dream: World's Largest Social Network of Black Innovators

    As investment banking interns on Wall Street several years ago, Nathan Bennett Fleming and five of his Morehouse College fraternity brothers dreamed of finding a way to leverage the Internet to finance African-American startups.

    Black entrepreneurs start businesses at a rate higher than non-minorities in the U.S., says Fleming, pointing to recent research, but many of their operations fail due to lack of sufficient funding. And though the annual buying power of African Americans is close to $1 trillion, minorities lack significant access to venture capital. The men wanted to build a that could match investors with business and nonprofit ideas that benefit their community.

    In 2011, after earning a law degree from University of California, Berkeley and completing a graduate fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Fleming stumbled on an idea during a legal fellowship at the House Financial Services Committee in Washington. He was helping to draft the JOBS Act, which would legalize

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