What Do Women Want? An End to Fear.

This post originally appeared on MOMentumNation.com.

 

That’s not an easy question to answer. But something I know we’d all like to see is an end to the fear and violence experienced daily by so many women around the world.  Unfortunately, there’s a ton of bad news about women making headlines lately, including…

The recent abduction of almost 300 young schoolgirls in Nigeria.
The justification given by the extremist Muslim group Boko Haram for committing this horrific kidnapping is “retribution.” They see women as subhuman—chattel without rights. To make things worse, the odds of rescuing these girls gets lower by the day. One reason is that the Nigerian military whose job it is to find these unfortunate hostages is untrained, poorly armed, and riddled with corruption.

The stoning death of a young, pregnant Pakistani woman in front of the high court in the city of Lahore.
Her crime:  marrying the man she loved. Almost as awful as the act itself, is reading that her attackers included 20 members of the woman’s own family, including her father and brothers. So much for the “honor” in honor killings.

Two sisters, ages 14 and 15, gang-raped and lynched in their Northern India village.
These sisters were attacked after going into a field to relieve themselves because they didn’t have a toilet at home. India is “famous” for its lax treatment of sexual crimes. Last year, after the brutal gang rape and death of a New Delhi student made headlines around the world, India finally passed a law making gang-rape a crime punishable by death. However, violence against women hasn’t stopped, nor has the prevailing attitude toward sexual violence. Soon after this law was passed, the head of Uttar Pradesh’s governing party announced that he opposed the law. His incredible quote was: “Boys will be boys. They make mistakes.”

The criticism and “shock” following comments by NYC’s Mayor, Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray in a recent interview concerning motherhood and her infant daughter.
“I was 40 years old. I had a life. The truth is I could not spend every day with her.”  In no way do I put this flack in the same category as the violent offences above, but in my mind, it’s also noteworthy.

Okay, here’s the possible good news:

This week in London, Angelina Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hague are powering the world’s first Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Government ministers, military and judicial officials, along with activists from 150 nations are attending the summit to combat rape as a weapon of war, help its victims, treat sexual violence as a priority, and tackle the culture of impunity that exists in many countries.

“It’s a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians, done to torture and humiliate people and often to very young children,” Jolie said. “We need to see real commitment and go after the worst perpetrators, to fund proper protection for vulnerable people, and to step in to help the worst-affected countries.”

After feeling horror, disgust, anger, and sorrow when reading about these crimes, I think that perhaps there may be hope. I also feel gratitude for living in a country that tries to right the wrongs, with police we can trust, and institutions that are designed to afford protection.

Wear What You Love, and Make Money from What You Don’t

This post originally appeared on MOMentumNation.com.

 

I’ve always thought of myself as being resourceful. I think most women are, simply because we have to be.

After reading Tom Friedman’s editorial about Tracy DiNunzio in The Sunday Times, I knew this was one gal whose black belt in resourcefulness could inspire those of us thinking about launching our own business in 2014.

DiNunzio’s back-story is simple. After a rapid-fire wedding and equally speedy divorce, she found a way to unload piles of unwanted wedding gifts, and in the process created a multi-million dollar business.

Instead of the hassle of returning her wedding stash to department stores, she started a clearinghouse called Recycled Bride. Her idea was to enable couples (or newly singles) to ditch unwanted or duplicate gifts, and select the swag they did want. It was a success.

Next, she turned her attention to her wardrobe overflowing with clothing she was also ready to divorce. She knew she wasn’t alone in thinking how nice it would be to get money for the unloved items hanging in her closet—and buy what she wanted at less-than-retail prices. As a result, Tradsey.com was born—a centralized online marketplace that lets women buy, sell, and trade clothing and accessories without online hassles or paying full price.

For a 9% cut on all transactions, Tradsey prices, lists, posts, ships, and handles returned goods. Starting with only $12,000 four years ago, DiNunzio now has a staff of 22 employees, and serves over 1 million customers a month who are able to buy luxury goods they couldn’t afford otherwise. A definite win for the seller, buyer, and according to Friedman, the “sharing” economy as well.

If this sounds all too easy, it wasn’t. DiNunzio scaled the learning curve, inch by inch, using the Internet to teach herself marketing, web design, and basic coding.

DiNunzio sees her recycling business as “lightweight living” which she thinks reflects the way many people prefer to live today. Instead of accumulating possessions, the focus is on utility: It’s about buying want you want, when you want it; then selling or trading it at will.

As she said in The New York Times:  “We have a whole swath of middle-class consumers who are tired of buying disposable fashions…Now women can have their cake and eat it too.” Which is exactly what DiNunzio did.

Here’s to a happy New Year of resourceful thinking, and launching your own dreams, whatever they are.

Do you have a business idea you’re ready to launch?

Get Ready For Future Shock

This post originally appeared on MOMentumNation.com.

 

I stood on a turning platform while a 3D scanner recorded my image. The scanned image was immediately sent to a 3D printer where I was reproduced in sandstone, baggy pants and all.

The buzz surrounding 3D printing is everywhere. And if you want to see a slice of this future technology in person, New York’s Museum of Arts & Design (MAD) has a new interactive exhibit called “Out of Hand” which demos this remarkable process. As part of the exhibit, visitors can have their own image scanned, reproduced as a three dimensional replica, and sent to them in a few days. It’s very cool!

The impact of 3D printing on art, architecture, and design as shown at MAD is an eye-opener—especially if you take a tour led by a museum docent. But what really blew my mind was seeing and hearing how 3D printing can reproduce just about anything—a shoe, a toothbrush, an engine, a prosthetic limb. Not just an image of the thing, but the actual “thing!” I’m also told a human heart and kidney have been “printed,” although they were not part of this exhibit.

What are the consequences of this awesome technology—for good and bad?

I did some digging and found that a classic 1911 shotgun was reproduced by a California engineering company. I’ll put guns, especially the untraceable kind, in the NOT SO GREAT category. In the wrong hands, the possibilities for misuse boggle the mind: reproductions of art sold as originals, economies flooded with counterfeit money, bogus industrial parts, a human brain. Ugh!

On the benign side, A.J. Jacobs, a writer for The New York Times, “printed” an entire dinner of edible food for himself and his family.

Some Australia youngsters born without fingers have gained almost complete mobility in their hands thanks to customized prosthetics produced by 3D printers.  One-offs are being made to replace parts for antique cars, airplanes, and just about anything you can imagine. For a fascinating view of additional possibilities, check out this video.

Although this technology has been around since the 1970s, 3D printers are becoming more affordable with low-end models starting at about $500. (The most complex models still cost hundreds of millions of dollars.) When prices fall enough to make 3D printing more available, will this technology transform the world as we know it? To me, the possibilities seem endless and eerie.

What do you think?

Has Going Native Gone Too Far?

This post originally appeared on MOMentumNation.com.

 

In the good old days of publishing, I was a rookie copywriter cranking out advertorials for Ziff Davis’ special interest magazines. Advertorials were a crazy mix of storytelling, advertising and editorials.

Publishers liked advertorials because they provided content and brought in advertising dollars. Readers enjoyed the personal content, and advertisers welcomed the change from conventional, me-too ads to relatable information.

One advertorial I wrote for Flying magazine was about a teen pilot, who was too young for a driver’s license, but old enough to barnstorm the country in his private Cessna (accompanied by a co-pilot, of course). The advertorial brought in lots of white mail and probably was the reason I decided to take flying lessons years later. But there was no question that this was an ad. It was advertising. And if that wasn’t clear enough, the word ADVERTORIAL was positioned prominently at the header of every magazine page featuring this ad form.

Fast forward to the digital era. Today, traditional newspapers and magazines are fighting to stay alive.  Their revenue is shrinking because ad dollars buy so much more in the digital arena.  And since advertisers are getting more value and eyeballs for their money, digital makes sense on every level.

So what’s the problem? A growing number of people are concerned about the lack of separation between editorial (church) and advertising (state). This BFF alliance is apparent in native advertising as well as social media. As a result, it’s hard to know what’s fact, what isn’t.

The question is—have things gotten too cozy between business and advertisers? Will regulators decide to do something about ads masquerading as editorial? Will readers become so overexposed and distrustful of content that they turn it off completely?

According to the OPA (Online Publishers Association), using Best Practices help everyone. For starters, they believe native advertising should provide real value to the reader—as much value as “pure” content.  And second, that native advertising should be fully transparent to distinguish ads from editorial.

In truth, the best digital pubs already do this. But my guess is that they are in the minority.

In the social media arena, guru Gary Vaynerchuk uses his formula “jab, jab, jab, right hook” to sell products for his clients. His “jabs” represent giving something of value to his followers. This could be a joke, story, an introduction or even a meal. He then follows up with a “right hook”—a request to buy something. Using this technique, he’s helped many big-name clients build a notable marketing presence in social. Vaynerchuk himself says, this process “guilts people into buying stuff.”

In a recent Facebook campaign for Nilla Wafer cookies, he used “Momisms,” cute quips of interest to his audience. After rolling out with the most popular quips including, “The best families are like fudge, mostly sweet with lots of nuts” the Nilla Wafers Facebook page skyrocketed from 15,000 to 356,000 likes—and sales went up 9%! But as Veynerchuk readily admits, marketers are their own worst enemy. They take methods that work, and then beat consumers over the head with them until these methods stop working because consumers gradually tune them out.

Do you think editorial and advertising are too close? Have native advertising and social media ads reached a tipping point?

It’s Time for a Divorce

This post originally appeared on MOMentumNation.com.

 

My son was married this past weekend. It was an amazing wedding and I hope that union lasts a lifetime.

I’m all for marriage, but there’s definitely a time and place for divorce.

Take politics for example: Wouldn’t it be great to divorce the extreme political fundamentalists who are holding the rest of us hostage to their rigid ideologies? Or to maintain the separation church and state which was clearly stated in the first amendment of our Constitution more than 200 years ago?

Our own home-grown extremists, Republicans or Democrats alike, don’t insist women wear head scarves, or that thieves have an offending hand cut off. But in their own way, our made-in-the-USA mullahs are just as irresponsible as religious fanatics.

They put principle ahead of pragmatism. They care little or nothing about the consequences of their actions as they continue to receive government paychecks and enjoy benefits which include paid healthcare. It just makes no sense.

What’s important to this not-so-merry band of narrow-minded jesters is that nothing stand in the way of their beliefs. So what if we default on our debt, further impoverish the poor, damage our fragile economy, and endanger the security of the nation? These guys have the majority of Americans by the short hairs and they know it.

The worst thing we can do as a nation is to avoid compromise and move further in the direction of fundamentalism. Let’s do what we have to do and vote these obstructionists out of office. It’s time we came to our senses and divorce these bozos. The sooner the better!