All Posts in Creativity

April 11, 2017 - No Comments!

Corey’s Story

thumbnail_OneOc Event-1thumbnail_Sherry and Alison2thumbnail_Stand and Deliver March 11th

What I have always admired/loved about SBC is the authenticity of relationships that are created with clients/candidates/community members. Although the majority of our work is done virtually, there is still a very personal connection we make with those we interact with. Whether it’s the pro-bono work we do for non-profits or the recruiting work we do with Fortune 500 companies, our hearts are focused on the people side of business. I find that you can most prominently see the results of these personal relationships at our learning events – there are endless hugs, personal conversations and cutting edge thoughts being exchanged. It’s rare to find an organization that puts such an emphasis on long-term connections!

April 10, 2017 - No Comments!

Celebrating 20 years!

Many years ago at our five year anniversary in business, I met with a dear friend who gave me sage advice and said; "write a forward looking vision of what you desire for the next phase of your business journey." So I did that and found my notes to share now. Written in 2005 as an aspirational guide for 2015 and beyond:

"I am laughing a lot more these days – not taking myself so seriously! I can step away and have perspective and total trust in a great team. They bring light, love and lots of balance to this thriving business. We are all having fun.

There are a core group of clients that rely on us for recruiting as an extension of their department. They call when multiple assignments emerge or hard to fill positions exist requiring focused effort. We blend into their system, almost seamlessly for we know their culture. Our process is about “we” not “I” and that is unique about us. Our clients trust us and value our opinion.

We are known as possibility thinkers…where each person on our team brings unique ideas and we celebrate what we accomplish for ourselves and our clients. We work in our home offices but connect virtually. It’s a blend of the possible….all meant to be flexible for us. We know how to capture what we are learning in each new project.

Clients give us regular feedback and we publish our results. We are the only firm that does this in a way that helps the client improve. We use this data for re-inventing ourselves. Sometimes a new service is created from this ongoing input of great data from our clients.

We have a brand that reinforces our goal to add value, challenge ideas, build relationships and share knowledge. The HRoundtable and learning forums are thriving for we value human connection in the best way possible.”

Sherry Benjamins, President of S. Benjamins & Company, 2005

SBC-Anniversary

Published by: Corey Kachigan in Blog
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April 9, 2017 - No Comments!

Helping Others Drives Success

We launched our second HRoundtable this past week with the help of my long-time friend and wonderful consultant, business owner Sonya Kemp. Sonya believes in the notion that giving to others and allowing a group to learn from each other strengthens the outcome for everyone.  Adam Grant talks about this in his giving book, "Give and Take."  We have eight wonderful managers in this group from premier companies and they are already demonstrating their passion to give to each other and learn.

They are energized to be sitting at the table with their peers from other companies and industries.  The range of perspectives is broad and fascinating.  They will meet quarterly to focus on forward looking ideas in order to build their influence as new managers and strengthen their strategic points of view. hroundtable logo 3blue

The idea of a peer learning group is not new.  We have seen many models like this across the executive suite and beyond into other functional areas.  What is exciting about this group and our HRoundtable in general is that we build the notion of giving from the start and it becomes the norm for the group.  People carry it forward in their interactions and ultimately this improves the process and how they contribute overall.  The bar is raised on who fits in the group and how they will build enriched networks and collaborate too.

It dawned on me that the HRoundtable that Sonya is now leading is embracing the four attributes that contribute to being a giver.  As Adam Grant writes about this in his book he states that "givers rise to the top."  The have a unique approach that includes; networking, collaborating, evaluating and influencing.  Adam also explores  how givers, takers and matchers build networks.  It is quite different.  The taker might be described as a self promoter or self absorbed. The giver looks at the world in abundance terms and in generosity.  Givers gain.  Thank you Sonya for being a part of this newly formed group and giving your generous spirit and experiences to this team.

February 6, 2017 - No Comments!

SBC February Newsletter: Learning from an Entrepreneur & Millennial Mindset

Ryan SBC FebruaryThis month, our creative director, Erik Benjamins, sat down with one of his close friends, Ryan Sheffer. Ryan is a Millennial entrepreneur and co-founder of Zero Slant, an AI-driven news agency that creates automated content from social media. His path from filmmaker and editor to programmer and entrepreneur is inspiring and representative of changes we see in the future of work. He’s crafted a unique path that’s been driven by asking ambitious questions about the future of our relationship to technology and the media. His highly successful blog has been a resource for other young entrepreneurs in the industry and beyond.

Erik Benjamins: How did you choose the path of entrepreneurship?

Ryan Sheffer: Up until I was applying for college, I thought that “becoming a business person” was the thing you did as a career. I didn’t know that becoming a filmmaker—or doing your own thing—could be a job. In my head, it seemed like something that others did. When I started to get into the technology industry about ten years later to start my own company, I didn’t know what venture capital was. I didn’t use the word entrepreneur to describe myself. I was just an editor doing my own thing. I had this inherent desire for freedom, but didn’t have a clear cut way to define it. I realized that the key to choosing a path was understanding that it’s there. We often define our ceiling because it’s what we’ve seen, what we know.

EB: When was that moment for you? When you shifted from working in the film industry to the tech industry?

RS: It was a process. I was always brought into the film industry as the tech person that you’d call when something was technically difficult. Around that same time, I made a New Year’s resolution to teach myself how to code. It made sense given my interest in the tech side of the film industry. A few months later I sat down with some coders and showed them what I built after dedicating a month to learning this new language and they thought it was pretty good. I walked away from that meeting thinking that this may be something I could do. It was a shift in perspective.

EB: Tell us about your interests in an open source education?

RS: Before teaching myself how to code, I taught myself how to use a camera. My desire to continually learn has objectively fueled my career path. When I first went out and tried to start a company, I felt like no one wanted to share the simple things. Everything I found online were either stories of great success or massive failures. There wasn’t any “brass tacks” information like what to do when hiring a lawyer. No one thinks these are interesting things to share, but it was all I wanted to know. I started a video series called 12 Months to share these brass tacks kinds of things I was learning as I was starting my own tech company. It didn’t do very well, but I did get a lot of emails from people thanking me for being open and honest about all the non-sexy stuff I had to go through.

My blog has been the most successful thing I’ve done in my career. It now gets hundreds of thousands of reads per year. My outlets for sharing these process, successes and failures have a lot to do with sharing outward, but also forcing myself to verbalize my process. It lets me understand and follow through on it.

EB: What have you learned about your professional trajectory thus far?

RS: I need to be building something ambitious. Success isn’t going to happen instantly so I want to build something that will light me up as I struggle through it. Setting ambitious goals lets me work as my best self. The most important thing for me is to pursue my own excitement about learning and discovering, pushing myself to be better and better.

EB: How do you see and engage with risk in your work?

RS:  I don’t see risk the way others might. With my first foray into the tech industry, I invested a lot of my own money I had been making as a filmmaker into a company that I eventually ended up shutting down. But I viewed that decision as an education. I could have spent the same amount of money for a masters or PhD, but I’d rather invest in this style of learning. That being said, I’m starting a family now and need to work in a more responsible way. Risk is important, but I also need to set hard deadlines. For example, I’m in the process of fundraising right now and if I don’t raise the amount I need, I’ll have to put the company on hold and find a job.

EB: What advice do you have for someone struggling with their identity as a worker, or someone interested in taking the non-obvious work path?

RS: If you find yourself working at a job and you feel like they can’t give you enough work to do and you have six other side projects going, you’re not an employee. You can either choose to refocus your energy towards being an employee or you can accept that this seems like the energy of someone who wants to start their own thing.

EB: How can upper management engage with entrepreneurial minded talent?

RS: I had an employee like this and my method was to put that person in charge of their own department. I gave them as much autonomy as I could without sacrificing the clarity of vision for the company. Once you identity someone with an entrepreneurial spirit you need to incentivize them with responsibility and autonomy. My experience in the film industry helped with this. The director is the dictator, but he or she surrounds themselves with department heads like lighting, costume, etc., that make large decisions without the director’s constant oversight. When it comes to managing Millennials, it’s about working with people who have a ton of passion and have a desire to have an ownership in what they do.

EB: Is this an experience that for you is generationally specific? 

RS: I don’t like using the phrase the “Millennial attitude”, but there is definitely an element of Millennials not wanting to hear you tell them your business. The counterpoint of empowering Millennials is that they may feel deserving of autonomy, but are unable to provide the output. The “Millennial attitude” lends itself to a side effect in which the second you micromanage, they are upset. It’s an attitude of “we do it differently and you don’t understand”. It may also have to do with the fact that jobs and work is shifting. For example, I don’t have folders and I don’t have an office. My whole company works remotely. There’s an element of needing to find people that work more comfortably in that environment, to be go getters and get stuff done. I think we’ll see a trend of a company having it’s separate sections run like individual companies.

EB: Lastly, who has been your influence or inspiration?

RS: My grandfather for always wanting to learn and my father for being the most dedicated family man I know.

Final Thoughts...

It never hurts to reflect on the powers, complexities, and new styles of the Millennial mentality as we continue flying into this new year.  It speaks to the changing nature of work and our ability to balance existing structures with entirely new ones so we can do our best work.

August 20, 2016 - No Comments!

Out on a Limb? Are you an Original?

How about rejecting the default in us? Take a chance and get on that limb.  Adam Grant, in his new book, Originals, talks about taking those chances.

Are you exploring whether there is a better option or do you default to what you know? The start is curiosity and seeing things in fresh perspectives.  I know that is hard to do.  The job market is requiring us to reject the default in us.  Taking a role that you thought might be less than what you are skilled for might be scary, or away from the main stream but could result in new perspectives and ultimately new work.  It takes being on that limb for a bit.

Many of my friends are sending their children off to college this week - I hope they seek something new for themselves, something they never expected.  It might be something you never expected as well.

It is emotional letting them fly ( I have been there) and having them try something entirely new every day.  What a great time to be in college or start a business or create a new solution in your work.  Why can't we all do this?  Go out on a limb and create a spot in your weekly staff meeting for a "go out on a limb segment."  You may be surprised how refreshing and fun this is.   Increase your tolerance for what some might call being idealistic or eccentric as Adam Grant reflects on this.

Our son went to Loyola Marymount University for his undergrad work and double majored in Fine Arts and Communication.  We did not expect the art side of the equation and as business owners we have had brief moments of "yikes, he is out on that limb."  However, it has inspired and fed his creative spirit and productivity and ours too in delightfully new ways.

Younger talent will choose to speak up, express ideas and censor themselves less.  We can learn from them, take risks and be proud.

May 25, 2016 - No Comments!

May Newsletter 2016 – Healthy Leaders

I am grateful to have worked for a few “healthy leaders” early in my career; they seem tougher to find today. There are unprecedented challenges in leadership in this chaotic world. Bob Rosen, CEO advisor and founder of Healthy Companies International, knows from his extensive research and hands-on experience that healthy leaders pave the way to healthy companies.

Bob and his Chief Knowledge Officer, Kathie Ross, are joining us for our Great Starts Breakfast Series on June 1st in Southern California to share their perspectives and challenge our assumptions about what it means to be a great leader. I talked with them about their work.

 

SB: What led you to research healthy leaders?

Bob Rosen (2)Bob Rosen: I was trained as a psychologist and was originally interested in family dynamics. As I began working with families, I was struck that fathers were not showing up for sessions, and I became intrigued with the psychology of successful businessmen and entrepreneurs. That led to working with the business roundtable and watching how larger companies manage or mismanage their human capital. It became clear that leadership was an issue.

I was fortunate to interview Max DePree in the early part of my career and he was my first image of a healthy leader. I began to meet leaders who either cast light or cast darkness. I was interested in understanding this further. The McArthur foundation called and was interested in this subject as well. Since then, we’ve interviewed 500 CEOs of large companies to really get our arms around how great leaders build great companies.

Kathie Ross
SB: Kathie, what led you to the human capital business?

Kathie Ross: Like Bob, I started with a psychology degree. I joined corporate America and found it intriguing to observe the relationships we form and how those relationships impact our effectiveness. Some bring out the best in people, and others are the opposite. After a Masters in Human Resource Management and a PhD in Organizational Behavior and years of fascinating work in HR, Bob and I were drawn to work together because he is rooted in the psychology field and I bring 25 years of experience as an executive inside organizations working to understand behavior.

 

SB: What have you learned about yourself in this journey?

BR: In my 20’s when I got my PhD in Clinical Psychology, I learned a lot about the importance of personal intelligence. When I went into the business world, and started researching CEOs, I learned about the importance of business intelligence. In my 40’s, I spent time working globally and recognized the importance of cultural intelligence. I think leaders need to connect with and cultivate all three of those intelligences inside themselves.

We operate under a paradigm that what you do defines who you are. But the best leaders have operated from an alternative paradigm that says who you are as a human being drives what you do. I’ve grown into this alternative paradigm more each year and recognize that leadership is a deeply personal act; both for you psychologically and for how you touch other people.

 

SB: Why are the best CEO’s investing in self-reflection?

BR: The outside world is changing faster than ever and leaders must turn inside to be more grounded and more conscious in terms of who they are. It is the only way to operate in an environment that is more uncertain, more competitive, more transparent, and more global than ever before. Only five percent of our beliefs, feelings, actions and decisions are conscious. Incredibly, 95% of our mind’s activity is unconscious. Lack of self-awareness, then, is the greatest obstacle to strong leadership. Increasingly, CEO’s understand that if they fail to see the reality about themselves and their leadership, then they are less likely to be successful in building their organizations. Those operating with outdated mental models are simply under pressure to change.

KR: The work we have been doing with CEO’s most recently is in how they and their teams change. We know why the world is changing so quickly, and there are many opinions about what we need to do differently to deal with this, but it’s the how. How do we accelerate transformation? What are the personal and organizational accelerators and hijackers that move us forward or hold people back and undermine their success?

 

SB: How are younger professionals learning leadership?

KR: I think that is an issue. We are in a period of transition. We make a lot of generalizations about millennials that I don’t think are very accurate because I see a lot of variations. Many millennials have grown up with leaders early in their career with the traditional mindset, and so they are struggling with this as well. It is not easy just because they are younger.

BR: We see four or five generations in the workplace today. It is time to appreciate differences and yet recognize that human beings are fundamentally the same and they want to learn. Leaders at every level want to be in touch with their purpose, values, and passion. They want to contribute. So this means it starts with the leader seeing a bigger picture, and understanding how their leadership impacts others.

 

Conclusion

Leading is courageous work. Bob and Kathie see this as a time of choice for all of us. We can focus with intention on the healthy roots of leadership and be the person we are truly meant to be, or hope to get there someday.

You can learn more about Bob and Kathie and their leadership philosophy at our June 1st, 2016 Great Starts Breakfast event where they are presenting"GROUNDED: How Leaders Stay Rooted  in an Uncertain World" at the Center Club in Costa Mesa. Visit www.greatstartsbreakfast.com for more details. 

April 20, 2016 - No Comments!

April Newsletter 2016 – Catching up with Chip Conley, Futurist for Airbnb

Chip Conley Head ShotHotel guru. Armchair psychologist. Traveling philosopher. Author. Speaker. Teacher. Student. Chip Conley has lived out more than one calling in his lifetime. Many of you know of Chip from his best-selling leadership books and TED talks. He is an inspirational entrepreneur and the founder and former CEO of Joie de Vivre hotel group. During his nearly 24 years as CEO, he grew the company to become the second largest boutique hotel company in America. After selling the company, he joined Airbnb in 2013 as Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy to share his hospitality methods with hosts in nearly 200 countries.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak with Chip about leadership and what fuels his passion within Airbnb.

SB: I just read your book Emotional Equations and immediately saw the power of practical strategies for leadership. Tell me more about your view on leadership today.

CC: Leaders are the emotional thermostats for the business. Whoever is the top dog conveys mood and tone. How they talk is amplified across the organization. It is contagious and sensed by employees.

Today, anxiety is the number one emotion felt across organizations. According to Abraham Maslow’s “psycho-hygiene”, we can sense stressors in our environments. People don’t do their best work in anxious circumstances and lack of confidence impacts our work. I’ve observed that the best companies allow for vulnerability and they consciously strive to build trust.

SB: Are you seeing leaders today that are more in touch with their authentic self?

CC: Yes, and I think there are influences working in our favor. There are more women in the workplace and with that there’s a better reading of the room and emotions. Secondly, coaches have become a normal part of leader development. We also offer feedback through multi-rater tools. And the issue of diversity is now part of the Board conversation. This adds to a CEO’s understanding of the environment and ultimately themselves.

SB: What prompted you to join Airbnb after selling the largest boutique hotel group in the west?

CC: It began when the CEO asked me to be his coach. This was my first tech startup, and I found the organization so intriguing - it was a total immersion. It wasn’t what I anticipated at that stage in my life, but I found it fascinating and it was a great work-life fit for me.

SB: What have you learned at Airbnb?

CC: I am beginning to understand tech. Today we know the face of our mobile phone better than the face of an actual person. At Airbnb our workforce is intergenerational. Prior to working in strategy, I was the head of learning and development where I was teaching twenty-five year olds how to manage twenty-three year olds. I was able to help people through great emotional growth. Now I work on public policy and help our clients all over the world be the best hosts they can be. I am proud to say that our guest satisfaction is the highest it’s ever been.

SB: How do you find top talent?

CC: Success breeds success. Now Airbnb is the leading world hospitality company and our culture and values drive our decisions. We have 2,700 employees and 100 recruiters on staff. Of course it helps to have thousands wanting to work with us, but we start our talent assessment with core values - every candidate goes through a core values interview.

SB: How do you continue to disrupt your industry?

CC: We have to disrupt ourselves before we can disrupt the industry and that begins with looking beyond where we are right now. My advice would be to talk to people outside the industry you’re in and find your blind spots. Be evangelical about what you do. You don’t succeed by meeting customer expectations – you have to go beyond and imagine their unrecognized needs. Highly successful companies know how to increase the intimacy of their customer relationships, and they surprise and delight them with something unrecognized. Reinforce the emotional connection between you and your customers to help them meet their highest goals.

SB: What’s next?

CC: I am constantly curious. I was curious about tech so I joined Airbnb. In 2013, we were booking 8 million room nights a year and now it’s up to 150 million. I was drawn in by the combination of home-sharing, tech, and startup culture. I will continue to work at transformation and coaching others to find their path, always reaching for new work-life fit experiences.

 Conclusion

Many of us are working in virtual teams and organizations across the globe. Chip’s reminder is an important one: to be smart in today’s workforce means not just understanding people but to also understand ourselves. Are you investing in you and the intangible relationships inside and outside of your organization? Are you caught up in the tangibles of day-to-day? What are you curious about? Let us know what you are learning!

April 20, 2016 - No Comments!

March Newsletter 2016 – Leading From the Inside Out: Update with Jeremy Hunter

JeremyThis month we sat down with our friend and thought partner, Jeremy Hunter, to explore ways leaders develop themselves while retaining their humanity in the face of monumental change in the workplace.

Jeremy Hunter, PhD is the Founding Director of the Executive Mind Leadership Institute as well as Associate Professor of Practice at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.  He creates and teaches The Executive Mind, a series of demanding and transformative executive education programs. They are dedicated to Drucker’s assertion that “You cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first.”  He also co-leads the Leading Mindfully Executive Education program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

Jeremy balances a full portfolio of teaching, writing, speaking and consulting with the most important role, being a new dad!  He has designed and led leadership development programs for Fortune 200 and Fortune 50 organizations in aerospace, banking, research, finance, accounting, the arts and civic non-profits.

S. Benjamins:  Jeremy, it has been some time since we caught up with you! What are you up to in 2016? 

Jeremy Hunter: It has been an exciting year so far! More leaders are realizing that to positively face all the demands and distractions coming at them, they must learn new skills. They are learning to focus better and help their teams stay focused. They are learning to better manage their reactions to all the “incoming” coming their way. Executives handle challenges and take on more work than ever while also wanting to maintain a healthy personal and family life.

As Founding Director of the new Executive Mind Leadership Institute, I am focused on the practical inner development of executives. It is the first of its kind on the West Coast and builds on the Drucker School’s leadership position of helping executives learn skills to up their game to be more productive while also enjoying greater well-being. The institute is supported by a team of Drucker faculty who believe in the power of human development for organizational success. Our goal is to cultivate the inner skills of executives and offer public and niche programs to help them thrive in an increasingly arduous environment.

 

SB:  What do you hope the Executive Mind Leadership Institute will provide? 

JH: The Executive Mind Leadership Institute is built on idea that leaders have to cultivate their minds in a different way to flourish in this turbulent environment. I have been teaching executives for 13 years and at the core of that is something called mindfulness, which is now recognized as a powerful solution for facing an unrelenting and chaotic business environment. Many talented leaders work hard but would like more tools to meet demands in this pace of change and more effectively address the contemporary business environment.

 

SB: In regards to your consulting, what do you think makes clients call you for help? 

JH: A few things come to mind. First, leaders now realize that their quality of self-awareness impacts the success of their organizations. To be effective now, they have to be more than just skilled at the technical aspects of what they do. They also want to increase their capacity to stay focused in a distracting environment, or approach challenges in fresh ways to be more competitive. They also know how important it is to create a culture that attracts and keeps talent. Managing is no longer just about the kind of work people do, but it is about the “why and how” as well.

Secondly, forward-thinking leaders see the nature of work is changing. Good work now demands the ability to connect to one another in more sophisticated ways. Better solutions arise from better connections with one another. My last client was a highly technical organization that understood through enhancing their ability to have higher-value conversations they gain a competitive advantage. The work we did improved the tenor and quality of their meetings which resulted in clearer communication and forward-moving action.

Lastly, work has become more stressful and firms want useful ways to deal with it. I hear so many people describe their work by using war metaphors. They walked in the office braced for battle and already exhausted.

 

SB: Are you seeing changes in leadership development? 

JH: Yes, and part of that is the new generation of leadership. When I first started this work 13+ years ago it was not a foregone conclusion that leaders had develop themselves internally to be effective externally. Now, we know that research supports the idea that healthy leaders who understand and manage themselves lead more effectively.

 

SB: We see in our search work that Hiring Managers want a long list of skills; however, more place equal importance on “fit”. Are your clients doing this? 

JH: Yes, it’s the “do they play well with others” question. To answer the “fit” question, you need a set of tools that give employees the opportunity to display strengths and improve weaknesses. A “diamond in the rough” candidate can survive and thrive with a strong set of tools to help them develop. Survival is about continually adapting to change, not about perfection.


I’d personally love to see companies replace their fit assessments with a real life situation. Instead of measuring someone’s ability to be flexible via an assessment, take them to lunch and have the waiter mess up their order. Then you would really see how they handle situations that require flexibility!

 

SB: Between being a new father, teaching, consulting, writing and the Institute how do you keep all the balls in the air? 

JH: I have to practice what I preach! Every morning I meditate for 40 minutes to an hour. It is a way for me to set the tone of the day and let things unfold more calmly. I also take vacations where I get to decidedly disconnect from work.

 

SB: I love that. What have you learned about yourself this past year?

JH: Beyond practicing what I preach, I have learned to take paths that challenge me. It allows me to actively practice adapting and staying in the moment with the challenge. We all go through difficulties and many of us prefer to take the path most easily traveled, but I have found taking the path outside comfort zones offers better solutions in the end.

We can thrive and have a high quality of life and performance, but it does take work. Right now we live in a world where people think the answer to productivity is technology. The root of productivity is not technology. Productivity happens because people develop capacities between and within themselves to perform better.

 

Our final considerations. . .

Just as medicine is shifting from reactive treatments to pro-active wellness, more organizations are shifting to well-being at work. Jeremy has worked with enlightened CEO’s who are now seeing that building a healthy culture starts with the leader. Those that self reflect know how to shift attention and get better results. 


The conversation at the leadership table is changing. When it is more human and honest – the research shows better results.  The human agenda is now more centered than ever on values, leadership, talent management, motivation and learning.  This is a huge sign that leading indicators for success start with leaders who understand what matters from the inside out.

 

August 28, 2015 - No Comments!

SBCo August Newsletter – Two Women Entrepreneurs: Talent Matters in Food & Film

This month we decided to highlight the creativity, impact and courage of two women entrepreneurs who are successfully using their strengths and passion to share their love of food and film.  Natasha Feldman and Julianna Strickland started their own company, Cinema & Spice, over five years ago and have been Best Friends, Producers, Directors, Writers, Hosts, and Goofballs ever since.

Cinema & Spice Productions makes web-based cooking shows. Natasha and Julianna have worked with a variety of companies including C&S tvYahoo, Kraft, Le Creuset, Keds, Warner Brothers, Lifetime, and KitchenAid to develop and create youthful and creative shows.

Their Webby Nominated Cooking Show, Cinema & Spice (C&S), has been featured in The LA Times,  Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, The Union Tribune, and on The Steve Harvey Show. Each episode  of C&S  is inspired by a movie or television show and features original recipes, useful kitchen tips, and ideas for  entertaining.

Sherry Benjamins (SB): It’s so great to chat with you Julianna and Natasha! Tell us how you started such an imaginative company?

Natasha Feldman (NF): I had just graduated from LMU and decided that I wanted to go to culinary school. Julianna had just graduated from USC with a film degree and we were both working in the same restaurant. At the time that I met Julianna I needed a roommate and she was looking to move out of her apartment, so we became roommates, co-workers, and friends.

We experimented in the kitchen and filmed these mini-episodes of us cooking. The first episode was horrible but we kept playing with it in the editing bay to see if we could create some structure and purpose. At first we thought just our friends and family would watch, but soon we were gaining a following.

Long story short, we started getting sponsors for our episodes and we eventually connected with Yahoo! and grew our business from there.

SB: What role do each of you play in the organization? Do you have a team to help you run this company?

Julianna Strickland (JS): Someday we may be lucky enough to have a full support staff, but for now it’s just the two of us and our freelance team. Natasha is the one who develops recipes, does the food styling and writes. I am all the things under the surface that allow our business to run.

For instance, I do all of the back-end production, accounting, hire the film crew and edit all copy.  And we like to do the creative brainstorming for each episode together. We are strategic about getting the best talent available to help us in areas where additional expertise is needed.

SB: Cinema & Spice does their own videos as well as videos for brands. Do brands approach you and just ask for a video?

NF: Yes, brands reach out to a platform, such as Yahoo!, AOL or a YouTube company, looking for content and we get the requests through the larger companies, usually.  Sometimes the request is for general concepts to see if they feel it fits in with their current landscape and needs, and other times it’s for full-blown productions. We have been fortunate to work with brands like Kraft, Le Creuset, Keds and KitchenAid.

SB: It is great to hear that you are able to inject some of your creativity into these very large organizations. How can corporations use a similar level of creativity (besides hiring you!)?

NF: Large companies can’t be afraid of the new; it’s no mystery that the world as we know it is changing. That doesn’t mean that companies should make rash decisions to completely alter their brand. Organizations are quick to “blow up” a process or initiative, but sometimes you just need to approach it in a new way.

We find companies often spend egregious amounts of money to work with big production houses and end up with a product that looks like everyone else and doesn’t break the mold. If you don’t hire someone that’s a little risky and don’t make a product that is a little risky, you won’t get the impactful result you were looking for.

SB: There is a lot of change happening right now as the millennial generation enters the workforce. You are both Millennials… any advice for organizations on how to “handle” your generation?

NF: It is really important to embrace the strengths of others and use their talent and perspectives to compliment or break out into something new. We see and honor the power of collaboration. It is pretty easy for Millennials to create a website and launch a company, but there is so much power in the wisdom and expertise of older generations. Technology changes, but the core needs and wants of people don’t change much. Millennials are a valuable asset to fill in the gap between the new technology and the established business.

JS: We are constantly at the crossroad between old and new. The tech space is all about the newest thing, but in the food world, established and authentic brands actually have respect from the consumer. There’s a similar crossroads within organizations between the newest thing (Millennials) and the established/respected business.

SB: You launched your own business in an industry that has a lot of big players. What drove you to take this step?

NF: I will say we were a little naïve to an extent because we had a dream and we decided to go for it. It certainly hasn’t been without consequence, but if you were to ask if we would do it over again, I think we would both certainly say yes.

SB: I am hearing more often these days from corporate professionals who say, “I am ready for a change because my work isn’t exciting or fun anymore. I need to find my purpose again.”

JS: If you choose something you love to do, you will always find the joy and purpose in it. We are lucky to be able to enjoy our work through creating our own episodes, making branded content for others, and volunteering to teach the next generation how to cook, both through our shows and at local food banks and low income housing around LA.

SB: What does 2016 look like for Cinema & Spice?

NF: In 2016 we want to continue to branch out with our production company. We meet so many brilliant people inside organizations as well as independent talent (comedians, actors, bloggers, etc.) that we want to partner with to produce their content. Watch for new episodes and productions that we hope inspire you to incorporate healthy eating into your lifestyle.

Our Thoughts…

Seek out talent the way Julianna and Natasha do for their business.  Imagine having the creativity, passion and trust in your workers so that they bring their best to your culture every day.  They get to work on something that did not exist yesterday. This dynamic duo is crafting a new on-line and social presence in a changing world.

They think creatively about how work gets done. This supports predictions that new models of work, worker and workplace have arrived.  Natasha and Julianna are just one example of young leaders who demonstrate that we have left behind “business as usual.”  Tap into your employee’s imagination and you may be thoroughly surprised what can be accomplished!

You can learn more about Cinema & Spice on their website, YouTube channel, or Instagram!

March 15, 2014 - Comments Off on L.A Heat – Art and Culture Collide

L.A Heat – Art and Culture Collide

photoolveraVisit Olvera Street...and see this art exhibit at a hidden gem of a museum in L.A.  This art exhibit at a charming old building near the church, offers an amazing blend of culture, food and art that illustrates the wonderful diversity of our Los Angeles community.  When did you last visit Olvera Street?  I have lived in LA county for almost all my adolescent and adult life and I did not know that we had a Chinese American Museum.

I admit that our son introduced us to this for he is part of this art exhibit.  It delightfully highlights the diversity of our local scene with a look at L.A.'s food culture - Sriracha and Tapatio hot sauces.  He is a foodie, an artist and a professor of art at Loyola Marymount.  He explores the intersection of food in places of comfort between home and away.  We are still trying to figure this out but the expression of this stretches our mind.  Food creations illustrate our rich diversity of L.A.   Okay, I am proud of our son's participation in the show and amazed with the millennial turn-out. We saw the fun and pop themes emerge as 30 local artists relate to this hot sauce intersection and all in a setting that is transformed.  Olvera street has changed - a mishmash of Latino, Asian and others enjoying art, food and culture together.  I agree that there has been controversy with what the sauces represent but the L.A exhibition illustrates that diverse, heated and embraced difference is here to stay.  How does this translate to our world of work and getting talent together to enjoy different ways of thinking.  I bet there are some really cool companies enjoying this kind of multi-cultural intersection.  Let us know who you are.  And if you are not celebrating difference, here is a way to see it in action.  We applaud you artists, viewers and Los Angeles, please keep colliding.   

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