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Irie to Aurora: Van Life with Two Roaming Nomads

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I met Noami and Dustin one hot New Orleans day while moving a piano from one house to another.  Dustin was a project manager for a construction company and Noami was an environmental scientist studying the coastal systems in Louisiana.  They seemed like your average couple, but what I discovered throughout our friendship was that they were anything but average.  Like myself, they also suffered from a particularly strong and itching wanderlust.  For this, they found and created a pretty fascinating solution: why not get a van, hit the road, work remotely, and explore?Thus was born their adventure, which they interestingly named "Irie to Aurora".  Their time on the road is now nearing its first year of completion.  Along the way, they've amassed over 8,400 followers on Instagram.  Here's a sneak peak into their #vanlife journey.Who's idea was this?  How did you come up with it?I think the idea to buy a van and live on the road was both ours. When Dustin and I met it was one of the first things we talked about, and throughout our relationship, we fantasized about the idea until we finally took the leap. Best idea ever.
We both love to travel. We’ve taken road trips together as often as we could since before we were even dating. As our relationship grew, these trips became more frequent and for extended periods. We also followed other people on social media who were doing the same thing, living on the road. This inspired us to do what we had always dreamt of and talked about.How long has this journey been and how long do you plan to continue?It has been eleven months on the road and we would like to sustain this lifestyle for as long as we can. How did you come up with the name "Irie to Aurora"?Noami is from Trinidad, and the word Irie is slang meaning “powerful and pleasing; a state of feeling great.” Initially, when we planned the trip, our destination was Alaska to see the aurora borealis, hence Irie to Aurora. What has been your greatest challenge to date?Dustin works remotely so this requires us to stay on the grid most of the time and often hunt for wifi. His schedule is fluid, so finding a routine has been challenging.What do you guys do for work while on the road?Dustin currently works remotely as a construction estimator.  On the road Noami works odd jobs and freelance gigs online.What have you been the most homesick for?Overall, I don't think we’ve been particularly homesick. There have been moments where we reminisce about New Orleans and miss the little things, like the food, and the music, and the people.In what ways has this trip changed you individually and as a couple?Living on the road and sharing 80 square feet has come with its fair share of challenges. But I think it has brought us closer together. We’ve learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses in ways we never thought we could. Living in such close quarters 24/7 has forced us to be more mindful of our attitudes and how we impact each other’s “space” because tempers do flare. We’re more compassionate with each other and with ourselves. We have created a space where simplicity can flourish, a lifestyle we have both come to value. Learning to let go and let be, keeping an open heart and mind is the everyday lesson and this attitude has led to so many new friendships and experiences. Overall, life on the road has been deeply transformative, it has brought us closer to ourselves and to each other. Dustin and I are better people because of this decision and we are so grateful for each other and our life together. Plans for another road trip in the future?I think the journey we’re on is perpetual. There will be a few pit stops along the way but that’s all part of it. However, we do have plans for Canada and maybe Central and South America, after Alaska of course.What was your favorite place along the way?Hmm… Choosing a favorite place is tough because each place is so unique with its own beauty, but we love Baja, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon. Van life might not be for everyone, but their journey is enough to make you want to buy a one way ticket to a random spot on the globe.  In an increasingly interconnected world, the ability to be fluid with your roots was once an impossibility that the internet is now making possible.  Perhaps this is a leap we should all consider, at least once in our lives.  Just like Tolkien said, not all those who wander are lost.

What's up!? I'm Katrina. I'm wandering, collecting, witnessing and learning. I'm drawn to all things found at the intersection of art and technology. If I could go back in time, I think I'd be best friends with Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla and Cleopatra. When I'm not obsessing about the human endeavor or the nature of time, I'm probably cooking or dancing.

Business

Justin Wu: 5 Tips for Branding Your Business Online

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From someone who breathes social media, I came across an interesting blog. In that, I’ve learned that social media isn’t just for the use of entertainment.
Since each social platform has the potential to help grow your business, Justin Wu, founder of Growth.ly, teaches others how to navigate their way through as an entrepreneur online. As an Instinctual developer, Justin Wu possesses skills in growth hacking to information architecture. Starting off on Snapchat and Instagram, he is also an expert in the field of various social channels. Justin snapchats religiously to help other entrepreneurs conveniently reach their goals. In order to pick up all of the skill-sets of an entrepreneur, the most effective way is to hack the system. Or as he brands it on his snapchat username, be a hackapreneur.In his own marketing agency, Growth.ly heavily focuses on different marketing tunnels and how each channel matters to your business. In trusted knowledge on social media and marketing, Justin is able to spread his entrepreneurial skill-sets to others. Since startups are rapidly growing more lost and confused, Justin Wu provides tips on helping entrepreneurs brand their business online. Here are 5 tips from Justin Wu for branding your business online.

Be comfortable in front of the camera

Interacting through the camera may be uncomfortable, especially with your face in the front and how you’re speaking to a fake audience. Regardless, Snapchat is still all live and on the spot. Through force, the task will then become routinely. These set of skills should already exist with an entrepreneur’s ability to adapt. As times change, so should you. 

Chose the right platform

If some devices don’t align well with your business, there are other platforms to acquire. Instagram is the easiest way to get discovered. Snapchat is far more difficult to brand, with the limited time offered to record and the immediate execution of the video for instant feedback. There are also other platforms that exists that you may not know about. To get a better understanding of what you’re putting yourself in, explore and get familiar with the new environment. Know where it’s best to brand your business. 

Don’t be stubborn, remember long-term vision

Don’t be married to an idea. Let’s just say, perhaps you don’t go on YouTube, or you don’t regularly check Facebook, your relationship with these platforms may influence how much you think their worth is. From your perceptual stigma, you may not think to brand yourself on these devices. The issue here is, your encounter with these different sources can’t counter play on how you plan to expose your business content. If you want the best for your business and to get more customers, don’t chase them. The customers are the main focus of your business, rather than chasing them, it’s simpler to be meeting them where they are and engage in proper contact. 

Collaborate

In Justin Wu’s work with Samsung and Intel, he strongly pushes for collaboration opportunities. For his other company, Sidevision, it can be tracked by the Warner Bros. The Warner Bros have invested in the company and agreed to take over. This vision to the public gives a positive look to you, making it seem like your connections are strong with experts. Rather than that, collaboration allows ideas to exchange. Everyone has knowledge and skills in different cases, but having the chance to expand your brand to another realm is an opportunity to take up. Taking in more fans is the goal here. 

Figure out how to create content

Everybody seeks beauty, and with social media always pushing out visual content, your business needs to develop an advantage. By possessing skills in visuals, the aesthetics will do all of the talking to keep your ideal customers stay. In skills such as photography, your content will attract a wide variety of different people. The simplest way to gain attraction, through the peripheral route of persuasion.
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Q&A With Wen-Jay Ying: Founder Of Local Roots NYC

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I met Wen-Jay a couple months back after stumbling into a Sustainability Commerce Popup Conference in Williamsburg.  She was among an eclectic panel of speakers that day who's company missions were not only vivid with green priority, but also deeply rooted into the fabric of their local communities. Her company, Local Roots NYC provides New Yorkers with a access to goods and produce from a network of local farmers (local meaning that their supplier's operations happen within a 250 mile radius).  It's a subscription based membership where you can sign up for different seasons, each having a variety of different seasonal foods.  Throughout the city are different "markets" where your allotted order is ready for pickup.  What's awesome about Local Roots is that their markets don't just happen anywhere, they happen at your favorite cafe or dive bar right in the heart of your local New York community.Local Roots NYC has been in operation for six years, with over 25 market sites, and over 750 members.  When meeting up with Wen-Jay at one of her market locations set up outside of a cute Brooklyn cafe, I got an overwhelmingly inclusive community vibe.  Toddlers were running around, and Local Roots members came to grab their goods while also inviting me to their yoga class later that day... I felt right at home! Here's some things we talked about that day:

How'd you come up with the idea for Local Roots?

I wanted to find a better, more social way to connect people and their communities to local farmers.  Creating Local Roots was my solution to the gap between farm to table.  Not only does it support local farmers but also the local businesses that we symbiotically partner with for our markets.

What makes this different than meal kits or other food delivery systems?

Having markets not only encourages the social aspect to shopping with us, but also greatly reduces waste.  When you order a food kit or have groceries delivered they tend to come with an excessive amount of packaging.  At are local market locations you can bring your own reusables and stop it at your favorite bar for a drink all at the same time.

How does your company take sustainability into account?

Each of our farmers practice different levels of sustainability.  Kindness to animals and to the land are extremely important to us.  Our vegetables are either Certified Naturally Grown, a grassroots alternative to the USDA’s National Organic Program, or USDA Certified Organic . While the standards and the labels are the same – organic – the USDA Organic Program favors medium to big-sized farmers, and the Certified Naturally Grown program is better suited for small farmers. The Certified Naturally Grown label was created in 2002 in response to the USDA labeling, which is expensive in terms of time (paperwork per crop) and application fees. The Certified Naturally Grown program has farmers review fellow CNG farmers and prioritizes the exchange of feedback and ideas for growth.  More info on each of our famers can be found on our Farm page if you want to check it out.

So far what has been your favorite part of starting this company?

We've been running for over six years now.  In this time I've had customers become friends.  I've seen them get married and have babies, and I've seen those babies grow up on Local Roots produce.  Now these kids are almost three and they know so much more about their farmers and where their food comes from.  Not many other three year old kids are that connected to their food and how it grows! This makes me extremely happy and proud.
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Business

Leading Ladies In Tech: Caitlin Clark Zigmond

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Caitlyn Clark Zigmond
 Caitlin Clark Zigmond is the Vice President of Product Management at CoreDial. She shares her experience of over 30 years where she has worked with numerous companies under several different capacities. She started out in Hi-Tech as the Director of operations working for a company that built precision hot stages in science and industry, which involved working with one of the first windows based research pieces of equipment. From there, Caitlin decided that she wanted to become an entrepreneur and started her own catering business. Growing up, she cooked at home as both her parents were working, and that influenced her first business. She bought a company with just four employees and grew it to the third largest company in Boulder, Colorado. Caitlin gave up the business to start a family with her partner. Over the next few years, she went from being the first Product Manager for New Global Telecom (NGT), to Product Lead for Hosted PBX, then Advanced Voice at Comcast who acquired Hosted PBX, and finally to CoreDial.
Caitlin spoke about the hurdles she had to face in the workplace and managing a work/life balance. Ruth Bader of the Supreme Court is her female role model because of how she has consistently broken down barriers throughout her career while maintaining a true level of professionalism. Though she’s faced immense challenges and a heavy degree of sexism for her role in a previously all-male space, she has a fierce dedication to equality. Caitlin said it reminds her to connect to all those around her, whether it’s family or a more professional setting. As Caitlin says, “Be open to new things and stay strong on your life’s journey.”Caitlin Clark ZigmondCaitlin Clark ZigmondCaitlin Clark Zigmond
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