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The art of succeeding as a millennial entrepreneur

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Photo courtesy Jeff Cole

Get familiar with Jeff Cole.

The 28-year-old artist is the co-founder of Ikonick, a canvas art company based out of Los Angeles, and a social media influencer known for his enticing designs on Instagram that crossbreed science fiction with sneakers — think a Velociraptor made out of Jordan’s or a Star Wars stormtrooper morphed into Nike Air Max 90s.

Artwork courtesy of Jeff Cole.

Cole’s art is pure fire, which leads to no surprise that he was featured on BuzzFeed’s list of 11 artists on Instagram who deserve some love.

He’s not only living every artists dream of getting paid to make art; he’s turning his artwork into a social phenomena and money-making empire.

When it comes to the unwinding trend of millennial entrepreneurship, Cole believes today’s generation tries too hard to feel compelled to start their own business without understanding how much hard work precedes a touchdown dance for an entrepreneurial victory.

Jeff Cole signing his artwork for a long line of fans at a sneaker art gallery showcase in collaboration with Adidas.

Sixty percent of millennials consider themselves entrepreneurs — while 90 percent recognize entrepreneurship as a mentality — according to MiLLENNiAL magazine. However, millennial entrepreneurship has falsifiable measurement of entrepreneurship as an actual activity vs. a mentality. According to a report published by The Atlantic, the average age for a successful startup-founder is actually about 40 years old.

Basically, it seems, millennials are starting businesses to adapt to their optimistic views of the workplace — and world — instead of focusing on the framework for success. Getting it right is more than just wanting it. Jeff Cole knows that and he’s sharing his story and tips exclusively with Better than the Weekend, so pay attention.

Cole says he spends at least 14 hours a day on the grind, but having drive is just one factor to achieving success.

“You can’t do it by yourself,” Cole insists. “You need that other part of the business. You need somebody to contrast you, another mind that contrasts yours. If you’re an artist, like me, all you want to do is focus on making your art. Doing it alone can only take you so far.”

For Cole, his partner is Mark Mastrandrea, who handles the marketing and business side of Ikonick. The two met while working in corporate America and bonded over feeling underutilized at their 9 to 5.

Another component to thriving in business is recognizing your strengths.

“A lot of artists get emotional,” Cole explains. “You have to detach yourself from emotion with whatever you put out there. For artists, creating is literally a part of you. It’s bad to have your emotion attached to your art, or product, if you want to make money, because it’s not up to you what works and what doesn’t work. It’s up to the market.” Cole admits it took him a while to figure out that he’d have to compromise his art to appeal to the masses.

Ikonick.com

The Chicago-native notes inspiration has always fueled his art and ambition. The heartbeat of his art is to evoke emotion. Cole says its an artists obligation to push boundaries with their art so far that an emotion is felt.

“With art, if you can think it you can make it. When you’re dealing with that concept that anything could be thought into existence, you almost have that obligation to push boundaries and make people upset and make people happy,” Cole says. “If an artist can create anything, their should be an unlimited amount of emotions it can make you feel.”

Aware that inspirational quotes and images go viral on social media, Cole decided to redevelop the formula with an artistic edge.

“I was trying to brainstorm different ways for people to stop scrolling from their feed and start questioning what they were seeing, so they’d notice my art. It’s all about attention. Everything right now is about attention. I wanted people to question what they just saw. I wanted to stop them from just scrolling and redevelop memes in a more artistic way that wasn’t as disposable.”

From there, Cole’s canvas art company was born in 2016.

Instagram @ikonick

Instagram @ikonick

Cole realized inspirational quotes on social media could only stay with someone for a moment, but wanted to create something that could leave a lasting impression. He wanted art that, with a simple click, could deliver the same inspiration on people’s walls for them to look at and appreciate and remember. Cole put in the work to grow with other companies and minds, and following his time and lessons, and perhaps a little bit of luck, has figured out the art of success.

Follow Cole on Instagram @cole and click here to get inspired by his Ikonick collection.

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How Scranton Artists Party: A First Friday Aftermovie

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Art isn’t dead in Scranton, PA. (Sorry, Commissioner Laureen Cummings.)

On the first Friday night of every month, small businesses in the Electric City exhibit art from creators throughout the area. For a decade now, the community has been coming together during this cultural event with appropriate fun for all ages — including families with small children and college students and young professionals. There’s usually complimentary drinks and snacks at each business and often live music throughout downtown.

For anybody who says there’s nothing to do in Scranton, just simmer down now. A recent study found 11 percent of Americans have never traveled outside the state they were born in, and 76 percent lack the finances to travel more. So, it’s not likely that you’re going anywhere anytime soon. While you’re here, come experience First Friday Scranton.

Better than the Weekend, headquartered in Bogart Court, along with The Velvet Elvis, Trinity Studio & Gallery and AOS Metals, had a blast at September’s First Friday Scranton event. Jeff D’Angelo’s Design Group and the gang from The Eclectic City Studio were featured. Fun was had. Just watch this video recap:

Had a blast at the HQ at Bogart Court during September’s First Friday Scranton with featured artists Jeff D'Angelo's Design Group and Eclectic City Studio. Check out the recap aftermovie!

Posted by Better than the Weekend on Monday, September 24, 2018

 

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How to Succeed in Business (Without Leaving Scranton)

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Alex Molfetas had roughly 20 bucks to his name in July 2012 when he opened the doors to Center City Print in downtown Scranton, PA. Alongside his business partner, Kurt Effertz, the then 20-something lit a cigarette, sat back, and realized he had no idea what the hell was going to happen. It was like a scene from Mad Men in the beginning, he describes of their first day in business. Smoke filled the office and sterling men in advertising, so to speak, were vigorously at work. Six years later, the start-up printing company, now evolved to aid clients with website design and digital marketing at two locations, is among Scranton’s strongest small businesses.

Center City Print co-founder Alex Molfetas, right, with business partner Kurt Effertz, left.

Even with the success of Center City Print, Scranton isn’t likely to appear on Forbes list of top places to start a new business in the U.S. However, with the city’s unemployment rate (5.0%) exceeding the national average (3.9%), the Electric City may soon find itself on a list of cities in need for new business development. Scranton doesn’t have a particularly business-friendly climate, either. Disproportionate taxes hinders business growth and almost gifts neighboring towns with new livelihood. Carefully curated praise for new small businesses from city officials may paint a picture of an economy on the rise, but that’s not exactly the case. While ma and pa shops are vital for a community’s culture, they can’t employ many people. There’s not enough focus from the city’s government on balancing small business development with fostering creation of new tech-savvy start-ups or enterprises that recruit educated people who can breathe new life into Scranton and employ a large staff. That kind of conversation ruffles too many feathers and preserves sluggish progression. The University of Scranton may round up students from outside the 570, but the only marks many of them leave on the city are skid marks between the potholes on Mulberry Street as they race toward opportunity in larger economically-thriving cities.

Still, not everyone wants to leave Scranton. For many, the place known world-wide thanks to The Office is home to childhood memories and family and friends and favorite foods not easy to leave behind. Some want to be part of the pack who revive the city. How can dreamers make room for the architecture of their entrepreneurial imagination without disconnecting from Scranton?

Alex Mofetas has a few ideas.

Frankly, if anyone knows how to succeed in business, it’s him. His roots aren’t in Scranton. He grew up in Brooklyn. His business partner is from New Jersey. Molfetas doesn’t have a Harvard MBA. He has no educational advantage at all. He dropped out of high school, later getting his GED. Molfetas is the essence of self-made in Scranton. Better than the Weekend sat down with the entrepreneur at his flagship store to get a list of ways to succeed in business without leaving Scranton, which happen to echo some of the best advice from business experts.

‘Make sure there’s a need for what you’re doing.’

Molfetas insists the first step in starting a business is doing your homework. “You’re not going to open a Beanie Baby store and expect to make money, because nobody is buying them today. Make sure your service is also a solution to a problem that you can fix,” he says.

Forbes suggests finding a balance between solving a real problem and giving customers the fortitude to take a leap forward toward a new concept. Starting a business is a giant leap. It only makes sense to trust your customers are capable of giving something new a try. It’s hard to make an impact by playing it safe.

‘Make sure you can do better than your competition.’

“There were other print shops when we opened,” Molfetas says. “We just thought we could do it better. Make sure you can do better than your competition if you want people to come to you.”

SUCCESS magazine notes a key way to outperform your competition in business is not to follow the leader, but to become the leader. Figure out new ways to do things that will set your business apart.

‘Be prepared to commit.’

If you want great results, Molfetas says you have to prepare to commit a lot of time. Each day requires focus on mastering skills and furthering goals.

Sure, it sounds cliche to say long hours come with starting a business. Molfetas suggests communicating with the people in your life that you won’t have as much free time and to make sure you’re okay with that.

‘Give yourself time.’

In the culture of viral videos blowing up the internet overnight, and new social media influencers finding fame without seemingly paying their dues, it’s easy for someone to want to give up if they aren’t seeing big results fast.

“Three months. Six months. That’s not enough time to work on a business and be successful,” Molfetas says. “It takes at least two to three years to find out if your business will succeed, sometimes up to five years to really make profit. Give yourself time to learn and grow and succeed.”

That being said, Molfetas urges people to enter a business strategy with a solid exit plan.

“I worked in retail banking. I worked in international finance. I worked construction. I know I have a couple different things I could do if this business ever tanked. I suggest having a backup plan,” Molfetas says.

‘Take advantage of available resources.’

Molfetas suggests reaching out to The University of Scranton’s Small Business Development Center, the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce and the Scranton Enterprise Center as ways and means to getting your business started in the Electric City.

The Small Business Development Center provides consulting and training programs at no cost. They can be contacted via email at sbdc@scranton.edu and directly at 570.941.7588.

The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce opens the door to networking opportunities for your new business. For more information on membership services, call 570.342.7711.

The Scranton Enterprise Center houses a business incubator program to help businesses grow during the start-up period. Aside from just being a location to get your business on the ground, intensive mentoring programs provide hands-on assistance. Contact Aaron Whitney for more information through email at awhitney@scrantonchamber.com.

There’s likely many people outside the business community who are unaware of Scranton’s business-friendly resources. Now you know. 

‘If you fail, at least you tried.’

Molfetas acknowledges there was a chance his business could have failed. Instead of concentrating on the idea of failing, he just went for it. “You have to take that risk and go for it,” he says.

You might fail. But you just might be sitting at your business six years later, taking in a fulfilling glimpse of your hard work as you look at around the room.

A quote from Don Draper, in vinyl decal on the wall, illustrates just how far Center City Print has come, with a subtle reminder of where it all began — and it just might be the best advice on how to succeed in business without leaving Scranton. “Make it simple. But significant,” it says.

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Scranton Women in Power

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Photographed by Lisa Petz, Better than the Weekend, August 2018 | Styled by Elegant Bridal & Boutique

Bow down, gentlemen. Women on top in the Electric City are being seen and heard without asking permission to make their mark. And It’s about damn time.

GIPHY

You’d have to be trapped in a cave with a soccer team in Thailand to not notice the new wave of feminism surging across the country. Female empowerment isn’t only the object of cultural discourse these days, but overdue action. Women are now believed when they speak up against sexual misconduct in the workplace. Between Congressional and state-level races, more than 2,000 women are running for office right now. They’re single mothers, veterans, athletes, refugees, Democrats, and Republicans.

Still, you could be living on the streets of Lackawanna Ave. eavesdropping every conversation and likely overhear more comments about peeing in a cup by court order than praise for the influence of women breaking barriers for future generations — which makes me wonder: Why the hell isn’t anyone talking about the city’s strong women?

We know about Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman elected to Congress last June. But what about Jessica Eskra, the youngest female city solicitor of Scranton? She’s blazing the trail for local millennials to be in positions of power.

Maggie Timoney made news when becoming the first female CEO of a major American beer company this summer (Heineken USA). But where was the regional attention when Jennifer Warnetsky became the general manager of the Marketplace at Steamtown and Scranton Public Market? It’s probably only one of the biggest business developments in the city.

Tech firms such as Facebook captured headlines for offering benefits to pay for women to freeze their eggs for inspiration to focus on their careers, but where was the pat on the back for Jessica Kalinoski, Director of Operations at Admiral Management Group, who manages such properties as the Connell Building, The Leonard and Montage Mountain Ski Resort and Water Park? Kalinoski’s efforts to accommodate working mothers who don’t delay starting a family should be revered. A mother of four, Kalinsoki let’s her employees bring their kids to work if needed. “I hired a woman who was 7 months pregnant,” Kalinoski told Better than the Weekend. “She was worried she wasn’t going to be able to find a job. But I hired her. I felt she was the best person for the job. I told her we’d figure it out. She ended up having the baby 11 days later. She came to work when she could.”

Since nobody seems to be having the conversation loudly enough, Better than the Weekend decided to spend an afternoon with some of the city’s women in power — in areas such as education, philanthropy, business and entrepreneurship — at the historic Scranton Cultural Center to find out where they feel Scranton stands in this cultural movement. Oh, and to recognize their groundbreaking leadership.

Dr. Alexis Kirijan

(First Female) Superintendent of Schools in Scranton

Photography by Lisa Petz, Better than the Weekend, August 2018

Have you ever felt you had to work harder because you’re a woman? I grew up in this area. I grew up in this school district. I graduated high school in 1966. You have to start thinking about what the world was like in 1966. That was the time when women were really trying to fight for their rights. There were movements with women like Gloria Steinem. Women were looking to be equal to men in the workplace and in general in society. For me, to get in the position I am in now, I’ve had to work very hard and get as much education as possible to reach this pinnacle. I am the first woman superintendent in this school district and this school district has been around a long time. The concept was always that a superintendent role was a place for a man and women would serve in other roles that served the superintendent. There were many times when I was more qualified than a man who got a promotion. It made me realize I had to work harder. I had to be more educated. I had to be willing to accept less in the workplace to get where I finally wanted to be.

Is there a message you want students in your district to understand about the power of women? In the past, science, technology, engineering and math seemed to be something males were better in and women or girls were not involved in as much. What we’re doing in our district, is we’re getting girls involved in STEM education. For our 7th grade students, we have what we call the Salvadori STEM program and it’s funded by the Scranton Area Community Foundation. But a piece we’ve added to that through the Women in Philanthropy in this area is a STEM education club for girls in our schools. We have women who are involved in science, technology, engineering and math professions come talk to the students. It’s a way for girls to have other women to look up to and know there are other possibilities for them as they’re growing up and deciding what they want to do. It’s a way for our students, girls and boys, to see women can grow up to do anything.

Did you ever think you’d be superintendent? This goal was 50 years in the making. When I was in high school, my goal one day was to be the superintendent of a high school. I was strongly influenced by the male principal and assistant principal in my high school, Scranton High School. I wanted to understand how this machine was running. I did an internship in the principals office when I was in high school. That really kicked me off in education. I always had the goal of being a superintendent. You can imagine the joy I had when Judge Munley had me raise my right hand and take the oath of superintendent — and while I was next to my husband, who I met when I was 18 years old, who had supported me all of my career. It was such a feeling of accomplishment. I feel like I’m doing my life’s work here. I never gave up. I think the secret to perseverance is finding something you can see in your future that is meaningful to you.

How do you define a powerful woman? Smart. Educated. There’s a difference between being smart and educated. I think you need both.

Charlene DellaValle

General Manager of Crunch

Photography by Lisa Petz, Better than the Weekend, August 2018 | Styled by Elegant Bridal & Boutique

Have you ever felt you had to work harder because you’re a woman? I struggle to be taken seriously every single day. I’ll explain a policy to someone and they’ll think I’m being rude. My husband also works with me. Sometimes I’ll have to grab him to explain something. When he’ll explain the same policy in the same tone, people will respect it. It’s ridiculous. As a woman, I’ve found I have to work harder on my delivery to come across softer because as a female I can be mistaken as being a bitch instead of just being serious. When a guy has a serious tone, it’s expected and accepted.

Do you think Scranton is above the curve or behind the times when it comes to gender equality? When I first got to Scranton, I had trouble with people taking me seriously in the community as a woman. But then I met people like John Basalyga, who owns the Marketplace, who believes in people for their work ethic whether they’re male or female. I’ve watched John deal with a lot of women in his group. It seems like I’m seeing a lot of women in management in these stores here at the Marketplace. The general manager of the Marketplace is a woman. When I go to events with the Chamber of Commerce, there’s a lot of women there. I think things are moving in the right direction.

Who’s a powerful woman you look up to? Someone I look up to right now is Mari Potis with the Scranton Chamber of Commerce. I’m not originally from this community. She has guided me through the hardships I have come across being new to the community. She has given me great advice. I really look up to her and what she’s doing for the community.

How do you define a powerful woman? Strong. A powerful woman can look someone in the eyes and admit when they’re wrong, but also feel confident to say, ‘Hey, I’m right, and you need to accept it.’

Nicole Morristell

Director of Leadership Lackawanna

Photography by Lisa Petz, Better than the Weekend, August 2018 | Styled by Elegant Bridal & Boutique

Have you ever felt you had to work harder because you’re a woman? In general, young females have to work very hard. We have to prove ourselves more than men. I don’t think men have as hard of a time proving themselves in our community. Men in our community will take other men under their wing and parade them around. We don’t see powerful women with an entourage of young females being paraded around like you do with the men in our community. The opportunity isn’t right for women to do it, because they’re working so much harder to have to prove themselves.

Do you think Scranton is above the curve or behind the times when it comes to gender equality? The people that have roles of power in Scranton are from families or positions where they already had power, influence or recognition. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. If you’re not already known and established in Scranton, it takes you a long time to break into the community and establish yourself. Our strong traditions is why Scranton is behind the times in general, including gender equality. I absolutely love some of our traditions, so I feel torn saying this, but it’s holding Scranton back because it’s preventing new blood from coming in and contributing.

Strides have been made in the current women’s rights movement — but what still needs to be done? The Chamber of Commerce gives a Woman of Excellence award every year. We have a very hard time getting women to apply for that award because they don’t want to brag about themselves. It bothers me we have to convince women to apply for an award. There’s no shame in a woman admitting her own strengths and recognizing that they’re great at something. The more women that are in the public eye, the better it would be for all of the women in the community.

How do you define a powerful woman? A suit and shoulder pads.

Kristen Shemanski

Vice-Chair of Leadership Lackawanna

Photography by Lisa Petz, Better than the Weekend, August 2018 | Styled by Elegant Bridal & Boutique

Have you ever felt you had to work harder because you’re a woman? I have to monitor my behavior more than men have to. If women are too soft, they’re a delicate flower. If we’re too stern, we’re a bitch and people won’t work with us. Women have to constantly think before they speak just because they’re a woman and their behavior will be judged more harshly than a man’s.

Is there a message you want young women to understand about the power of women? Women can do anything. I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I have absolutely no desire to ever have children. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Looking back at my parents’ generation, my mom was married at like 18 or 19.

Strides have been made in the current women’s rights movement — but what still needs to be done? We need to take our beliefs off social media. We can say we want gender equality and more women in office, but nobody around here is acting on those beliefs.

How do you define a powerful woman? A powerful woman is a woman who isn’t afraid to pat themselves on the back and give themselves the credit they deserve, whether they’re a stay-at-home mom or a businesswoman.

Kari Johnson

Owner of AOS Metals

Photography by Lisa Petz, Better than the Weekend, August 2018 | Styled by Elegant Bridal & Boutique

Do you think Scranton is above the curve or behind the times when it comes to gender equality? Scranton is making huge strides in the improvement for success of women in business. I’m a prime example. I took all the free classes and went to all the meetings the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center had to offer. I was a successful graduate of their 6 week startup program and they stayed with me every step of the way and were there to help me celebrate when I opened the doors to my store.

Who’s a powerful woman you look up to? Meegan Possemato. She’s the co-owner of ON & ON. I know I never would have been able to start my own business in a downtown storefront without her. Meegan is an inspiration to be around and has helped me make important business decisions. I see her do the same for many people that come across her path. I admire women who uplift and support each other. I’ve seen it firsthand in Scranton at the Entrepreneurship Center and Women in Philanthropy. The best way to success is having a great support system that’ll help you stay sane in the face of doubt.

Have you ever felt you had to work harder because you’re a woman? I have been blessed that I never felt being a female held me back from anything. When people find out I’m a metalsmith, most people think it’s badass. But recently, I was disappointed when I saw the local news station show a segment talking about a high school football dinner where I basically learned who works out with who. Meanwhile, the Tunkannock Softball Team was one game away from a regional title that would send them to the Little League World Series and there was no coverage at all. Now they’re finally getting the coverage from the news, but it took an army of people to stand up and say something. It’s heartbreaking to see girls have to fight harder to be recognized. It’s heartbreaking to see anyone have to fighter harder to feel equal.

 

Gowns for Charlene DellaValle, Nicole Morristell, Kristen Shemanski and Kari Johnson were provided by Elegant Bridal & Boutique

Photography by Lisa Petz, Better than the Weekend, August 2018

 

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