Six years after my daughter graduated from Newhouse School at Syracuse University with a degree in public relations, my son graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in data science. This past weekend at Berkeley brought up so many mixed emotions that I realized many people have when your son/daughter graduates from college.
High School days…
I think back when my son was in High School and how he couldn’t wake up for class. (Actually, both my kids were reprimanded for coming into the first period late.) I used to scream at him to get out of bed.
My sister used to say to me, “you’re enabling him. Let him sleep and see what happens.” But, I couldn’t do that. I had to help him learn to succeed.
I knew though, that once he got to college, he was on his own. Either sink or swim, I told him. Well, he rose to the occasion. I guess my sister was right. Once he took responsibility, he was able to soar.
What he wanted to do…
For the longest time, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. But then, one day it came to him. He realized just as we did that when he was a little boy, he played Nintendo baseball. He was more interested in the stats than the actual game. He would spend hours setting up the perfect teams.
It would frustrate the heck out of me but he seemed to love it. While in college, he began to think about what he wanted and he went for it.
Data science major
The data science major didn’t come out until his Senior year. He continuously advocated for the major. In the meantime, in his sophomore year, he started the sports analytics club at Berkeley. The club had more than 100 members. It was one of the most sought after clubs on campus.
This past weekend, he graduated from UC Berkeley. He was certainly not the young man who arrived at the school four years ago. He grew and matured during his tenure.
My son inspires me every day. Both he and my daughter knew what they wanted and went for it. I know there will be a bright future for both of them and that makes me so proud.
About a year ago, my cousin, Mindy, turned me onto Dressbarn. Before that, I had never stepped foot into the place. I thought it was for older women. I didn’t think I would like anything there, and besides, the clothes were inexpensive. How good could they be?
But after seeing my cousin’s closet and seeing how amazing she looked in their clothes, I decided to go to their Freeport, Long Island location.
When I walked in, I was pleasantly surprised to see women of all ages and all shapes and sizes in there. The company serves women sizes 2 to plus sizes. I later learned that the company was owned by Ann Taylor and many of the clothes were from styles that were made for Ann Taylor.
The clothes were fashionable. The only difference between the Dressbarn brand and other high-end brands was the cost. The other difference was that they were more disposable, which I didn’t mind for the lower price.
Dressbarn sends me a text message nearly every day with another special in the store. Every time I would buy there, I would get $5 coupons, depending on how much I spent.
I just read that Dressbarn is now going out of business in all of their retail stores. After emailing the alert to my cousin, the two of us got depressed. I guess it’s back to Nordstrom’s Rack for me!
New York City will be gearing up for WorldPride 2019, held during the entire month of June. Hotels, attractions, and destinations in the city, state and beyond are rolling out the welcome mat for the LGBTQ+ community.
If you’re coming into town or if you just want to celebrate WorldPride 2019, check out the following deals in and around NYC and beyond:
One-of-a-Kind Cher Suite at Sofitel New York. She’s the Goddess of Pop, and now Midtown Manhattan’s Sofitel New York is transforming one of its luxury Terrace Suites into a show-stopping Cher Suite just steps from WorldPride 2019 festivities. Drenched in glamour and decked in Cher memorabilia, the suite is available for booking June 10 – September 15, 2019. Among the décor details: a Cher Show poster signed by the cast, TIME Magazine cover signed by Cher and Bob Mackie, Cher portraits by Hirschfeld, and original costumes from The Cher Show. The hotel will also offer a Cher-themed specialty cocktail, Turn Back Thyme—with a percentage of sales donated to GLAAD. Rates start at $499 per night. And from June 10 – July 15 the hotel’s Gaby Bar will host a Proud Hour from 8-10 p.m. daily. 20 percent of all cocktail proceeds will benefit The Ali Forney Center, serving and empowering homeless LGBT youth.
Great LGBTQ Getaways near WorldPride. Just a short train ride from the heart of New York City’s WorldPride 2019 celebration, Westchester County is welcoming Pride travelers with two festivals of its own and a host of special events and hotel packages. White Plains’ Westchester Pride Festival(June 2) and the 2nd Annual Yonkers Pride (June 7-8) will both feature family-friendly entertainment, food, vendors, advocacy booths and more. Caramoor Center for Music and Art and Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival have teamed up to offer ticket discounts and Pride receptions, while Hudson River Museum kicks off Pride month with a special reading of Doric Wilson’s groundbreaking Street Theatre. For information on these offers, other Pride events, hotel specials, and travel resources, go to VisitWestchesterNY.com/lgbtq/.
Peak Pride in Upstate New York. LGBTQ+ travelers can take their love to the mountaintop at Lake Placid’s Whiteface Lodge, an all-suite resort that evokes the rustic luxury of the Adirondack Great Camps. For reservations booked during the month of June, guests can use the discount code “Pride” to receive 15% off best available rate and complimentary breakfast for two. The offer is good for stays June 1-30 and August-December 20. The resort is a natural for romance, thanks to its full-service spa, fine dining, and cozy touches like in-suite cast-iron fireplaces and private lean-tos for evening cocktails under the stars.
Love Wins on Florida’s Singer Island. The all-suite Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa offers the perfect setting for a romantic getaway, complete with step-out access to a white-sand beach, private poolside cabanas, the ocean-inspired SiSpa, and sophisticated dining at 3800 Ocean. During Pride Month, the resort is welcoming LGBTQ+ guests with a Love Winspackage that includes breakfast for two, one 50-minute couple’s massage per stay, and a rainbow-themed welcome amenity (June rates start at $342 per night). Plenty of nonstop flights from New York City make it easy for WorldPride revelers to add a Palm Beach getaway to their June travel plans.
Berkeley, CA has such a wide assortment of restaurants from Burmese food to Korean cuisine. On our most recent visit, we went to Chez Panisse and, I will attest, this was the best meal in Berkeley, CA.
Interestingly, once you book your reservation at Chez Panisse, you have no idea what you are getting on the menu. The main course could be duck, beef, chicken or fish. Every day is a different menu.
On the day we went, it was a three-course prix fixe menu for $75. That was a Monday evening. On Fridays and Saturday evenings, the price is $125 per person for the prix fixe.
At the best meal in Berkeley, CA, we started with an asparagus salad, which included beets, shallots, and leeks. I didn’t think I would like it but it tasted delicious. It was so fresh, all organically and locally grown.
First course on a Monday night at Chez Panisse
The main course was a paella, which consisted of octopus, mussels, clams, and chorizo. It wasn’t a large course, on the smallish side but the flavors were amazing. The mussels and clams melted in your mouth, they were both flavorful and light. I didn’t try the octopus but my husband and son said it paired nicely with the rice.
The final course of the evening was an almond tart with cinnamon ice cream and roasted cherries. I tried it but didn’t want the added calories. The tart was incredibly creamy and delicious. The cherries and ice cream paired well with it.
Third and final course
About the chef
Alice Waters is a chef, author, food activist, and the founder and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California. According to the website, “she has been a champion of local sustainable agriculture for over four decades.” She is the author of several cookbooks.
At first, I was hesitant about trying out this restaurant set in the heart of Berkeley, CA. My son wanted to go. We had been there once in the cafe but it wasn’t the same menu. I was thoroughly impressed with the food and would highly recommend if you are traveling to or around San Francisco. Berkeley, California is about 40 minutes from downtown San Francisco. There is a Bart available.
If you are interested in checking out the best restaurant in Berkeley, you must make a reservation one month in advance.
If you like listening to podcasts, then you will love the following podcasts that appeared on Hilary Topper on Air in March and April.
New trends in Jewelry
Mother’s Day is every day and if you’re looking for a gift for your mother or your significant other, then you should listen to the new trends in Jewelry by Esther Fortunoff. Esther is the expert in Jewelry design and trends and will talk about unique and interesting gifts that you can buy for yourself or your loved ones.
Caring for your elderly parents and don’t know how to retire?
You may want to listen to this informative interview as Vincent J. Russo of the Russo Law Group talks about planning for retirement and taking care of your elderly parent. This is one you shouldn’t miss!
Are you a business owner? Do you feel yourself getting bogged down by your business’s day-to-day operations? Are you losing sleep because while you’re great at what you do, the behind the scenes responsibilities that come with owning a successful business are overwhelming? In today’s digital age, businesses of all sizes have immense opportunities to leverage “intelligent operations” to take their business to the next level. Want to learn how?
In this episode of Hilary Topper On Air, Hilary interviews Ash Anand, President & CEO, Lotus Group of Companies, USA and Jeremy Roberts, VP of Sales and Operations, Lotus Analytics – a global professional services organization that bridges technology with human intelligence.
Property taxes can be extraordinarily expensive, especially with Long Island’s high tax rates compared to the rest of New York. While property taxes are needed to pay for services, and it is fair that they are charged to residents, you should never be expected to pay more than your fair share of taxes. So, how can you challenge your tax bill and save money?
In this episode of Hilary Topper On Air, Hilary interviews Jeff Gold, Managing Partner at Gold Benes, LLP.
Data breaches happen almost every day. And yet, very few of us know how to protect ourselves from malware, ransomware, and other internet data breaches. How to Protect Yourself from a Data Breach is the topic for this week’s episode of Hilary Topper on Air. Karl Kispert is a principal at Grassi & Co, the 68th largest accounting firm in the United States.
Even though tax season is finished, you still can end up owing a great deal to the IRS or the state. In this episode of Hilary Topper On Air, Hilary interviews Terence Smolev, who serves as Counsel at Berkman Henoch Peterson Peddy & Fenchel, PC – a New York law firm advising and representing institutional, corporate, municipal and individual clients with more than 90 years of combined experience in tax litigation. Terry will talk about how you can negotiate with the IRS.
As graduation approaches, I made a concerted effort to check out areas around the California coast. Recently, I went to Big Sur, Monterey and Santa Cruz on a road trip through the central coast of California for a long weekend.
I started the road trip in Big Sur. I was amazed with the natural beauty of the dunes by the water combined with the lush forrest. One highlight was seeing the Bixby Bridge.
Big Sur is a small town with various hiking trails, secluded beaches and other spots of natural beauty.
In addition to hiking trails and the beach, there was a natural hot springs. I visited the Esalen Institute, which was a resort with a wonderful hot spring that was only open from 1 am to 3 am for the general public, otherwise if you stay there, you have access all day. There was a sulfur hot springs.
It was a perfect conclusion to the full day of activities.
I spent another day of the road trip in the Monterey and Carmel area. These are two towns on the water. In Carmel, there was lots of upscale shopping. They also had a beautiful public beach. Monterey’s main attraction was the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was located on the downtown area known as Cannery Row.
The aquarium was the largest I’ve ever been in. There were all different types of aquatic life including: African penguins, jelly fish, sharks, stingrays and various other sea animals. You could spend the day there.
Jelly Fish at the Aquarium
Then, as part of the road trip, I went to the Pebble Beach Golf Tournament. It was a true highlight because I had heard so much about Pebble Beach, a world-wide golf course. It was amazing to walk around the grounds and see some of the world’s best golfers. I went during the 2019 AT&T Pro-Am.
There were so many celebrities playing in the tournament including: Bill Murray, Condoleeza Rice, Huey Lewis and other famous people.
On the road trip, I found Santa Cruz interesting. They had a nice boardwalk with an amusement park on the beach. The Giant Dipper, rollercoaster, was a blast! It was one of the better wooden rollercoaster, I had been on and was one of the better attractions in the area. Other attractions included: a mini golf course, carousel, log flume and other types of rides and attractions.
Being right on the beach, it was near Natural Bridges State Park. This is a popular beach with interesting rock formations.
I ended my road trip at the Penny Ice Creamery, where they served local artisan Ice Cream with flavors changing every season. If they have their Marshmallow fluff, which is toasted marshmallow on top of the Ice Cream, I highly recommend it.
If you ever get the chance to a chance to visit this area of the country, do it. You won’t be disappointed. It was truly an awesome experience.
The Jane Goodall Institute was the charity that my daughter raised money for when she had her Bat Mitzvah nearly 15 years ago. At a Bat or Bar Mitzvah, a 13-year-old has the opportunity to give “tzedakah,” or to make a charitable donation to a worthy cause. At that time, my daughter felt that the work that Jane Goodall did was worthy for her tzedakah project.
I don’t remember how much she gave, but, since then, the Jane Goodall Institute hasn’t stopped calling and sending solicitation letters.
When does the charity stop calling?
Image by suju from Pixabay
Don’t you think that after several years of not getting a donation, the charity should take the hint? We keep telling them, every time they call, that we are finished giving, but they don’t stop.
The other day, a guy calls my house. “Are you Ms. Topper?”
I said, “who is calling?”
“This is John from the Jane Goodall Institute, I’m calling…” he said. I didn’t let him finish.
“Listen, my daughter gave to you when she was 13 years old. She is now 27. She hasn’t given you a dime since she was 13 so don’t you think it’s time you take her off your caller list and email list? You have probably spent more money trying to solicit her than what she has actually given you,” I said.
I felt bad saying this but it was getting ridiculous.
What do you think about charities and solicitations?
The Vina Matela Crljenak Kastelanski Zinfandel 2015 showed up at my door this afternoon. I was expecting it because the vineyards’ public relations practitioner reached out to me to see if I would consider reviewing. She knew that I had reviewed wines in the past on my blog and when she offered, I said, “sure.”
I love wine. If I’m in Italy, I just want to drink Italian wines when I get back. If I’m in France, it’s the French ones for me. And, when I’m in Napa or Sonoma Valley, I will only drink California wines. I become very loyal to various regions. However, when I tasted the Vina Matela Crljenak Kastelanski from Croatia, I absolutely loved it. (And I’m not saying this because I got this for review. I wholeheartedly believe it!)
A little background:
After a little digging on the Internet, I found that Crljenak Kastelanski is the original name of the grape, Zinfandel. I had no idea that the first Zinfandel was founded in Croatia. Yet, today, there are only a handful of vineyards there.
Vina Matela is the winery, which is situated in the middle and south Dalmatia, which is the coastal region in Croatia, directly across from central Italy. These grapes grow near the Adriatic Sea.
Now about the wine:
The color is a deep burgundy red. It has a strong berry and leather smell and a flavorful taste. In your mouth, you can taste the pepper, blueberry, and leather. The smell is bold. The wine is bold, just the way I love it!
The Vina Matela Crljenak Kastelanski Zinfandel would be a perfect companion to a pasta meal or a nice piece of beef or lamb.
When you drink the wine, you can taste all the flavors and at first, it’s hard to differentiate. Yet, with a few sips, you can distinguish the pepper, berries, and leather.
If I saw this bottle in the wine store, I would not put it in my cart. However, after tasting and experiencing it, I would now, go out of my way to get another bottle!
The Vina Matela Crljenak Kastelanski Zinfandel would make an ideal gift for a close friend. It would be a great bottle to have in your collection. I loved it and can’t say enough about it!
You can buy it (or request it) from your local wine store. The bottle is $35.
New Mexico is an amazing state with an array of natural resources. Recently, I took a weekend trip there, and here are my top six picks:
1) Walk Around The Plaza…
There are main plazas in each city of New Mexico. I loved walking around Santa Fe, Taos, and Albuquerque. Santa Fe was my favorite because it had the Georgia O’Keefe museum, the Loretto Chapel and a so much art right in the middle of the square.
The Georgia O’Keefe Museum is worth visiting. You will learn O’Keefe’s complete story on how she painted flowers and was inspired by the New Mexican landscape. My favorite pieces were her landscape pieces because it was a change of pace from close up of flowers. The audio tour, which was an app, was helpful and free. Museum cost: $13. Tour length: 1.5 hours.
2) Go to the Hot Springs!
I went to the Ten Thousand Waves and Ojo Caliente! Both were incredibly relaxing.
10,000 Waves Japanese Hot Springs
This natural thermal spring is only 10 minutes from downtown Santa Fe. You could easily spend the entire day there, with some added packages, going into their communal pool, foot baths and more! The view is gorgeous. It started to snow and it was incredible sitting in a 106-degree tub while watching the snow fall.
They was a women’s only pool in a separate area. Chamomile tea and Jasmine tea were offered as part of the entry. They even had a meditation room with heated floors. Cost for the day: $30
This was a resort and natural mineral spring facility. Volcanic pressure heated the water. They had 8 different tubs consisting of:
lithium (for depression and aid digestion),
iron (the pebbles on the floor felt good on the feet. This tub is good for blood and immune system),
arsenic (arthritis, skin conditions and ulcers),
and soda (digestion and relaxation).
They had a steam room, sauna and mud bath. The mud bath was an additional fee. You could easily stay for the whole day. This resort is 45 minutes away from Santa fe. The fee was $32 for the day.
3) Watch the Sunset!
There are two amazing spots to watch the sunset and they are definitely worth seeing. I really enjoyed going to Sandia Peak Tramway, where you can see the Alburquerque.
The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge was also a great spot to view the magnificent sun setting! This area is nicknamed, “New Mexico’s Grand Canyon,” because of the deep crevices. The bridge runs across it where you could see views of the mountains and the river. Walk across the bridge. It’s only about a quarter mile long. From the bridge you can see downtown Taos, mountains and the river. It’s a beautiful 360 degree view!
4) The Turqoise Trail.
This is the road that is between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. You will pass through small towns filled with lots of cool shops and artists along the route.
Cerillos Trading Post and Mining Museum, where they had all different types of stones. This was run by a lovely couple. And, there was a nice petting zoo and turquoise museum.
Town of Madrid – they had a row of different art shops, including rock works, carvings, paintings, and hand crafted goods. There was ample Turquoise, along with cowboy boots and saddles.
My favorite along the trail was the Ticker Town Museum, which was an entire town built in miniature. Everything had wood carvings and was moving. This was definitely worth seeing!
5) Ski at Taos
I love skiing so I’m biased but this was a great day. At around 9,000 feet above sea level, Taos is the perfect place to ski. It was hard skiing though. This was a great mountain for an expert or experienced skier because they had many black diamonds. The intermediate runs were manageable. There was lots of powder. It was warm on the mountain at 29 degrees. However, the mountain was hard to navigate. The main chair went to one place but you needed to take multiple chair lifts to get to where you wanted to be. Taos is a hidden gem. I went the last day of the season and there was a ton of snow. The scenery was beautiful. It cost $110 for the lift.
6. Santa Fe School of Cooking
Where can you taste authentic Native America cuisine? Chef Lois Ellen Frank, a James Baird Award winning chef, specializes in South Western Native American Cooking. She lead the class and provided insight into the cuisine.
The menu included: Blue Corn Gnocchi Arrowheads with Guajilo Chile Sauce. This was followed by a seasonal salad with fiery Jalapeno dressing. For the main course, he had lamb stuffed Rellenos with tomato sauce. Dessert consisted of Sweet Frybread and Seasonal Berries with Prickly pear Syrup. I thought the food was absolutely, “delicious!”
My only disappointment was that it wasn’t a cooking class. The chef prepared the food and there was no “hands-on” experience. However, she demonstrated how to cook everything on the menu and also provided a history of Native American foods.
There was so much more to experience there, but if you have a short time in New Mexico, don’t miss these gems!
By Venkat Krishnamurthy, Co-Founder & President of Alignable
I’ve spent seven years now in the “SMB space,” well past the 10,000-hour mark at this point, so you might say I’m a grizzled veteran. But it was my first time at the Local Search Association (LSA) Conference (an institution in the local and small business space) this past month.
Greg Sterling and I had an entertaining chat about Alignable and, more generally, about the SMB & Local space. It’s interesting to look at an industry with fresh eyes – and I’ve had the good fortune to do it many times for a variety of industries. Enough to spot significant patterns that might be harder to spot for veterans that might be even more grizzled. Here are some observations from the show:
Don’t mean to pick on Starbucks (sorry Starbucks – I love you), but when we talk about local business use cases should we be talking about Starbucks? Yes, they have local stores and employ local folks (with excellent benefits, I might add). But in terms of market and brand power, they’re about as different from a small, local business as you can get.
There’s a very obvious spectrum of scale in local: from large (Starbucks) to medium (Ace Hardware — Yes, I love you, too), to medium-small (auto dealerships – I do love some of you, not all of you), to small (your local kitchen store, salon, etc.) to super small (my future yoga instructor).
As a business selling into this market, it’s easier to build products and services for large and medium businesses. It can be tough to serve the truly small + local businesses, because they all have diverse needs and are tough to reach. As one agency owner I met put it, “It’s hard to build a business on $200/month per customer.”
I get that. But it’s also the most socially important, personality-rich, and rewarding end of the spectrum to serve. Let’s keep helping those high LTV accounts like Starbucks, Ace Hardware and auto dealerships, but we need to be more innovative to help the truly local + small. The good news — they’re not that tough to reach anymore. We have millions of them talking to each other on Alignable about what products and services to buy. Come talk to us, maybe we can help you out.
Image by Pexels from Pixabay2. Are Marketing Agencies “Boxing Themselves In?”
A futurist who happens to work at a marketing agency (you know who you are :-)) was speculating about the plethora of companies offering “agencies in a box” software, the increasing smarts in offerings from Facebook, Google et. al., and what it all means for the future of agencies. “Push a button to manage your SMB accounts” doesn’t seem like a sustainable strategy. Marketing automation is awesome. But missing out on the human element of customer service could ultimately leave marketing agencies, and their customers out in the cold.
There are tens of thousands of advertising and marketing agencies on Alignable, but less than a thousand are “Highly Recommended” — recommended in writing by at least five of their clients. Even allowing for an engagement multiplier of 2 or 3X, you’re still looking at a small percentage of SMBs that are happy with their marketing agency. Or at least happy enough to recommend them to new customers. Some soul searching is in order, for sure.
3. 10 Billion Messages
A talk by Facebook’s Philip Rather mentioned that 10 Billion messages have been sent between business pages and consumers in the past year. That’s a 4X improvement over the prior year.
It’s not clear what percentage of those businesses are in the U.S., or how many are small + local. Or how many of those messages are to Starbucks requesting out-of-season concoctions. (I told you, I love Starbucks). No matter how you look at them, those are impressive numbers. Alignable isn’t at 10 billion messages yet, but we’re seeing a tremendous growth rate in B2B messaging between small business owners in group chat.
Messaging dominates our lives as individuals. And it’s clear we’re in the early innings of a sustained acceleration of both B2B and B2C conversations. This means that small business owners who want their conversations to have a strong impact need to provide solutions that stand out based on know-how, customer service, and most importantly, personality.
4. Networks Fuel Marketplace Momentum
Both Facebook & Nextdoor’s local consumer marketplaces have momentum. It points to the leverage engaged networks have in scaling marketplaces. I’ve heard mention (no hard data) that Facebook is one of the largest auto marketplaces already. (Man, that didn’t take long!).
And Nextdoor’s local recommendations seem to have some traction for home services. While Nextdoor isn’t strictly a social graph, it is a unique sort of graph – a disconnected set of complete local community graphs. Does the future of local marketplaces belong to networks? The trust and engagement that’s baked into successful (identity-based) networks helps them scale certain marketplaces rapidly.
The greatest trust comes from high-affinity relationships where the graph aligns (yes, we use that word a lot) well with the products or services being sold through the marketplace. So Nextdoor is connecting small, local neighborhoods of consumers. It’s logical that they’d ask each other about plumbers, electricians, and perhaps, local businesses to frequent.
We see relationships being formed between business owners based on prior relationships, proximity, business category, and around topics of interest. The graph aligns (ahem) well with a vendor marketplace. And sure enough we see a high level of activity, as well, around vendor search and selection.
5. It’s All About Trust
So, speaking of trust I made the point on stage that “Trust isn’t just important. Trust is everything.” A bit hyperbolic, perhaps. But considering that 60% of brand vendors on our SMB Trust Index have a negative NPS, very relevant.
Small & local business owners (i.e., not Starbucks) look at their vendors as either trusted partners or as vendors helping them with a specific solution. Churn doesn’t just hurt vendors. It’s tough for business owners to find a good vendor, invest in using them only to discover it wasn’t doing the job as advertised. Especially when those business owners are busy, can’t delegate the job to someone else (read: definitely not Starbucks), and don’t have a whole bunch of time to research those vendors.
For networks like ours or LinkedIn, trust isn’t just the relationship between our members and us (as it is for most vendors). It’s actually the relationship of our members to each other. And that, in turn, rubs off on the vendor and the entire network.
Regardless of what you’re selling, if a vendor sees a small business owner exclusively as a target for a sale – that sentiment will show up in their products/services, and interactions with the business.
Conversely, If they see it as a relationship, over time it shows. And as that relationship grows, trust is fostered and leads to more opportunity for both the vendor and the small business owner.