Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Juggler – Three steps to becoming a multi-tasking guru

This moring I was driving to work while talking to my boss on my blackberry, while emailing  the co-founder from my start-up on my iPhone when the president of ASU (my other boss) called to tell me that there was a conference call for the Arizona Students’ Association (I’m on the board) tonight at 5 pm.

My other boss, the chief of staff for a U.S. Congressman called back to let me know he’d meet me at 2 pm to drive to Tucson for a meeting at which our boss would address over a thousand people. I kinda have to be there. when I got to work there were 20 alerts on the software that organizes my casework and 15 voicemails that I needed to respond to, not-to-mention the 22 emails that I had been ignoring all weekend and the other 6 emails on my school email address, and 5 on my personal email.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. In life there is a lot of stuff to do. Sometimes you can’t do it all, but most of time – You Can. Here’s how:

Step One: Get Organized. It may seem like the most obvious step, but it really is the most important. Knowing what you have to do and when you have to do it by is some of the most valuable information there is.  It doesn’t matter what you use to do it just make sure you always have it with you and you update it constantly. Try Evernote.

Step Two: Get Specific. Complete specific tasks in specific time frames. Sit down and tell youself you will finish responding to all your emails in 30 minutes. Or finish that research paper for school in 2 hours. Make the time frame realistic, but push yourself. Try Stay Focused.

Step Three: Eliminate. Realize that sometimes, not everything will get done. Find the tasks that you know aren’t truly important and eliminate them. This may entail cancelling meetings, getting a bad grade on one assignment, or delegating a task to someone else that you would really rather do youself. But if you don’t do this, other more important things will be left undone at the end of the day.

So back to my morning. I immediately made a note in evernote outlining all of the “to do’s” I had for today.

Then I made a few reminders on my iPhone calender that gave me a specific amount of time to finish responding to my emails, calling people back, working on my casework, doing 5 or 6 quick assignments for school, and of course going to Tucson.

Lastly, I had to eliminate a few tasks. I called the president back and told him I couldn’t make the conference call or the executive board meeting that night and although he didn’t sound happy, he understood. I told my co-founder I couldn’t make the mixer for the Edson Initiative but asked that he attend in my place. And finally I decided that quite a few of those emails could wait until the next day.

So there you have it. When you are juggling a million things to do and a million places to be, remember to stop and go through these three steps. If you do, you may just avoid dropping the ball.


The Aftermath of Solyndra: Can ‘green’ companies stay out of the red?

With the failure of green energy poster child Solyndra – even after the California-based company received a $528 million taxpayer investment — the question being asked in many circles is whether the green industry is a smart investment for either the public or private sector.

Scottsdale-based ReNature, which recently received a grant from Arizona State University’s Edson Entrepreneurship Initiative, believes its venture and green industry as a whole is a worthy investment for multiple reasons.

Like many in the new “green industry” Metoyer and his team at reNature want to take something traditionally seen as a liability – like trash – and through natural processes turn it into an asset.

reNature is taking a well known concept, composting, and attempting to use it on a large scale to produce an alternative to petro-chemical fertilizer.

“We want to work with nature’s systems and add value to something that is usually worthless,” said Metoyer. “We want to commercialize nature.”

In recent years there have been many companies that have had a similar creed to that of Scottsdale based reNature. However, like Solyndra, many of them have not been able to make it through many of the hurdles that every start-up business faces.

At a hearing last week, Jonathan Silver, director of the Department of Energy’s energy loan office said that factors such as China flooding the market with cheap solar panels and a tough European market has cause solar-cell prices to drop sharply, significantly hurting companies like Solyndra.

California based Solyndra manufactured solar-panels. Their website said, "Only Solyndra works so well with reflective, cool roofs, offering customers conservation and power generation from their rooftop."

When Solyndra filed for bankruptcy earlier this month the company was forced to lay off over 1,000 employees.

So, the question that remains to be answered is, how can green companies stay out of the red?

Metoyer and his team at reNature believe that they have a green model that is truly sustainable, economically and environmentally.

First of all, reNature is “going for the low hanging fruits now,” Metoyer said.

In other words, the venture is entering the industry carefully, fully aware that there are some “green” business models that can survive now, and some that cannot.

“We need to make sure that any new green company makes business sense,” said Will Heasley, director of business development for reNature.

“It has to be economically viable – you have to find a method that makes sense financially,” said Metoyer.

This type of cautious entry into the market is something that other companies should mimic, said Metoyer. He believes that the American consumer may not be ready for all of the green products that are being introduced.

“They (consumers) say, ‘as much as I want to be environmentally conscious, I have to make sure I have enough money to simply keep living’,” said Metoyer.

And as for companies that “go green” as a way to look good in the public eye, Metoyer says, “It has to be more than doing something green to get good press – It has to be more than PR.”

Another question that green ventures need to ask themselves is “the technology may exist, but does it exist at the right scale?” said Metoyer. “Many times the answer is no, it doesn’t.”

The failure of Solyndra and other green companies goes to show that even with massive help from the federal government, being green does not guarantee profitability.

Nevertheless, many believe there is a market for clean and sustainable industry, but like any other market it’s one that must be entered cautiously, said Metoyer.

“Every new company has to look at the triple bottom line,” said Metoyer. “What effects it will have economically, socially, and environmentally.”

Solar-Panel Photo:

Compost Photo:

Sweet Republic – 9/11 was Catalyst to Leave Banking, Become Entrepreneurs

A free scoop of ice-cream to all first responders as a thank you on 9/11 may not seem that unusual or special – until you hear the story behind the scoop.

Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung own Sweet Republic, an ice-cream shop in Scottsdale. But they weren’t always entrepreneurs in the Arizona Desert, in another life; they worked for Citi Group as investment bankers in New York City.

Like many Americans, the tragedy of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 prompted them both to take a good hard look at where their lives were headed.

“9/11 was one of those events that affected everyone,” said Wichayanuparp. “It made me re-evaluate and think, is this really what I want to do?”

Wichayanuparp was in 7 World Trade Center when five hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Center and shortly after, United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower.

She was evacuated from her building and later that afternoon, it collapsed from the weight of the debris.

Being so close to the towers that were hit and inside the third tower to collapse was an experience she’ll never forget, said Wichayanuparp.

“You have to take advantage of every moment and every opportunity you’re given in life. Because you never know when it all ends for you.”

In all, 2,977 people lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. It was an event that affected all Americans in some way, causing everyone to stop and look at where they were headed and why they were going in that direction.

After witnessing the attacks on the World Trade Centers first hand, Wichayanuparp and Yung decided that it was time for them to change direction, and do so in a big way.

In 2002 Yung left her job as a banker to attend Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts school in Sydney, Australia. She then worked in a restaurant in Berkley, Calif. and began developing her own unique culinary style that included incorporating local ingredients into her food.

Wichayanuparp continued to work as a banker until the pair met up again in Hong Kong and decided to move to Scottsdale, where Wichayanuparp had family, in order to start their ice-cream shop.

“I have always been passionate about food, and I think that is where this stems from,” said Wichayanuparp.

Sweet Republic opened its doors in 2008, seven years after the events of 9/11. Now, the story of how the two ended up selling ice cream in Scottsdale is well known to employees and regular customers at Sweet Republic.

“9/11 was the catalyst for the owners to leave banking,” said Benita Sebastian, an employee at the shop. “They were so close to the World Trade Center when it happened. It still gives me chills when I think about their story.”

They have been holding the “first responder appreciation day” every year since the shop opened.

“I heard about it the first time four years ago when they started doing it,” said a paramedic enjoying his free scoop of ice cream on Sunday. “It’s just nice that they recognize some of the sacrifices that people make as we all recognize the sacrifices that were made that day ten years ago.”

Wichayanuparp and Yung have a special appreciation for the men and women that risk their lives for others every day.

“We got evacuated from the tower, and these were the guys going in when we were running out,” said Wichayanuparp.

7 Hobbies of a Highly Effective Entrepreneur

Would you rather crunch numbers in a boardroom or on a beach? Launch a marketing strategy from a formula or from a work of art? Win customers over with ‘customer acquisition strategies’ or with personality?

Entrepreneur Sam Calagione says if you have a choice, who wouldn’t choose the latter?

In his book, Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Beer from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft BreweryCalagione shares his views on business and entrepreneurship mixed in with some very entertaining stories about how he has built his brewery over the past 15 years. Many of the stories that Calagione shares come from experiences he had outside of his business, doing things that seemingly had nothing to do with his brewery – and yet ended up having a profound effect on his company.

Calagione explains to his reader that most of the aha-moments, exciting new ideas, or innovative concepts that have helped his brewery grow at an astounding rate have come not while in the office in front of a computer screen, but rather while he was taking part in one of his many hobbies outside of the office.

“Ultimately, Whatever your hobby is, it will in some way impact your business, either by directly contributing to it or by giving you some time away to recharge and gain a clear perspective,” Calagione said.

The truth is, being an entrepreneur doesn’t have to mean endless work days and sleepless nights worrying about your next big project or how much you have on the line. You can actually still have fun . . . even in the beginning stages of your business. But that doesn’t mean you can just pick up any old hobby and be in business. There are definitely some hobbies that are better for the entrepreneur than others.

Here I have taken the liberty to list just seven of the hobbies I believe can make you a highly effective entrepreneur. Enjoy.

  1. Be an artist. Whether you are capable of creating something visually appealing or not, art is a great way to open your mind to new ideas. You can draw, sculpt, or even do some graffiti art (just wear your running shoes and stay away from gang turf ;)). Whatever you choose to do, you’re bound to be feeling more creative when you’re done and a little more creativity is something we can all use every once in a while.
  2. Play a sport: Entrepreneurs are known for their competitiveness, and what better way to nurture the spirit of competition than a good ‘ol fashioned pick up game. Whether it’s basketball, tennis, racquetball, soccer, or the always popular golf, getting out of the office for some friendly competition is sometimes just what we need.
  3. Get into nature. Try and take some time to go on a hike, go fishing, kayaking, or just send some time being quiet in nature. The hectic life of an entrepreneur can be draining and the peace that comes when outdoors enjoying the beauty of God’s creations really is priceless.
  4. Write. Write anything that has nothing to do with your business, and do it often. Not only does writing things down help you remember important experiences, it may also be a wake up call if while trying to do so you can’t find much to write about other than your work.
  5. Read. This may be one of the most important hobbies that anyone could ever pick up. Read often and read on a wide variety of topics. You will find yourself making connections from your reading to your business that you had never thought of before.
  6. Be a chef. Cooking is an activity that requires careful planning, yet a willingness to improvise and go with the flow. Sounds like a metaphor for starting a business if i’ve ever heard one (and I have). It also brings us closer to our families and allows us to appreciate the simple things in life, like a good – or bad – home cooked meal.
  7. Volunteer. Taking the time to go out and do something for someone else, without asking anything in return is a simple way to maintain perspective in everything we do. It’s not only a good hobbie to have and a way to stay grounded, it’s the right thing to do.

So go, be well rounded entrepreneurs that find inspiration for their business in many places and while becoming a better person. Your office will still be there when you get back, I promise.