Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Boxes Of Love

November 4th, 2015


As the story goes I was riding my bicycle across the US in 2014 as Cycle Cause to benefit Stop SAM when I got to meet some remarkable kids in Whitefish Bay, WI.

We had taken a couple rest days when I had the privilege to speak at a couple local schools, telling a story of perseverance and answering questions about what it was like to ride so many miles.

I had first learned about Boxes Of Love from my friend Brett but had no idea how amazing this event truly was. In 5 years these remarkable kids have raised over $160,000 for some great causes.

Fast forward a year later and that little talk about perseverance has resulted in a great partnership for the 2015 BOL event. This year’s bake sale will benefit Stop SAM and our current drive to send more packets to South Sudan.

When I heard the great news about Stop SAM being selected I jumped on a plane to go speak to these amazing kids again. It was great to share stories from the Cycle Cause trip and also share some stats about the work being done in South Sudan. To say I’m inspired by these kids is an understatement.

So how can you help?
1. Go to and order some tasty cookies which make great holiday gifts.
2. Or you can just make a donation at the same link.


Riding bikes, saving lives.

September 27th, 2013


I just returned from a great trip to Atlanta. The main purpose was to meet up with my partner at StopSAM, Mike Levison. We spent some great time together discussing, goals, dreams, future plans and campaigns.

We also got to visit the MANA Nutrition factory in Fitzgerald, something I’ve been trying to do for the three years that I’ve been involved in the fight against Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).

I wanted to see for myself how RUTF was made and deliver in person the donations from my recent birthday bike ride and BBQ. Special thanks to those who gave to the birthday campaign; because of you, we were able to raise over $2,000 – that’s 40 lifesaving treatments. Our bike riding together really did save lives.


I also had a fun time with my dad who tagged along and organized all the travel (thanks, Dad). We visited five of Atlanta’s top BBQ joints, comparing their various meats and techniques. Maybe someday we will have a BBQ place that good in Orange County. Sigh. We also spent a few hours at the Georgia Aquarium, which I learned is the largest in the world. They actually have whale sharks in a tank, which is unbelievable to see.

Thank you, Atlanta, for a great trip. We’ll miss your smoked ribs, the Waffle House peach waffles and that famous Southern Hospitality. We won’t, however, miss your traffic, which I’m pretty sure is worse than LA. But I’ll be back soon.

Now back to work on changing the world and planning a big bike ride.

Rediscover Inspiration

December 13th, 2012


I always laugh at how early the buzz starts for HOW Design Conference, seems like only yesterday we were in Boston. Before we know it June will be here and another HOW conference upon us. I’m honored to have been asked to open and close the HOW Creative Freelance Conference in 2013. My talk titles are set and I’ve started the preparation already (it always feels weird to start this early).

The conference title “Rediscover Inspiration” is very pertinent for me this time of year. December has always been a big reflection month, as I’m sure it is for many. It’s a time to look at what got done (and didn’t) this year and what the hopes are for 2013.

If I had to be honest, the last couple years have been about deep rediscovery for me. I don’t think I’ve ever been as motivated and clear about my path as I am now, but it took a lot of pain and hard truth to flush that out. In the end if we want to “Rediscover Inspiration” we have to do the work. It can be hard, but we have to do the work.

A friend of mine said something a couple months ago that still stings a bit, he wasn’t referring to me but I certainly felt it. He said “That’s the problem, most talented people don’t want to work”. Ouch! But I think that statement holds true for a lot of creative people. To stay inspired it takes hard work, lots of work. To rediscover inspiration it takes some soul searching, sometimes going into places we don’t want to go. But most talented people don’t want to do the work, it’s easier instead to rely on ability.

If we want to rediscover inspiration we have to do the work. Darn.

Options for Growth

June 26th, 2012

Back from a wonderful trip to Boston for the Creative Freelancer Conference and HOW Design Live. As always the HOW conference is full of inspiration and great times with friends. I’ve got some follow up posts in the works but for now I wanted to publish my slide deck since a few people have been asking. Thanks for a great time Boston, I’m sure I’ll visit you again.

Click here to download slides from Options for Growth.

HOW about Boston?

February 6th, 2012

I’m looking forward to speaking at HOW Creative Freelance Conference again (third year in a row). My subject this year will be “Options for Growth”. I’ll talk candidly about my own struggles to grow and the different paths I’ve taken. I hope to present some examples of the different business models available to the solo-prenuer.

I’d like to invite you to join HOW magazine in Boston from June 21-22 for a creative uprising that’s not to be missed!

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to offer you a special “tell-a-friend” $50 discount on the CFC full-conference rate*. Just input CSPKR in the discount code box during the registration process, and HOW will deduct $50 from your total
registration. Combine that with the special March 30th Early Bird rate, and you’ll save $100!

For complete session descriptions, speaker info and everything else you need to know
about the Creative Freelancer Conference, including a quick and easy registration form,

* Discount cannot be combined with any other discount offers, including student and group rates. Cannot be used in conjunction with The BIG Ticket registration option.


December 12th, 2011

My TEDx Irvine talk “Transition”.
Special thanks to the TEDx team for asking me to speak and for putting on an amazing event. If anyone has ever wanted to know what’s in my heart, this talk is as transparent as I’ve ever been about where I want to go.

CFC Recap

July 5th, 2011

I recently spoke at the Creative Freelancers Conference put on by HOW and Marketing Mentor. I spent a week in Chicago and had some amazing things happen. It was truly one of the best trips I’ve been on and the best conference I’ve spoke at.

My talk was titled “To Plan or Not to Plan?” and my goal was to inspire the group in the room to dream big and think beyond themselves, to think beyond the fact that they are flying solo. I also challenged them to create a plan that included money basics, marketing needs versus wants and goals that were juicy in every detail. I double dog dared the audience to do something big this year; something so big that people would laugh at them when the announced this plan. Stay tuned for some stories about people taking the #CFCDare seriously.

My personal dare that I repeated multiple times on stage was “I’m gonna change the world.” I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet, but I can tell you that I’m making progress and I truly believe I will change the world. I mentioned that “success is a direction, not a destination.” My direction from here forward will be towards things that change the world. How’s that for a #CFCdare?

Beyond the thrill of the #CFCdare, here are some highlights from my Chicago experience:

You Never Know Who is in the Room.
After my presentation, I walked off stage and handed the mic over to a tall, slender gentleman named Doug. He put his arm on my shoulder and showed me a picture on his iPhone of how overweight he used to be. During my talk, I used my own weight loss as an illustration of juicy versus bland goals. That interaction with Doug really rocked me; the fact that he was inspired by my talk even though I was there to talk with everyone else. It just goes to show that you never know who is in the room.

Get Out of Town.
Sometimes you just have to get out of town to be inspired. I love Chicago. Granted, I’ve only been there in the summer when it’s nice outside, but what an amazing city. The architecture, walking along the river … I would say other than O’Hare Airport, I love all of it. One evening, some conference buddies and I took a cab outside of town a bit to the Green Mill Jazz Club. Chicago is known for it’s jazz culture, so I always try to take some in when I’m in town. That night at the Green Mill, I witnessed Latin jazz executed at such a level that I felt like a hack at my own job. I give my job everything I have, but nothing like that. Wow. Chuchito Valdes was his name. He is a Grammy-winning artist and, despite being in a room with only about 100 people, he lit it up. This is one thing I love about jazz; it’s completely different live than listening to it on an iPod. That was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen. And it made me realize that even if you think no one is watching, you should always give it your all.

The In-between Time.
I’m not the best conference person. I tend to overdo it and try to take in too many sessions, so I leave sort of overwhelmed with information overload. The thing I do love is the in-between time, the random conversations in the hall, the after-hours drinks and dinners. That’s really the stuff I love. This trip was no exception. I spent lots of time with these people, and they really made the trip special for me. @Jovenville @rdqlus_creative @schutzsmith @DyanaValentine @clearwriter @imaccami @JamieSaunders @LaurenHybinette (And many many more)

People Are So Gracious.
It’s amazing how nice people are when you show up and share your life with them. I’ve had the privilege of interacting with some amazing people since my talk and have seen some very kind posts about things that were said. You can read some of those awesome recaps here, here and here (and please send me a link if you wrote a recap so I can post it).

One of the most touching things that happened was someone bringing me homemade snickerdoodle cookies. She stood up during the Q&A portion and introduced herself: “Hello my name is Marilee and I’m really good at making snickerdoodle cookies.” I spent some time during the conference talking to Marilee about her business and how she could mix things up. I was pleasantly surprised on Sunday morning by a text that she was looking for me so she could hand off a bag of baked goods … and let me tell you, they were delicious.

So, not only does saying you’re going to change the world get people around you excited, it also has perks, like snickerdoodles.

Did you attend CFC? What were the highlights for you? Post your comments or if you wrote a recap, send it to me so I can post it.

Focused on Culture

June 3rd, 2011

A few weeks back, I had the privilege of speaking to a great group of IT service company owners at Kaseya Connect in Las Vegas. My talk was titled “Branding Your Companies Unique DNA” (if you’re interested, you can download the simple slide deck here).

Over the past couple of weeks, some of the content has sort of settled in and I wanted to take an opportunity over the next few posts to address some of the questions that were asked at the end of my talk and in the hallways after.

One of my points in the talk was about how company culture is very much a part of your brand, which brought up a great question: “How do you retain culture as you become a bigger company?”

As I thought about this question a bit deeper, I came up with a few pointers based on what I’ve seen in the marketplace, mainly as I’ve witnessed with some of my favorite clients and how they lead the companies that they own.

1. Share your vision
Even when your company is growing, you can still share your vision for the future and keep your staff in the loop. This can be hard if you’re growing at a quick pace and your schedule is always full, but I think at least once a quarter, you should rally people together either in person or virtually and share how things are going from a top level. Show them that you have vision and that you understand where your business is and where it’s going.

You might also start an internal blog or email chain where you can talk candidly about things that are happening in the business. This could be especially helpful if you are larger than 25 in staff or running a company with multiple locations.

Either way, people want a leader that has vision. If you have goals for the company, share them with everyone. If you’re working with a new business consultant to better the company, introduce that person to your staff. If you’re working on a new product, let everyone know (not just the sales staff).

We all need to be a part of something big. So, let your people know how deeply you care about them and the future of the company.

2. Go to the front lines
I think back to the days of knights and swords when kings used to lead armies into war. Think about how much different our world would be now if this was still the case. A staff loves a leader that is willing to charge to the front lines with them. If you as a company owner are still willing to go to the front lines, that will inspire your people. It shows that you are in the trenches with them, even if only for a little bit. When was the last time you went out on a sales call? Or took a customer service phone call? Or helped clean up after an office party? When you as a leader show that you are happy to get your hands dirty, you give your company a sense of togetherness. Don’t just stop with you, though. Encourage your managers to get in the trenches with your people too.

3. Share time
I know someone that used to put together a team of walkers for the Race For The Cure event every year. They would invite staff, clients and vendors to participate in the event together and they provided a cool t-shirt for everyone involved. Whether it’s participating in a charitable event or having a quarterly company lunch, you should make a conscious effort to do things together as a staff. Ask your staff for suggestions; maybe they’re already involved with a charity that you can volunteer with. Making an effort to spend time together takes time and resources, yes, but your brand culture will thank you for it. And if you can involve clients, even better.

Some final thoughts …

Study companies that have gone before you, and ask your colleagues and fellow business owners what they do to build their culture. Read books about great companies (“Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh is a great one to start with). Also, ask your marketing people for ideas on how to engage staff. I’ve played part in a few fun internal campaigns with the sole purpose of building some excitement amongst a company’s staff.

One culture caveat: while I haven’t seen it happen very often, it is possible to completely ignore common sense and your company’s financial health for the sake of culture. Like anything, you can swing the pendulum too far the other way. But I believe you can have culture and make money, no matter the size of your company.

Branding Your Unique DNA

April 30th, 2011

I’m currently in Las Vegas for Kaseya Connect where I will be speaking to a group of IT service professionals tomorrow about branding their unique DNA. In a business where the product is service, I believe each company is unique (whether they choose to believe it or not).

In the end, if you are selling service you are selling relationships both on an individual and a company brand level. Because people are unique (some more than others) it stands to reason that the companies they work for are unique as well. You may never know this by reading some marketing materials.

During my talk I will share some key points which I feel are essential to building a service company brand.

Brand Positioning – this is answering who you are in the prospect’s mind.
Brand Consistency – a company should always examine how they look, act, and what they say.
Brand Culture – in service, it’s about your people, and your culture will bleed through to those client relationships.

I will expand on this idea of Unique DNA branding later. Stay tuned! Until then I’m looking forward sharing tomorrow, hope some folks are ready with some great questions as well.

Hoping to create a Spark

March 22nd, 2011

I’ve been invited to speak at the AIGA Y Conference this weekend in San Diego.

As with other times when I’ve spoke I’m always convicted during the note preparation time. It’s then when I have to really think about what I believe and why…and put it in writing *gasp. This weekend I will be doing a two hour ThinkShop on the subject of ‘hiring clients’.

The premise of the talk is that we should market ourselves better so we can be more selective. It’s not about finding clients that are easy but more about finding clients that enable us to do our best work. Some of my key points will be…

  • Know what energizes you as a person and as a designer.
  • Know what your perfect client looks like.
  • Know what your perfect client needs from you.
  • and finally, Know how to market yourself to that group.

It should be an interesting weekend and I look forward to the conversations and hang time with my fellow creatives.