Max Power & Calculating Your Confidence


In Homer to the Max, Homer Simpson stumbles upon a television show character by the same name. After the character goes through a negative transformation, Homer gets ridiculed for being associated with such a person. In an effort to overcome this, Homer legally changes his name to Max Power. Garnished with compliments about his new identity, Homer embraces it. Improving his image by shopping in high-end retail and befriending the affluent Trent Steele, Homer has convinced himself that his new name improved his lifestyle.

Hubris was Homer’s real identity change. Which may not be as negative as it sounds.

Being overly-confident helps you set and achieve goals that were otherwise unthinkable and seemingly unattainable. Being realistic in your challenges can undermine your ability to meet goals. If you realistically viewed your challenges, there is strong possibility you’d never attempt to overcome them. Allowing yourself to overstate your own abilities can be beneficial in taking a risk you may not have even considered.

Jason Zweig, in his book Your Money and Your Brain, writes that 81% of entrepreneurs gave their own businesses a 7 to 10 chance of success. 33% of entrepreneurs say there is zero possibility their business would fail. Zweig goes on to note, “roughly 50% of new businesses fail within their first five years”. This shows a huge dissociation between perceived success and actual success. Being overconfident in their abilities and challenges allows them to deceive themselves of their own probability of success. Without this mindset, we may have been without such unicorns as Uber or Airbnb. Disrupting the taxi monopoly would have been unthinkable without a dash of over-confidence in Uber’s success. Airbnb was a failing startup before rocketing to success. Confidence in these projects success kept them afloat

Using this knowledge in your daily tasks may not be as reckless at it seems. Calculating your overconfidence is the key to avoiding failure. Do this by asking yourself such questions as: When can I take on more risk to push a project to succeed? When can I tell myself this will not fail (and if it does, not be destroyed along with it)? Being overly-confident can push you over the hills of “It won’t work” and “It’s not feasible”.

In the end, Homer eventually goes back to his original name. I’ll attribute this to a necessity of having the episode end where it started, rather than a lack of confidence.


5 Ways the Corporate “Ladder” Is More Like Rock Climbing

Written by Katherine Eckenfels and Erin Mooney

We have all heard the phrase “climbing the corporate ladder.” Many believe career advancement looks like clear-cut rungs that lead straight upward. However, sometimes this path can be a wall full of different options and problems at varying levels – kind of like rock climbing.

      • You learn the art of maintaining balance.
        Picture this – you’re 20 feet off the ground, legs spread as far as they can, holding onto little knobby protrusions coming out of the wall. Sounds like life, right? Let me explain. In order to stay on a rock wall and progress upwards, you have to be balanced. Sometimes this means looking like a starfish, other times one leg is balancing out the opposite arm. Clinging to the wall drains your energy and makes it more difficult to make headway. Similarly, it is crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Exercise, family and relaxation rejuvenate your mind and body and enable you to kick butt at all of those areas in life.
      • You embrace the challenge.
        Coming at the wall or your career with a positive attitude is essential. You need confidence that you are going to get to the top, crush that project, or get a promotion from the onset. Starting a climbing route you’ve never done or going into an interview can be daunting. Resolving to get to the top no matter what will wake up your desire to continue when it gets really difficult. Remind yourself how badass you are. Also – it’s totally normal to sweat.


      • You will fall.
        You’re climbing a route that you’ve been working on for weeks. No amount of chalk can make your hands stop sweating. You’re tired and losing your grip. Then, a poisonous thought enters your mind— “I can’t do it.” Just like that, you fall. Life is full of setbacks and failure. The symbol of a ladder, however, suggests that you start your career from the bottom and work your way up. Easy right? Well, sorry to burst your bubble but this isn’t Utopia. At some point you will fall. Maybe you’ll lose a big pitch, or maybe you’ll accidentally hit the ‘reply all’ button. Whatever the misstep be, learn to embrace the climb and everything that comes with it. Because the real success comes from the moment you get back up.
      • You build trust.
        Climbing isn’t just about you and the wall, there is also the person at the other end of the rope to make sure you don’t die. (Unless you’re climbing solo, then you’re just plain crazy and let’s be honest you probably will die.) The best teams are those that trust each other and believe in their teammates abilities. In most career fields you have to work with other people, and sometimes those people are the ones that help prevent you from falling.
      • You learn to solve problems.
        In rock climbing each route is called a problem. There’s never one easy way to get to the top and it may take a while to figure out a solution. If you’re in the creative field you can probably relate. When you hit a wall, the best thing you can do is take a step back and get a different perspective. Where did you get stuck? What are all the potential next steps? Once you’ve assessed the situation, you will be well on your way to climbing the top!

Erin transferred from the EMA office in Syracuse to join the Boston team. Katherine and Erin quickly discovered they shared an interest in rock climbing. The two joined a climbing gym and learned to belay together. Now the climbing spirit is spreading through the Boston office.


Exploring Business Opportunities in Cuba

We’ve launched a new thought leadership series with our IPREX partners called Global Perspectives. Each month we will look at a global issue and share our perspective on the business implications and communications challenges involved with the selected topic.

Our first Global Perspectives tackles the changes in Cuba.

Read below for thoughts on doing business into Cuba from IPREX partners around the world.









BEIJING  “Closer economic ties between Cuba and the U.S. are to be welcomed, especially as global trading patterns are evolving and becoming much more multilateral. Chinese trade with Latin America has grown rapidly in recent years, surpassing US $258 billion in 2014.

“China is the second-largest trading partner of many countries including Argentina and Cuba, and a primary source of credit. That is a massive change from 1990s, when China ranked just 17th on the list of Latin American export destinations.”  Maggie Chan, Director, Greater China, Newell PR


BERLIN – “Cuba is a country in transition – that is the impression of two ORCA executives who travelled the country in October and December 2015. A number of small but profound changes are transforming everyday life on the Caribbean island. Small business is gaining ground, Cubans are becoming private employers, and tourism is booming; new resorts are popping up on wonderful beaches. The run on the Cuban market has already begun.

“The German Vice Chancellor recently visited the island, accompanied by a business delegation 60-strong, with the aim to boost economic cooperation. He emphasized that “German firms can offer Cuba very good solutions, particularly in the fields of energy, health, machinery and plant engineering.” As specialists in public diplomacy, we can assist with these development opportunities.  Michael T. Schröder, Managing Director, ORCA Affairs



DALLAS  “While U.S. restrictions have eased for certain industries, it is only the first step on a much longer road to normalized U.S.-Cuba relations. There are still strict regulations regarding how U.S. businesses must operate in Cuba.

“It is important that businesses beginning to serve the Cuban marketplace choose a partner that understands the complexities of a market that has been off-limits to Americans for 50 years.” Jody Venturoni, Partner, LDWWgroup


FORT LAUDERDALE  “How to do business with Cuba is a major topic of interest in South Florida, where conversations are happening between Cuban and American entrepreneurs.  While the Castro dictatorship understandably remains a source of outrage for Cuban-Americans and others, President Obama’s reopening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and allowing certain types of trade has generated tremendous interest in the business community.

“Cuba’s potential for airlines, cruise lines, hotels and other travel-related companies is obvious, but will not be realized until the embargo is lifted. Meanwhile, companies of all sizes should focus on cultural exchange and philanthropic work to build the relationships and brand recognition they will need when trade barriers are removed.” Jane Grant, President, Pierson Grant Public Relations



MADRID – “Cuba is still a very special economy with two currencies. A gigantic state apparatus controls the commercial activity with a bureaucracy typical of a country that is not democratic. Therefore, any company that wants to invest there must keep in mind some peculiarities.

“Cuba is a country where market prices are imposed, free competition does not exist and tariffs are not the same for everything, even if the imported product is the same. Additionally, the only source of news is the government. Cuba will be a good country in which to invest, but not yet.” Mayte González-­Gil, CEO, poweraxle and IPREX EMEA President


MEXICO CITY  “The relaunch of relations between Mexico and Cuba is related to the deepening project of updating the economic and social model driven by President Raul Castro in his country. During May 2014, a Mexican business mission formed by 68 Mexican businessmen representing 48 companies took place. This is a clear sign that opportunities are coming.”Horacio Loyo Gris, Co-Founder, Dextera Comunicación



NEW YORK  “The richness and worldwide popularity of Cuban music begs interesting business opportunities that may be had by activating and empowering the island’s wide array of talent and intellectual property in the field.

“Exploring partnerships with U.S. brands and makers of musical instruments and pro audio equipment, U.S. agencies may be able to enter Cuban markets and in turn capitalize on the opportunities to produce, promote and help develop Cuban artists in a worldwide stage, also using them for marketing, PR campaigns and content, much like Win Wenders and co. did with the Buena Vista Social Club, minus all the trade restriction headaches he endured at the time!”  Raul Gonzalez, Director, RGAA PR, a partially-owned subsidiary of French/West/Vaughan


SAN FRANCISCO  “Cuba is a long way from becoming a priority consumer market for U.S. companies. Most Cubans make an average of $20 per month. Other emerging markets with an established middle class offer opportunities to U.S. companies without as much uncertainty. However, one of the biggest opportunities for U.S. companies is in the Cuban travel sector. European and Canadian hotels have been doing business in Cuba for years.

“Given its geographic location, U.S. travel would benefit from entering the Cuban market. U.S. companies entering the Cuban market will have a need in Cuba for public affairs, employee recruitment and employee communications. These U.S. companies will also have a need for issues management here in the U.S., as some opposition remains (among Cuban-Americans) toward U.S. companies doing business in Cuba.”  Juan F. Lezama, Director, Mosaico, the Latino Division of Fineman PR

Read more perspectives in IPREX Voices:

Your HB Newsgram


Here’s a piece of exciting news: HB officially combining with Eric Mower + Associates! The integration brings one of the largest independent advertising and PR houses to Boston to offer more of what HB does best, but with a bigger punch.

Meet Emily Reichert, Executive Director of the fastest growing greentech incubator. In three years, she has evolved Greentown Labs from four startups in a grungy basement to over 40 companies in an inspiring facility.
This month we are inspired by this video about Robert Lee, a New Yorker who is helping battle hunger in the city by supplying food-insecure families with leftovers from NYC restaurants.
HB’s Mark O’Toole makes the case that every business benefits from a Rallying Cry; clients and employees alike need a reason to believe. Find out how (and why) to uncover that aspirational motivation upon which your company was created.
Who’s not interested in the intersection of marketing, community building, teaching and… donuts? Enter: Melanie Cohn, social media marketing manager at Dunkin’ Donuts, who is profiled in this month’s HUBgrown Q&A.

This is what we do to stay sharp around nap time. What do you toward the end of the day to stay awake? Tweet us at @hb_agency 

Copyright © 2015 HB Agency, All rights reserved.


HUBgrown Q&A: Melanie Cohn, Dunkin’ Donuts


Managing social media for a major consumer brand while running a popular networking group and teaching evening classes would make most go-getters to feel overwhelmed. But Newton, MA-native Melanie Cohn makes her demanding schedule look easy. We recently sat down with Melanie to discuss social media strategy, the Boston business community and her role at Dunkin’ Donuts.

HB Agency: What led you to your current role as Social Media Marketing Manager at Dunkin’ Donuts?

Melanie Cohn: I’ve always worked at an agency so there was a big part of me that was curious about the other side. When you’re on the agency side you can only know so much about a brand. From my experience I felt like I could never fully own a brand presence inside and out. I wanted to know what it was like to be ingrained in a brand and have a laser focus. I’ve had experience working with consumer brands so the combination of the two drew me to Dunkin’ Donuts.

HB: Can you tell me what it’s like running social media for the brand that “America runs on?”

MC: It’s incredibly fun and challenging, which is what makes it so interesting! Everyday there’s something new to experiment with. Whether it’s an alpha ad product for our donuts, a new video format to launch a new product with or a social listening tool that’s popped into the market, the landscape’s constantly changing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I thrive in a fast-paced atmosphere, and Dunkin’ moves quickly, which makes the job that much more exciting.

On the other hand, being such a beloved brand, there’s always eyes on every move we make in social. It’s really important to be diligent, strategic and thoughtful about what we put out on our channels and how we engage. Knowing conversation sparks around us quickly, we try to weigh every decision carefully while always keeping innovation and cultural relevance front and center.

At the end of the day though, the fun part always takes over – it is coffee and donuts – what’s not awesome about that?!

HB: So if I follow @DunkinDonuts, are all of those tweets coming from you? Melanie Cohn

MC: Sometimes! We also have a team of community managers who work in different marketing functions that take shifts monitoring and engaging. As for the posts themselves, most of those come directly from me as the publisher and scheduler. Nothing goes out on our social channels before I take a look at it, as it’s important to make sure everything’s in line with our strategy and brand standards.

HB: Do you see any similarities or differences between your previous job at an agency and your current role?

MC: There are a lot of similarities actually. At an agency you’re viewed as the main consultant—an expert in your discipline. When you’re in-house, it’s the same thing but your clients are the other business units. I advise and provide recommendations on social strategy as well as educate our teams on trends and updates in digital world.

The main difference being in-house is that you work much more cross-functionally. You get to collaborate with Legal, PR, Brand team, Loyalty team, IT, CSR and many more departments. At an agency, you’re handing everything off to the client and you don’t really see what happens behind the scenes after your recommendation is made.

HB: In addition to your role at Dunkin’ Donuts, you launched Young Women in Digital two years ago. Can you tell us more about the organization?

MC: Young Women in Digital (YWD) is a networking group for women working in digital marketing, social media, public relations and more. We host bi-monthly events that vary from classes to speakers to panelists and pitch sessions for entrepreneurs. Our main goal is to foster connections between young professionals.

I launched YWD  because at the time my former company asked me to attend networking events and I felt like I wasn’t meeting people who I could relate to. So I thought about how great it would be to go to an event with people similar to me: young women who are emerging in the digital world. I shared the idea with fellow young professionals and they agreed so I pulled together a team and we hosted our first event! About 40 people attended and it spiraled from there. I believe a smart creator or marketer finds a niche or a gap and fills it. That’s what happened here. There was a need, and YWD filled the void. Every event has been bigger than the last and awareness has grown simply through word of mouth and social media. We now have more than 1,000 members!

HB: Did you find that Boston was a good place to launch YWD?

MC: Absolutely. Boston’s full of like-minded marketers who are looking to grow in their careers. The circles are smaller than say, NYC, which fosters a close knit community. Also, the environment is extremely supportive, not competitive. There’s something about Boston—probably its size, the helpful culture and the go-getters here—that makes it a good place to start something once you’ve identified a gap because people are seeking these types of organizations out.

HB: What do you teach at General Assembly?

MC: Right now I teach Instagram for Business once every few months. It’s for mid to high-level professionals with intermediate to advanced skills on Instagram who are looking to take their strategy to the next level. In the fall I’m going to start teaching a monthly class about working with influencers. This is becoming a much larger part of marketing strategies across various industries so we’re right on the cusp of a growing trend.

HB: What recommendations would you give to startups looking to utilize social media in their overall business strategy?

MC: It really depends on the company and its target audience. For YWD, our audience is marketers, who are primarily on Twitter, so that’s our best channel. But if you’re starting a company that has to do with design or art, Instagram may be a great place to showcase your work and generate leads, for example.

I love how Curalate, a social vendor, explains social strategy. They talk about how there are channels that are aspirational or celebratory. Aspirational channels include Tumblr and Pinterest, where people go to share items or lifestyles they want, or wish they had. Instagram is focused more on celebration, and in-the-moment experiences. You need to look at where your company fits into these consumer behaviors, and which part of the customer journey (aspiration or celebration) you can really own. Dunkin’, for example, is a very celebratory brand. People share us in the moment, and post-purchase. We strive to encourage that behavior and excitement, because as we all know, word of mouth is the best form of marketing.

Follow Melanie at @SocialMel and keep an eye out for upcoming YWD events on Twitter at @YWDBoston.


Sip & Share: Tunheim

sip_share_logo_finalLast month my colleague Chuck Tanowitz and I had the opportunity to visit our friends at Tunheim in Minneapolis. We toured their beautiful office, enjoyed appetizers and cocktails, learned more about each agency and discussed industry trends. After our visit, Liz Tunheim Sheets and I reconnected to continue our conversation.

HB Agency: What’s life like at Tunheim?

Liz Tunheim Sheets: Tunheim is a communications consultancy. We have 20 full-time employees with at least that many of what we call ACEs – affiliated consultants and experts – and on any given day some semblance of our employees and ACEs are working in our office. When we renovated in 2013, we aimed to make our space open and modular so our talent can work however helps them be most productive. We also have a very open policy on remote working and continually remind staff that it is about getting work done and not whether they are present at their desk. That probably doesn’t work for everyone, but I think for our team it shows that leadership trusts staff to make good decisions and that not everyone gets work done the same way. I personally think it is a great thing about our culture because it really promotes getting the work done.

Tunheim is a very familial environment. It is a place where people feel empowered, trusted by their colleagues and generally like working and being together. Simple example: We built a large harvest table in our kitchen because our team likes to eat lunch together and we often do potlucks and happy hours here. After people leave, we hear that they miss the Tunheim “family.” It is why our Twitter handle is @TeamTunheim.


We live by and promote a talent philosophy we call “Collective Best.” Led by Kathy Tunheim and her many years of experience as a Honeywell executive, we don’t feel the need to own all our talent, but we want access to the right talent when their expertise is essential to our client needs. This is part of why we joined IPREX. We always want our clients to feel like Tunheim delivered on their needs.

HB: Can you tell me a little more about your role at the agency?

LTS: My role has shifted since I joined Tunheim in 2012. I was brought to Tunheim to lead and build out our digital and social offering. At first that meant I was solely focused on digital and social work, but client needs have shifted and we really believe clients should have an integrated communications approach so our digital and social media work is usually integrated with our other service offerings. Not always, but that is the advice we bring to our clients. Our digital team—three of us—is typically pulled in when there is any digital implication to consider. We do a lot of the work in-house because we have a strong talent bench in the space, but we often partner with other firms or freelancers when additional expertise or skills will amplify our product. Sheets2-533x800

HB: Who is Tunheim’s target client? What kind of organizations do you work with?

LTS: We work with all kinds of clients. We’ve moved away from industry focuses because our value proposition is really more impactful in what the client is facing. The world is changing faster than fast and Tunheim helps its clients rethink. Whether the client is navigating complex change, wanting to take responsibility for being understood by its stakeholders or earn the reputation it deserves, we partner with our clients to bring the insight and strategy they need to make impactful decisions for their business. We know clients make good decisions when they have the right information and so we aim to give critical and honest advice. We still do a lot of execution – content creation, media relations, social media relations, etc. – for our clients, but how projects start has shifted in the last few years.

We work with a lot of corporations and foundations/non-profits. We do also have a large public affairs team and have built a strong specialty navigating the complex intersection of public policy, stakeholders, media and decision-makers, including coalition building.

HB: Talk about your transition from a “traditional communications agency” to a strategic consulting firm. How has your business changed since the transition?

LTS: Tunheim began as a communications consultancy 25 years ago. Our work has shifted over the years based on client needs, but we’ve organically seen the work we’re doing shift back to consulting. Clients come to Tunheim for all kinds of communications help, but when we’re honest about our core capabilities, we know our team has the experience and expertise to help our clients rethink and solve business problems.

With this shift we’ve moved toward more large projects and less retainers. We’ve collapsed our hierarchy and adjusted our roles and responsibilities to create less hierarchy and more autonomy for our team.

We also no longer have managers but rather coaches, which is intended to empower employees to make decisions and increase their ability to think critically.

In 2014 we re-worked our roles and responsibilities to have only two levels for full-time staff: Consultant and senior consultant. There are a few people with additional responsibilities, like Kathy Tunheim (CEO + Principal), Pat Milan (Chief Creative Officer, sometimes called our Chief Destruction Officer) and Lindsay Treichel (Chief Transformation Officer). The level change has taken some getting used to I think but represents a change in how we approach our work. No longer do we see ourselves as an agency to execute client projects, but rather as consultants who help our client rethink and solve problems.

HB: One of your offerings is sports marketing which I don’t think many IPREX partners offer. Can you talk more about that service and what makes it unique?

LTS: We have a long, long history in this space and in a lot of different ways. We’ve worked in a lot of sports from racing to baseball to soccer to stadiums to football – you name it, someone on our team has worked on it. The type of work ranges too from business consulting to publicity to sponsorship activation, to grassroots campaigns for stadium support to what we’re doing a lot of right now which is bid management. Minnesota has a few beautiful, new stadiums, including the new U.S. Bank Stadium, which is currently still under construction. We’ve partnered with the bid committees here to bring the bids to life for the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four and College Football Championships, mostly led by one of our ACEs who has incredible experience in the space. And we just announced that we’ve been selected by Copper Peak to help the U.S. secure international ski competitions.

HB: Can you tell us a little more about the ACE Program?

LTS: Back to the “collective best” model mentioned above, we enacted ACEs early on so we could have access to the best talent all the time – many times really specialized or experienced talent that we don’t have projects for all the time but who bring a unique point of view to the work we do for clients. We have quite a few ACEs who are highly respected, have their own consulting practices and who are proud to be part of the greater Tunheim team. We also have ACEs who bring our team skills that we need, but they get the flexibility to work on projects outside our walls, too. It is a win-win. Our roster of past ACEs is really impressive and it connects Tunheim to another sphere of talent that we can access for our clients.

HB: In honor of this series, what’s your go-to beverage in the evening as you’re wrapping up the day in the office and mingling with colleagues?

LTS: Definitely wine. We have four seasons here so my go-to choice changes based on our weather, but my current go-to are dry French rosés.


HUBgrown: Q&A with Janet Aronica, Cube Riot


Upstate New Yorker Janet Aronica graduated college during the height of the recession and found herself moving to Boston for a social media marketing internship.

“The people were so helpful. I felt like I had a much greater chance of success finding my first job in Boston than anywhere else even though the economy sucked. So I moved.”

After six years in various marketing roles, Janet is using what she’s learned from her past jobs to become an entrepreneur launching her first fashion startup, Cube Riot. The company’s blazer line will debut this fall, but Janet’s aspirations for the company go well beyond its finely-crafted apparel. She’s also on a mission to produce quality content for the modern career woman. Cube Riot is as much about creating a community to inspire women at work as it is about clothes.

We asked Janet about her inspiration behind Cube Riot and her experience launching a startup in Boston. Here’s what she had to share.

HB: How did you first get the idea to start Cube Riot?

JA: It comes from personal experiences and talking about those experiences with others and realizing they were feeling a similar way.

For me, it was when I was working on a re-branding project at another startup that I started to think about how to step up my game at work. I considered all aspects of that. How do I package my ideas better? How do I sound more credible? How do I dress like a grownup? I was a hot mess in all of these areas and really confused.

I started reading a bunch of stuff on career tips and fashion advice. When I did that, I didn’t find A) A good resource for career advice that spoke about this stuff in a tangible way and B) An awesome and fun brand for professional women.

Currently, shopping for clothes for work is just about as much fun as doing your taxes. I think it can be more fun. After seeing that white space in the marketplace I couldn’t help but go for it.


HB: You began marketing Cube Riot months ago before you had a product. How has that benefited the company leading up to the official launch?

JA: Marketing and writing has helped us perfect the messaging, build a community, and learn more about what our audience likes and doesn’t like.

For instance, there are many controversial topics when it comes to women in the workplace. To be useful to our audience I want to be involved in those discussions to some degree, but we also have to know when to sit things out and shut up. That stuff is important when you’re building a brand.

HB: You’re not just designing blazers, you’re using Cube Riot as a platform to share your knowledge and past experience with other young professional women. Why is this important to you?

JA: Going back to why I started the company, the career tips and the apparel always went hand-in-hand for me. I think the career advice makes the blazer more meaningful. It’s not just that it’s a cute blazer. It’s how great you feel, what you have the courage to say, and how you act when you have the Cube Riot blazer on. For the Cube Riot woman, that confidence will not just come from visual marketing channels like Instagram and being associated with that stuff, but it will also come from the knowledge gleaned from the content.


HB: What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered trying to launch a startup? Any challenges specific to launching out of Boston?

JA: The biggest challenge is learning the apparel industry. That’s tough no matter where you live. Getting factories to take a chance on me, building those relationships with fabric and trim suppliers… not knowing what I don’t know…that’s all been new and exciting, but it’s also sometimes frustrating.

On a positive note, I love a challenge. I’m obsessed with the process. I love connecting the dots. It gets me excited.

Also, I’ve had McGarry & Sons, my product team, with me throughout all of this and they really took me under their wing. I’m so glad I worked with them because they certainly prevented me from making some very costly mistakes.

After discovering McGarry & Sons we then found great factories in Massachusetts. I’ve been able to find good marketing, graphic design, and photography talent both here and remotely.

I think Boston has a lot of resources to build an apparel brand if you’re willing to network and put the pieces together. I think sometimes the fact that there’s less noise here than other places can be an advantage, too, because it forces you to focus on the consumer and what the opportunities are in the marketplace.


HB: While you work on getting Cube Riot off the ground, you’re also working as a marketing consultant. Any advice to others that are trying to juggle full-time work with starting a business?

JA: I’m grateful to get to do consulting. I’m insanely lucky. But I’m going to keep it real: It’s hard to balance both. Bootstrapping is hard. Starting a business is hard.

I’m definitely no beacon of work/life balance, and I’m still figuring this out. But here’s what I’m learning…

  • Running is amazing! I always knew this but I appreciate it even more now.

  • It can be calming to create a routine even if you don’t think you’re a routine type of person.

  • When in doubt about what to say, cutting to the chase usually works out long term.

  • Recognize when decisions are low-impact and/or if they can be easily reversed because that’ll help you decide things faster and get more done.

  • You’re gonna be stressed. You just are. But don’t be a jerk to your friends and your family. But if you are, say you’re sorry. They love you. The real ones will get it.

  • And find founder friends to talk to!

HB: In your opinion, what makes Boston’s business scene unique? What’s happening here that can’t be replicated anywhere else?

JA: The community and the people are magic. Even though our B2C startup scene is still growing, people have a lot of 2nd and 3rd degree connections that I need in the retail and apparel world and the Boston scene has been pretty open about giving introductions. From what I hear, that helpfulness is very unique to Boston.

I’ve had so many conversations where people straight up asked, “How can I help you?” or “Who do you want to meet at this event?” That’s huge.

Connect with Janet on Twitter and make sure you check out Cube Riot (launching soon)!  

Nurturing a Connection to Nature

We live in a fast-paced world of instant-gratification. Children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews are not shielded from this reality. In fact, they’re the first generation growing up with cell phones and tablets as a part of their daily routines. Having their phones at school or the dinner table has evolved into a norm rather than an exception.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Technology can be an incredible source of information, education and safety. But, its positive impact quickly blurs into the negative when we see children neglecting their social skills and the world around them for a 9-inch screen.

I share these thoughts and observations as someone who does not have children nor nieces and nephews. I share these thoughts as someone who is predominantly writing out of concern. What will the world be like when I have children some day? Will their pacifier be a mini-tablet? Will they speak directly to our in-home robot and not understand the differences between machine and personal connection?

Today I was overcome by these thoughts and emotions after watching a powerful advertisement that depicts childhood fun—or past times—for three different generations. I encourage you to watch it:

Shortly after watching the video I reminded myself that there are incredible people and organizations working to encourage and nurture a connection to nature. Nonprofits like CitySprouts that helps build sustainable schoolyard gardens in schools throughout Cambridge and Boston. The gardens inspire a deep, hands-on connection to agriculture, the food cycle and the natural environment. CitySprouts is making an enormous impact on the lives of children who often do not have dirt to dig in or gardens to grow their own vegetables. Many of these children grow up in the city and wouldn’t have the need to use a pitchfork or learn about the composting process.

Yesterday a handful of HBers had the privilege to see one of these gardens and sample the food that 5th-8th graders have been growing throughout the summer at the Tobin School in Cambridge. Let me tell you: it was the freshest, most delicious salsa I’ve ever tasted. Even better was the incredible teamwork, passion, commitment, knowledge, showmanship and pride that the students displayed as they guided us through their garden.

Organizations like CitySprouts give me hope for the future. While I deeply appreciate technology and the positive effect it can have on children, there are few things more powerful in the world than teaching future generations how to properly protect our environment and empower them to leave the world in a better state.

For more information about CitySprouts, please visit

HUBgrown: Q&A with C.C. Chapman


Yesterday we wrote about how the conversation around B2C in Boston is evolving. These conversations are being led by many influential people in our community who believe Boston has the ingredients to build great consumer companies, not just B2B.

We recently asked C.C. Chapman, co-author of Content Rules and Amazing Things Will Happen, and seasoned marketer who has worked with brands like Nike, HBO and other household names, what he thinks about Boston’s business scene.

Here’s what he had to say.

HB: You’ve spent your career turning passive consumers into engaged activists. Some people would argue that Boston has a “relative indifference” to marketing itself. What’s your take? Is this a good or bad thing?

CC: New Englanders as a whole are definitely not into being marketed to. I grew up in New Hampshire and know how little tolerance there can be for that.

This isn’t just a New England thing though and today thanks to everyone being on the Internet, everyone is a bit more skeptical. We can skip all ads on television and are one click away from any that pop up in our face online. This is a good thing because it forces companies to be more creative, have a heart and find a common ground with the consumers they want to reach rather than just shouting BUY ME at them all the time.

When our book Content Rules hit shelves in 2010, it was one of the first books ever published on content marketing. In it we talk about how companies need to speak human and advised to share or solve, don’t shill. It is a bit sad that five years later I’m still giving this advice to almost every client I talk to. People today are choosing the brands they buy from like they choose their friends. They want to feel a sense of shared values and a connection that goes beyond the purchase.

HB: You travel frequently. Is there another startup-focused city you’ve visited doing something new and interesting that you think Boston could benefit from?

CC: Fargo, North Dakota instantly comes to mind.

What they’ve done is really built a community where the entrepreneurs, artists and city all come together for the common good. There is very little of an Us versus Them mentality and they are thriving because of it.

HB: You spent the last year as an adjunct professor at Bentley University, your alma mater. How do you think local universities like Bentley are preparing students for their careers?

CC: I think many local universities are doing a great job. One thing that Bentley does and why I chose it for my undergrad degree was that every student has to take a group of liberal arts AND business courses no matter what their degree is. This insures that all graduates come out with a well rounded understanding of the business environment they are entering. While I never wanted to be an accountant, having those classes under my belt helped me understand budgets and balance sheets in a way that many other computer majors might not.

What does worry me though is that not enough higher education institutions are updating and evolving to make sure the students are learning the latest and greatest.

At the end of my first semester teaching I had numerous students tell me how much they loved me sharing current event stories with them. Because it was a marketing class, I started each night talking about the campaigns that were making waves and new technologies that companies needed to pay attention to. If Professors are only teaching out of books and not teaching practical applications then students will not be as prepared as they should be.


HB: How can Boston, especially Boston-area universities, prevent the brain drain and figure out how to keep entrepreneurs here post-grad?

CC: I’m not sure we have that problem. While I don’t have any studies to look at, I think we see a lot of students stick around.

Then again, when you have so many colleges and universities and so many students graduating from around the world you are going to have some.

We need to make it as friendly as possible for students to open and start new businesses. We need more spaces where they can afford to start a business. Incubators and shared workspaces are finally starting to arrive and this will help greatly.

HB: In your opinion, what makes Boston’s business scene unique?

CC: Boston hates to lose. We celebrate victories of all sizes. This is what makes it great!

Read C.C.’s blog for more about his approach to marketing, causes he cares about and his travels.

Check back in a few weeks for an interview with an entrepreneur as she gears up for the official launch of her consumer startup.


How to Survive the Workplace as an Introvert

shutterstock_273946274Full disclosure: I am an introvert.

How do I know? In grade school, my participation grades consistently tanked, despite maintaining straight As. Small talk drains me. I thoroughly enjoy spending time by myself. Oh, and a stack of personality tests tells me so.

Living in a country that is obsessed with extroversion presents a few challenges, including some that arise in the workplace.

Introverts live in their heads. I spend a lot of time observing, thinking and analyzing, and not a whole lot of time talking. Of course I want to contribute, but my silence is often interpreted as indifference. So how can an introvert thrive in the office? Well, being self-aware about it is a good start (case in point: this blog).

Tip #1: Develop relevant questions and ideas before a meeting. I’m the all-time worst respondent when it comes to spontaneous questions that require thoughtful answers. Anyone who has ever been in a marketing class with me can vouch for that. I need time to analyze situations in my head before speaking. Anticipating discussion points and writing down ideas or questions before a meeting is incredibly helpful.

Tip #2: Make your workspace work for you. I understand that open office spaces are all the rage right now, but they’re cramping introverts’ style. Look for areas in or around your office where you can spend some time working quietly and without distractions.

Tip #3: Network in small group settings. I recently attended a PR awards show with fellow HBers. Before I left for the event, my intention was to network and meet a few new people during the reception before the show. And then I got there and my mature, pre-professional intentions went right out the window. There were 200 PR professionals chit-chatting away over cocktails and appetizers. For an introvert, it was a standard case of what psychologists like to refer to as overstimulation. Find smaller events that aren’t so overwhelming and are focused on networking rather than small talk. Big award ceremony? Maybe not. Connecting over coffee? More like it.

Tip #4: Set an intention to have several social interactions with coworkers or industry professionals every work day. Building up your relationships is important in the workplace, especially when the time comes for you to work on a team with your peers. Show them that you’re interested in more than just climbing the career ladder by engaging them in conversations that go beyond shop talk.

Tip #5: Set aside time after work or on weekends to recharge. Don’t wait until you’re burned out to find time for yourself. By scheduling in weekly time to yourself, you’ll remember to do it, feel less stressed and be more productive at work.

Tip #6: Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Avoiding every situation that might push you out of your introverted limits would make for a rather uneventful and unprogressive career path. Catering to an introverted personality doesn’t mean letting yourself off the hook every time you’re faced with a situation you’d rather avoid. Be ok with failure and never stop pushing yourself.

Tip #6: Read Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” Or at the very least, watch her TED talk. I always felt quite inadequate compared to my extroverted counterparts until I read her book. She points out introverts’ skills that are often overlooked or underutilized and this made me realize that what I thought were some of my flaws were actually some of my strengths. Cain ultimately makes a case for why introverts are just important as extroverts to society. It’s worth the read.