I Scream, You Scream, we all Scream for the Museum of Ice Cream

I love Ice cream, I love museums, but I never thought combining the two would end up in creating one of the most coveted tickets you can get today at the Museum of Ice Cream. In today’s world of viral attention I often can be left feeling a little skeptical over things that are hyped.  So when my friend first was interested in the Museum of Ice Cream when we were on vacay in LA I thought how much fun can a museum about ice cream be?  So as I prepped to head to Miami and got the scoop from a friend that the travelling museum had extended its stay in Miami I thought well why not, if it’s so in demand let me go check out what all  of the hoopla is about.

In approaching the lit building hosting the Museum of Ice Cream in Miami I quickly had my low expectations checked at the door by the entertaining host. We were each told a little about the museum and most importantly were challenged with coming up with an ice cream name.  The energy and spirit of fun that this set at the door and carries throughout your visit makes the museum the unique and sought-after go so space that it is.  You quickly learn you are not going for the ice cream you are there for the experience.  So with my friends and I hype and my name “Unicorn Sherbet” on lock we began to wind our way through the museum.

As I entered the pink dipped building I began to understand that despite the name the “museum” was more of an ambiance than a place. Yep the full vibe was confirmed with our firs stop, the sprinkle pool.  Yes a full pool filled with sprinkles, plastic albeit, was a great way to literally dive into the fun of the Museum of Ice Cream.  And as you weave your way through the ascending stops you find each room of the museum was uniquely dedicated not specifically to ice cream, but to some of the best nostalgic feelings around ice cream, that of your childhood.

From the look of old school ice cream parlors to giant floating balloon installations to word scrambles and even sandboxes the museum is less about ice cream and more about the laughs and fun of your childhood that gives ice cream the romanticized feeling that it has. As I worked my way through the rooms with my friends, each room providing a completely different look and ice cream sample, my mind was not just filled with fun times from my past but incredible times from my presence and the opportunity to leave the adulting and just have fun.  So no, the ice cream was not the best part of the tour.  Instead the best part of the museum was found in the reconnection to an 8 year old who loved to dance, swing, build sand castles and most of all soak in every moment as the future seemed too far away and the past was a distant memory.  If ice cream was a big part of your favorite memories check out the ice cream museum to reminiscent and if not just go out and take 45 minutes to be a kid again and love every second of it.

Honoring the legends in our midst at the BE Women in Power Legacy Gala

In its annual celebration of the influence of women, the Black Enterprise Women in Power Summit represents all things powerful and beautiful about sisterhood and women and the unique challenges and perspectives that we experience and embrace.  The three day conference offered opportunities to learn, party, cry and challenge yourself in a way that sets a fire to your passions like few conferences have done for me.  To start off the festivities the summit pulls a surprise order, placing their signature event on Day 1: the Women in Power Legacy Awards Gala.  The gala allows women to acknowledge and uplift the greatness, challenges, and ferocity we see in heroines around us and also provides them an opportunity to share their perspective of their success.

As I pulled up in my car on the first day running in fashionably late to the gala it dawned on me I really was not sure what to expect. Going to a conference alone strips you of the option to rely on those you know to provide a good time.  Without the crutch of comfort you are forced to open your mind and heart to the people and experiences that may lie in store.  As I walked in a wee bit anxious as I maneuvered to find a seat at the gala something different happened, the energy of the women in the room began to energize me.  From friendly smiles to compliments to my dress to welcome invitations to join tables I began to understand the potential you can tap into when you have a room full of successful, driven and positive women all in one place.  Just like that this energy quickly removed the newness and new acquaintances quickly began to feel like old friends as we ate, laughed and listened to the phenomenal and inspirational stories of the recipients.

As a high point to the strong and powerful women that filled the room the Gala honored recipients who not only shined in their career but inspired others with their ability not just to succeed but to see the bigger picture of their roles as a connection for others to reach their greatness. From trailblazers in the financial world such as Edith Cooper, who climbed to elite levels in the man’s world of the New York Stock Exchange, to Jayne Kennedy Overton whose beauty only paled in comparison to her agility to spot and seize opportunities as she moved from dancer to actor to one of the first black women sportscasters.  By far, however, my favorites were Carmen Lavallade and Donna Brazille.  Ms. Lavallade has become renowned as a dancer, but in hearing this sprite 87 year old speak you realize that dancing was only the means she used to realize the beautiful spirit bursting from inside her.  As she shared her wisdom of where things had been to where things are you could not help but take a step back and think wow.  From the speakers to your fellow attendees there were so many beautiful stories left untold, to be told, and retold that compiled the history of us.  This history was best closed by Donna Brazile, the feisty political powerhouse who got the house shaking when she share the wisdom of Ms. Lavallade, to pull yourself up by your vagina.  While the comment took some by surprise the message sure should not have.  Instead of hiding behind the depiction of women, especially black women, we have to trust ourselves enough to dig deep, recognize the power blazing inside of us and prepare to unleash it on the world until others can neither dim nor deny that light.  With a fiery speak taking us through history and to the time that we now can claim as our own, the Gala laid an impressive foundation to a conference full of trailblazing.

 

(Photos courtesy of Black Enterprise)

Three days in the Bay Area

The more opportunities to explore, the merrier when it comes to weekend travel so the three for one opportunity to explore in the bay area are second to none. There are only a few places that you can get a completely different experience with each day of vacation, but the bay area is definitely one of those places where you can experience the completely different worlds of Oakland, San Francisco and Napa Valley on a relatively short trip.  So as I hopped into San Francisco over the weekend I knew I was up for the challenge of getting something new and different out of all three areas.

First up, San Francisco. This city serves an amazing mix of modern and old time charm so you can absolutely get several different vibes in this city alone.  As I have been to San Francisco before I decided to be more focused in my approach of the city, trying out things and places that were both new and old to me.  I love the shopping in the heart of the city and as the parking situation is a bit overwhelming my hotel was in the mix of shops galore.  Even in their shopping fusion the city shows is change with the time as you find time honored shops mixed in with top notch luxury stores from around the globe.  While the shopping scene in the afternoon was familiar the look for dinner was completely new.  El Mansour is a great Moroccan restaurant showcasing the international playground San Francisco has come to be.  If atmosphere and fun ambiance are on your menu you have found the perfect place.  With a feel of steeping into a Marrakesh diner and a belly dancer entertaining and encouraging diners participation you are sure to get in on the fun.  Make sure to end your night with the drawn mint tea which is a presentation with the best reward of all, a delicious product.

While San Francisco serves up tons of bars and clubs I was in the mood for a bit more intimate feel and for a nightcap I popped over the bridge to Oakland. Oakland has a great collection of bars open late, vibing with music to move your feet and all within close walking distance.  For the libation lover you can stop and hang at a bar focused on delivering hand crafted cocktails and for your party animal there are clusters of small clubs providing opportunity for those who are mover and shakers and those who like to set back and watch.

Up in the morning and now on to my next destination, Napa Valley. While traffic can make this a considerable drive out the city, you quickly get the point upon arriving to Napa that the distance was completely worth it.  The beautiful sights and sounds give a rustic country energy to your trip and I don’t think I have to mention the food and wine can have you quickly calling this nirvana.  The slower energy, drastically different from the busy streets of San Francisco, beg you to slow it down so that’s just what I did.  If chasing down the best winery is not your speed check out the beautiful city of Yountville where restaurants, bars, wineries and B & B’s are all clustered together to compact your fun and range.

To round out the fun I let my greedy girl inside run free in Oakland. From giant crab platters one night to fun and festive Cuban fare for breakfast Oakland provides the perfect medium.  With its own unique style Oakland is great place to spend your days relaxing and your nights partying.  Perfect example was a quaint brunch destination, Cana.  With great mojito pitchers you start your day off with a great brunch, but as the afternoon rolls around the focus rolls from food to moving your feet as they bring in live music to help you burn off some of your buzz and calories.  All in all the bay area gives you everything from busy city living to countryside peace and all in time to have you back at work on Monday.

Tackling Napa Valley in one day

With so much to do in the bay area it is hard to dedicate an entire weekend to wine country but as always I am up for the challenge of checking out Napa Valley in just one day. With legendary weather and a phenomenal selection of wineries the challenge can seem quite ambitious, however, when you take quality over quantity you can get in for the win.  Here is my guide for making the most of your one day in Napa

 

Go early: Especially if you are not staying in Napa, Bay area traffic should be expected and planned for.  Give yourself an extra cushion to really enjoy a couple of different wineries factoring in not just the drive time to Napa but the drive time to the wineries.  Of course you get more bang for your time if you are strategic about the selection in making sure they are not too far apart.  With some wineries closing as early as 5 a late start could really limit not just what you taste but also how many wineries you can stop in at.

Pad in some time just to enjoy the beauty: It is really one of the most beautiful places I have seen, especially if you love nature.  From mountainous views to flower fields to incredible trees in the middle of the highway the opportunities to enjoy nature or take a great photo opt abound in Napa Valley.  While the wine is great the scenery is one of the most important things that Napa can offer if you give it just a bit of your time.

Start with a powerhouse.  Honestly you can’t truly predict how the day will go or how much you will drink.  So why try??? Start with the most important winery on your list.  Hopefully one that has marks as high for their food than they do for the wine because the true beauty of wine is the pairing of it with great food for me.  If you start with a winery that has a great reputation for food and wine, outstanding ambiance and a great wine selection you won’t be left beating yourself up if you run out of time.  I started with V. Sattui Winery which gave a great family vibe with their picnic tables and BBQ offerings.  I was having such a good time that time quickly got away from me and we had to scurry on to our next destinations.

Check out the winery memberships.  Now I know it may seem like a money trap as you can easily imagine wine piling up to no ends with each monthly shipment.  But the savings factor is a big one for members.  For most wineries the memberships comes with free tastings for you and 3 guests (which can easily be an $80 savings) as well as additional discounts on bottles and special invitations to events.  Once more with a flexible cancellation policy you may just be on the hook for one month if it does not end up working out.

Ask a local. Some of the true gems of the area won’t be found as top picks on Google or whatever review you are trusting.  People who live there and more important work in the wine industry will have their own opinion of go tos that may take you off the beaten path but right to some of the real gems of the area.  After a failed attempt to squeeze in Mumm winery we followed a suggestion to try JCB winery.  Not only was it open later than most other wineries, the ambiance was exquisite and the champs was pretty nice too..

Napa is such a beautiful destination so even if your time seems too short, it can great motivation in planning your NEXT wine country stop in.

Keys to naming your business

Your business is your baby so it deserves some time and energy when it comes to choosing a name. While it may seem easy at the onset there are a lot of important considerations when choosing a name for a business as it is the first line of communication on who your business is and what it does.  In my experience starting with a big list and winding it down is the best way to explore all possible name choices and set the pace for how you define your business.   Here are the steps I go through when naming a business:

1.Brainstorm with a list of who your business is. This is just words that you use to define your business. It could include things like your name but as you are just beginning so also include words that describe what you want to communicate about your business. If you are a plumber for instance you may have Johnson Plumbing in mind but should also write down words like experienced, professional, timely, or honest if that is important to your targeted client.  I find a great trick is to you the thesaurus to drum up other words that may be more unique or catch to add to your list.

2. Take a look at your competition. Chances are that whatever you want to do there is someone out there also doing it. Taking a look at your competition may give you some inspiration but it also gives you an idea of brands that are already out there as a way to make sure your brand is distinguished from the pack. It will also tell you if your idea is already taken.

3. Get input from those whose opinion you value. Finding a trusted business advisors is important to have a clean space to bounce ideas off of in a positive way. Try to find someone who you both trust and respect their business opinion. It can be a great way to find flaws in names you like that you did not previously consider and work through reworking names you previously discarded.

4. Take a pause and use your imagination. If it was easy everyone would do it. Your business is your baby so even if you start off with a name you want to consider and reconsider it to see if it will stand the test of time when it comes to operating your business.  This is one instance where rushing is a no-no in business as your marketing efforts will stem from your name so reselecting can hit you big in your pocket and your brand image.

5. Do your research. You have to put some energy into if your name is taken both on the World Wide Web and with the secretary of state when you file your name as an entity. The Secretary of State should allow you to search names to see if yours is taken for a minimum cost and even reserve the name if you want to hold it but are not ready to file for your entity. While you may have never heard of a company with the name you are interested in, it does not mean that it does not exist.  You can use any domain resource like GoDaddy to search domains for your name.  This quick search lets you know if the name you want is already taken and to see how much brand confusion would be caused if you used the same name.  Doing the work on the front end prevents you from falling in love with a name you cannot register or does not make sense from a branding perspective.

Preparing for opening your business banking account

Opening a bank account for your business entity is imperative to begin to establish a footprint and path to success for your business. While the state defines the birth of a legal entity with filing, you begin to give it life by acting in the name of the entity. So taking baby steps to define just who your business is often begins with establishing a bank account.  This is a great tool for you to begin to separate your personal finances from your business and to have an active record of the activities of your business.  This record can later be taken to banks and other businesses as proof of your profitability and cash flow.  It is a critical consideration when applying for loans, credit and even when bidding for projects that want to ensure the information you provide can be backed up by your numbers.  Financials will usually be square one in considering who your business is so getting in line with a great bank begins to lay a foundation for your business.  Here are the important things you want to gather up when preparing to go to a bank to start a business account.

Articles of Formation: This is essentially a receipt from the Secretary of State you filed with as to the formation of your entity, the start date, the important members and any other details provided when filing. Think of it as a birth certificate for your business and tells who the parents are and date of birth and who was in charge of what when initially formed.

Operating Agreement: The articles of formation do not have to provide detailed information on your business as the operating agreement gives more information on who is in charge of what. In this agreement you will provide who owns the business and in what percentage and who manages the business and in what capacity. This will be critical information for the bank as it also sets the guidelines on who can access the funds in the account and to what extent.

EIN: The Employer Identification Number is like the social security number for your business. It is filed with the IRS to give them an idea of who to expect a tax return from and provides basic information on the type of business and who will be in charge. If your business is an LLC it will also ask how you elect to file your taxes between the members.

Banking Resolution: For those who have opted for a Corporation a banking resolution will speak on behalf of the corporation to provide authority to a member of the board to start a bank account, for instance the President or Treasurer. As the owners of the corporation may or may not be involved in the day to day operations it works to provide definition to who should access what.

Gather all members. Frequently a bank signature card requires simultaneous signing so there is one easily accessible go to point to verify signatures at the bank. Even if you do not go to the same location it is possible you will have to coordinate a time to allow these wet signatures to happen all at the same time.

Don’t forget to shop around. Different banks offer different relationships. As access to capital will probably be a consideration at some point to allow your business to grow choosing a bank that prioritizes the type of business you have can give you an important leg up in accessing cash or credit. With fees, procedures and features being drastically different for each bank make sure you do some research to connect with the bank that will work best for your unique needs.

Girl Power: Super charging your business by teaming up

When you are an entrepreneur the thought of teaming up with someone else can seem pretty daunting. You have to open yourself and your business to criticism, change, new perspectives and new attitudes.  But in the ever changing world of business, and especially in our recent economy finding likeminded go getters to brainstorm ideas with and share some of the ways you have weathered the storm is one of the best ways to sharpen your business knife in preparation for the fights ahead.

So why are women not teaming up in drowns, trying to do the best to reinforce their business principals and ensure their business is on solid ground?

While some may say its pettiness, or competitiveness or part of a refusal to reach back I think the answer could be found in something as simple so people not knowing how. Where we first learn to work together begins in school but forced collaboration often ends in disappointment.  Especially for the type A personality you normally find in entrepreneurs.  While you press forward others lag behind forcing you to pull them in order to get the results you desire.  But in a grown up version, with likeminded peers the result can be much different.  You just have to be prepared to learn or relearn how successful collaboration works.

By no means is this easy. Whether this is someone in a similar business or someone where there is potential for business synergy you have to learn to put trust and active listening first.  This happens at its best when both parties realize there is a boundless field for potential and income when you are tuned into the needs of your audience and how you can best uniquely serve those needs.  Yes this simple fact means that for my business, although I am a business law attorney, I am not competing with another business law attorney I may choose to collaborate with.  While it seems like we are geared towards the same audience my true goal is to find clients that I can service best given my skills set.  So the old saying “you are your own competition” proves tried and true.  When both people accept this then the sharing can begin and that is where the power is.  Having someone similarly situated to bounce ideas, wins and losses off of can change the game for your business, assuring you that you are not alone in the fight for success and others are praying for and supporting your successes, not your downfalls.  It is a comforting breath of fresh air in the concrete jungle of entrepreneurialship.

Travel Tip of the Week: Fare Sale with United

Yearning to travel this spring or summer???? Well good news the fare sale competition is on and especially if international destinations are on your way now is the time to grab your tickets and get on your way.  From Barcelona to Venice and even parts of Africa the deals from New York are as low as $400.  To add icing on the cake it is a United fare sale so you don’t have to worry if you are flying the Greyhound of the air and focus your attention to planning the rest of what is sure to be a fantastic vacay!!

Here are just some of the deals you can find on Secret Flying and other websites:

Los Angeles to the Turks & Caicos for only $380 roundtrip

Many US cities to Hawaii (& vice versa) from only $395 roundtrip

Austin, Texas to Amsterdam, Netherlands for only $395 roundtrip

Detroit to Rome, Italy for only $430 roundtrip

 

Your operating agreement: Plotting out your business relationship

When it comes to starting a business entity there is a lot to decide and like any relationship the more people the more problems that come up in the birth of your business. Regardless of the type of entity you decide to form it is critical to start an open dialogue when it comes to deciding how the important business matters of your business will be handled.  Businesses ebb and flow so while every important matter may not be a priority for your operating agreement there are a couple that are key.

Money – Like it or not money will be a running theme in your business so deciding how it should be handled is crucial.  As you start off contributions take center stage.  While the state default is that your ownership rights are determined by your percentage of contribution you can decide to split it in different ways to reflect experience, sweat equity or other resources being donated by a partner.  It is also important to decide once money or losses begins to flow how it will be divided.  Again it can just be a reflection of initial contributions but it can also work to compensate members for management or even repay initial heavy contributions.

 

Management – Just because you start a business does not mean your main skill set will be to run the business.  In a partnership hopefully each partner will bring their own wining expertise to make your team as well rounded as possible.  So if one person is the money and one is the brains you want this discussed and to be reflected in your operating agreement. You can also decide that appointed managers will be responsible for managing the entity all together.  The decision you make early on can have important repercussions especially if changes is needed so discussing it early helps sort out problems before they start.

 

Changes down the road – If nothing else is guaranteed in business change definitely is.  How your business will roll with the punches called entrepreneurship is key to long term success.  Thinking about what happens if a partner gets sick, dies, or no longer wants to retain their shares in the business give everyone a leg up instead of having to fight in the case of disaster or discord.  Note that the default to some agreements is if that if one member rescinds the entity will cease to exist to read and proceed carefully when planning for the future.

Using Google Flights to find the perfect flight for your budget

Google Flights price tracking system is a great way to jump on great deals for your dream vacations.  Matching your budget for a flight the old fashion way could take hours of searches and daily follow ups just to make sure a great deal does not escape you.  In order to avoid the disappointment and near misses you can set up a flight alert on Google Flights to make sure if a deal pops up you will be the first to know.  While there are various sites offering the fare alert option, the ease and convenience of the Google option makes it one of my favorites.

First getting your fare stalking started is a breeze with google. One you have done a search for Google.com/flights you can flip a switch and turn on the ability to track prices. As it reflects your search criteria this is especially helpful if you have some restrictions in the time frame in which you can go.  It also gives great additional information like ways to save by altering your itinerary a day or two earlier or later.  These are great ways to get better bang for your buck while sticking close to the time frame you had in mind.

Secondly I like being able to restrict my options. I have fare alerts set up on other sites but mainly I only get flight deals for super budget airlines.  If you have an airline preference, Google Flights lets you specify that as well as stops preference.  Without that all that glitters definitely is not gold and while cheap you can end up with a really, really long flight on a really, really bad airline.  It may leaving you wishing you had just paid more and gotten what you wanted.

Lastly once the price tracker is turned on you not only get alerts you can easy rerun your search and have a quick graph of where the prices have gone. Knowing this gives you a good idea of when to pull the trigger and buy.  Especially if you are planning far in advance it allows you to get an idea of the trends of different airlines and for different times so you grab the best price possible, not just the best price at the time of your search.  You already use Google tons, why not let it work for you in putting together the flights for your dream vacay?