Entrepreneurs: Stress + The Recession

Entrepreneur Magazine
The Psychology of Stress
You’ve managed to keep your business afloat, but how are you managing the stress?
By Tiffany Meyers, April 2009

Author’s Note: At the height of the recession, business mags were full of tips for keeping small businesses healthy. But what about keeping a healthy mind? To find out how entrepreneurs were (or weren’t) dealing with the emotional stress, I checked in with psychologists and entrepreneurs. This article was more positively received than almost any I’ve written, with a letter to the editor published in the subsequent issue of Entrepreneur. 

In the economic tailspin of the late 2000s, loss is part of life. Workers are losing their jobs, employers are losing their businesses, and as credit becomes more and more scarce, everyone is losing confidence. What’s more, entrepreneurs are grappling with a sense that they’ve lost control of critical factors that could determine their futures.

Those psychological hurdles are perhaps the biggest challenges facing today’s business owners; after all, it was probably that shining confidence and ability to innovate that got you started in the first place, right?

“So much of it has nothing to do with you,” says Tarek Tay, 36, co-owner and managing partner of Atlanta’s Zaya Restaurant, which launched strong in February 2008, boomed through the summer–and then saw business drop 30 percent in September. Although well-reviewed, it has operated in the red since, even with $1.2 million in 2008 sales. “If your food isn’t good, you can improve the quality,” he says. “If service is the problem, you can train your staff. But if the problem is that no one’s going out to eat because of the economy, what can you do?”

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Universal Design at Access Living

Metropolis Magazine
Free Space
By Tiffany Meyers, October 2007

A Chicago nonprofit creates a liberating environment for people with disabilities.

The building that houses Chicago’s Access Living, a nonprofit that provides services for and is staffed by people with disabilities, sits at the architectural intersection of sustainable and universal design—but you wouldn’t know it. And that’s the point. “A basic principle of universal design is that an environment shouldn’t make a person with a disability stand out as different,” says Richard Lehner, a partner at Chicago’s LCM Architects. “So the building itself shouldn’t stand out from any other office building either.”

That was core knowledge for LCM, which specializes in barrier-free spaces, but when Lehner and fellow partner John H. Catlin set out to incorporate green features into their plans–a requisite from the city of Chicago, which sold Access Living the site at a discount-they discovered a powerful synergy between the two design paradigms.

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Ad Age: Marketing to Women As Your Lead Consumer

Advertising Age
Marketing to women: If she’s happy, then everybody’s happy.
By Tiffany Meyers

Author’s Note: Women expect a lot from their products and services. So when marketers create offerings to meet women’s criteria first, they’re likely to have something that other demographics will go for, too. That’s the premise of this piece, the cover for Ad Age’s 2006 special report on marketing to women.

For all that blather about alpha males, adult men are a beta demo. There are 6 million more women aged 20 or older than males. What makes the 21st century woman a consumer phenomenon is her own deep pockets, born of greater education and clout in the workplace. The rise of the female consumer phenom–or she-nom–merits an overhaul in strategic thinking. Marketers must keep feminine preferences in mind not just for “women’s products,” but for items ranging from digital cameras to beer, that have traditionally been pitched aggressively to guys.

“The concept of marketing to women as your lead user is the way of the future,” says Bridget Brennan, founder of consultancy Female Factor Communications. In virtually every category, smart marketers will put women in the bull’s-eye, not on the periphery, she says.

Many marketers fear that direct appeals to women will alienate men, but the opposite is true, Ms. Brennan says. Products with a feminine veneer are apt to turn off not just men but women who suspect these are watered-down versions of the real deal, she says.

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Green up Your Office

Entrepreneur Magazine
Making a Green Office
By Tiffany Meyers, March 2009

Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, and office buildings are guilty. They binge on more electricity than any other type of commercial building, representing about 25 percent of the sector’s total electricity consumption. The natural gas they guzzle accounts for almost 14 percent of consumption in nonresidential buildings. But if you take a few simple steps toward a more sustainable office, you’ll see payback in many shades of green—from money saved to increased employee morale and retention.

1. COOL IT   According to the most recent statistics from the Center for Sustainable Systems, space cooling accounts for 11 percent of total electricity consumption in commercial buildings. If you’re in a mild climate, ask your landlord to consider adding an economizer, which conditions by bringing in outside air—not by using refrigerant—when it’s cooler outside than in. For optimal wintertime savings, experts recommend setting thermostats to 68 degrees during work hours and 55 degrees after hours. Stay on track with a programmable thermostat. HVAC maintenance matters, too: You and your landlord should seal leaky ducts, change filters and have your contractor come out to do annual tuneups.

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The Resurgence of Hand-Made Design

HOW Magazine
A Show of Hand

By Tiffany Meyers

Recently, designer Kevin Grady came across a cardboard box. In it: Some of his work from the early 1990s-and a copy of Emigre 29. Published in 1994, that issue of Emigre featured a 12-page insert by the British collective The Designers Republic.

“I have to admit, I was kind of shocked,” says Grady, Partner of design firm Grady&Metcalf and Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director of Lemon. “When that issue came out, I remember being totally blown away by it. And it was one of the most celebrated issues of the magazine.” (Illustration by Janice Kun.)

No doubt, he concedes, it did break great big swaths of new ground. But in hindsight, Grady realizes that it was also a product of its times: That was a period in which designers were piling layers upon layers of vector art, stretching type, and throwing enormous ellipses around everything-just because they could.

“The typography of that era was very much about itself,” he says. “It was very apparent that designers were just figuring out the computer. It was like, ‘Wow, I can stretch type. So that’s what I’m going to do.’ ”

One turn of the century later, designers have fully figured out every feature and filter. The novelty of the Mac—the thrill of stretching stuff they couldn’t previously layer-has worn off. And in the past few years, they’ve rediscovered the process of working by hand, producing a marked surge of graphic design that incorporates diverse elements of handwork.

Some are using letterpress and silkscreen technologies to produce small-batch or one-off products like invitations, posters, and handmade paper. Others are feeding their handwork-like hand-drawn or painted type and illustrations, mixed media, and collages-back into technology, scanning and manipulating those elements in order to scale up the handwork for large print runs.

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Where It’s Greener

Entrepreneur Magazine
Where it’s Greener
By Tiffany Meyers

As sustainability becomes more important, these cities are setting the standard.

Cities across the U.S. have at last realized the need to take action against global warming. Implementing some of the most innovative, far-ranging environmental programs and plans for residents and, in particular, business owners, the 10 cities featured here have earned themselves a rightful place on Entrepreneur’s sustainability map.

Population: 594,210
LEED -Certified* Buildings: 46
More Than 800: Number of mayors who’ve pledged to meet or beat Kyoto Protocol targets since 2005, when Seattle’s mayor, Greg Nickels, launched the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement
For Entrepreneurs: Ecotuesday: Eco-minded businesspeople meet on the fourth Tuesday of every month (ecotuesday.com).

Portland, Oregon
Population: 550,396
LEED -Certified Buildings: 47
Likes Bikes: Portland was the first major U.S. city to earn a Platinum rating from the League of American Bicyclists.
Succession Planning: With a $149,000 Coleman Foundation grant, The University of Portland teaches sustainable entrepreneurship, cultivating the next generation of ecologically responsible businesspeople.

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The Most Influential Industrial Designers

Tastemakers Series: Industrial Designers
By Tiffany Meyers, January 2005 

We live in a world of stuff. It accumulates in our homes, garages and offices. We tuck it into nightstands and glove compartments. Occasionally we throw it out, but, inevitably, we go out and buy more stuff. In fact, we’re buying more stuff every year. In 2004, Americans spent $987.8 billion on durable goods such as motor vehicles, furniture and household equipment, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

But even in this cycle of gather, dispose, repeat, there are objects that stand out. From the new BMW 7-Series to candy-colored iMacs, these are the products whose ingenuity captures our imaginations and whose lines catch our eye. These are the chairs that straighten our slouches, the containers that prevent us from spilling on our laps, the handy tools that are triumphs of form and function. They are the vehicles that transport us along roads–and even through the stratosphere–in comfort and style. “Good industrial design identifies unmet needs,” says Alistair Hamilton, vice president of customer experience and design for Symbol Technologies in Holtsville, N.Y., “and then fulfills those needs.”

Industrial designers must draw from a range of competencies–including ethnography, engineering, ergonomics, manufacturing and marketing, among others–to create everything from spaceships to sippy cups, interiors to interfaces.

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Meet Barbara Turf, Ceo, Crate and Barrel

PINK Magazine
Crate Expectations: A profile of Barbara Turf
By Tiffany Meyers |  December 2008

If not for a few details – the cash registers, the sales associates – I’d swear I was a guest in Barbara Turf’s home getting a tour of the rooms she’s lovingly decorated.

Strolling through the Crate and Barrel home store adjacent to suburban Chicago’s Northbrook Court shopping mall, near the company’s headquarters, the new CEO and I stop intermittently to admire the things she loves most – textiles from India, a French table of solid oak. As in any home, her relationship to these pieces, many of which hold reminders of her family, is deeply personal. “My daughter just bought this sofa for herself,” Turf says as we sink into the Huntley, a couch with clouds instead of cushions. “You’ll have to tell me if you think it’s comfortable.”

Of course, in many ways, Crate and Barrel is Turf ’s home, one she helped build over the last 40 years. In one of the highest-profile succession stories of the year, Gordon Segal, who opened the first Crate and Barrel in 1962 with his wife, Carole, named Turf the company’s new CEO in May.

In one of the highest-profile succession stories of the year, Gordon Segal, who opened the first Crate and Barrel in 1962 with his wife, Carole, named Turf the company’s new CEO in May. With eight new Crate and Barrel home stores up and running this year, including the first international foray, Turf is leading with the same commitment to innovation that’s prompted Segal to describe his longtime No. 2, now the company’s No. 1, as nothing short of a “retail visionary.”

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Rural Studio Builds a Tower

Metropolis Magazine
Bird’s-eye View
By Tiffany Meyers | February 2007

Author’s Note: One afternoon, I put in an out-of-the-blue call to the director of Auburn University’s Rural Studio. “Are your students working on any interesting projects?” Were they ever.

At Auburn University’s renowned architecture program, the Rural Studio, students turn trash into treasure as a matter of course. In their buildings for residents of Alabama’s Black Belt, glass bottles become windows and stacked carpet tiles serve as insulated walls. But a recent project–part of the school’s collaboration with Perry County to revitalize a historic park–takes the tradition of using reclaimed materials to vertiginous new heights.

The idea to build a birding tower had been brewing among students since 2001, when the Rural Studio began working with Perry Lakes Park, built by FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935. But it wasn’t until 2004-once separate teams had completed a pavilion, outhouses, and a bridge that provided access to the proposed tower site-that the park was ready for a student team to take on the project.

“We had no plan, so we began walking the trails,” team member Natalie Butts says. “When the bridge team saw us, they said, ‘Hey, have you checked out that abandoned fire tower by the side of the road?'”

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Design Your Home Office on a Budget

Entrepreneur’s StartUps
Design Your Home Office Space
By Tiffany Meyers | March 2009

Among the benefits of working from home: your 32-second commute, pajamas and the freedom to create an environment that works for you, not the common denominator. Checking in with interior stylist Amy Lenahan of Chicago’s design i interiors, we located two lackluster office spaces with one goal in mind: break all the rules of corporate décor without breaking the bank. 

Don’t know where to start? Follow your heart. Commit to an item you love and build the room around it. For curtains, Ikea’s Fredrika fabric ($5.99 per yard) paired with a more basic red fabric, the Minna ($6.99 per yard), set our hearts aflutter, so we carried the eye-popping reds throughout the rest of the room.  “In a home office, where privacy isn’t such an issue, I advise clients not to hide windows behind heavy drapes,” Lenahan says. To maximize natural light, mount your curtains on the outside of the frame. (While we’re on the subject, Ikea’s Täljare curtain rod set, $14.99, couldn’t make curtain hanging easier.)

“The color red speeds up our heart rate and increases our pulse,” says Kate Smith, founder of color consulting firm Sensational Color and member of The Color Marketing Group, an international color trend forecasting organization. “It’s good for an office because it encourages action and confidence. It makes us feel physically empowered–and even the boldest entrepreneurs sometimes need a little of that.”

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Heavenly Touches Make Condo Worth Wait

Chicago Tribune
South Loop condo
By Tiffany Meyers | January 18, 2009

Author’s Note: My editors at the Chicago Tribune sent me off with a notebook and realtor, viewing three condos within specific parameters. My task was to write about the one I loved.

Wouldn’t you know it? After being presented with two perfectly viable options, the condo that finally turns my knees to jelly doesn’t actually exist. Not, at any rate, until summer 2009, when The Roosevelt Collection will start delivering its 342 one- and two-bedroom condos, priced from the $300Ks to the $650Ks.

With Realtor Lindsay Fath of Century 21 Sussex & Reilly’s Lowe Group, I spend an afternoon viewing South Loop lofts priced at $450,000 or less. Our first stop: A condo that needs slightly more love, I’m afraid, than I have to give. The second option is … very nice. So I poke around: Nice view. Nice appliances. Stainless steel and so on. But I wonder: If I’m going to pretend to spend $450,000 of my hard-earned play money on a condo, is “nice” really the best I can do?

Maybe. But Fath and I persist. Parking her car in a gravel lot at 709 S. Clark St., we crunch up to the sales center for The Roosevelt Collection. By “sales center,” I mean “trailer.” We exchange a look.

But this trailer is very much not the kind you’d see on “My Name is Earl.” In the center of the space, an architectural mock-up commands our attention. It displays a miniaturized version of the forthcoming South Loop development, which will sit off Roosevelt Road, bounded by Clark and Wells Streets. With noses pressed to the Plexiglas guard, Fath and I agree that the tiny cars along the boulevards could not be more adorable.

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Small Space Wins This Square Footage Addict’s Heart

Chicago Tribune
“Sell it to me”: House & Homes
By Tiffany Meyers | November 16, 2009

Author’s Note: If you can’t buy your own deluxe apartment in the sky, you may as well write about them. When I viewed condos on assignment for the Trib, I fell for the “cozy” one.

If there were a detox center for square-footage addicts, I’d admit myself. I lived for years in a Manhattan studio, which housed my entire inventory of family heirlooms—a futon and microwave—only with some doing. So when I moved into my comparatively palatial Chicago apartment, I got hooked on space. “I can fit two couches in my new place,” I told a New York friend, conspiratorially, “and I don’t sleep on either of them.”

But I surprised myself recently. When Realtor David Panozzo, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, and I visited three lofts, all in the Southport Corridor and listed under $450,000,I fell under the influence of the first and smallest we saw. True, one property was easy to eliminate. The 1,200-square-foot condo was so angular (imagine a slice of pie, only bigger, and without the fruit filling) that I’d have needed algorithms to address the problem of sofa placement.

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