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Opinion: Volkswagen’s climate activist won’t be able to change the green credentials of the company any time soon

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Volkswagen’s CEO Herbert Diess announced that he wants to recruit an “aggressive climate activist” to work for the company, with direct access to the board in order to challenge its green policies. While this seems honourable, VW is starting from a bad position. The company belongs to an industry that is responsible for 72% of transport emissions in the EU – with transport itself being 30% of all CO₂ emissions.

In 2015, VW admitted to cheating emissions testing regimes. Its diesel engines were fitted with devices to make them look less polluting than they really were during testing by US and EU regulatory authorities. “Dieselgate” had huge knock-on effects, with buyers shunning diesel engine vehicles from all manufacturers in the past five years, and diesel sales down 27% in the UK year-on-year.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, evidence surfaced suggesting that as late as 2014, VW was testing its vehicle exhaust emissions on humans and monkeys in the US, when it had been known the exhausts contained particles that could cause cancer. In a post-Greta Thunberg world, VW is realising that it needs to clean up its act. In fact, it sounds like it wants its very own Thunberg.

The upstarts leading the market

The problem for VW is that in the past decade, the car industry has moved on – helped in no small part by a Californian company whose slogan is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. That company is Tesla, and in 2019 it delivered nearly 400,000 fully electric cars that do not produce harmful tailpipe emissions and generally, over their life cycle, produce half the CO₂ of diesel cars.

The VW group delivered 80,000 plug-in cars over the same period, with a little over half being fully electric – one-tenth of Tesla’s production. This might look like progress for the German multinational, which is also the world’s largest automotive manufacturer. But when you consider VW made nearly 11 million vehicles in 2019, 40,000 is a drop in the ocean.

It’s not like electric vehicles are new to the German company. VW delivered its first widely available full electric model, the e-Up!, in 2013, which was the same year Tesla delivered its first Model S cars. The difference for consumers was that the e-Up! had a range of 93 miles, and the Model S 265 miles. Tesla’s 2020 Model S is now approaching 400 miles range on one charge. For many drivers choosing an electric car, the VW product has failed to keep up.

So is VW trying to show that sustainable vehicles are now its primary objective? Or is it simply a PR stunt? Large corporations are only too aware that “edgy” branding strategies appeal to customers, and sustainability is very much in the public consciousness. Nike’s advertising campaign with Colin Kaepernick was just the latest, and of course, Apple perfected the use of “radical” imagery to sell stuff decades ago.

Certainly, VW has a long way to go – and if you take a look at the website, electric cars compose a large part of the company’s brand identity. But the problem for VW remains – an upstart electric vehicle company can sell ten times the number of cars it can, at a significantly higher average selling price.

International motor shows in the past five years have been dominated by the move to electrification. Most manufacturers now agree that, at least for passenger cars, the future of their products is in electric vehicles. While many have flirted with hybrid and hydrogen power, lithium-ion batteries and electric motors have now proved that they can power not only the fastest, but also the cleanest vehicles, with the least disruption to existing infrastructure in developed areas. After all, electricity is already available in virtually all homes and businesses and where people park cars.

An enormous multinational such as VW does of course face unique challenges. Huge supply chains that have been carefully constructed, combined with numerous products that take years to develop – it all means that change is harder for VW than disruptive start-ups such as Tesla or Rivian.

What will change VW is what changes all businesses – demand from the market. The former CEO of General Motors, Bob Lutz, wrote the book Car Guys vs. Bean Counters when his company was the largest in the world. If electric vehicles is where the profitable business is, then that’s where all VW’s efforts will go.

Just as people were convinced to buy diesel cars due to favourable tax regimes and lower running costs – even though the cars were more expensive and complex to manufacture – VW made huge amounts of them, because the market demanded it. While it’s often difficult for large companies such as VW to change, market forces will eventually lead them to do so anyway. The same goes for Shell renaming itself “She’ll” on International Women’s Day. Socially conscious branding is often a convenient vehicle for disguising cold, market logic.

Having your own boardroom Greta Thunberg simply makes for a better story.

 

Lisa Miller: An Authentic Thought Leader

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Lisa Miller: An Authentic Thought Leader

Women

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Coming from a family of confident, vocal and driven people, Lisa Miller grew up with a clear approach in life. From a very young age, she saw her parents run their furniture and auction business with modesty and success by paying immense regard to the customer experience. Lisa’s strong work ethic, ambition, sincerity, and skill laid the foundation for her inevitable success.

Lisa wanted a career with long-term stability. After she finished studying marketing at the University of Northern Iowa, she began her work in hospitality. Her ingrained work ethic, combined with a customer-first mentality, focus on excellence in customer service and differentiating yourself in the market, turned out to be keys to her success in the technology industry. Moving forward, Lisa stepped in the field of technology and began her professional journey at Sprint Communications before she finally moved to Level 3 Communications. Level 3 was later acquired by CenturyLink, where she is President for its $7 billion Wholesale, Indirect, and Small & Medium Business units spanning over 2,400 employees. Consistency, commitment to excellence, competitive nature and an intense focus on the customer for over 30 years in the industry has enabled Lisa to raise her executive platform to a level where she has led global and national organizations. She shares, “I have enjoyed leading global and national sales teams, as well as cross-functional strategic programs to improve sales effectiveness. Throughout my career, there were few women in senior leadership roles. It motivated me to work even harder, produce greater results, be vocal and excel so I could help break that glass ceiling and have a seat at the executive leadership table.” At CenturyLink, Lisa is responsible for driving profitable revenue growth and building strategic partnerships that enhance the position of the company as an industry leader.

“A guiding principle that is very important to me in life is that you should always leave things better than you found them.”

Headquartered in Monroe, Louisiana, CenturyLink has offices in over 60 countries across the globe. CenturyLink provides secure and reliable services to meet the growing digital needs of businesses and consumers through its extensive global fiber network. It delivers hybrid networking, cloud connectivity, and security solutions all around the world and strives to be the trusted link to the interconnected world while placing its focus on delivering technology that enhances the customer experience. Moreover, with its Adaptive Network, IT Agility and Connected Security Solutions, CenturyLink is uniquely positioned to be the preferred, trusted technology partner to serve their customers’ digital demands. Lisa adds, “As the 2nd largest U.S. communications provider to global enterprise companies, we have approximately 450,000 global route miles of fiber, 170,000+ on-net buildings and provide internet or voice services to approximately 6 million consumer broadband subscribers in 37 states. Also, we have the world’s best fiber infrastructure and the ability to scale and grow it at a pace that is unmatched by our competitors. Our fiber network positions CenturyLink for growth in the U.S. and globally, thanks to the continued need for more bandwidth capacity, higher levels of security and the management of applications and services in the cloud. We plan to deploy 4.7 million miles of fiber across the company’s intercity networks in the U.S. and Europe, the first phase of which was completed in June 2019 in 50 U.S. cities. We also added 18,000 new fiber-fed buildings in 2019.” Apart from the aforementioned digital solutions, their services also include voice and unified communications including VoIP, traditional voice, and contact center solutions along with a variety of managed services. Moving forward, Lisa shares, “As CenturyLink looks to transform, I am focused on automating and transforming our sales operations within the Wholesale, Indirect and Small and Medium Businesses to enable continued growth across these segments. This transformation is making it easier for our customers and partners to do business with CenturyLink.”

Lisa Miller, President, Century Link.
Lisa Miller, President, Century Link.

Lisa Miller completely justifies the position she holds, and it is quite evident from her series of professional achievements. Additionally, she has several other accomplishments as an advocate, leader, and mentor for the women in STEM. She helps refine talent by sharing her insight and valuable lessons as well as highlighting the importance of women in technology. Lisa serves as an executive for CenturyLink’s Mentoring Rings, as well as a board sponsor for the Alliance of Channel Women’s mentorship program. She is also a member of Women In Cable. Recently, she was named as one of the CRN 2019 Women of the Channel Power 100, a platform that recognizes women leaders whose vision and influence is a key driver of their companies’ success and instrumental in moving the entire IT channel forward. Lisa’s authentic leadership style paired with her analytical skills help her make well-informed decisions. “I strive to be honest, transparent, passionate and thoughtful in my leadership style. I’ve found that being authentic is the quickest and best way to motivate others to rally to achieve our business goals,” says Lisa. “No matter how many times I moved up in my career, I have always aspired to work harder, achieve more and make it to the next level.” Lisa is aware of corporate pressures and its toll on an individual’s well-being. She quickly points out that “it is important to have a healthy balance between your personal and professional life. This was not always a strength of mine. I now prioritize and protect my time for family and friends. I have learned I cannot be the best Mom, Wife, or President without this balance. You have to feel comfortable trusting and empowering your teams so you can focus and rest.” In order to unwind, she chooses to read a good book or watch a TV show that has no real thinking involved. She chuckles, “A Hallmark movie, home improvement TV shows or a light book are an escape.” Apart from this, Lisa loves spending time with her five grandchildren, her four daughters, and her husband. She says, “I cherish the time spent with my family!”

As a female leader, Lisa has grown with every challenge and encourages women to strive for advancement. She says, “I encourage my female counterparts to join and support as many women and community-focused organizations to make a positive impact. Women leaders have just as big of an impact and it’s time for leadership seats to be filled with confident, successful women. I also want to share with other businesswomen that you are more prepared than you think you are to be successful in business. I often say, “fake it until you make it” and sometimes that is what you have to do. No one is born completely ready for the roles ahead of them — take the chance, go for the job and learn as you grow. Respect your teams, learn from them, be an authentic and transparent leader, and you will flourish. I also want to challenge other women to be more confident, vocal and better negotiators. Be open to listening and learning from others. Be curious about everything you do, be flexible in life. Your career can go down many different paths, so be open to different options. Never take yourself too seriously, as it prevents you from seeing the fun in life. Always treat people with respect and the way you would want to be treated and always assume the best intentions in all your interactions. You deserve the best and you aren’t going to receive it unless you have the confidence to step up and make it happen.”

Lisa is someone who measures her success by the success of her team. She says, “When I am able to lead our team to collective success, while also developing talent, I know that I am driving the right results.” Lisa wants her legacy to speak of integrity, strength, hard-work, and fearlessness. She asserts, “A guiding principle that is very important to me in life is that you should always leave things better than you found them. It will be important to me as I look back that I can say I led successful teams of people to do great things, I did it with the best intentions, with the highest level of integrity. I drove people to challenge themselves, I created a team environment where everyone together accomplished more. I built a thriving environment of inclusion, and had fun along the way. I also will be proud that I was there to give back and to mentor the next generation of leaders. I took the time to help people. If I leave a legacy for these things, I will be very satisfied.”

CenturyLink Technology Center of Excellence in Monroe, LA.
CenturyLink Technology Center of Excellence in Monroe, LA.
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How Lisa Dorian turned her passion into a profession

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How Lisa Dorian turned her passion into a profession

Women

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CFI

Lisa Dorian noticed that finance training courses were only available to those who already worked in financial services, and even then, in classroom-based programs people tend only to retain 10% of what they learned. So she transformed her passion for teaching to close that gap.

“How could we help people who want to be analysts improve their chance of recruitment? How could we help analysts who were recruited improve their on-the-job skills and be more productive? How could we provide training that could be accessed at anytime, anywhere, and at a pace that allowed users to learn at their own speed?” asks Lisa Dorian, Managing Director & Chief Risk Officer for Corporate Finance Institute (CFI). “A little bit more on accessibility.”

Founded in 2016, Vancouver, British Columbia based CFI is a leading global provider of online financial analyst courses. CFI’s mission is to help anyone, from any country or background, become a world-class financial analyst. They strive to empower individuals worldwide through world-class education that will help them lead successful careers and fulfilling lives, by ensuring that anyone with access to the internet and the motivation to learn can advance their career with CFI’s online courses. They also provide classroom-based training for their corporate clients.

"When you’re a pioneer, it means that you’re blazing your own trail and finding your way. Do something poorly and you won’t have a product to sell. Do something well, and others will try to copy your business model and capitalize on your success."

CFI puts their students first, acting as their compass while developing new training solutions, providing customer support, and upgrading educational materials. In addition, they support their online courses with other resources such as eBooks, templates, and a knowledge library with thousands of searchable articles on all topics related to corporate finance and financial modelling. They have even compiled job descriptions that someone new to finance can read through to understand what roles and responsibilities financial analysts can fill. Essentially, the company picks up where the business school leaves off to teach students on-the-job aspects of corporate finance, commercial, corporate and investment banking, corporate development, treasury, and FP&A. In 2019, CFI’s programs and certifications were delivered to over 280,000 individuals at top universities, investment banks, accounting firms, and operating companies around the world. Furthermore, CFI is committed to supporting the academic pursuits from low to modest-income families who demonstrate the need for financial assistance. The company provides annual scholarships to those students who demonstrate strong academic achievement, a passion for finance, and a commitment to improving the lives of others. And finally, for every course and product they sell, CFI donates 1% of the profit to charities that support global education.

Gaining recognition in a market that is flooded with accessible online training opportunities, initially was no small task. “The challenge was to create something no one else was doing. When you’re a pioneer, it means that you’re blazing your own trail and finding your way. Do something poorly and you won’t have a product to sell. Do something well, and others will try to copy your business model and capitalize on your success,” shares Lisa. “This is something we are seeing and are addressing on a regular basis. Although mimicry is the finest form of flattery, we want to ensure we remain at the top of our industry and protect our brand while doing so.” All along the company has differentiated itself from the sea of similar service providers by focussing on the unique value they offer. “We knew we were offering something different. We were offering something of value – high-quality online training delivered by very experienced Wall Street training professionals with a specific path that learners could follow. It wasn’t a shotgun approach, but rather laser-focused on financial analysts and the skills and resources they need,” says Lisa. “We are filling the gap between the theory of what the business schools teach, and the practical technical skills that are expected of financial analysts. We ensure all our courses are part of a specific path – and that means not overwhelming our students with too many choices to try to find their own way. We help guide them – not only through the offering of online courses but also through the other resources we provide.”

Lisa Dorian, Managing Director & Chief Risk Officer, Corporate Finance Institute (CFI)
Lisa Dorian, Managing Director & Chief Risk Officer, Corporate Finance Institute (CFI)

Lisa’s typical days are filled with either delivering classroom-based training sessions or developing a new course, talking with her team, writing business proposals, corresponding with clients, or attending meetings. “No one day is like the other and it seems like just when I’m about to get caught up, something new comes across my desk,” smiles Lisa. “There’s never a dull moment – and it’s why I love what I do.” In order to gain some balance, she makes working out a priority. In the mornings, she can often be found either riding her bike or hopping on an elliptical and doing some core strength training. She used to be an elite level cyclist and her love of riding has not diminished. “When I retired from competitive road racing, I switched things up and competed in duathlon for a time. My hardest race was in Zofingen, Switzerland, where I raced the World Duathlon Long Distance Championships, also referred to as Powerman. What Ironman is to triathletes, Powerman is to duathletes,” explains Lisa. “Nowadays, I run and ride my bike purely for pleasure. There’s nothing better than getting out on the weekend for a 100k ride with a group of friends.

Lisa is a Canadian Chartered Professional Accountant (CA) and a U.S. Certified Public Accountant. Before moving from Canada to New York in 2018, Lisa was chair of the national board of Financial Executives International Canada and continues to be involved with the organization in the US. Being part of the volunteer leadership, establishing a sponsorship program and speaker program at the chapter level, chairing one of the national conferences, leading all of the chapter leaders at the national board level and then leading the organization as chair, is an experience that she will always cherish. She shares, “It taught me a lot that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned in my day-to-day business life, especially from a governance and oversight perspective. I’ve also made lifelong friends with other senior financial executives and the FEI network is very strong. It offers the opportunity to consult with and learn from each other on a regular basis.” In addition to her professional designations, she is also a Certified Internal Auditor, a Certified Risk Management Assurance Professional and is accredited by the Institute of Internal Auditors to conduct quality assessments/validations. Lisa also just became a CBCA™, which is the new banking and credit analyst certification CFI launched in December under her guidance. She is currently a graduate student at Fordham University School of Law and will graduate at the end of the year with a Master’s of Legal Studies, Corporate Compliance – a subject that she is very passionate about. Being a part-time student, Lisa mentions how much she enjoys reading as a keen learner and bibliophile. “However, it means that I have less time to read books simply for the pleasure of it. I have filled that by listening to audiobooks, and that is usually what is on my playlist when riding the subway or when I’m at the gym,” says Lisa. “I read/listen to everything from autobiographical stories to murder mysteries and historical fiction, and also to unique genres – think self-help in the form of fantasy fiction. If you’ve ever read The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho you’ll understand.” Lisa has a family full of strong women and women leaders whom she looks up to like her role models. “This may sound cliché, but the truth is that my mother has in many ways, been my number one role model. She was and continues to be a strong woman who has always demonstrated that honesty, integrity and hard work are the key ingredients to accomplishing whatever you set out to do,” shares Lisa. “It was because of her, and my aunts, that I didn’t ever see gender as an issue in my career. It wasn’t until much later that I saw gender inequality, but never felt as though I had experienced it.” Asked if there was one person with whom she would love to sit down, Lisa names Queen Elizabeth II as her top choice. She says, “I think she has largely been ignored, aside from the avid royal watchers and monarchists who are generally more interested in the Royal Family than in her capacity as Queen. But I think she has a lot to teach about leadership. About how to keep a level head and advise with grace and dignity. About how to influence while remaining, or at least appearing to be, objective. She is more of a leader than many give her credit for and I wonder, if she had been king instead of queen, would she have been looked upon differently and given more credence as a leader versus a figurehead?”

Lisa also shared her best advice for young professionals looking to build their own careers. “Don’t hesitate!”, asserts Lisa. “One of the most noticeable differences I see between women and men is that when there are leadership opportunities, women are more likely to wait until they feel they are “more ready” to take on that new responsibility. The problem is, when they wait, they run a very real risk of being passed over for similar opportunities in the future. Move out of your comfort zone. If you are qualified, you will get the position, end of story. Don’t doubt your abilities or your readiness – every new position has a learning curve attached to it. Embrace the discomfort and go for it!”

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Power women in cannabis, Lezli Engelking is driving and health and safety efforts in the cannabis industry

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Power women in cannabis, Lezli Engelking is driving and health and safety efforts in the cannabis industry

Women

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With almost a decade long participation in the cannabis industry, Lezli Engelking is the Founder of a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (FOCUS), The International Cannabis Health and Safety Organization. Founded in 2014, FOCUS is based in Arizona and works globally.

Engelking has been highly perceptive from a very young age with a consistent eagerness to learn. She grew up with compassion in her heart and aspiration to give back to society. While tenacity and perseverance were the riding force behind her progress. According to her, all her life experiences including the professional roles she held previously laid the groundwork for her current role. She shares, “My college years taught me how to effectively communicate and actively listen. Working in mental health, I learned how to effectively change the stigma of depression and mental health. Working in London, I became keenly aware of how every decision and process ultimately affects the success of a business, regardless of its size. My years in advertising and marketing taught me the invaluable lesson that every market, every consumer, every human is unique, and brings along their own set of beliefs, needs, and preconceptions. Through my work in the highly regulated and compliance-driven pharmaceutical industry, I learned the importance of systems and processes in assuring correct outcomes. I use these skills all day, every day, and truly believe they have had a huge impact on my successes in life.” Having over two decades of experience working in pharmaceuticals and non-profit sectors, her astute knowledge of the industry comes mainly from the 12 years she spent with Eli Lilly. Being at Lilly inspired her to steer her prowess and apply it to the booming cannabis industry. This is when she opened the first vertically integrated chain of cannabis licenses in Phoenix. After serving around two and a half years as Executive Director of that company, she came face to face with the need for the quality and safety standards in the cannabis trade. Like the tobacco or pharma industry, Engelking realized that the cannabis industry’s unique position today makes it vulnerable and prone to the similar complications that cost these industries setbacks in terms of consumer safety, public health, and quality standards. She asserts, “Mistakes where real people paid the price, sometimes even with their lives.”  She treated this analogy as a precautionary tale to avoid repeating the same bungles. She shares, “I recognized early on that as the cannabis industry began to scale and grow, cannabis would be governed by the same types of standards that govern any other industries. This led me to sell all of my financial interest in the industry to develop standards and provide third-party accredited certification.” Engelking’s progressive and intuitive approach has been significantly influential in shaping local and international cannabis policy including coordinating and developing cannabis specific educational content for the Association of Food and Drug Officials, Department of Agriculture, and the National Environmental Health Association. In 2018, she contributed to the United Nations and World Health Organization meetings on the global rescheduling of cannabis.

“We all have a responsibility to make our world a better place. Taking action to make that happen, on every level, is what leadership is all about,” says Lezli Engelking, Founder, of FOCUS.

Although the route to FOCUSwas not straight forward. When Engelking first pitched her idea at NCIA’s 2014 business conference she found that the cannabis industry operators at that time did not have a real understanding of the difference between standards, regulations, and laws – and did not understand the value standards bring to operators in any industry. She says, “It was a key lesson for me, that forced me to take a step back to assess the industry as a whole and determine how they might best receive this information going forward. For the next two years, I spent my time educating the industry on the difference between standards, regulations, and laws and how standards ultimately benefit the industry. It has been a long trek, but here we are 6 years later, and standards and certification are the biggest buzz words in the cannabis industry today.” Yet there are a number of ongoing challenges in the company’s way. The biggest challenge continues to be the struggle that goes into sustaining their independent third-party status. This issue also presented itself for the first time during the recruitment process for their standard development committees. It was hard to find knowledgeable individuals from outside the industry who weren’t afraid to associate themselves with cannabis. “As a health and safety organization, our value is intrinsically tied to our ability to remain independent and unbiased at all times,” shares Engelking. “FOCUS never accepted investment capital and has existed for over 6 years on a shoestring budget- surviving because of the incredible people who willingly contributed their time and generous donations because they believe in the value FOCUS provides to the global cannabis industry.” Another challenge that keeps the FOCUS team at their toes is determining the product’s sanctity. Due to the gap between federal and state regulations on the subject, all businesses rely almost exclusively on laboratory testing to evaluate the safety of products. As testing is a reactive process, it devises multiple pathways for unsafe products to reach the target users and also dramatically enhances the costs as well as the time taken to reach the market, which is eventually detrimental to both patients and operators alike in this newly developing industry. Engelking asserts, “The implementation of standards is a proactive way to assure the suitability of end products. It is also the best way to assure the long term success of running a cannabis business.” Hence, FOCUS’s mission is to protect public health, consumer safety, and safeguard the environment by promoting integrity within the cannabis industry. In the six years of their operation, they have been extremely dedicated to developing cannabis-specific ‘Good Manufacturing Practice’ standards and providing third-party internationally accredited certification to guide operators and regulators alike and ensure only safe, consistent, quality cannabis products are available within the marketplace. For their contribution to the same, they were nominated for 6 CannAwards in 2015. Also, they have been honored with the awards for Most Influential Organization in the Industry and Most Innovative Service in the Southwest.

Lezli Engelking, Founder, FOCUS.​
Lezli Engelking, Founder, FOCUS.​

Such future successes Engelking believes lie within one’s leadership potential which is ultimately based on the ability to learn and grow. According to her, if we willfully set aside our egos, collaborate, put in the time and effort to do the work, we all can find solutions and answers. She exclaims, “I could have never gotten where I am today if it weren’t for all of the incredible people who took the time to help me learn and grow over the years.” Therefore, for women who aspire to be on the same pedestal as Engelking, she puts out some very wise words: “You are not limited by your current skill sets. These should be considered a baseline starting point for your continued development as a leader, and a human. Many of the skills I rely on to do my job every day are things that I have learned out of necessity. If you are willing to work outside of your comfort zone and dedicate yourself to continually learning, amazing things can be achieved. Secondly, it is super important to recognize that a formal leadership role is not necessary to lead others. Leadership happens all around us, and stepping up to the plate to help and serve others is not just limited to board rooms or management positions.”

Likewise, Engelking intends to build a legacy around her contributions to making the world a better place. “FOCUS and the work that we do to protect health and safety in the cannabis industry will certainly be a part of my legacy. However, it is critically important to me that my legacy also includes who I am as a person,” says Engelking. “I want to be known for being a good friend and role model, for helping others and treating them with kindness and compassion, for building bridges and pathways to solve problems. Maya Angelou’s famous quote sums this up perfectly: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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Annette Densham grew her brand by ‘getting over being modest’

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Annette Densham grew her brand by ‘getting over being modest’

Winning three grand Stevie awards has shone the spotlight on Annette Densham and she is owning it.

As a teenager, Annette aspired to be an investigative reporter uncovering big stories and making a difference to the world. She spent most of her years through high school trying to fulfill that dream and started out as a journalist. However, working in the media soon made her realize that the newspaper world wasn’t meant for her. She shares, “Working through the 80s and 90s, the old boys’ club was alive and well. Women were still (and still are) not paid their worth. I was often asked to get the tea or run errands even though that was not my role. I would always push back, often to the detriment of my career. I am not good at playing games and being nice to people who are horrible to you. It was a cutthroat world dominated by men and I did not fit.” Walking away, Annette started working in corporate communications for non-profit organizations where she felt more at home. According to her, this is where purpose met practicalities. Here, she could finally use her key skills, mainly storytelling, to make an actual impact. She began loving her job and found herself driven to share the stories of the innovators and trailblazers that were making other people’s lives better with their products and services. However, a certain turn of events pushed her to come out of her comfort zone and strive for something much bigger.

“Never give up. No one knows, even with the best business plan, if an idea will have legs but I kept putting one foot in front of the other, learning from my mistakes and here I am seven years later still going strong. That is what success is to me.”

The day came, when due to financial limitations, the company she worked for, downsized their marketing department, leaving her at crossroads. This experience gave her self-confidence, especially living in a city that was facing large scale public service redundancies, a hit. Annette looked for any kind of job she could find. Setting up a business was the last thought on her mind, as without experience it seemed a non-viable option. Luckily amidst these circumstances, one of her friends took her to a weekend seminar about employing one’s expertise to build a business using webinars. Annette soon realized her years of experience in the media and communications had real value and she could use it to build her own venture. She shares, “At this weekend seminar, the host asked those who thought they were experts in their field to stand up and pitch an idea you could turn into a webinar that would lead to an online program. I stood up and told the audience “I can show you how to pitch stories to the media and get publicity.” The audience went wild. Their reaction was so positive that I was chosen to be the program’s ‘guinea pig’ for the day. Within 36 hours, I created a 5 module do it yourself the PR training program for small business and ran a live webinar. I was shaking in my boots I was so scared I would sound stupid and people would find out I was a fraud. I made $5,000 that weekend and realized I DID have something of value that I could start a business with.”

She went on to launch Publicity Genie, her PR agency in 2013. She carries on, “It was not too long after launching it dawned on my businesses and entrepreneurs do not want to learn how to do their PR, they want someone to do it for them. I changed my business model to that of an agency and have grown year on year.” In the past seven years, Annette has worked with hundreds of small businesses to help them gain publicity through media stories, blogs, etc. In addition to this, she helped them find the best ways to enter and leverage awards. According to her, the biggest challenge here was her lack of knowledge specific to marketing. She only had the practice of working in corporate teams with a huge budget and numerous specialists who did all the niche work. But this didn’t stop Annette, instead, she decided it was time to learn some new exciting stuff. “When you go into business for yourself, this is all up to you; you have to be the admin manager, finance person, marketing specialist, and customer service rep. No one person can do all of those things well, especially me. I had to learn how to market myself,” shares Annette. “I was used to making other people look good, always in the background and here I was thrust in a position to promote myself. That felt awkward and uncomfortable for a long time.” Annette did everything, from going to workshops to learning how to network and market herself, to gain appropriate momentum as a new business. “I slowly but surely grew my brand by getting over being modest,” says Annette. “Never give up. No one knows, even with the best business plan, if an idea will have legs but I kept putting one foot in front of the other, learning from my mistakes and here I am seven years later still going strong. That is what success is to me.”

Annette Densham, Founder, The Audacious Agency
Annette Densham, Founder, The Audacious Agency

Watching and learning from the upcoming entrepreneurs in every field, made her even more determined to make a difference in people’s life. Following her drive, she has launched her second business -The Audacious Agency- this year along with a branding specialist, Lauren Clemett. This agency is based in Australia and works with clients across the world. Their job is to help their clients understand their brand voice by tapping into Neurobranding and finding out how their customers feel about them. Eventually, they help them develop strong personal brands and present them as an expert in their respective industry using every channel possible. Annette exclaims, “We believe everyone deserves to be well known, well paid and wanted. There is no room in business for modesty. Hence, we dig deep into brands to understand the pain points for which they can provide solutions and then we create brilliant stories or content to place on multiple platforms, so it seems like they are everywhere. We solve the issue of brand overwhelm and cut to the heart of the brand.”

Working with women, all these years, has given Annette the courage to handle her inner clamor. This inspired her to set her legacy to be one that speaks of unity, strength, and audacity. She asserts, “I know the things we tell ourselves that stop us from shining brightly. Many of us suffer imposter syndrome, believing we will be found out for being a fraud. We don’t put ourselves forward for awards or to be featured in the media, scared of being too successful or vain. The legacy of The Audacious Agency is to encourage and support women to be bold and brave and audacious. To embrace their skills and expertise, charge and ask for what they are worth and to step out of the shadows, so people know what they do and why they do it. Our end game is to have women not even question whether they deserve an award or pay rise or leadership position, that is just a no brainer that they have to and will.”

In the end, as a female leader, Annette wants the women behind her to know that it’s okay to value yourself and strive for greatness even if no one approves. Therefore, she has a piece of pretty straight and simple advice for fellow women who wish to run their enterprise someday, she says, “Do you. Be you. To be a leader, you have to step out of the pack to be heard. This may not make you popular with those who love the status quo but great things don’t happen in a void. You have to make some noise. Show through your actions that you a tenacious, courageous and willing to succeed without compromising your values and ethics. People like to play games, but don’t you play games; be clear in your intentions and bold in your actions. Leadership is not always about the position you hold but the way you hold yourself.”

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How Netflix, HBO compete with regional players in the Southeast Asian market

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Southeast Asia promises substantial returns from a huge market of over 600 million people. However, it is a heterogeneous region divided between different political regimes, languages and tastes | Aspioneer
TV remote

Big streaming giants AppleTV and Disney Plus entered the United States market late last year. Many believe they will challenge the dominance of established player Netflix.

Meanwhile in Southeast Asia multiple streaming companies are vying for market share.

Southeast Asia promises substantial returns from a huge market of over 600 million people. However, it is a heterogeneous region divided between different political regimes, languages and tastes.

As global streaming companies Netflix and HBO pursue a Southeast Asian market, they have to compete with numerous regional start-ups, including Viu (Hong Kong), HOOQ (Singapore) and iflix (Malaysia), which have market advantage due to their geographical proximity and local market knowledge.

When it all began

The uptake of streaming by Southeast Asian audiences has been rapid. Malaysian start-up iflix reported 17 million subscribers in 2019 and Netflix 14.5 million, a 150% increase over two years.

Few consumers were encumbered by legacy subscriptions to cable or satellite TV, but they wanted more than the cheap content offered by broadcast television.

More consumers use mobile technologies and want to be entertained as they take the bus or sit in peak-hour traffic. Their tastes have been shaped by Korean dramas and Hollywood films.

Regional content production has matured in the past two decades with the widespread adoption of digital technologies and smart content from a generation of savvy creative producers.

This new generation of content producers works in Southeast Asia’s “media cities” like Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta; Singapore; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Bangkok, Thailand, and Manila, the Philippines. Here they have access to infrastructure and resources and draw ideas from trends in pop culture.

These content producers are increasingly looking for regional and global audiences and have found streaming an ideal distribution technology.

When Netflix became globally available in 2011, it showed audiences and content producers the possibilities of streaming.

Netflix not only offered audiences uncensored content, Southeast Asian viewers of Netflix were able to join global conversations about shows such as House of Cards.

Netflix’s move into Southeast Asia was helped by attractive subsidies offered by the Malaysian government to shoot the series Marco Polo at the Pinewood Iskandar Studios in Johor in 2014.

HBO moved into streaming on the back of its long presence in Singapore as the cable-television channel for major Hollywood studios. In 2012, HBO began commissioning original local content including action-horror film Dead Mine and the series Serangoon Road with Australia’s ABC.

HBO’s regional ambitions became clearer when rising Indonesian star director Joko Anwar was picked to helm the fantasy-horror mini-series Halfworlds.

Regional services soon began to pop up, vying for market share with Netflix and HBO.

Agility of local players

The local services secure exclusive streaming rights from local production and their content becomes more valuable, with producers selling their content well in advance of its completion.

Local media producers are also relatively autonomous, enabling them to be flexible in who they supply.

The region’s top local streaming players are:

1. Iflix

This Malaysian start-up was established in 2014 to beat domestic rival Astro, which operates satellite and cable services, into streaming.

Rapid expansion and integration with telco providers enabled iflix to secure its market position.

Iflix attracted capital investment from America’s MGM in 2015 and Indonesian media heavyweight SCM in 2016.

When iflix launched in Indonesia in June 2016, it was with its commission Magic Hour: The Series, directed by Indonesian director Asep Kusdinar, in collaboration with Screenplay Films (a subsidiary of SCM). The film is a sequel to Asep’s previous film Magic Hour.

2. HOOQ

Established in 2015, HOOQ is a collaboration between Singapore’s telco firm Singtel and US film studios Warner Bros and Sony Pictures. It has major operations in Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and India.

Its strategy is to partner on local feature films, often with the HOOQ logo prominent in the opening credits. HOOQ recently commissioned a series based on award-winning On The Job from Pinoy director Erik Matti.

Like HBO and iflix, HOOQ shows how Hollywood studios play a significant role in Southeast Asian streaming services.

3. Viu

The large Hong Kong telecommunications provider PCCW established Viu in 2015. It expanded to Southeast Asia in 2016.

Viu focuses on supplying Korean, Chinese and South Asian content. It has embarked on producing numerous original series, including Keluarga Baha DonSalon and Sunshine.

In 2018, Viu co-produced The Bridge in partnership with HBO Asia, a remake of the successful Sweden-Denmark series. Its version of The Bridge is set on the causeway between Malaysia and Singapore – a symbolic bridging of entertainment markets.

The competition heats up

To consolidate its global expansion and to facilitate content acquisition, Netflix opened a regional office in Singapore in 2016.

Netflix acquired original-language feature films from across the region to attract new regional subscribers. These films included the Indonesian action film Headshot by Indonesian directors Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel with rising action star Iko Uwais. It was followed by another Iko Uwais vehicle, Timo Tjahjanto’s The Night Comes for Us, which also attracted genre audiences around the world.

Netflix developed its first Southeast Asia series, Ghost Bride, with Malaysian directors Quek Shio Chuan and Ho Yuhang at an estimated cost of RM30 million (US$7.3 million).

One common strategy is to feature a multinational cast, as in the case of Grisse featuring Indonesians, Singaporeans and Malaysians. Companies also look for what Astro calls “Nusantara content”, which draws on stories and content creators from across the region.

Another strategy sees platforms focus on genres that can cut across national and linguistic barriers. Garon De Silver, HBO Asia’s director of production, noted: “… [D]espite different culture and languages in Asia, they (audiences) shared common beliefs in supernatural creatures. Asians believed in the same monsters – they just had different names for them.”

Following Halfworlds, HBO commissioned another two seasons of Halfworlds (Thailand directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham and Philippines by Mikhail Red), and the six-episode horror anthology Folklore featuring directors from across Asia and led by Eric Khoo from Singapore.

Astro has similarly pushed regional horror series, including Sembil9n (Nine) and Nawangsih, both targeting the Malaysia-Indonesia markets, and licensed these to Indonesia partner MAXstream, a subsidiary of telco provider Telkomsel.

Streaming has opened new possibilities for content creation and distribution, liberated audiences from expensive contracts and locked programming, and offered new, edgier content. Behind the scenes, big regional and global players are moving in. They have huge investment capital and ambitious plans.

Streaming is massively reorienting content production industries across Southeast Asia, disrupting distribution and exhibition patterns, and intensifying competition.

Whatever happens, Southeast Asia is now firmly a part of a global streaming industry and its global audience.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

This tech lets you (almost) replicate the office and work remotely amid coronavirus

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Working from home can be a real challenge for employees who find themselves doing it for the first time. To address this concern, many employees are turning to digital solutions to help them interact with colleagues and stay productive away from the office | Aspioneer
woman working on laptop

Working from home is already so common it has its own acronym, and it’s about to get even more common still. Companies like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are now advising employees to “WFH” to avoid exposure to the novel coronavirus.

But working from home can be a real challenge for employees who find themselves doing it for the first time. To address this concern, many employees are turning to digital solutions to help them interact with colleagues and stay productive away from the office.

Here are some tech options for three styles of work: formal meetings, informal discussions, and team projects. But none of them, as we shall see, is without drawbacks.

Formal meetings

The first question on most people’s minds is how to conduct meetings with colleagues or clients. One of the most common answers is Zoom, a video communication platform that combines conferencing, online meetings, chat and mobile collaboration.

Zoom is widely used as an online substitute for formal meetings, and last week its share price surged by 12% in anticipation that cornavirus quarantines will see it adopted even more widely. Among the platform’s selling-points are its ease of use, and ability to stream presentations as well as host meetings.

But while digital solutions like Zoom offer useful way for colleagues to meet, they are arguably less satisfactory for interacting with customers. Research suggests that online meetings fail to deliver the same feelings of connection and empathy, compared with a face-to-face meeting.

Informal discussions

While video conferencing is useful for formal meetings, it is less appropriate for informal chats, brief queries or rapid status updates, such as “have you sent that invoice yet?”. This task is more suited to instant messaging platforms or group chat apps.

A common tactic is to use Facebook messenger, WhatsApp or gchat. But these can be distracting and intrusive, particularly at high volumes, causing workers to lose focus and concentration.

Many companies have instead adopted Slack and Microsoft Teams, which offer instant communication without the distraction of social media. IBM has reportedly adopted Slack for all of its 350,000 employees. And Slack has reportedly asked its own employees to work from home in response to the coronavirus outbreak, prompting wisecracks on social media about how they will stay in touch with one another.

But while these channels are great for zapping quick messages between team members, it can be hard to build real rapport. Research shows that being authentic, realistic and making time with colleagues is a more natural way to build effective work relationships, and this is hard to do purely online.

Team projects

So much for meetings and chats – what about actual project management? Two options already in widespread use are Google Drive and Microsoft One Drive, which allow people to upload documents to the cloud and collaborate on them in real time.

These two platforms have already become the industry standard for sharing documents. But (and you may be sensing a theme here), sometimes team discussions require face-to-face conversations or brainstorms, which can challenging to replicate in a purely online environment.

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus has struck at a time when we have more digital options than ever before, giving a wider range of employees the opportunity to work from home with minimal disruption.

But it’s also undeniable that people still need face-to-face interactions for companies to function at their best. The likes of Zoom, Slack and Google Drive will likely see an uptick in use during the epidemic, but once it’s over they should be considered complementary solutions rather than substitutions.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How I manage my time– and ways you can do too!

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Kaleigh Wiese, Founder and Director of Méldeen
Kaleigh Wiese, Founder and Director of Méldeen

How I manage my time– and ways you can do too!

Women

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As an entrepreneur who juggles a couple of businesses and who is on the road 30+ times a year – it’s a full circus juggling it all. Currently, I own a service-based design & stationery business (Méldeen), along with travel as an educator, speaker and brand strategist (Label by Méldeen). At one time, I had 4 businesses I was jugging along with assisting in other companies’ growth plans. Being firm with planning my schedule in advance is critical in balancing all of the aspects of my life: my client time, development time, domestic time, as well as family, friends, self-care, and productivity. Without scheduling, frankly, nothing happens and I’m on the couch with a book or watching a reality show.

I list my upcoming travel in email signature so they can see the dates I will be less available and all parties can plan in advance.

In the last 2 years, I’ve also had some personal unexpected things come up with family member’s health and other moments I’ve needed to change my routine for. After 13 years of self-employment, I realized I really was not setting aside enough time for recharging my own batteries. I was giving too much of myself to the work I love, my clients, with little boundaries, leaving me running on fumes and never feeling caught up. Setting a schedule (while still being open-minded to a last-minute lunch, or working an extra evening) has helped me be more productive and live a much more balanced life. Let me tell you more about how I do it!

First of all set expectations for yourself and your clients. It is ok to say you work 9-5, it is ok to say you are off on Mondays. You have to find what works for you and your family, and setting expectations with clients in advance will be the easiest thing you do all year. I also list my upcoming travel in email signature so they can see the dates I will be less available and all parties can plan in advance.

Another tip for balancing time is adding in padding for delivery dates for clients. We all want to make our clients happy and can end up overpromising and under-delivering (which adds stress to all parties). Consider your project timelines, and then add a few days. I promise it will just take a weight off your shoulders and help make for more successful business exchanges. You can’t go wrong padding in time, finishing early and getting a bonus day or afternoon to do whatever you would like.

Let’s talk boyfriend, husband, and kids. I highly recommend setting dates together to look forward to. An ice cream outing, a glass of wine at a favorite wine bar, a trip across the ocean, etc. Having things to look forward to together strengthens a relationship. It’s easy as a small business or solopreneur to put work aside and make family and friends a priority. Then we hop on that hamster wheel and never get off not allowing time with the ones we love. Look at your calendar and put a friend date or real date on the calendar and stick with it!

On the whole, what works best for me is sitting down every 90 days and evaluating my upcoming travel schedule and pending opportunities. I then fill those into my calendar with due dates and out-of-office dates. This allows me to understand how much time my upcoming projects may take and focus on allotting time for development. From there, I schedule in time with friends and family and even put X through some days where I can plan for catchup or personal rest days. On Sunday nights, I look at my upcoming schedule for the week, and I fill in my must-dos, need to-dos and can dos that are pressing. I even list my errands and insure I am only taking phone calls on some days, and errands on only one day each week. Errands, emails, and calls can really distract from my productive work so I know limiting them are important for me.  I love utilizing a software called Milanote where I can put a weekly list, divided by days side by side. I probably look at it 10x a day. I can move things, and add notes for reminders for myself later in the week. I even have a weekend list if there are elective things I might want to tackle when people think I am out of office.

Overall giving yourself time each week and each quarter to think about your priorities and writing them down can be a game-changer if you have been in business a hot second or 25 years. I challenge you to look at your time and see where you could get a little more organized for the second quarter of 2020!

Find me on Instagram, and let me know your time-saving tips! @gokaleigh

Kaleigh Wiese

Kaleigh Wiese

Founder and Director, Méldeen.

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Time management hacks every entrepreneur should try

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Time management hacks every entrepreneur should try

Managing time as a busy entrepreneur is nearly a job unto itself. For many self-employed professionals, balancing personal time as well as the needs of a full-time business can be a daunting, but not an impossible task. Properly utilizing organizational skills, current technologies and proper self-motivation can mean the difference between having balance in life or feeling constantly “behind”.

Time management as an entrepreneur begins with organization. Being resolute in maintaining a busy day to day schedule begins with organizing your day in a meaningful way. This helps to accomplish all the day’s goals with a minimum of distraction.

By being organized, tech-savvy and motivated, you will find that time management becomes second nature.

Some helpful tips learned over the years to organize a busy day include:

Planning the day backwards from a meeting or project rather than in a typical linear fashion. This can help organize your schedule with a minimum of wasted time or travel. You structure the framework of your day where the most important items are non-negotiable. Then you plan your other activities around those nonnegotiable events.

If your business involves travel, it’s helpful to map out alternate routes in case your main route is blocked. It’s also wise to add in a minimum of 15 minutes extra time to arrive at a meeting so that you are on time even if there is unexpected traffic.

Communication is also key to proper organization. If you are running late to a meeting or need to dispatch an employee in your stead, it’s important to maintain timely lines of communication. Having an empty voicemail box is also a useful communication tool in case you are tied up with multiple phone calls.

Lastly, it is an organizational imperative to write everything down. This can mean something as small as items you need to have with you for meetings to larger more important action items. The important thing is to write them down rather than hope you’ve committed them to memory.

Using technology can greatly increase your productivity and efficiency. Phone apps like calendar reminders, alarms and notepads can help you keep even the most hectic day manageable. Apps like “Airtable” help you create, manage and share important action items or checklists with others.

“DocuSign” allows you to take important scannable documents and send them as emails which can then be signed electronically. This can alleviate lost documents in the mail as well as save time. Writing events, deadlines, and meetings down in your personal phone calendar is a necessity to maintain an efficient schedule.

Committing small details to the notepad function on your phone can also ensure even the smallest details are captured.

It’s of equal importance to stay abreast of any news in your field. Staying on top of world events and happenings in your field has been made incredibly easy with modern cellphones. This way you won’t be caught unaware if you need to have a conversation on topics in your field.

Utilizing texting is also a great time management and communication tool. But it is important to remember as an entrepreneur that your texts should always maintain an air of decorum. Being too personal in a text can send the wrong message to a client or a professional colleague.

Proper self-motivation is the final and most important skill an entrepreneur can employ. Knowing your limits as an individual can help you accurately structure a week without over-promising or under-delivering.

Self-motivation can come through daily repetition of certain tasks so that your mind can be left free to concentrate on the more important details of the day. It’s also important to maintain a healthy sleep schedule to allow your mind to recharge.

Proper diet and nutrition can also help maintain mental acuity and clarity.

Being properly self-motivated starts with mentally knowing you are prepared for any eventuality before it occurs. Mapping out every possible detail rather than leaving things to chance helps you project an air of competence that will, in turn, motivate those around you.

It’s also important to allow personal time to keep your perspective fresh. Neglecting emotional health can lead to long term issues that can impact your career. Stress can literally kill you so it’s important to know your mental and emotional boundaries as well as be able to communicate them to others.

By being organized, tech-savvy and motivated, you will find that time management becomes second nature.

Using these scalable techniques will help you keep your stress levels low and prepare you to tackle larger projects in the future without decreasing personal fulfillment.

Kelly Cohen

Kelly Cohen

Partner & Chief Marketing Officer, The Southern Group.

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Meet Ronit Pinto, the woman behind the media powerhouse Honeysuckle

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Meet Ronit Pinto, the woman behind the media powerhouse Honeysuckle

Women

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The founder and publisher of Honeysuckle, a well-renowned print and digital arts, culture, and lifestyle publication based in New York City, Ronit Pinto has definitely earned herself a title among the Aspioneer’s top women trailblazers, and here’s how.

Ronit developed an interest in print media, styling and publishing while she was working freelance for a fashion design publication in Detroit and witnessed the potential of visual impact firsthand at various photoshoots for magazines known by their style toggeries. She gained journalism experience, as an intern and later journalist at The Jerusalem Post in Tel Aviv, Israel and many other outlets subsequently. Owing to her growing enthusiasm, a few years later, she started working in motion pictures simultaneously. Ultimately, juggling different genres of mass media concurrently, given her talent and skill deposits took a shape of true metamorphic bedrock that cropped out as Honeysuckle. “I began Honeysuckle as an answer to our dark urges to explore the connection between beauty and darkness and discover the nuances of life,” says Ronit. “I think our lives are full of paradoxes and complexities and I’m eager and excited to explore them.”

“Honeysuckle’s content reflects who we are: as educated, cosmopolitan women, we curate a publication that analyzes society, all the while providing a platform for real people to learn something new and to make sense of their place in our constantly evolving world.”

Founded in 2013 the award-winning, women-owned, internationally distributed media house Honeysuckle Media; is an umbrella company for Honeysuckle Magazine, Honey Pot Magazine, and Honeysuckle Girl. Ronit shares, “Comprised of our flagship digital and print publication, Honeysuckle Magazine, and our cannabis-exclusive print and digital publication Honey Pot Magazine, our media house provide an outlet that emphasizes diverse perspectives and creative expression. Our flagship brand explores gender and sexuality, racial politics, sustainability, and pop culture. Honey Pot Magazine, our cannabis-exclusive print and digital publication, is a first-of-its-kind culture and business guide exploring the dynamic cannabis industry with a feminine edge.” The content is wise yet provocative and aims at normalizing the discussions of taboo topics. “Honeysuckle’s content reflects who we are: as educated, cosmopolitan women, we curate a publication that analyzes society, all the while providing a platform for real people to learn something new and to make sense of their place in our constantly evolving world,” exclaims Ronit. “Our reporting is authentic and unique. And our writers tend to ‘live what they write’ rather than just reporting on a topic.” Precisely, Honeysuckle can be best described as a digital and print media house for diverse voices and a strong visual impact. In addition, they offer various advantages to their clients and partners on multiple platforms such as print media, digital space, videos, and billboards.

For Ronit, business is not only about the mission and profit, but also the kind of impact it has on people and the planet. She asserts, “Honeysuckle is a company that looks to better our world. To create more beauty, more freedom and to provide opportunities and jobs for people who want to do that as well – while learning to sustain itself and contributing to the overall good of the planet. It’s harder than it sounds! ”

Like any aspiring leader, Ronit also came across some nay-sayers who didn’t share her vision. But she simply decided to ignore them. Rather she keeps her eyes and ears open for people who are visionaries, innovators and free thinkers. Besides being fascinated by media moguls, who are mostly male, her list of inspiring and iconic individuals consists of everyone from Nikola Tesla to Gaspar Noe to Kate Moss. When asked with whom she would like to dine if given the opportunity, she immediately responded, “Old friends from Detroit. Eccentric fashion and art icons, Frances Bacon, Kate Moss.” As a first-time entrepreneur, Ronit never hesitates to seek help and openly accepts her shortcomings to improve in every sense. She says, “I don’t know particularly what mistakes I’ve made, only that we all make mistakes and so the best thing you can do is to ‘fall forward.’ Our society is absolutely obsessed with being perfect,’ and so I just try and do my best. I am not perfect. No one is. If I feel weak in an area I try and seek guidance there. I suppose I am impulsive at times, empathic and excitable so sometimes I act too quickly.”

Ronit Pinto, Founder, Honeysuckle
Ronit Pinto, Founder, Honeysuckle

Ronit’s love for art and beauty is more than evident in her choice of business. That being said, it also underlines her as a keen reader. Speaking of her favorite books, she mentions, “Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown. It portrayed a life I didn’t know and made the reader understand what that life was like. It was very influential for me. That, and Go Ask Alice.”

A victor’s trail

Ronit is someone who measures her success in terms of the freedom she has to execute her creative and intellectual freedoms while learning to be financially stable. Hence, she describes her personal mantra in life as, “Create beauty. Create freedom. And create more of it.” As a female leader, she doesn’t normally feel intimidated or impeded; instead, she always thought she had an advantage. She exclaims, “Many of our best writers and editors are females.” She has always relied on her strengths to chase her aspirations, she says, “You always have to credit the key people you have worked with. Sam, Royal, Naomi, Jaime, and Keyanah are some solid footholds who have helped keep Honeysuckle together at different points. With the right team, we execute a positive, collective, and prismatic vision.” All the ups and downs in her journey have helped Ronit to develop a unique and winning mindset. She emphasizes, “Challenges are not always met by a positive outlook. Sometimes you have to take a hard look at the truth. Sometimes things are light and fairy and other times they are not. I think being able to look at opposing elements with an open mind is an element in becoming a successful leader.”

Ronit’s self-confidence, self-awareness, and her drive to leave a mark on the world never fail to bring out the best she has got, and she has always got some more. She is proving it’s possible to marry purpose and profits while making a difference.

Never let anything stop you

As for all career-minded women, Ronit appeals to them to be innovative, confident, and bold. “However, I am keenly aware that not all women – nor people for that matter –  have the same advantages and access to resources, which is due to socio-economic factors and race. Honeysuckle is striving to illuminate those sensitivities through personal testimonies, as we all have unique challenges in life. As a dreamer, I recommend to try for your dreams. If something is important to you, go for it. The worst you can do is to fall. And then you can dust yourself off and try again:) Women are often conditioned in ways that are not beneficial to us in doing what we need in life.  Be aware of how your conditioning might be holding you back. Femininity is a beautiful thing. People might feel threatened by it. Don’t let it stop you, but you’re better off being aware of it.”

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