It seems all great stories these days start in unconventional places and this one is no different.  This tale begins on twitter, where I am ever the twitter fan girl and always looking to connect with like minded, let’s change the whole damn world entrepreneur types.  It was a few months ago that I met this sports obsessed tech entrepreneur named Ryan Negri who was newer to the downtown Las Vegas tech scene and determined to make a difference.  In between tweets about basketball that I didn’t really care about and photos of his ridiculously adorable puppies, I got really excited about the potential to do big things with his newest venture: Laicos.  Laicos is the word social spelled backwards because you’re a social person and shouldn’t everything you do with social media be easier? My answer was a resounding hell yes, so I jumped on board and joined the Laicos team.  Today I get to spend all day every day connecting people to our rockstar tech team that just thinks differently and I am loving every second of it.    

So, what does Laicos do?  Great question.  We solve problems.  All day, every day we have two teams on each coast of the United States (one in sticky Florida led by fearless charity warrior Kyle Matthews) and one in the heart of the Downtown Project that are wholly devoted to creating technology solutions for every problem you can think of.  Not madly in love with HootSuite?  They weren’t either, so they dreamed up Fuse and it’s the best thing for simple social media management since, well, sliced bread.  Dreaming of an application that can combine big data and college kids?  Take a peak at Check I’m Here because this team is doing some huge things.  

If you have a technology problem of any size give me a call or send me an email.  I’d love to chat with you about how our crazy team of innovators can create a solution to bring your idea to market or just make your life easier.  I know you’ll be as excited as I am about the cool projects that we are working on.      



Do you want to know what the biggest waste in Las Vegas is?  It’s not the half consumed bottles of overpriced liquor from amateur tourists who made it an hour into their VIP bottle service and had to be hauled out of the club a drunken mess.  Every morning I hop on the cardio machines at the Ogden to battle every calorie I’ve ever consumed and I look down on the rooftops of Fremont East.  Now, if you have spent any time in downtown Las Vegas you know that green space is at a premium and, though I love our weekly farmers markets, there aren’t a lot of options for growing fresh fruits and vegetables. Take away the fresh produce potential and you are left with thousands of unused square footage that would be ideal for solar panels.  There you have it: the biggest waste in Las Vegas is our unused rooftops.  

Every time I share this with fellow downtown entrepreneurs they challenge me to do something about it, but I am a frequent toothpaste water waster, a long shower taker, and an all around recycling failure.  Yes, the girl who can’t seem to recycle her water bottles is pissed off about the rooftops.  I wish I could tell you I’ve had some dramatic eco friendly mind shift, but the truth is that I see it as a waste of business potential.  If I am a local restaurant the idea of having a community tended hydroponic garden is wildly efficient and gives me the potential to have fresh herbs for chef specials.  If I am a resort on the strip the idea of converting to solar energy could take entire resorts off the power grid and save them a fortune while being able to tout how green they are to tourists.  Rather than worrying about not washing the sheets daily resorts should be focused on how they can make better use of the wasted space above them.  



Growing up I hated babysitting.  Small children were not appealing to me and I was more attracted to playing “store” than I was playing “mommy”.  I was certain that I was never, ever having children and the birth experience video they showed us in health class just served to further confirm that I was never going through what I described as a horror movie.  All was going according to plan until I did what all silly girls do and meet a prince charming that made me change my mind.  Frankly, at the time I would have given birth to a football team if it had made him happy. One big Italian wedding later and Bella was on her way.  On Sunday, February 24, 2008 I became a mommy after a 12 hour labor that left me begging for any and all drugs.  As with most first time births, I came in with a specific, laminated, typed out birthing plan that was kindly filed into my chart, sweetly acknowledged by the medical team, and pretty much ignored as my body did what it knew to do better than any plan I could have created.  

For mother’s day everyone is going to share these romantic notions about motherhood and how mothers are these beautiful, saint like people willing to sacrifice their own lives for their beautiful children who can do no wrong.  I am here to offer up a big old dose of reality.  First off, she was no Gerber baby.  I was expecting the perfect cherub from all of the commercials, but that is the farthest thing from reality.  She was covered in white slime with an odd shaped skull from having ridden the wild ride that was my birth canal.  No, I did not have that “oh my God she is so stunning” moment, but my family and friends around me certainly did (Aunty Susie I am talking about you!), but I most certainly did have a “what the hell was I thinking?!” moment on more than one occasion.  Second, she was exhausting. I spent my twenties partying it up and being a workaholic in Las Vegas, but not one bender I ever went on could compare to the amount of physical or emotional energy that she took.  For feedings I was the head milking cow, for comfort I was the only thing that would work when she was cranky, and this kid had no concept of what low maintenance meant.  So what do you do when you are exhausted by this tiny bundle of high maintenance joy? 

The next natural sane decision was having a second one right away. Bella was barely 5 months old when I discovered I was going to be giving birth to the miracle that is Mia.  Yes 14 months apart.  So close in age that people often mistake them for twins.  I had numerous older women tell me that this was going to be a good thing because I would have it done quickly.  Allow me to share a snap shot from my reality back then: my life was shit.  It was 24/7 shit.  If Bella didn’t have a dirty diaper, Mia did.  If Bella was toilet training, Mia was taking her dirty diaper off and smearing shit all over her entire bedroom.  If the girls finally got their act together, my chihuahuas would decide to choose that one shitless moment to join in and crap on my favorite pair of shoes. I spent three solid years in shitville.  No other way to describe it my friends.  I couldn’t escape it and my entire focus was on what the shit looked like, how many times they shit, and where said shit occurred.  
You would think having a second one would be twice as difficult, or perhaps you are really ambitious and you think it could be half as challenging.  That’s sweet.  It is easily 500 times more difficult. With one baby you can run into the store for milk.  With two babies you are screwed.  You have gone from functional to traveling with an entourage.  Milk runs are delegated to daddy or a sacrificial friend who clearly liked you well enough before you used your uterus to tolerate the fact that you haven’t been available for martini girls night in a solid two years.  My child free friends would come over and make bold statements like “I don’t change diapers.”  Cute because I don’t hold hair when you’re vomiting in a night club, but I managed that, didn’t I?  I didn’t just envy my child free friends.  That doesn’t convey how desperately I wanted them to take me with them when they left my suburbia for their fancy city.  If one of them had brought a purse large enough for me to crawl inside unnoticed, I would have.    

Today when people compliment me on the two beautiful, brilliant little ladies who are natural leaders I will often comment that “I love them and I think I am going to keep them.”  The truth of the matter is that on more than one occasion during those first couple of exhausting years I seriously wondered if they could be returned or dreamed of a life where I had never had them.  All too often when the girls were babies I would hear from older ladies that I would miss the time when they were tiny.  Now that they are 6 and almost 5 years old that has absolutely never once, not even for one nano second been the case.  If anything, I love them and their big personalities more with each passing day as they get older.  I relish their independence and celebrate that neither are the needy, crying kids clinging to my legs when I take them to school.  They are bold leaders with their own opinions, thoughts, and ideas who focus on how they can give back and do big things.  I can describe them with one phrase: They ARE the change that I want to see in the world.   

Follow Bella’s entrepreneurial adventures on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.  Yup, my 6yr old is online.


PictureQuality time with friends helps, too

Detailed analysis of my history either reads like a study in abysmal failure or the tenacity of hope.  Arguments could be made for both and depending upon the season of my life, I would have had my moments where I agreed with both conclusions.  There are the two divorces, the crazy fast growth venture that imploded, the sticking of my foot directly into my mouth on more occasions than I can count, being smacked upside the head with the lesson about under promising and over delivering on a grand scale, and the mistake of bringing the wrong people into my inner circle to my own detriment so many times that I quit counting.  The phrase “the only thing constant in life is change” has been one that I am reminded of each and every morning when I wake up. 

It has taken me some years and hard earned life lessons, but I have reached the conclusion that since we cannot control change or the circumstances happening around us, the only thing that we can control is our reaction to those changes.  There was a time when I would dwell on what had happened to me or sulk that life wasn’t going according to my grand plan.  My personal epiphany came when it hit me that no grand plan I created- no amount of goal boards or personal business plans- could control God.  It is impossible to plan for the actions of other humans and, since we are all created imperfectly to behave imperfectly by our very nature, it is inevitable that bad shit is going to happen.  Hell, it is even inevitable that you will be the root cause of bad shit in your life and the lives of the people around you.  So where does this leave you?  It leaves you with the one thing that you can control: your reaction.  

I made the decision years ago to react with one emotion and only to vary the degrees of the emotion: LOVE. When every reaction and communication in your life is from a foundation of love it changes your entire outlook.  Instead of reacting in denial or disappointment, dig deep inside your heart and force your mouth to communicate a message of love.  Love is the most powerful emotion that we all feel and it is too often the emotion that we fail to communicate to our friends, co workers, or strangers because we reserve it for those closest to us.  I would challenge you that everyone is someone’s child and every person that you come across in your life- no matter their mistakes, no matter their history, no matter their offense- is deserving of love. The harder it is for you to react in love, the more important that it is for you to react with love.  It is the character lesson meant for you and you alone.  The degree of love merely increases with the severity of the transition in your life.  It won’t be easy and you will have to fight off the internal battle of saying all of the angry, disappointed, and sad things that you want to get out, but when you win the battle your soul will reward you.  Love is the only emotion that when given away grows in your life. 

Anything worth having in life is worth working hard for.  Some days that work will be external- hours logged in front of a computer, buckets of sweat in a gym, or days spent hustling to land that game changing client. One of the hardest fought things in my life worth having- my own happiness- has required days filled with internal work.  It is the internal struggle to fight my inner demons, to not say that one evil thing that I am sure will release my pain, or to sulk in the disappointment that something bad happened to me.  It is the work that demands I respond internally and externally with love to each transition in my life, so that I can navigate my life with ease and calm through each storm.   

Sam Collier is easily one of my favorite people.  An inspiring public speaker, talented musician and producer, and fearless charity warrior, he was the first person to gamble on me as his manager and he has always offered a level of insightful wisdom in my life that leaves me working harder and believing more.  He is just one of those people on this planet who is clearly here to make a difference.  Recently Sam and his twin sister went on the Steve Harvey show hoping to find their birth mother and the episode is nothing short of a spiritual experience.  

One of my business partners, the talented public speaking whisperer Nina Tomaro, and I had the opportunity to be on the Downtown Podcast last week during the heart of CatalystCreativ Creative Week.  Downtown Podcast is the local news source for all of us crazy people living, working, and playing in the heart of downtown.  As usual it was a pleasure to be able to support the great work this team is doing.  


PictureIngrid & I During Creative Week

Allow me to introduce you to one of my best friends, Ingrid Schifer de Dennis.  Ingrid is the CEO and founder behind Schif And The City, an innovative social marketing company.  I recently invited Ingrid and her friends to join us in downtown Las Vegas for Creative Week and she wrote such a great blog that I had to share.  Follow her on twitter, give her a like on facebook, or just check her company out.  

Schif And The City, an Edmonton, Canada based social marketing company, recently sent an envoy of four to experience the Tony Hsieh funded Downtown Project’s initiative called #CreativWeek (http://www.creativweek.com/). The event was held in Las Vegas, NV and ran from April 29th to May 3rd 2014.
The 4 day micro-conference is a collaboration of Amanda Slavin’s company CatalystCreatv who co-curated with Krista Whitley and Nina Tomaro of EGO: Entertainment & Growth Opportunities. Slavin, who was recently featured in Forbes for her distinct social marketing innovation using community design, was recruited late last year by Tony Hsieh to activate Downtown Project using CreativWeek. (Forbes article:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahmckinney/2014/03/19/amanda-slavin-the-creative-catalyst-behind-catalystcreativ/ )
Every month 80 personally invited attendees, pulled from a huge cross section of people in varying stages of their careers and from various places, convene at The Ogden, a private residence building on North Las Vegas Blvd. Each unit is a modern, furnished, 1-3 bedroom ‘crash pad’ equipped with copious amounts of bottled water, Starbucks coffee and vivid art pieces in living rooms boasting a beautiful and uninterrupted view of the Las Vegas Strip.
The Ogden is home base to the area’s famous and beloved billionaire, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com and angel investor to over 140 startups in  Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York City. The 25th floor is home to the rooftop pool, rumored helicopter landing pad, and Hsieh’s sprawling apartment complete with an oxygen-infused jungle room, a funky fluorescent-colored, black lit hallway and the occasional stuffed llama or penguin.  Hsieh started Downtown Project with approximately $350 million of his own funds and thus far the initiative has been incredibly successful in seeding collaborative opportunities spanning the globe while injecting a revitalized downtown footprint with signature culture. Powered by only 80 employees mandated to organically cultivate the creative, quirky culture already thriving wildly at Zappos.com, Downtown Project is a stellar example of strategic leadership, long-term vision and unrivaled creative mastery that other cities looking to revitalize their downtown areas should look to.
The intimate and invigoratingly paced agenda for this month’s edition of #CreativWeek featured opportunities for Collisions (serendipitous opportunities to connect) and had attendees participate in various activities from a Fireside Chat in Container Park, a Live Taping of CreativWeek the Show at Fremont Studios which featured live performances from Kier (http://www.kiermusic.com/ ) , Aaron Tyson (http://www.official.fm/tysonsworld )  and Felix (http://www.felixmusix.com/ ) as well a tear-jerking keynote by motivational speaker Jairek Robbins (http://www.jairekrobbins.com/ ) , an historical tour by the amazing cultural curator “Paco” ( http://www.enculturatelasvegas.com/ ) , a Trikke Tour to Las Vegas monthly art festival #FirstFriday (https://www.firstfridaylasvegas.com/ ) hosted by Trikke Las Vegas (http://www.trikkelasvegas.com/ ) , expeditions to explore downtown Las Vegas mural art, the new Zappos.com headquarters, a seminar on business tools by Michelle Ketterman (http://www.michelleketterman.com) and much more.
Ingrid Schifer de Dennis, Chief Marketing Officer and “The Narrator” at Schif And The City (http://www.schifandthecity.com/ ) attended with Narissa Singh, President and Executive Director of WECAN Women Entrepreneurs Connecting and Networking (http://www.wecancanada.com/ ) , Kalob Taulien, COO of KALAST (http://www.kalast.com/ ) and RANZH, Digital Music Artist (https://soundcloud.com/ranzhofficial ). “We met so many different people!” says Schifer de Dennis, “…fashion bloggers, inventors, business consultants, radio show hosts, actors, singers, producers, songwriters, entrepreneurs….the quality of connections and relationships we fostered at CreativWeek…it’s kind of hard to describe.” she laughs.  What did they all have in common that brought them to this event? Well aside from a six degrees connection to Tony Hsieh, Amanda Slavin, Krista Whitley and Nina Tomaro, they all shared a deep desire to connect, co-learn and collide: the 3 C’s formula the Downtown Project tour guides (with official titles like Positivity Pixie and Community Guru) refer to. “It was mindblasting.” says Ranzh. “ROI has a new meaning for me.” says Taulien. “Ripple of impact. I learned so much about entrepreneurship, success and myself through shared stories.” “It was a great experience! Lots of amazing connections and collaborations!” says Singh.
Rumored to have been such a success that a reunion is happening the same weekend next year, CreativWeek has infused a junction of inspiration and innovation while providing the perfect business retreat for creative professionals from around the continent.
“We’ll definitely be attending next year.” says Schifer de Dennis. “There are so many ideas we are bringing back to Edmonton with us; so many ways we can ignite our community to a whole new level. Marketing through community design is the logical way of the future in our new social economy. Simply brilliant and I’m so happy we were part of it.”