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  • October 3, 2011
  1. After toying with the idea of living in Philadelphia for 5 years, I moved into the City to live with my then boyfriend.
  2. I had my heart broken.
  3. I moved again, this time with a friend of my sisters.
  4. I gave up my car lease and stopped driving for the first time since I got my license.
  5. After months of planning, we held our first GirlDevelopIt Philly class.
  6. I developed my first website (Not ready for public consumption after one HTML/CSS class. You’re welcome :P).
  7. We changed direction at 123LinkIt.
  8. My Company turned 2 years old.
  9. I spent more time with my family and we became closer.
  10. I decided to make a valiant effort to stop being my own worst enemy.
  11. I’m finally learning how to cook.
  12. For a period of time, I unintentionally got back to my High School weight (I promise it’s not related to the previous item, haha. P.S. Break-up “diets” are the best!).
  13. I accepted a part-time teaching gig at Montgomery County Community College.
  14. I blogged more…and was named one of the top 10 entrepreneurship bloggers in Philadelphia.
  15. I finally made it on TechCrunch! Okay, not exactly but I’ll take a shout-out during my buddy’s TC Disrupt debut :-). (P.S. Check out Playsay.com for an innovative way to learn a new language using Facebook).
  16. I’ve become open to the idea of marriage and having a family (I had sworn it off years ago).
  17. I started dressing up more. As a long-term tomboy, this warrants inclusion to the list. I bought my first 3 dresses and I wear them without having to (which is a big deal for me). I also put my hair down for occasions besides special events. To put this in context, I would probably borrow a dress once a year from my sister and wear my hair down 5 times on a good year.
  18. I bought this motorcycle. Okay, okay this didn’t really happen but I will have my own bike come Spring!
  19. I accepted more invitations to speak at events such as TechGirlz, StartupCorpsWord 11 Prefix and PANMA.
  20. I’m now volunteering to speak at events such as the upcoming WordCamp Philly and BarCampPhilly. I would not have done this last year.
  21. I’ve grown closer to certain acquaintances and I’ve expanded my circle of friends of which almost half of them I didn’t know until recently.
  22. I’m taking salsa classes.
  23. I signed up to become a Big Sister (Pst, they’re looking for more volunteers. Click here to learn more about the Program).
  24. After vehemently refusing to watch it, I finally saw the Star Wars trilogy and I had to swallow my pride to friends when I admitted to enjoying it.
  25. I got back into running.
  26. I ran my first 5k for CHOP.
  27. Besides walking, I’m using a bicycle as my main mode of transportation.
  28. I discovered I can still shoot a basketball. Last weekend, I beat two people at a PNC Bank P-I-G Challenge. The second person was a buff black guy who wasn’t too happy about it. Worse for him is I was wearing heels, ha! [Picture]. I used to play religiously during middle school and high school.
  29. I learned you can’t change people who don’t want to change themselves, a difficult feat for someone as persistent as I am.
  30. …more I can’t announce just yet!

For those who don’t know me I’m someone who develops habits, particularly with things I like. And when I like something, I become OBSESSED with it. Take a new song for example, I will listen to it repeatedly over a course of a few hours. I ordered rancheros huevos while out at brunch with friends a couple of months ago and I have become so enamored with the dish, I cook it for myself at least twice a week now. I would go as far as to say you can’t find a better tasting one anywhere else. That’s me…I fall in love with things I like, thrive to become the best at it, and either stick with it or lose interest and move on.

What’s my point? The word “change” is not at the top of my vocabulary list. I’ve put myself out of my comfort zone more in the last few months than I ever have and the level of on-going discomfort I’m experiencing is new. That said, I’m noticing I’m becoming more relaxed about the possibility of change, even embracing it sooner than usual in some areas. I’ve learned more about myself during these last three months than I have in years and this process has helped me figure out what I want and more importantly, what I DON’T want.

I’m an extremely private person and even being this open is different for me. Maybe I should add that to the list! As someone once said, “If you don’t create change, change will create you.”

Do or do not. There is no try. – Yoda

All of us in some form want to leave an impact on someone or something. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t want the satisfaction of making a difference. I would argue most of us lay out a time-consuming and complex plan on how we plan to accomplish this.

What if you made an impact on someone’s life without realizing it? Without even REMEMBERING it?

Let’s rewind about three weeks ago. It’s Friday night or my first ever Girl’s Night to be more specific. It was supposed to be three of us and a friend brought someone else along I’ll call Kim for this post. We introduced ourselves and started chatting. At one point, she leaned in close and told me we’ve met before.

“What? No, we didn’t.”

“Yes, we did,” she proclaimed. “Actually, you inspired me to become an entrepreneur.”

My jaw dropped. “When? Where?”

She went on to explain how we’ve briefly talked at a party three or four years ago. I was gushing about how I was about to start my Company. She said I was the first woman in technology she had met and she was so motivated by our conversation, she left her corporate job and started a web development shop right here in Philadelphia. At one point, she pulled out her phone and showed me that she still had my number saved from that night.

I was completely transfixed during our conversation, amazed that I had left an impression on someone without thinking twice about it or even knowing it.  That I could have that kind of influence in such a small period of time.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. How many short encounters do we miss out on everyday that can truly transform someone’s life? How often do we ponder how our words and actions can leave a mark on others? Making a difference seems like a daunting task. As I’ve recently learned, sometimes it’s present in the small things.

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  • September 9, 2011

my-idea-notebook

At one point or another, we’re told to keep a notebook of our startup ideas. A place where we jot down the newest product/service concepts that pop into our heads. My battered one is shown above.

I started mine during my DreamIT Ventures days in 2008. I recently came across a digital version I compiled a couple of years ago and I became amused reading through them. According to my file proprieties, I haven’t updated it since September of 2009. It’s understandable because it’s around the same time I found my CTO for 123LinkIt and started building our alpha product.

I remember being one of those entrepreneurs that was afraid to share my ideas in fear of them being stolen. I’ve learned so much since then. I thought I’d take a moment to post some of the ideas I didn’t pursue. Here they are in no particular order – the good, the bad and the ugly!

  1. SwapYourCloset.com – My Mom lost a lot of weight one summer before going overseas to see her family and she had to buy a new wardrobe. The idea of swapping clothes with others was born. This idea won Second Place in Temple’s Innovative Idea Competition in 2009 and was a finalist at their Business Plan Competition the same year. I still have the domain name if anyone is interested in it.
  2. Yazana’s Grill – A healthy fast-food restaurant. This won First Place in Temple’s Idea Competition in 2008.
  3. Identity theft prevention service – After my sister had her purse stolen, she had to get on the phone with her bank, credit card companies, credit bureaus, etc. This service would take care of canceling your credit cards and ordering replacements as well as notifying your credit bureaus, calling your bank, sending new IDs, etc.
  4. YourCelebrityPhoto.com – My star-struck little sister inspired this idea. A service that allowed you to superimpose your face in a celebrity’s body or allowed you to purchase a “fake” picture of yourself with your favorite celebrity.
  5. Staffing agency for international students – I came up with this idea when a friend from Thailand couldn’t find a job that would sponsor her after college so she can stay in the U.S.
  6. Web 2.0 poker site – This one is self-explanatory. I played online poker and the community aspect of connecting with other players was missing. I envisioned a social network where you can befriend, learn from, and meet other poker players.
  7. Status updates via phone – Think of Twitter but purely mobile and permission-based. I came up with this idea in College when I was always either in class or working. When I wasn’t able to use my phone, I wanted a way I can input where I was or what I was doing so anyone who tried to reach me could either hear it in my voicemail or receive a text message displaying my current status.
  8. Measurement software for buying clothes online – This service would allow you to upload a picture of yourself and it would recommend clothing based on your body type and preferences.
  9. Social media time capsule – This emerged during New Years last year when I was thinking about everything I’ve accomplished in 2010. It’s a service that displays your memories and is able to depict your highlights as well as allow you to create a photobook as a keepsake. It would derive the data from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – all the major social networks.
  10. MenInUniforms.com – Every woman and gay friend I know love men in uniforms, myself included. This is a dating site for cops, firemen, sailors…phew, it’s getting hot in here (*fanning self*). I plead the fifth on how this idea was conceived.
  11. Dating reference site – A site that aggregates references from past ex’s across different categories. You guessed it, I came up with this when a guy I was seeing embellished on a few things that didn’t turn out to be true. There are actually services that do this already.
  12. Car wash in malls - This was my friend Peach’s idea. The concept is to allow drivers to drop off their cars to be detailed while they shop. We put together a plan for it and also entered it into Temple’s Idea Competition. It won First Place in 2007.
  13. Personalized homepage – self-explanatory.
  14. Personalized recipe website – self-explanatory.

As a sidebar, I currently hold the record for most “Innovative Idea Competition” placements at Temple University with three wins consecutively. The ironic thing is I entered 123LinkIt, the concept I finally chose to pursue two years ago and it only received an Honorable Mention. I actually predicated the outcome on Twitter. However, the good news is I ended up winning First Place and $10,000 in cash and prizes in their annual “Be Your Own Boss Bowl” (the equivalent of a Business Plan Competition). I outline the process and win in more detail here.

Inventing a tangible product and getting it out to market is on my bucket list. Here are some ideas I’ve had:

  1. Bookmark, pen and highlighter all in one – I read…A LOT. I wanted a bookmark that had a flat pen and highlighter from each end that slides out when needed. With my Kindle, it doesn’t seem as useful but a product idea I coveted for some time early on.
  2. Two-sided TV – Exactly what it sounds like. If you come from a large family, you already understand. We constantly fought over what to watch and I envisioned a two-sided TV that can be placed in a coffee table with Bluetooth type earpieces where you heard your show depending on the “channel” you switched to.
  3. Personalized horn – This came from many road rage incidents. It’s basically a bullhorn that would shout out pre-recorded messages to drivers who cut you off, drive too slow, etc. (Good thing I gave up my car lease! I like to think I’ve mellowed out since then too :-))
  4. Headphones that allow you to add attachments – In case you want to listen to your iPod, etc. with someone else.
  5. Walletbra.com – I’m 29 years old and have yet to own a purse. Enough said. As of September 18th, the domain is still available.

Yes, most of these ideas if not all now exist. Like one you see? Go ahead and “steal” it. I know I’m missing more and I’ll add them to the list when I recall them.

Related Resources:

central perk coffee shop sign

On a given week, I frequent at least five coffee houses. My record for most visits in one day is four. I use them as “my office.” I can’t sit still for too long and I get bored easily so I hop around from one place to another allowing the current location to pique my short-lived interest and then I move on to the next spot.

Yes, I could visit my office at Temple University (we’re their newest incubator company) but I enjoy the short walks from my new place in Center City and they’re great for meetings. I can also easily indulge in my new-found addiction to chai tea lattes.

One of my best friends recently told me he wants to open his own coffee house and we briefly entertained the idea of getting into the venture together. We talked about the aspects that would make it the “perfect” coffee shop. I can’t help thinking about it now every time I set up “office” and so I thought I’d jot down some of my thoughts.

  • I imagine the decor to be in warm tones and possess a homey feel. It would be stylish, keeping with Feng shui practices and local art would be strewn across the room.
  • There would be a fireplace with comfortable leather couches around it for the winter months.
  • A special “Foursquare” mayor seat would reside in a methodical location that even Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory would approve of. It may even be a throne. The mayor would also be able to cut in line during busy periods.
  • It would have at least two private meeting rooms in the back that business people can rent in an hourly basis. They would fit four people and include a whiteboard.
  • The lighting would be adequate. Who goes to a coffee shop for a romantic date? Oh, you do? Go somewhere else!
  • The WIFI would work. And it would be fast. Enough said.
  • There would be power outlets at every other table and they would have more than 2 sockets.
  • The baristas would be friendly and trained to remember the patrons’ names. Preferably half-naked men with six-packs (Did I really just that? Just kidding!).
  • Tip jars would only be allowed if they had a humorous sign.
  • We would not play any house music. I haven’t been to a place that plays anything I’ve liked, it’s usually too loud and everyone listens to their own iPod anyway.
  • The place would be divided into a coworking place/coffee shop. More on that below.
  • The tables would be square. That’s right, circular tables would not be allowed. Or in other words, they must be able to fit a laptop comfortably.
  • The bathrooms would be impeccably clean. I find many places around Philadelphia are coed. There would in fact be separate rooms for men and women. In addition, the women’s bathroom would have a seat that cannot be lifted just in case.
  • I can’t stand it when other patrons talk loudly on their phones (why is it always old people that do this?) so there would be some kind of cell phone policy.
  • The hours would be suitable depending on the location. I don’t understand why certain places close at 8pm in the City. It would stay open until midnight.
  • Bookshelves would line the walls organized in different genres and everyone would be able to swap books.

Oh I haven’t mentioned the coffee yet, have I? Well, see that’s the funny thing. I actually DON’T drink coffee. I know, I know…my family are late bloomers, my Mom starting to drink it in her 40s, my sister when she turned 30. That aside, I would find a way to ensure we had the best around by partnering with or hiring a coffee connoisseur. A few friends have recommended La Colombe coffee. Because I know my chai tea lattes, I would employ the same women who mixes them for the Last Drop at 13th and Pine in Philadelphia (try it, it is absolutely delicious!).

There would also be plenty of coffee alternatives such as Teeccino and protein smoothies. The food would be healthy, tasty, made to order and the portions would be satisfactory but not too big (TWSS). As an aside, one of my pet peeves is the ample portions provided by restaurants. The same with the pastries. The cafe would definitely have some kind of chocolate bar (because coffee & chocolate go well together, not because I’m a fanatic ;-)).

I have a couple of ideas to combat turnover issues. One is to limit internet usage depending on the purchase amount. Another is turn it into a coworking/coffee shop hybrid (If you’re not sure what coworking is, check out this great coworking FAQ page by Indyhall.org, one of the most popular ones in the East Coast). One room would be reserved for frequent patrons who want to pay a monthly fee. The other room would be for “normal” customers.

As far as the name, I’m not sure yet. My pal, JP Toto came up with a few possibilities. As you can see, I was clearly enamored with them.

What would make YOUR ideal coffee shop?

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  • August 25, 2011

i do whatever the little voices in my head tell me to do sticker

Think about your best qualities. Have you noticed they can often be your worst?

I’m extremely competitive, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, neurotically obsessive, a die-hard loyalist, relentlessly persistent, a hard worker, and the list goes on and on.

If you were to ask me which of my worst features would top the list, I would say my own attitude towards myself. Or to be more specific, that little voice in my head that constantly castigating everything I do.

“Why didn’t you do this instead of that?”

“Did you really think that was a good idea?”

And the ever famous, “you should have done better.”

The latter haunts me incessantly. The perfect story that encompasses these sentiments is when my startup, 123LinkIt, won First Place at Temple’s Business Plan Competition last year.

I had entered the Competition three years running, becoming a Finalist two years before but walking away empty-handed.

This time, I knew we were going to be in the Finals. We had submitted the same idea the previous year and we used the notes from the judges to improve our Business Plan. We had also launched and were showing revenue. Yet I still reprimanded myself awaiting the results. I was competing in a tough category against faculty members, graduate students and other alumni. I doubted myself during the process repeatedly asking if I really had what it takes to get to the next level.

When the results came in, I was elated. Instead of congratulating myself, I went into hyper-mode and started a grueling campaign preparing for the Competition. I called in every favor I had with other entrepreneurs, VCs, acquaintances, and friends – everyone I knew and didn’t know to help me with the presentation.

I practiced my pitch so much the night before, I lost my voice the day of the Competition. I spent the morning gargling with salt water in an attempt to regain what would later turn into a soft whisper.

When it was my turn to present, I recall looking at the panel of judges and being terrified at their blank faces. “Can they hear me? Better yet, do they even understand what I’m saying?”

My family and friends patted me on the back afterwards and congratulated me for doing a great job. I smiled weakly and thought back to my Q&A session. “I should have elaborated further on his question. Why didn’t I finish on time? How many points will these mistakes cost me?”

I gripped my sister’s hand tightly and held my breath when they called the announcements.

Honorable mentions – nothing.

2nd Place – nothing.

1st Place – 123LinkIt.com.

Accepting First Place Award

I should have been ecstatic, right? I wasn’t. I forced myself to walk to the podium and accept my award. I waited to see who won the Grand Prize and cursed myself for not being up there.

That morning I remember thinking my sleepless nights were going to be long gone after the day was over, that the stressful days were going to be a thing of the past.

I was wrong. I slept LESS the day of and after the competition then I had preparing for it. “Why did they win over me? What could I have done differently? I should have changed this and said that.” I convinced myself that I had cost the Company $50k (the value difference between the prizes). All I could think of the following week is how First Place wasn’t good enough and what I could have done to win that Grand Prize.

It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? I’m saddened by my thoughts thinking about it now, more than a year later.

I’ve been doing this since I was little. You could put me next to someone who severely dislikes me and I would have worse things to say about myself. My Father was the badgering type, he wanted us to do better and his way of showcasing that was to criticize us as a means to motivate ourselves.

One of my goals this year is to eliminate this self-deprecating behavior. It’s a challenge because it’s a double-edged sword in that it IS a driving force. However, I want to reprogram myself to have it come from a loving place that’s not stress-induced and doesn’t include back-breaking pressure.

How will I start to accomplish this?

I’ve already begun by being aware of it. I believe a big part of it has to do with how I talk to myself. Now I catch myself when that little voice appears. “You did a great job with this, good work! You can do even better next time by doing this.” I’m also working on accepting compliments. I’ve noticed the two traits are related. The rest? I’m not quite sure yet but I’m in the process of actively figuring it out.