Working late into the night at the same nonprofit organization, Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi soon became close friends, making happy hour plans and confiding in each other about matters that others might find delicate or overly personal—from credit scores, to how to ask for a raise, to the struggle with “how to not suppress my personality, which I like,” says Hirabayashi, “but also be taken seriously and not be seen as bubbly and young.”
“We gave each other really tactical advice that also wasn’t cheesy, and it felt very empathetic,” says Lidey. “There wasn’t a voice like that out there at scale, and we definitely heard that from our friends, too.”
So when the DoSomething.org colleagues started talking about their own venture together, it’s no surprise that they thought back on the advice they had shared. What if they could offer that same service to other women? Career and life coaching with the same “accessibility and vulnerability” they had with each other?
“There’s nothing that comes at you directly in the morning that feels like a friend, that sounds like the way your friends talk about, just, the real shit,” says Hirabayashi.
In August 2015, everything finally clicked.
“What about using what we’re good at, what we’ve done for the past four years at DoSomething, which is really focusing on text messaging?” recalls Lidey. “What about a daily text?”
Their brand would target millennial women, like themselves, but could benefit anybody looking for a little guidance and positivity in their day-to-day life. Known as Shine, it sends users a motivational quote or GIF to their phone every morning at 8:30 AM and encourages them to set goals for the week. There’s also an advice section on the website with articles designed to help further boost users’ confidence.
And they’re reaching beyond their initial target audience. To date, the team has exchanged over 7 million messages with users. Shine’s users are about 70 percent female, and 88 percent are 35 and under.
In April, a good friend, Jonathan Uy, from DoSomething.org, joined the co-founders. The former mobile technical lead at DoSomething.org is now Shine’s chief technology officer.
“These past four months have been the most productive four months I’ve ever had,” says Uy. “It’s cool that I really do get to have a hand in all these things. It’s a feeling that I haven’t had before, where you just sort of directly and concretely see how much of an impact you have on the company that you’re working in. Every single thing that we do has just a weight to it. It’s a really nice feeling. Like the things that you’re doing are significant.”
Based out of Brooklyn’s WeWork Dumbo Heights, the Shine trio laughs wildly when they’re together, and for a company just over a year old, they make starting a business look effortless.
“I think it helps that we’re friends and we’re obsessed with each other,” says Lidey. “We also have a genuine respect for each other and respect for each other’s niche areas. And we also share a lot of areas—there’s a lot of great foundation to work off of that we’ve built over the past four years, like not even meaning to necessarily.”
Hirabayashi agrees, adding that on “Self-Care Saturdays”—a rare day to recharge—“ I love biking. And I love wine. And I love hanging out with Marah and Uy.”
As entrepreneurs, we wear multiple hats in our business—we are the visionary, technician and manager—all rolled into one. Although we might be playing many roles, our key responsibility is to make sure our business has a solid financial foundation. And an important part of that foundation, that is often overlooked, is getting a handle on our business taxes.
As a financial planner, I work with many small business owners who have questions and concerns about their taxes. From listening to their stories and trying to help them, I’ve learned some of the key challenges facing businesses today. Here are my five tips for entrepreneurs as we enter tax season.
Hire a tax professional
When you start a business, you will likely have to take on multiple expenses, and make decisions about whether to invest in a product or service right away—or wait until your business is more established. One expense you don’t want to skimp on is hiring a tax professional. A common mistake is waiting until tax season to hire someone. There is a difference between professionals who just prepare your taxes, and those who actively engage in conversation with you throughout the year. I recommend hiring a tax professional who will be your collaborator. Among other services, tax professionals can help you determine what form of corporation best matches your business expenses and answer questions each quarter.
Don’t mix personal and business expenses
Start your business off on the right track by opening a business checking and savings account so that you can keep your personal and business expenses separate. This will save you time at the end of the year when you organize and report your expenses. Most importantly, you will be prepared for the worst-case scenario. If a client sues, and your personal and business assets are commingled, your personal assets could become attached to the lawsuit.
Keep good records
Most entrepreneurs do not know which expenses are tax deductible and which aren’t, which is why it’s important to keep meticulous records of all expenses throughout the year. During your tax preparation, your tax professional may ask you questions that could uncover new areas where you can save on taxes specifically available for your type of business.
Save to a retirement account
Many entrepreneurs leverage their business expenses as the primary method of lowering their taxable income, sometimes to the extent that they show almost no income for the year. If you are among those spending frivolously at year-end, consider opening and investing in a retirement account instead. The best retirement account for your business will depend on the structure of your company and number of employees. The goal is to save money while also reducing your taxable income.
Set aside money for taxes
There are not many guarantees in life, but paying taxes is one of them. Make sure to keep up with quarterly tax payments, and be prepared to pay anything that you might have missed in April. A good guideline to follow: put 25 cents of every dollar you earn into a savings account. You won’t be caught off guard by additional taxes, and any money left over accrues in a savings account.
While You Were Sleeping, An Algorithm Took Your Job
The following is an excerpt from The Future-Proof Workplace, by Linda Sharkey and Morag Barrett.
Last night, while you were sleeping, white collar jobs were being replaced—by computer algorithms.
In the financial sector, software can analyze data, reveal trends, and pose probabilities faster than a human analyst can open a spreadsheet. We are able to mine data for predictions that we could never see before. This analysis enables us to debunk myths and see new solutions to problems that we could not comprehend before.
These insights will change how we practice medicine, how insurance is sold, and how we transport ourselves to work—or stay home to work.
Today’s 3D printers can create almost anything we can imagine. And our cars want to drive themselves! Robots and artificial intelligence are taking over tasks humans once did. In fact, one hotel in Japan is staffed by robots, with only a skeleton crew of humans.
But the new discoveries of the twenty-first century are only just beginning to be realized. A 2014 survey of executives by Forrester/Russell Reynolds cited that over 75 percent of those in the finance, health care, and government sectors believe that their business will be significantly disrupted in the next 12 months.
In the past few years we’ve seen Netflix go from darling to dumpster—twice! You can bet its executives, and every other media company, is looking to analytics to tailor content by region and by user in order to ride the wave of the future.
A “me too” strategy is not a strategy. If you’re copying a business model, you’re building in obsolescence and extinction.
Established corporations known as manufacturers, like General Electric, are working to reposition themselves as tech companies. GE is moving its headquarters to Boston, a decision we believe is intended to move the company closer to innovation hubs like MIT.
NV “Tiger” Tyagarajan, president and CEO at Genpact, LLC, recently shared with us that Genpact does not have corporate headquarters, and instead spreads its teams around the world in hubs close to their customers. He also noted that their ability to use robots made communication with customers instantaneous.
Through the robot interface, the customer, sitting in New York, could meet the team—based in Poland—that would work for his organization and understand how its processes would be managed. It is quite revolutionary.
New technology and globalization, in the broadest sense, have always been around. It’s the pace and reach of change that are transforming everything we do in business. Think about how the automobile changed not only transportation but how, when, where, and what people purchased.
Can you imagine life today without electric light? This invention revolutionized commerce, manufacturing, and almost every industry.
In their time, just over 100 years ago, these examples were seismic shifts for people. The changes created new business opportunities overnight, while destroying other industries. They disrupted whole industries, shifted the skills required for workers, and changed the work environment forever.
And let’s be frank, there will be winners and losers, as there always have been as the world spins into the future.
6 Reasons Washington, D.C. is a Great Place for Startups
It’s not Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, or even Silicon Beach, but if a company wants to change the way the country works, there’s not a better place to be than Washington.
D.C. is focused on politics, and anyone who doesn’t work for the federal government is probably at a lobbying firm, a nonprofit group, or another organization hoping to benefit from the proximity to Capitol Hill. More and more, that includes startups.
“There are a lot of startups in D.C. trying to disrupt how the government operates and how the services of the government can improve with private sector innovation,” says Jonathan Ericksen, project manager and former community manager at WeWork K Street. “Washington might not have something sexy like Snapchat, but people are doing serious stuff.”
At last count, D.C. is home to more than 1,000 technology startups. That includes a wide range of industries.
“For the past five years I have worked here for startups in various stages,” says Andrew Vincent, vice president of product at United Income, a company focusing on retirement services. “It is the hub of technology and policy. Education technology thrives here, so does fintech.”
D.C. is also the first city to host the Creator Awards, a global initiative by WeWork to “recognize and reward the creators of the world.” Over the course of a year, WeWork will be giving out more than $20 million at a series of events taking place in cities spanning the globe. The D.C. event is March 28.
Here are six reasons the region is luring entrepreneurs.
1. A diverse workforce
You hear a lot about the need for diversity in tech, and Washington makes good on that promise.
Anthony Shop, co-founder of the digital agency Social Driver, says that being located in “one of the most diverse and inclusive communities in the entire country” gives tech companies a competitive edge.
“Companies who seek a diverse workforce can find it in D.C., so they locate and open offices here,” says Shop. “A diversity of backgrounds leads to fresh ideas, which make companies more competitive.”
“The range of startups here go from virtual reality to government contractors to filmmakers,” says Merav Yuravlivker, co-founder of Data Society. According to the WeWork Chinatown member, the diversity “encourages collaboration across industries, which has been a boon for our growth as a business.”
“For women of color—black, white, and Latino—D.C. is the best place to be,” says DeShuna Moore Spencer, founder and CEO of kweliTV, an interactive streaming platform for the black community.
2. A focus on social good
A reason many entrepreneurs are drawn to D.C. is the fact that so many organizations are charged with helping people. It started decades ago with nonprofit groups, and has continued with the newer crop of tech-oriented organizations.
“D.C. is full of smart, ambitious people who want to make the world a better place, and isn’t that what an entrepreneur is?” says Vincent.
Spencer agrees, saying the environment is perfect for companies who want to change things on a national or global level.
“Our focus is social justice, which is why this is a good location for us,” says Spencer. “We have independent films and scripted content dedicated to issues and stories from around the world. It’s important for us to have the social impact element.”
One good example is the startup Open Data Nation, which uses public data to predict risks to public health and safety in major cities around the country.
“We aim to do good using data science techniques,” says founder Carey Anne Nadeau. “We want to keep residents of cities healthy, happy and safe.”
Her platform can help predict everything from food safety problems at restaurants to accidents at construction sites.
3. Plenty of talent
D.C. has one of the nation’s most qualified and diverse population when it comes to tech. More than 185,000 people are employed in the tech sector, including a cybersecurity workforce of 27,000 in the metropolitan area, according to the Washington D.C. Economic Partnership.
“We can find really good talent here,” says Vincent, whose staff works at WeWork K Street. “We started in D.C. because the policy and research insight we received from think tanks helped us to identify this problem. That wouldn’t have been possible in another city.”
D.C. is home to more than 30 incubators, accelerators, and coworking spaces, including many that are focused on building diverse companies.
“There are people here from all across the country and the world that bring unique perspectives and experiences to solving tough problems,” says Matt Monks, catalog operations manager at the on-demand grocery delivery service Instacart. He works out of the company’s local office at WeWork Dupont Circle.
In the past, finding talented staffers in the tech sector was difficult for local businesses. That’s changing as New York and the San Francisco Bay area become more expensive, encouraging Millennials to seek out more sustainable options.
4. An educated population
The number of universities in the metro area—including American University, Georgetown, and Howard University—means Washington is ranked the second most educated city in America.
“There is a reason why major universities open up satellite campuses here,” says Vincent. “There are a lot of opportunities and lots of competition for the best and brightest.”
“D.C. is a great place, especially for ed tech, because it’s rich with universities, thought leaders, talent, and associations that set policy or inspire innovation,” says Kimberly Moore, founder of Carpool to School. “The entrepreneurs in tech want to be part of a good community and contribute to each other’s success.”
5. An abundance of capital
“There are a lot of VCs and investors,” says Spencer. “You might assume D.C. is all about policy and politics, but it is a really great place to tap into the international community and global funding and accelerators.”
Spencer says kweliTV is one of 10 companies that participated in accelerator TipHub’s 12-week program this past fall. They promote innovation and manage a network of angel investors supporting startups dedicated to making an impact in Africa and Africa’s diaspora.
“I’m a person of color with a niche streaming service,” says Spencer. “In D.C. there are a lot of diverse angel investors who get it faster, since they are part of that diverse community.”
With local efforts underway to reduce the capital gains rate for angel investors, Washington could attract even more investors in the near future.
6. Experts in the private sector
Washington will always be a government town, but the changes in the executive branch have encouraged some of the District’s best and brightest to look toward the private sector.
“One of the things I have been encountering since the election, is that there are these young, smart, driven people who want to continue to make things happen,” says Vincent. “And they don’t feel the government is the best place to do that right now.”
Fashioning a School for Design, One Stitch at a Time
Karen Lozner fell in love with fashion at a young age. As a child, she made dresses for her Barbie dolls using her grandmother’s vintage sheets, and jeans from the hem of her own.
Growing up in Manhattan, her taste was shaped by what women wore in the streets and her early exposure to New York’s many different ethnicities and cultures.
“Some of our students start as young as 7 and continue into their teens,” she says. “Some we help with their portfolio for schools such as Parsons School of Design and the Rhode Island School of Design. We like to prepare them so they have a better future.”
She says many kids have a preconception that sewing is easy.
“They are extremely creative and just want to make a dress, without a pattern,” she explains. “We try and teach them, before you run, you have to learn to walk. For example, if you want to change the way a design looks, start with a square, patch pocket, but they want to do things like a heart-shaped pocket.”
Looking back, Lozner says she doesn’t miss working at her old job at a New York fashion house.
“I wanted to teach kids fashion design and what I love to do,” she says. “It teaches me as well, and provides me with other skills I never knew I had.”