Why not sleep your way to the top?

19 Feb

“Sleep-deprivation advocates have it all wrong,” says Arianna Huffington

By Amy Schroeder

Arianna Huffington swears by sleep.

After years of trying to make it on as little REM as possible, during a December 2010 TED talk, the entrepreneur announced that she had changed her methods for success—but only after she’d fainted from exhaustion at her desk, breaking a cheekbone in the process. After that eye-shutting experience (and six stitches), she prioritized sleep over power lunches.

A few months later, in February 2011, Huffington sold her online newspaper, The Huffington Post, to AOL for a controversial $315 million. In her presentation, “How to Succeed? Get More Sleep,” Huffington jokes, “We women are going to lead this new, feminist movement. We are literally going to sleep our way to the top.”

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The Red-and-White

16 Feb

Graphic artist Denise Gibson submits first DIYBA logo design

Starting, well, today, the DIY Business Association invites graphic designers and artists to submit their interpretations of the DIY Business Association logo, created by Mat Daly. Artists are welcome to do just about anything they want with it, by changing the colors, textures, what-have-you.

The DIY Business Association will showcase a collection of the logo designs in a visual presentation at conferences, the very first of which is slated to take place June 25, 2011, in Brooklyn.

Denise Gibson is a designer, illustrator, and lover of kittens. Formerly the art director of Venus Zine magazine, in February 2011, she accepted a new position as Marketing Manager at Busy Beaver Button Co., established in 1995 by Christen Carter in Chicago. Gibson also is a part-time faculty member at Columbia College Chicago.

Denise Gibsons’s advice for creative entrepreneurs:

“Buy buttons! They are a low-cost form of advertising and a great merchandising opportunity for indie businesses. Contact me at denise@busybeaver.net, and I’ll help you get your button on.”

P.S. The DIYBA is a fan of Denise’s shameless self-promo approach to advice-giving.

P.P.S. Would you like to submit a logo design? Get in touch to talk shop at amy [at] diybusinessassociation.com.

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What is the best laptop for small businesses?

14 Feb

The DIY Business Association’s first product review: Thumbs-up to the Dell V130

By Amy Schroeder

How many laptops does one person need?

Considering that I work from home, in a small-ish, closet-challenged Brooklyn apartment, the answer is probably one.

But I have two.

Though I nostalgically tend to hang onto things until they go out of style, I’ve been itching to shed a layer of laptop.

Enter Perfect-Timing Experience.

A Dell rep invited the DIY Business Association to test-drive a Dell Vostro V130—because the lightweight laptop is targeted to entrepreneurs and bloggers on the go.

“Of course,” I said. “What’s the catch?” When the Chicago-based rep explained that there is no catch and that all I needed to do was sign something saying that I would tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I said, “I’m in!”

Cool Dell Lady over-nighted the computer, and I spent two weeks working on it from home, in coffee shops, and on the subway (my most focused writing environment). I’ll give scoop in just a second, but first…

Why I have two laptops…

My Mac iBook G4: When I published Venus Zine, I invested in a Mac-PC hybrid network of desktop computers, scanners, printers, backup systems, etc. In an attempt to avoid workaholic tendencies, I did the no-computer-at-home thing for a year, but I eventually gave in and bought a Mac iBook G4 for about $1,200. I loaded her up with about a thousand CDs, Adobe Creative Suite, and Office for Mac. Now the iBook is too slow to use for the Internet, but it serves its purpose for transferring music to my iPod and doing basic Photoshop stuff. I think of it as my external hard drive.

My Toshiba Satellite L505D-S5965: In 2009-2010, I worked as the site manager of inkpop.com, then a HarperTeen start-up project that’s kinda like American Idol for aspiring teen novelists. I worked from home during the site’s developmental stages, and the project’s alpha process required a PC (no Macs allowed!). I’m no longer working on inkpop.com, but I still use the Toshiba for the Internet, Word, and Excel. Because it’s slow, heavy and clunky, and likes to freeze, I think of it as my “cheap computer” (pricetag: $450) and e-mail machine. I can’t wait to retire it.

The Dell Vostro V130 with my personal assistant, Janis Joplin.

Dell Vostro V130 Review

So, what is the best laptop for creative entrepreneurs?

That is an excellent question that I don’t have a thoroughly researched answer to. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to engage in a serious laptop-off, save for a Netbook (perfect petite size and cheap price tag at $350-$450, but too slow for my info-processing needs) and the MacBook and MacBook Air (lovely and amazing, but too pricey with a starting price of $999), but I will continue to cruise more laptops, and I’ll give you an answer once I’ve figured it out.

Here’s what I can tell you: At 3.5 pounds, the Dell Vostro V130 is lightweight and sturdy with its metal case and sleek design. As for tech-y details, the Dell Vostro V130 rocks an Intel Core i3 380UM 1.33Hz processor (Core i5 processor is optional); Intel HM57 chipset; 4GB DDR3 RAM; 320GB hard disk.

In a nutshell, if you’re anything like me—I’m a writer, startup coach, and creative entrepreneur (i.e., I didn’t go to business school, and numbers are not my friend)—who’s often online and gathering and transferring a lot of information, the V130 is great, with a semi-investment price of about $900. My only criticism (other than that I prefer the Mac operating system to PCs’) is that the battery life could stand to be longer. 

So what’s my plan? I think I’m going to ditch the Toshiba and buy a Vostro V130. I’m going to keep the iBook for now for, you know, back-up.

Amy Schroeder, founder of the DIY Business Association, is one of those people who’s initially a bit intimidated about the latest technology, but once she gets into it, she really gets into it.

Chrysler Superbowl ad is depressing

7 Feb
Eminem doesn’t make me want to buy a new car, but at least he tried
Eminem parks a sleek, black Chrysler in front of Detroit’s Fox Theatre, the glowing sign overhead reading, “Keep Detroit Beautiful.” It’s a sad yet wishful plea from a community that’s crashed, burned, and crumbled into an urban farm with abandoned storefronts, foreclosed homes, corruption, and massive unemployment.

Eminem walks through the empty theater that Motown greats once played, hops onstage to stand before a gospel choir, and says, “This is the Motor City. And this is what we do.”

Come again?

Once a thriving heart of America, Detroit used to pump out big cars, big dreams, high-paying jobs, music, culture, and a strong economy. Dramatic and emblematic as it may be, the two-minute Chrysler Superbowl ad represents an attempt to make up for fuckups past.

Am I happy that one of the most thoughtful Superbowl ads puts Motown on the minds of millions of beer-guzzling Americans (even if just for a Dorito-crunching second)? As a Hardworking Midwesterner who grew up in Michigan with a family history of factory workers, farmers, and the mighty working-class, absolutely.

I’m just not sure if the commercial is going to sell cars.

Or will it? Does this dark, bold statement inspire you to drop $20K? Or does it make you think, “Maybe I should keep my money in the bank and ride my bike more?”

The Chrysler 200 has arrived. Are you going to buy it?

God, I hope so.

Rock your most creative self

18 Jan

Brooklyn blogger and street-style icon Lesley Williams talks about her evolution as a creative cookie

By Amy Schroeder

Lesley Williams at New York Fashion Week, 2010. Photo by Kamau Ware (kamaustudios.com).

Lesley Williams is walking creativity.

Like many other Brooklynites, her skillz aren’t limited to just one job description. She’s a blogger (thecreativecookie.net), zinester (nope, the art isn’t extinct yet), stylist, seamstress, event coordinator, and fashionable lady about town.

Lesley Williams in Time Out New York

When it comes to personal style, she’s like the grownup version of Tavi Gevinson—she coordinates her glasses with her outfits, and she makes getting dressed seem like an interpretive dance. Two of my favorite things about Lesley are that she’s a continual work in progress and she and fiancé Kamau Ware host monthly (or whenever-they-feel-like-it) inspirational brunches for their friends to present photography, business ideas, comedy blogs, etc.

Lesley Williams with blogger Magdalena Olek. Photo by Kamau Ware (kamaustudios.com)

Enough of the chitchat, right? Let’s cut to the visuals. After the photo candy, you’ll find a wee Q&A and Lesley’s tips for being your best creative self.

At the Raul Peñaranda show. Photo by Lesley Williams

Lesley took the photo of her friend Sonya in August 2010, and a similar one from the series is featured in the January 2011 issue of Essence Magazine.

Tavi Gevinson in New York in February 2010. Photo by Lesley Williams

The Spring 2011 issue of Lesley William's zine, Easily Inspired

DIY Business Association: Were you encouraged to be creative from an early age?

Lesley Williams: As an only child, I developed a colorful imagination. I had friends from school and in my neighborhood, but the majority of my playtime was spent alone, making things and taking them apart. When I wasn’t crafting, I immersed myself in the lives of my Barbie dolls and stuffed animals while watching ’40s and ’50s sitcoms on Nick at Night. My parents were supportive of my behavior. They never forced me to engage other children—I think they found my creative alone time amusing.

How do you describe your creativity?

My creativity is very ambiguous. I suppose what makes me creative is my willingness to try and explore newness. Even if I’m unsure of the final destination, I’m always open to new creative jaunts.

What’s your advice for getting out of a creative rut?

A few years ago, I decided to hone in and deeply explore my creativity. As I grow, I find that my creative ruts are slowly vanishing, and the process of creating gets easier. But if I start to feel blocked, I tend to shift my attention elsewhere—this could involve writing a short story, visiting the nearest fabric store, or wearing a pair of shoes that sparkle. Stepping away is the best way for me to overcome the ickiness of creative ruts.

When do you tend to have your most creative moments?

I’m very sensitive to my environment—the physical space that surrounds me has always been vital to my creativity. I tend to cover walls in my workspace with decorative papers, images, and words that make me happy. I love lighting and odd office supplies, too. My most creative moments happen when I’m surrounded by things that I find inspiring and inviting.

What tips for being your most creative self?

1. Start small. Set attainable goals, each week, for your creative life. This could simply involve visiting a thrift shop, making a card, or watching a film.

2. Find accountability. Share your creative interest by maintaining a blog, joining a group, or taking a class. By engaging others in your exploration, you’ll find a support system and, maybe, a few champions of your work.

3. Spend time alone—even if it’s only 30 minutes a week to journal, collage, or stitch.

4. Do it now. If you have a creative impulse, act on it. There’s no better time than the present.

5. Never say or let anyone tell you that you are not creative. “There are moments in all of our lives where we might be stagnant, but we all have the innate urge, ability, and right to create something that did not exist before,” Williams says. “We are all creative in some shape or form.”

A half-ass report of Rome’s DIY business scene

11 Jan

It’s all about handmade goods, all-in-the-family businesses, and keeping money in the old country

By Amy Schroeder

I was in Italy for only 10 days, but from where I stood, Rome looked like a top-notch (albeit expensive—the American buck’s worth a whopping 70 cents right now) place to run a do-it-yourself business.

The Roman mantra is quality over quantity, and in this olive-oil­-loving mecca of two-million-plus people, there is no need for speed. Unlike the infant that is America, in the two-thousand-and-a-half-year-old Rome, the concept of “to-go” is not only missing from the Italian vocab—it’s downright weird. Rome doesn’t do paper cups or Thermo mugs. But the city does urge you to nap after lunch, relish a three-hour dinner, and close your business on Sundays.

Do Romans sweat the small stuff? Nope. That’s for Americans in need of therapy. Italians massage their minds by savoring the simple things in life: wine, pizza, pasta, cheese, proscuitto, espresso, family (hell, you live with them until you’re married), and wine. And wine.

And, talk about supporting the arts. The Roman Catholic Church pretty much invented the concept of the artist-in-residence, starting with Michelangelo and the Gang. Too bad the Catholics no longer commission the work of creative geniuses, hooking them up with rock-star expense accounts. Perhaps the Catholic Come Home crew should kick off a Modern Renaissance Movement—it could make for quite the marketing campaign.

I digress.

One of the interesting things about the Roman urban landscape is that the government wastes no energy on removing graffiti from historical buildings and residences. After all, “it’s just punk-ass kids tagging the walls—not gangs,” a priest-in-training informed me.

So, about the DIY biz scene. The Romans probably don’t refer to themselves as “DIYers”—though, considering that I only know four Italian words, I’m probably not a go-to source. But, really, Romans don’t necessarily need a DIY movement—afterall, do-it-yourself runs in their blood.

To an outsider looking in, here’s what I noticed: The more family-owned or indie the establishment the better. Vintage shops are immaculately curated. Local is not only better for the environment and the economy, it’s the Italian way of life—Romans are born foodie activists.

The following photos don’t do the Roman creative small-business scene justice, but it’s the best I could do with my iPhone:


Somewhere near the Vatican, you can hook this up. The proprietor probably doesn’t have a proper license to rent motor vehicles, but he does own the tschotchke cart (á la Colosseum snow globes and pope sculptures) just to the left (not shown).


Though there’s nothing innovative about aperitivos (the appetizers and drinks Italians enjoy before moving onto dinner), this bar gives the in-between meal a twist. The main draw of Freni e Frizioni (Via del Politeama, 4-6, in the Trastevere neighborhood) that entices the Italian indie set is a smorgasboard of complimentary hummus, beans, and bread. Between the hours of 6–9 p.m., everyone else in Roma is dishing out, say, 30 Euros for a coupla drinks, cheese, and proscuitto. Here, you can score two glasses of Prosecco and all-you-can-eat carbs for about 15 Euros. Oh, also, the bar operates from left to right—first pay the cashier and then get in line to pick up your order.


My iPhone camera doesn’t do this jewelry any favors. Nor does the company’s Web site. In any event, Nicotra di S. Giacomo necklaces, bracelets, and earrings are handwoven gold, silver, and silk. Reviving an old-school process, this is a must-see for handmade jewelry lovers.


While I’m not personally a fan of chestnuts (they taste like potatoes to me), they’re a big hit in Roma.

Need a new day job?

7 Jan

Hit up these industries in 2011

By Amy Schroeder

Technology, education, and healthcare are the most secure job industries for 2011.

Nurse, physical therapist, pharmacist, software engineer, and biomedical/environmental engineer will top the list as some of the new year’s most secure careers, the Today Show reported on January 7.

Don’t have the (seemingly) right skillz to hack it in 2011? Even if, on paper, you don’t fall into the top three categories, you may have a good chance to find new (or improved) employment. Get creative—consider the skills and experience you have and how you can apply them to fruitful industries.

For instance, if you’re a writer, perhaps you could develop content for startup tech companies, or, if you’re a crafter, you could curate art workshops for hospitals, daycares, and retirement centers.

Sure, 2010 was a crap year for job growth, but the DIY Business Association is feeling good vibes about 2011. In December 2010, the jobless rate dipped from 9.8% to 9.4%, the lowest rate since May 2009. Though only 103,000 jobs were added in December (125,000 jobs per month should be added to rebuild the economy), the Today Show reports that many American companies plan to hire significantly from January to June 2011.

And, get this:

• The average unemployed American takes about 34 weeks to find a job. Unfortunately, this is toooooo long. In comparison, during the 2001 recession, the peak time to find a job was 20 weeks.

• If you have a college degree, your chance of losing your job decreases by half. Cities with highest hiring rates: Boston, Washington, D.C., and Austin.

For more info, read “U.S. businesses stepped up hiring in December.”