Friday, March 1, 2019

small business ideas for men

small business ideas for men

Louisville entrepreneur launches small business to create animated TV series - Insider Louisville

Posted: 28 Feb 2019 02:45 AM PST

A drawing of the fictional city New Sanctum. | Courtesy of Next Guardian LLC

In New Sanctum, an enormous city controlled by an oppressive government-like entity called MetaGen, Taboo, a member of a superpowered minority awakens without knowledge of his past or capabilities. The city, plunged into darkness by a blackout, teems with a ferocious intensity as government agents scour the city's many layers to determine whether the power failure was caused by a malfunction — or something more sinister.

That's the setup of a series of stories co-created by Louisville resident Justin Jackson, who is envisioning the material as an animated series. Jackson and co-creator Ethan Kostouros launched Next Guardian LLC about 18 months ago and are trying to raise funds to pay for a pilot they hope to sell to a content provider such as Netflix.

Jackson said the story, set on a fictional earth-like planet, plays on some familiar themes that are explored in "Game of Thrones," "X-Men" and "Black Panther." But he said "Next Guardian" also features some interesting twists, including a quasi-scientific exploration of the characters' superpowers and a lengthy history of events — wars, rebellion, failed revolutions — before the story begins.

Viewers of the series would learn about the world along with the amnesiac Taboo, who slowly rediscovers New Sanctum, its political machinations and his superpowers. Characters with superpowers are called aura users, or AUs, Jackson said, and their powers can vary, with some enhancing combat capabilities, while others serve to support surveillance endeavors.

Jackson said he and his co-creator envision the series as an in-depth exploration of a fictional world, featuring humor, betrayal, redemption, battles, a bit of romance and unlikely alliances among various factions in New Sanctum.

The entrepreneur said that he and Kostouros conceived of the idea when they were in high school. During a discussion in English class, they got bored and began to draw stick figures and assigned to them unique abilities before having them engage in "Dungeons & Dragons"-like combat. Jackson said the duo continued to create characters and stories around them, then connected their stories and created a shared history. As they developed their characters, they drew them in more detail.

"The more we dove into it, the more intense it got," he said.

While the co-creators attended different universities, they have stayed in touch and continue to work on the series, Jackson said, frequently exchanging text messages with new ideas for stories or characters.

Now they've got a pilot written, and they're attending conventions, learning about the industry, making connections and learning to pitch the project. Jackson said he estimates shooting a pilot could cost about $320,000.

Entrepreneurial challenges

Justin Jackson

Jackson said that while many of his fellow graduates from Savannah College of Art and Design moved to New York City and Los Angeles, he returned to Louisville to focus much of his energy on the series.

He said the advice and help he has received from his parents, Nikki Jackson, who works at the Federal Reserve Bank, and Vince Jackson, a health care executive, has been immensely helpful.

Jackson also has learned some lessons, including tough ones, from family friend and mentor Nat Irvin, assistant dean of thought leadership and civic engagement at the University of Louisville.

Irvin, an author, futurist, teacher, composer and commentator, told Insider that he advised Jackson, whom he has known for years, on typical entrepreneurial challenges, such as understanding his product and the market.

In addition, Irvin said he told Jackson to work on summarizing his series so that he can quickly share his vision to potential supporters and investors. Their time is valuable, and they have to be able to grasp the project in just a minute or two, he said.

Irvin said that he encouraged Jackson to follow his passion, but also gave him practical advice, by asking, for example, "Well, who's going to pay for your passion?"

The point, Irvin said, was for Jackson to make sure that while he pursued his fantasy series, he had a way to pay his bills in the real world.

Jackson works for the Montessori School of Louisville, leading after-school activities. He also works as a waiter, at Flavour Restaurant. Jackson said it's not lost on him that he shares restaurant duty with many of his actor friends who moved to the coasts.

The "Next Guardian" series takes up much of his spare time. Jackson said he works on it every night.

"There's always something new to discover," he said.

Irvin said that it's clear that Jackson and his co-creator have put a lot of thought into the characters and the story.

"Justin's very talented," Irvin said. "The characters (feel) real."

But he said that he also made it clear to the young entrepreneurs that they face high hurdles particularly because they lack deep connections in an industry dominated by the country's coasts.

"There's a lot of luck involved in this," Irvin said.

Technological advancements, shifting audience preferences

Nat Irvin II

On the flip side, Irvin said, technological advancements, a shift in audience preferences and a proliferation of delivery platforms are providing more opportunities for content producers than perhaps at any time in entertainment history.

The shrinking size of camera equipment and rising sophistication of editing software means that people can shoot films with very little startup capital. And filmmakers today do not have to rely anymore on the old studio structure because of disrupters such as Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services that are constantly are looking for content.

"With imagination and persistence and a strategy, you can be found," Irvin said.

What also plays into the entrepreneurs' favor is a growing network of minority filmmakers who also are increasingly gaining recognition for their work, from Spike Lee, who on Sunday won his first Oscar for "BlacKkKlansman, to Berry Jenkins ("Moonlight") and Jordan Peele ("Get Out,') who, as producer, has been nominated for Best Picture in two consecutive years. In fact, the adapted screenplay Oscar has gone to African-Americans for two consecutive years, while the directing Oscar has gone to Latinos in two consecutive years.

Those artistic recognitions have coincided with a rising commercial success of films with nontraditional heroes, such as "Wonder Woman," "Aquaman" and "Black Panther," which also have drawn to theaters more diverse audiences. The audience for "Panther," for example, was 37 percent African-American, compared to 15 percent for the average movie, and 45 percent women, compared to 35 percent for the average superhero movie, according to Fortune.

Irvin said that America "is in the midst of a social hurricane" unlike any the nation has seen since the early 20th century.

"The stories that have previously not been told are about to be told," he said.

And that's potentially good for young minority entrepreneurs such as Jackson who are trying to bring a unique vision to a screen near you.

Painesville possesses strong display of female leadership | Lake County -

Posted: 28 Feb 2019 04:00 PM PST

Since 1988, the U.S. has considered the month of March as Women's History Month, and on a global level, March 8 is celebrated as International Woman's Day.

In Painesville, women staff several key leadership positions, including in the parks and recreation department, the city planner, economic development director, and communication director. This is in addition to City Manager Monica Irelan Dupee.

The News-Herald recently talked to these women about their inspirations and their outlooks.

Monica Irelan Dupee (City manager; started in 2016)

On becoming a leader: "Since I can remember, I knew my job had to be something that would help people. I started college while still in high school with the intention of being a social worker."


Monica Irelan; City Manager

Her style of leadership: "We each bring a skill to the table and together solve complex issues. As the leader, it is my job to provide the resources and tools that are necessary for each of these experts to do their job effectively.

"But, it is necessary that we laugh a lot and enjoy the work we do together. I think people are surprised by how casual we are in our everyday work, but it creates a great team environment."

Strong women in her life: "My mother worked a full-time job while raising five children. My paternal grandmother was 'Rosy the Riveter' during World War II, working in a bomber plant while the men were off to war."

Issues of women's equality: "I think it is becoming easier to talk about inequalities in America, but it is still hard to talk about an issue without being labeled. That being said, the data is clear; there are still inequalities in pay between men and women doing the same job with the same qualifications. The inequality is stronger if the woman is of color."

Lynn White (City planner; started in 1991)


Lynne White; City Planner

What led to working at Painesville: "After high school I worked several retail jobs and learned that what I was taught about customer service from my father helped me. I was hired at the very bottom of the hierarchy, as a part-time typist due to the experiences that I had in retail and importance of customer service."

Why Painesville: "The small town atmosphere and historic charm along with the fact that I live in Painesville makes me motivated to make Painesville its best. Painesville has so much to offer with wonderful opportunities to grow. I believe one day we'll get there."

Leanne Exum (City engineer; started 2014)

What led to your position? "My stepfather was the city engineer for Painesville growing up and I found his job very interesting. That is what led me down the path civil engineering in college and eventually led me full-circle, back to Painesville."


Leanne Exum; City Engineer

How she leads her department: "I have an open door policy to discuss departmental, residential and construction issues. I welcome new ideas from everyone so that we have a cohesive relationship and I encourage team building. There is definitely a 'can do' attitude on the team."

Personal inspiration: "My mom has always supported and encouraged me."

Michelle LaPuma (Recreation and Public Lands director; started 2013)


Michelle LaPuma; Director of Recreations & Public Lands

What led to your position: "I was self-employed running a landscaping business with my husband handling all of the books and bids for our company. I continued to run the business by myself for ten years after he passed away, meeting with customers and supervising projects. I became certified as a Woman Minority Business Owner and worked hard to grow the business."

How she runs her department: "My management style is Respect. Each and every employee is a valuable part of our department. I try to display this by keeping my employees informed, meeting with them regularly to allow them the opportunity to ask questions and give suggestions."

What keeps her motivated: "It is my desire to make a difference by providing quality family events, making sure public lands are well maintained and working to add new amenities to our parks. I am fortunate to work with a group of talented, hard working individuals who take pride in their work and the city."

Cathy Bieterman (Economic Development director; started 2005)


Cathy Bieterman; Economic Development Director

What led to her position: "I had an internship position with the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chapter of Commerce and I loved my internship in their Government Affairs Department. I decided from that point on I was interested in working with Chambers of Commerce and bridging local government with the needs of small business."

How she runs her department: I like to say that we are very locally focused. We work very hard to bring local opportunities to local businesses and we work even harder to find solutions and ways in which business can work through the processes of local government.

Inspiration for young girls: "It's important to really understand your own true values and core beliefs that you want to reflect and hold close to you and find those same values and beliefs in others."

Kathleen Sullivan (Communications coordinator; started 2018)


Kathleen Sullivan; Communication Coordinator

What led to her position: "I was a journalism and public relations major at Miami University. From there I went into business communications for four years and now public communications. I enjoy talking to people and listening, so being in the public sector gives me lots of exposure to people of various backgrounds."

How she runs her department: "I try to come to the table with all points of views in mind. Whenever a new project or topic is brought to my attention to communicate, I want to become an expert on the that topic as much as possible before I start communicating to others."

Issues of equality: "When you get to the leadership level, in private business or the public sector, there is a disproportion of women to men. It's one of the first things I noticed when I interviewed with the Painesville team, half the room was female."

Inspiration for young girls: "Look within your own family or daily interactions. We're surrounded by powerful women, most people just don't realize it."

The Slate: A Collaborative Space for Business - Park Cities People

Posted: 27 Feb 2019 11:30 PM PST

The Slate, a new Dallas co-working space for small business owners, especially working mothers, is set to open March 1 at 2403 Farrington St. in the Design District.

(ABOVE: Sisters Shelly and Jodie Slater created a venue for working moms and other entrepreneurs. Photo by Sarah Hamilton Photography)

Sisters Shelly and Jodie Slater, a small business owner and a lawyer, want their new venture to serve as a one-stop shop where entrepreneurs can focus on work and grow their businesses while learning from a diverse mix of other users in the space.

"One person's skillset can save you hours of your life," said Shelly Slater, of Highland Park. "The point of The Slate is to simplify your life. A lot of working moms are running around with their heads cut off and feel like they have to choose one or the other."

The sisters spent nine months searching for the right space and found a nearly 12,000-square-foot building surrounded by a variety of businesses and boasting views of downtown Dallas.

With the help of architects at GFF, The Slate takes multi-purpose to the extreme. It can be made to serve as a continuous education site, a commercial studio, a café, a local goods store, and other purposes.

"One person's skillset can save you hours of your life." – Shelly Slater

(ABOVE: Potential clients preview The Slate weeks before its opening. The versatille space is designed to serve a varsity of uses. Photos: Chris McGathey)

The brick-lined building includes 10 private offices, three specific co-working spaces (though the entire building is meant for co-working), a kitchen, a sitting area, a studio, a podcast room, a boutique, and three bathrooms.

Painted on a wall is The Slate's motto, "Hone It. Own It. Slate It."

"We are truly trying to create a community, not just trying to make revenue," said Jodie Slater, of Preston Hollow. "The real goal is that when you meet multiple people, you learn more things and get more ideas from people."

There are multiple memberships types, including flexible, private, and dedicated options, and 60-day and one-day passes. The sisters also want to make sure that, despite the focus on working mothers, men should feel as welcome as anyone. There is a third Slater—their brother.

The Slate is already planned to be a home for a Dry Bar owner, a photographer, a former private equity business owner, and a trademark lawyer. It also has drawn interest from large national companies looking for team building rooms.

"The space is the heart of the business," Shelly Slater said. "The more people you meet in this space, the more you learn, and the more you grow. It's all people who have arrived and need something to propel them one more step."

You know his name, his family. Now, meet Carl Lindner III, the man behind FC Cincinnati -

Posted: 27 Feb 2019 07:50 PM PST

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The chant went up as soon as Carl Lindner III walked on stage at the Woodward Theater and took his place next to the new logo for FC Cincinnati.

CL3! ...CL3! ...CL3!

He raised a glass of beer to toast the team. He shook hands with fans. He posed for selfies.

And the chant grew louder.

Lindner, FC Cincinnati's majority owner, is one of Cincinnati's wealthiest men. The heir to an insurance fortune, a philanthropist, adventurer, political donor, businessman, yacht owner and all-around Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous kind of guy.

Despite all that, the reception Lindner received at the logo unveiling was something new. It was the first time the intensely private Lindner had been, quite literally, thrust so far onto the public stage. He was the main attraction. The star of the show.

But Lindner's journey to the stage that night was no different than the journey he has taken many times before. He was there because he was a true believer, convinced that with his influence, money and sheer force of will he could make a necessary thing happen.

In this case, his faith in an idea brought a Major League Soccer team to Cincinnati. In the past, that same faith encouraged him to expand his business, invest in the community and become a man whose calls are taken by presidents and senators.

Those who know him say that if Lindner believes in something, really believes in it, he is relentless in his pursuit.

When he was unsatisfied with the private school options for his kids in the 1980s, he built his own school. When he couldn't find a church that celebrated his Christian faith the way he thought proper, he built his own church.

And when he wanted a pro soccer team in Cincinnati, he lined up the people and the money needed to make it happen.That team, FC Cincinnati, launches its first Major League Soccer season Saturday night in Seattle.  

"He doesn't lose his confidence or his cool," said Jeff Berding, FC Cincinnati's general manager. "He sees a problem as an obstacle that must be overcome."


Watch to see how Carl Lindner III is reshaping Cincinnati. Amanda Rossmann,

A millionaire's son, ready to take chances 

Lindner is the oldest son of Carl Lindner Jr., whose company American Financial Group made him a mega-millionaire who brought hundreds of jobs to Cincinnati and allowed him to become the largest benefactor the city had ever seen.

He didn't tell his sons they had to go into the family business, but for Lindner III it was inevitable.

As a child, the younger Lindner remembers trips to the family-owned United Dairy Farmers ice cream labs for tastings to "make sure it was good."

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When he was older, Lindner went to work for his dad's companies, scooping ice cream, cashing checks as a bank teller and repossessing cars.

After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in three and half years, he took a top job at American Financial. He and his brother, Craig Lindner, became co-CEOs of the company in 2005, while their father remained chairman of the company until his death in 2011.

Lindner may be CEO of a company with $7 billion in annual revenue, but he considers himself an entrepreneur. He's willing to take chances on ideas he believes can grow the company, and he's willing to put money on the line to do it.

That's what happened in 1989, when Lindner met a young man who wanted to start a business aimed at passenger transportation insurance. He had a small team and an idea: Specialize in writing insurance for school buses, limousines and motor coaches.

Lindner thought the idea had merit and agreed to give him $375,000 for a 51 percent stake in the company. National Interstate was born. The company took its 49 percent share public in 2005, and Lindner quietly watched his investment grow.

In 2016, the Richfield, Ohio-based company was valued at $660 million. American Financial Group bought it for $330 million, and now it's a subsidiary of AFG.

"He saw what it could be," said Tony Mercurio, who has worked at National Interstate since almost the beginning and is now CEO of the company. "They never tried to manage the company. They brought the right balance of autonomy and oversight. We called Great American the big brother down the road on I-71."

Lindner also puts his money behind causes and politicians he believes in.

His family has given $11 million to his alma mater, UC, where the business school is named after his dad. And as a lifelong Republican, Lindner is a regular contributor to GOP candidates, including at least $100,000 to two Super PACs that backed candidate Donald Trump.


President Trump attended the wedding of Nashville socialite Vanessa Falk and Carl Lindner IV. His guest? Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe. Wochit, Wochit

A photo on Lindner's office wall shows him putting on the lush greens of Pebble Beach Golf Links, with former President George W. Bush holding the flagstick for him.

In February 2017, Trump stopped by the wedding reception of Lindner's son, Carl IV. "I know both families very, very well," Trump said. "These are two great families."

Turning to God after 'I let pride creep in.' 

Lindner wears a faded black band on his wrist that says, "Jesus Christ is my victory."

He says his faith guides everything he does.

It's led to new schools and churches, and a long-ago effort to remove pornography from stores and hotels.

Lindner was an early supporter of the Citizens for Community Values, supporting the group's mission of targeting pornography. The group was successful in removing it from some supermarket shelves, including from large chain stores owned by the Lindner family at the time.

A few years earlier, Lindner put his money and prestige behind a very different faith-based project.

In the mid-1980s, he was looking for the right private school for his kids. He wanted them to get not only a good education that included sports and the arts but also strong lessons about God and faith. He couldn't find a school that did both to his satisfaction.

So, he set out to build his own.

He and some wealthy friends founded Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in 1989, a suburban Symmes Township school. Lindner's four children would attend. Later, Lindner created Armleder School in downtown Cincinnati for younger children.

Lindner felt the same way about where he worshipped. He wanted a place where people would feel comfortable exploring their faith. So he, his wife, Martha, and his brother Keith Lindner founded New Horizon Church in Newtown, where Lindner still attends Sunday services.

Friends say the Lindners wanted the church and schools to be open to all, not just the wealthy. They say that's why he helped establish a $50 million endowment for students at Armleder.

"It's been in the heart of the Lindner family from the beginning to make sure we were not another rich, white-kid school," said Randy Brunk, who has led both schools for the past 16 years.

Christy and Jon Riley sent their son and daughter to Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, looking for a "solid Christian foundation before we sent them off to college and they left the bubble," Christy Riley said.

At Cincinnati Hills, students take mission trips to local nursing homes on weekends or over breaks and have traveled to Chicago to tutor poor kids. They also get lessons in the Genesis creation story when evolution is taught.

"I wanted my kids to know that Christ loves them before anything," Riley said. "This school gives them the opportunity to be surrounded with other kids who have the same foundation."

Lindner said he wanted his school and his church to reflect his Christian beliefs, which influence most aspects of his daily life. He said he believes God is acting through him to accomplish worthwhile things, whether it's building a church, a school or a soccer team.

He said he and Martha begin each day at 6 a.m. reading the Bible and praying. He said he prays for others and for himself.

"I am a fallible human being," he said. "We all make a lot of mistakes. I let pride creep in and made some mistakes in my life."

Though he won't talk about those mistakes, he said his prayers help to center himself and let him focus on what matters.

How a UC Board meeting sparked FC Cincinnati

Lately, he's been praying a lot about soccer. Specifically, his investment in FC Cincinnati and the team's new $250 million stadium.

The Lindners fell in love with soccer years ago, when their children played competitively.

At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, they stayed with family friends near Brazil's soccer team. They met some of the best players in the world, like Real Madrid star Ronaldo.

"I kept an eye on the trajectory of soccer and liked what I saw," Lindner said.

He already had a taste of being a major league team owner when his family bought the Cincinnati Reds in 1999 after owner Marge Schott was forced out.

Lindner saw the Reds purchase as a civic duty to stabilize the team and keep it in Cincinnati after the Schott years. He said he brought FC Cincinnati to town for the good of the city, too.

Not everyone agrees. While the team has a rabid fan base, Lindner and team owners were criticized by some over plans to locate the stadium in the West End, a historically black neighborhood where some residents felt neglected by the city.  

"A soccer stadium in and of itself is not going to uplift this community," said NAACP Vice President Joe Mallory. "If you want to really improve the community, there are many things they can do to be more impactful.

"The bottom line is they are a business and they are doing it to make money."

Friends say Lindner has faith that professional soccer will benefit not just fans but the entire city, including the West End. FC Cincinnati is supporting youth sports in the neighborhood, has pledged to hire people who live near the stadium and is pouring $1 million into a host of amenities for the neighborhood, including arts programs. 

"Carl saw an opportunity to bring a major sport to Cincinnati more for the benefit of Cincinnati than for the benefit of Carl himself," said Scott Farmer, the CEO of Cintas, a friend of Lindners and a team owner. "Carl's dad was this way, too. They love Cincinnati and they do things to improve it as a city. That is a family legacy."

Lindner said he didn't dive into pro soccer on a whim, or as a star-struck fan. He prayed on it, as he always does. And then he did his homework.

Major League Soccer was growing exponentially. From 2004 to 2015, the league doubled in size from 10 clubs to 20. Lindner also talked to longtime family friend and billionaire business owner Phil Anschutz, who co-founded Major League Soccer, as well as multiple teams in the League. 

Anschutz connected Lindner with Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber.

At the same time Lindner was investigating the prospects of bringing a team to Cincinnati, former Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding was hatching a plan to do the same.

Berding was quietly looking for business partners. His St. Xavier High School classmate, George Joseph, of the Joseph Auto Group, was intrigued. They secured an option on a minor league team. They needed an ownership group, a management team and a place to play. 

In January of 2015, their proposal to play soccer at Nippert Stadium made it to the University of Cincinnati trustees.

Lindner was one of those trustees. He called Berding the next day.

"What are you doing for lunch today?" Lindner asked Berding.

They dined in Lindner's private dining room, off his office in Great American Tower. They put a plan together and, a few months later, went to see Garber in his New York office to find out if there really was a path to bringing Major League Soccer to Cincinnati.

Garber said there was.

"I'm all in," Lindner said.

Joseph said Lindner, a friend, pushed from the start to build the team the right way, rather than on the cheap. "Carl set it up as if we were a top-tier club, with Major League standards," Joseph said.

Since then, the club's explosive growth has been noticed around the globe. Off the field, FC Cincinnati shattered all the existing USL attendance records during its inaugural 2016 season – and then broke its own records in each successive year.

On the field, FC Cincinnati was a rampant success. The team never missed the playoffs in the USL, advanced to the grand stage of the U.S. Open Cup semifinals in 2017, and won the USL Championship regular-season title in 2018.

"I saw something miraculous happen," Lindner said. "I really have to thank God."

Wearing his allegiance on his sleeve

Lindner wants everyone he works with to have faith, too. In their daily interactions. In their business ventures. And in the soccer team they're building now in Cincinnati.

Last week, Lindner sat at his desk in his office on the 40th floor of Cincinnati's highest skyscraper, which bears the name of his business, Great American Tower.

To get to it, visitors take Elevator G, which is the kind of private elevator where a person's ears pop. It goes straight to the top.

Even on a dreary February, the view was spectacular. From here, he can see the Ohio River, Great American Ball Park, and Cincinnati's iconic Roebling Suspension Bridge.

His jacket and slacks were impeccable, though his collar was open. No tie. A gold pin, bearing FC Cincinnati's new logo, was on his lapel.

Lindner had the pin and sets of cuff links made for team owners as a Christmas present. The pin, real gold, is inscribed with 5-29-18, the day Cincinnati was awarded the expansion team. It also bears the numbers of a Bible verse, Ephesians 3:20.

The verse praises God for accomplishing "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine."

"I wear it close to my heart as a reminder of my faith," Lindner said.


About Carl Lindner III

Age: 65

Family: Married to Martha Lindner. Four children; daughter Blake Lindner Thompson, sons Carl Lindner IV, Christopher Lindner and Matthew Lindner. Five grandchildren

Home: Indian Hill

Job: Co-CEO, with his brother Craig Lindner of American Financial Group, a specialty insurer based in Cincinnati. The company was founded by their father, Carl Lindner Jr.

Hobbies: He's a really good golfer and fisherman. The Lindner team, Seraphim, took home the top prize in the Sailfish 400, a Miami-based fishing tournament, in 2016 and 2017. Lindner was named top male angler the competition in 2016. He's played the Pebble Beach Pro-Am the last several years and he golfs in tournaments with Martha Lindner.

Staying in shape: Swimming, Peloton  

Travel: Homes in Key Largo. Pebble Beach and Colorado; corporate jet; yacht named Seraphim.

Fun facts: Lindner's 60th Birthday was James Bond-themed, featuring a stuntman descending from a helicopter. He has bungy-jumped off a bridge in New Zealand; he was a producer of the 2016 slave-rebellion drama, Birth of a Nation, which won the Grand Jury prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Sharon Coolidge tells the stories you've never heard. Get more Cincinnati stories like this by subscribing to 

Contributing: Alexander Coolidge and Patrick Brennan



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Trailblazers in Travel: Get To Know These Impressive Travel Business Owners - Forbes

Posted: 28 Feb 2019 08:34 PM PST

March 7 is International Women's Day and in anticipation of it, I wanted to take a closer look at female-founded businesses in the travel industry. Not too long ago the industry was very male-dominated with women business owners and tour operators being relatively rare, however, that has changed a lot. I spoke to seven women who have found their own niche, founded their own business and are blazing their own trail in the travel industry. They tell me how they did it below.

Rocio Vazquez LandetaPhoto courtesy of Rocio Vazquez Landeta

Rocio Vazquez Landeta, Founder of Eat Like a Local Mexico City

Can you give me an overview of your business? What niche do you fill?

Eat Like a Local Mexico City offers food tours for "tour haters" – small and flexible experiences for the food obsessed. Ninety percent of my clients always say "I hate tours, but I like this." I also promote sustainable and responsible tourism and encourage my guests to create meaningful connections with the local vendors.

More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field

I think that more women started traveling and this made us realize we need better travel experiences. I got into the travel industry after traveling and experiencing tours that were horrible. The travel industry is changing and women are seeking more personal, meaningful experiences throughout our travels. As women, we tend to be more sympathetic, we are better at making connections, we tend to be more flexible and we know how to read people in order to provide a better travel experience.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?

Travel, travel, travel. There's no better way to understand what travelers need than through traveling yourself. This way you'll be able to create a better experience and with a personal approach. Traveling is the best source of inspiration.

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?

I went to Tibet after a very bad breakup and that trip changed my life. I was not a Buddhist or into trekking, but I just ended up there by chance. The love, happiness and compassion Tibetans showed me inspired me to be a better person. I created my sustainability and social programs after I came back from that trip.

Sarah CasewitPhoto courtesy of Sarah Casewit

Sarah Casewit, Co-founder of Naya Traveler

Can you give me an overview of your business? What niche do you fill?

The travel industry is at a turning point where people are seeking extraordinary moments filled with authenticity and personal value rather than checking off a must-see list or following a guide book. They're looking for personalized and high-end experiences that go beyond the tourist route, in favor of opportunities to engage with locals and their traditions. Recognizing this void in the travel industry, we launched Naya Traveler with private journeys that bring back purpose and value through immersive, cultural experiences — a philosophy that is very much engrained in the way I personally travel. We cater to a tight niche in the industry, one that is sophisticated, discerned and well-traveled, looking to go on a high-end adventure in a far-flung destination with the luxury component as a given rather than at the centerpiece of the journey. Our travelers are mostly couples in their 40-60s or small families and groups of friends, working in law, media or finance, generally based in the East and West Coast of the U.S.

More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field?

It's inspiring to be a part of this new wave of female-run businesses taking over the travel industry. Over the past few decades, women have become economically independent which has encouraged many to take off on their own to launch new concepts that have diversified the travel industry. Given that the industry was male-dominated for many years, women discovered a void, one that calls for a renewed type of travel. In this, female business leaders have brought in unique concepts, such as small-group travel led by female tour leaders (such as our new founder-led Trip to Morocco, led by myself) and travel "by women for women". However, I believe women's input in the travel industry goes well beyond the female sphere and is not limited female-oriented concepts. Naya Traveler, for instance, is a company that I started with my two female co-founders and although we thrive off of planning trips for small groups of females and solo travelers, our philosophy— being one that was inspired by the universality of cultures, attracts not only women. As we design trips with our philosophy in mind for all types of travelers, we bring in a particular sensitivity and awareness that endows our journeys with an intangible value.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?

Learn to fight off your fears and anxieties as early as possible because they will only slow down your learning process and hinder your growth. Be true to yourself and to what you believe in, and never try to fit in. Love what you do with fervor, believe in your vision and people will applaud you for your authenticity and passion. Most importantly, enjoy the ups but also the downs, because each failure is a lesson learned for tomorrow.

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?

Last summer, I traveled with my partners on a recon trip to Ethiopia for Naya Traveler. As we journeyed south, we took a week-long road trip through the Omo Valley to encounter some of the world's oldest tribes and peoples. The arduous drive from Turmi to Arba Minch took us through desolate plains, muddy flash floods, winding mountain roads. One day, when the rain was pounding down on us, we stopped for shelter at a village of the Hamer tribe. Known to be a secluded and private people, the chief (a female) welcomed us into her thatched hut. We sat enclosed around a fire with some nine people of the community and our guide translated bits of their storytelling, providing profound insight into their way of life. After a few hours, the rain finally came to a stop and a rainbow took over the sky as we drive off. Looking back, it was one of the most intimate cultural experiences I've ever had and one that I will always cherish.

Mery CalderonPhoto courtesy of Mery Calderon

Mery Calderon, Founder and President of Kuoda Travel

Can you give me an overview of your business? What niche do you fill?

We aim to provide personalized and high end travel to South America for the discerning traveler. When I started the company 15 years ago, there were fewer than five companies doing similar to what we do, and we have continued with the same philosophy of crafting personalized journeys according to the unique desires and requirements of each of our guests. As a business, I want Kuoda to continue to grow with these values, to enrich people's lives (both visitors and those here in Peru) with meaningful projects. I want my company to be one that those who work here can be proud of, a role model to learn from for ourselves and our children.

More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field?

As is the case in many industries now women are becoming more confident and affluent in their roles, and looking to be the best we can be in anything we try our hands at. We are equal in all we can to provide to our clients, but we have a natural sense of empathy and understanding in our communications with those traveling that we can show as an advantage over straight selling. We might still want to have a desired balance of home life with traditional roles, for which starting a travel company is possible without needing to have an office to work from. If we might say an industry is dominated by males, then as women, we can come in with new ideas and new ways to show the places that we want to visit and to give a certain sensibility to the customer. Those that travel are male, female, young, elderly, couples, friends and families, there's a place for all types of agencies, but especially for a new line of thoughts, and that's where we can make a positive impact.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?

Enjoy the journey! Be passionate about the product you are selling. This is a natural trait for many of us as females. And if you are thinking of starting your own company, do it now because you are already late. Try to be surrounded by the best in the travel industry, build the connections, and learn every day – those who have a similar outlook and a vision to aspire to. Create a business which primarily has a meaningful purpose, and it will bring its own joys and rewards.

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?

Sharing my passion with my daughter during a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Travels can be just a couple of weeks of vacations each year for each of our clients, and so they need to be unique and special. This trip reminded me of the need for more time with my own children, and to truly understand why we travel, to have new perspectives and share experiences with those we love and cherish.

Amie O'ShaughnessyFlytographer

Amie O'Shaughnessy, Founder of Ciao Bambino

Can you give me an overview of your business? What niche do you fill?

Ciao Bambino is a global travel planning resource for families. Our mission is to inspire and empower families to travel through information on our website and our bespoke planning service focused on designing trips for families with kids of every age and stage. We personalize every client experience around the ages of the children and the objectives for a particular trip, and our wide array of vetted family-friendly resources enables us to plan incredible itineraries around the world. Because we're dedicated to family travel, we've created an incredible feedback loop where our clients give us real-time updates on what they're loving, and we use this detail to further refine the recommendations we use across our travel agency.

More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field?

In our market, women plan many (not all but many) of the trips and have first-hand experience with the challenges. I think this has inspired many of my colleagues to found businesses accordingly. As a mother with a school age child selling family travel, I'm right in the heart of the demographic we sell to… this enables us to offer a service that is relevant and truly meets the needs of both our online audience and agency client base.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?

The travel industry is a relatively small one when it comes down to finding partners who share a similar mindset and passion. Network like crazy and of course, ensure that you have the freedom to travel as there is no substitute for face time and personal experiences when it comes to selling and offering a differentiated product., American Society of Travel Agents, is a good industry resource for suppliers and agencies alike.

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?

We've traveled on four continents as a family over the past year, so this is a hard question, but I have to say that traveling in Japan is something that really provides a lasting, deep cultural immersion opportunity. We had our share of moments of true travel struggle given the extreme language barrier, but it is exactly these moments that create the lasting memories! And in many cases, like this one, the seemingly mundane is memorable; we struggled for 15 minutes to get our tickets through the train turnstile as an audience gathered. The stress melted into belly laughs for all in the end and we'll talk about this as a family forever. We also ate lunch in a Japanese farmer's home in the countryside. We couldn't communicate directly, but we shared heartfelt joy together appreciating hospitality, traditions, and a home-cooked meal.

Dianelle Rivers-MitchellDianelle Rivers-Mitchell

Dianelle Rivers-Mitchell, Founder of Black Girls Travel Too

Can you give me an overview of your business?

Black Girls Travel Too is a boutique travel company that specializes in creating sustainable travel experiences globally. Originally when we started, we were very similar to any other travel company offering trips. However, the more I traveled solo I noticed there was a void within the travel space. Travelers weren't really connecting and diving deep into the destination let alone with locals. In order to truly experience a destination, you must embrace and engage with the locals to gain an authentic cultural experience. A destination is nothing without its people.

Take, for instance, Barbados. I traveled to Barbados at least a minimum of ten times in 2018 and well over 25 times over the years. My frequent and in-depth visits have afforded me the opportunity to create something very unique and special within the Black Girls Travel Too experience. We strive continuously to create sustainable tourism by keeping the locals in mind in all that we do within the destination. When possible, we reside in Airbnbs. We shop local, from purchasing fruit and veggies from a local corner vendor to buying locally made souvenirs. Dining is one of the most important aspects of ones travel experience. We hire local chefs that are able to share unique cultural cuisines that you may not be able to experience within a restaurant that isn't locally owned. Disconnecting from the travel apps and blogs to talking to people where you are. This is how I met an older gentleman by the name of Kelly who was a local fisherman from Barbados. He was fishing one day and his attention to detail stopped me in my tracks. That short conversation has led to many dinners at Kelly's home, me meeting his entire family and purchasing fish from him on every visit.

What niche do you fill?

Our niche is the ability to provide bi-cultural experiences. I believe bi-cultural experiences is essential to the growth of our community. Our travelers come with us out of comfort and familiarity. They desire to travel with women they can relate to and don't have to be concerned with code-switching, as we all have often done when we are the minority in certain environments. On our experiences, we support each other as we dive into a new culture. The benefit of the bi-cultural experience is that we grow and create life-changing experiences together. We get to remain who we are while experiencing another culture within a supported environment.

More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field?

I feel there are several factors on why there's an incredible rate of women entering the travel and hospitality space. As history has shown us, there were a lot of things women weren't allowed to do such as vote until 1920. These forms of social setbacks have allowed men to overpopulate several industries, literally getting a head start into the workforce. Now that the playing field is slowly being leveled out, women are now applying for a position that they are more than qualified for. In addition, women not only make up over 80 percent of all travel decisions, we are the most traveled gender and we bask in the space of solo travel. In turn, this has been inspirational and has built confidence for women travel vloggers, bloggers and travel influencers. It's propelled women forward in the space of entrepreneurship by starting their own travel companies and or becoming a travel agent within a male-dominated industry.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?

Find your niche. Identify your target market. But most importantly, identify a problem within the travel space that your target market has and provide a solution

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?

There are two memorable travel experiences that made my 2018.

At the start of 2018, I created a philanthropic arm of Black Girls Travel Too called Serving In Paradise Foundation. Serving In Paradise Foundation is a global non-profit entity founded with the purpose of joining the indigenous people of the Caribbean and Africa in strengthening and stabilizing their local communities. In July we held our first voluntourism group trip that consisted of seven days six nights on the island of Barbados. We as a group spent three days working alongside locals in the Pine community repainting classrooms at Parkinson Secondary School and the steps at Parkinson Resource Center. We also had an opportunity to speak to the senior class at Parkinson about the importance of education and following your dreams. To be able to pour into students knowing there's a possibility your presence and your words could better their lives was so fulfilling.

Within the last quarter of 2018, I created and led the first all-black female influencer press trip in Barbados with the assistance of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. Ten black women on a fully sponsored press trip had been unheard of until this one. I had been working on this idea for over two years and not only did Barbados believe in us, they put action behind their words. From the hotels, The Club of Barbados and Hilton Barbados, to the amazing 5-star dishes we had at Daphne's and Cocktail Kitchen that graced our palates, not to mention a live instructional demo cooking class where we dined on local eats on the beach, mind-blowing views during our Island Safari Tour, and a fun day at Nikki Beach Barbados — the #collabinbarbados had our respected Instagram communities talking for months about how groundbreaking this opportunity was for the black travel space.

Stacy ReadalPhoto courtesy of Stacy Readall

Stacy Readal, Founding Director of Duma Explorer and Chaka Camps

Can you give me an overview of your business? What niche do you fill?

Founded in 2004, Duma Explorer is an adventure travel company offering safari and trekking packages to beautiful Tanzania. With decades of Tanzania tourism experience among us, we pride ourselves on our long-standing reputation for providing high quality travel experiences to our guests. Also, as a founding partner of Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project and one of Tanzania's only Travelife-certified tour operators, we continually focus on our commitment to social, economic and environmental sustainability.

In addition to our travel company, we also own three tented camps through our company Chaka Camps. We fill a niche by being a one stop shop that offers a very good product at a reasonable price.

More and more women are founding travel companies. Why do you think more women are entering the field?

In my experience running tours, women are usually the ones who book trips and plan travel. They are detail-oriented and I think the nature of planning trips and travel appeals to women. It is easy to be your own boss in the travel industry and I think that also appeals to women. I believe women can bring a more feminine perspective to the industry. When I started my second company, Chaka Camps, I had female customers specifically in mind as I knew they were usually the ones selecting hotels. I designed our properties to appeal more to women. I used a lighter, softer touch in the design rather than heavy leathers and dark colors typical of safari camps at the time. The Tanzanian tourism industry was very male-dominated when I entered the market in the early 2000s. I brought a feminine perspective to both our companies and I think we have done well because of that.

What tips do you have for women who want to create their own company in the travel industry?

To take risks and not be afraid to go after what you want. Nothing is off limits! Be self-confident and don't be afraid to promote yourself.

What was the most memorable travel experience within the past year?

Taking a helicopter over Victoria Falls and into the gorge with my two daughters.

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