The Balancing Act: The disconnect

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the busy life of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores in the serial “A Mother’s Journey,” as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s a full-fledged entrepreneur and acknowledged leader in the startup community. As Giselle has evolved, so has her story. Welcome to the third installment of “The Balancing Act.”

Giselle Rivera-Flores

The assumption that big and bold actions change the course of creation and innovation, to me, is fundamentally false.

More often, change is created through the mundane work that comes before the big action sequences. From social movements to business markets, the real moments of change are created through redundant persuasion, gradually changing the minds of consumers, followers and leaders. It is endless, arduous work.

The sum of these small efforts, repeated day in and day out, are the stepping stones of success.

Success is not possible overnight, never mind even a few months or years. It is made tangible only after all the small efforts click together. Changing minds takes time, and that has been proved through history with social movements.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter: The year of determination and defiance

Social movements are the case studies most entrepreneurs are not reading.

Fitness fans flock to Worcester’s last gym

Wondering what the future could hold for fitness, nutrition, body image and the government’s involvement? Find out with author BJ Hill in the Sun’s serial glimpse into the fantastic, fascinating (and mostly fictional) possibilities of a not-so distant tomorrow.

WORCESTER, Jan. 12, 2069 – Walk around the right side of the old Paulson Shoe Factory on Howard Street and you’ll see a nondescript steel gray door. Crack this open and you’ll hear the clang of metal plates and the odor of sweaty leather. This poorly lit, musty gym is a vestige of an old way of life. And as physical exercise regains popularity, it’s also becoming one of the city’s most popular attractions.

“I haven’t seen anything like this since before we had the Concoction,” said Bob Heinz, owner of WooTown Gym. “I’ve been getting 10 or 20 people a day since before Christmas coming by and signing up for memberships.”

Heinz runs one of about 100 still-standing independent workout gyms nationwide that have reported upticks in business in recent months. New Year’s memberships spikes aren’t unusual, but the question is why people are beginning to return to exercising, at a time when, according to a FOXNN poll, 93 percent of people report they are happy with their body image.

First, some background.

Heinz founded WooTown Gym as a 22-year-old college graduate in 2019. He had been a starting football player at Wachusett Regional High School and the College of the Holy Cross, where he played defensive end for the Purple Knights and majored in business.

The Balancing Act: The year of determination and defiance

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the busy life of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores in the serial “A Mother’s Journey,” as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s a full-fledged entrepreneur and acknowledged leader in the startup community. As Giselle has evolved, so has her story. Welcome to the second installment of “The Balancing Act.”

Giselle Rivera-Flores

In 2018, let the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Big Magic,” ring in the new year: “You are not required to save the world with your creativity.”

Too often, we – creatives, entrepreneurs, writers, innovators, etc. – tend to look at the world and act as the solution for all problems. We look to the market to fill the voids, we look to other entrepreneurs to help us on our journey and, in turn, we loosely lose our passions that started us on this adventure.

We all have a talent and helping others should never be the sole purpose of this talent  – unless helping others is a genuine passion — because, as Gilbert states, “we will feel the weight of your heavy intention, and it will put a strain upon our souls.” Working for the contentment of others is an endless task – one that may never offer closure. So, work with the intention of filling your individual passions. It sounds selfish, but it truly is the opposite.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The right partnerships can get you ahead, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

The incredible story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Dangers in the Wild and at Home

I went to see my brother at the Daru army barracks and searched for his office.

Augustine Kanjia

He worked in the Officers Mess. I had always thought of him being an officer because he had long served in the Sierra Leone military. I was only 3 years old when he took up the job in 1967. He became a boxer and a good salesperson at the Officers Mess. He knew all the officers there. But he did not worry about his own position.

That morning he had no money, but he wanted me to cook for him before he got home. He wrote a note for me to take to his friend, a shopkeeper, who would give me some money to buy food. But how did he know that I could cook? Anyway, my grandmother had taught me to cook when she became very busy, so I was not bad at it. Besides, I was quite hungry by now.

I had to walk a good distance across the Moa Bridge to return home and give the letter to his friend. Realizing the request was from Duran, the shopkeeper quickly declined, and said to tell him Juldeh was not around. But that was him.

I kept quiet. I did not return to him nor did I let him know the outcome of his letter. My brother had hoped to meet good food at home and have some money left over for him to play Bingo.

I had been given some food by Mrs. Lahai, the wife of one of our neighbors. She had lots of children around, including her brothers Ballah and Kanu. They were my age, so we were fast friends. I was in a different situation right then. My story had changed. Three weeks had gone by, and my brother had not mentioned anything about my school or returning to Motema to continue my studies. It looked as though I was to wait out the year in nothingness.

The Balancing Act: The right partnerships can get you ahead

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the busy life of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores in the serial “A Mother’s Journey,” as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s a full-fledged entrepreneur and acknowledged leader in the startup community. As Giselle has evolved, so has her story. Welcome to the first installment of “The Balancing Act.”

Giselle Rivera-Flores

The adage “Two heads are better than one” may explain the reason many entrepreneurs and small-business owners team up to form partnerships. In fact, new research by Carnegie Mellon University professor Anita Williams Woolley and her colleagues suggests that the intelligence of a group can exceed that of its individual members.

Well, if the right conditions are met.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, Don’t starve the artists , or scroll down to explore more of her story.

A partnership doesn’t always equate to more brainpower or productivity. Some partnerships, while equally healthy on the surface – personalities are a match and there are some shared worldviews – are not always healthy on a business level. Friends often find themselves starting partnerships with other friends only to realize, after months of demanding work on one end and no work on the other, that the partnership was a bad idea, and in turn, is ruining a perfectly good friendship.

The incredible story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Fighting for Fees and Respect

“T.K. does not come to school that often, but he will not fail any semester. He may be busy studying while we are away in school. Imagine his grades in French,” Mohamed Lansana said to Stephen.

Augustine Kanjia

The last semester had been tough. I knew there was going to be an endemic problem in the absence of the “omolé” brewing. The death of a drunkard had brought the halting of my grandmother’s business. The other food trade was only for us to eat.

Only one of my uncles was educated: the eldest, Sahr Tay James, T-Boy’s father. He loved me endlessly. I had a fairly good result for the second semester, even when I was out of school. I applied a simple skill. I would ask some of my classmates, especially Mohamed Lansana or Stephen Kabba, to help me out with the notes they took when I was absent. I did that each day of the week. I copied all the notes and studied them when we gathered to study at our local primary school, R.C. Motema, where we had our games.

But there was a likelihood of me not returning to school for over a year this time.

A Mother’s Journey: Don’t starve the artists

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Please stop asking the creative community to work for free.

If creative work adds value to your product, gives you more exposure to your brand, and generates an impact on your bottom line, then stop asking the creatives to submit work in exchange for “exposure.”

Don’t ask photographers to volunteer for your many events at no charge, don’t ask writers – an obvious sore spot for me – to submit several “specs” of work to prove themselves before hiring them, and don’t ask designers and marketers to create your brand, or promote your brand, for free as you sit back and reap the benefits.

The whole “We’d like to give you exposure in exchange for your work” bit is overrated, misguided and usually, false. Work is work. And no work should be done for free.

Trump vows to fight ‘fake news’ by cutting funds to cities

Wondering what the future could hold for capitalism and national pride in our city? Find out with author BJ Hill in the Sun’s serial glimpse into the fantastic, fascinating (and mostly fictional) possibilities of a not-so distant tomorrow.

WORCESTER, Jan. 17, 2019 — President Donald Trump shot back this week at what he calls “fake news” by threatening to defund cities in which “subversive or treasonous” media are based. “Met with GOP lawmakers to discuss setting up a Dept. of Truth. Must weed out fake news outlets before 2020 Election – Bad for Democracy!” President Trump tweeted yesterday morning.

At a White House press conference later in the day, White House Press Secretary Troy Chamberlain justified the move and outlined how the administration could apply pressure to make the so-called “fake news outlets” unwelcome in communities.

“Nothing is more important to America than its voters making well-informed choices based on facts,” said Mr. Chamberlain. “Rogue media that chooses to ignore the facts or make up its own truth is a poison. The last administration failed to take action, so it’s time we eliminate the threat to our citizens.”

Mr. Chamberlain went on to suggest steps the White House and Congress could take to wage the battle. These included withholding payments from the Highway Trust Fund. This was the carrot Congress dangled in 1984 to get states to raise their drinking ages to 21. All but five states acceded to that request.

Mr. Chamberlain also mentioned working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to deny grants to law enforcement agencies in cities and towns that “harbor fake news outlets.”

More What if … Worcester: Nothing but net profit — St. John’s hoop star scores big-league video game endorsement

The incredible story of Augustine Kanjia continues … ‘Omolé’ Creates a Bigger Problem

Our house was incomplete — still — but my thoughts were on school and soccer.

Augustine Kanjia

I was quite a local champion among my peers. I was the only boy to constantly provide a ball for every game we had. Of course, I was stealing — still — from the little money my grandmother and I were saving from the omolé sales. I was popular, but too lazy for many people’s comfort.

My grandmother’s thoughts stayed focused on fulfilling her promise to provide me a good education.

My first cousin Alex, commonly called Tamba or T-Boy, was my admirer, but I never let him know where I got the money to buy soccer balls. I was quite skillful; no one in my house knew. I was also called Tamba Magician (Tamba Ngofo, in Kono). Our house boomed with omolé.

T-Boy had watched the omolé flow in the house. We were constantly selling and brewing. Many came to the house to get their shots. T-Boy had made arrangements to take some bottles out to sell. We were uncertain about his true motives.

One day, he watched everyone keenly, understanding that we were concentrating in the kitchen. He entered the house quickly, picked up a couple of bottles and placed them at the window before passing through the back door. Soba Peppeh, my grandmother, had seen him rush out, and became suspicious. She quickly entered the room and went close to the window.

T-Boy, not watching, quickly put in his hand to take a bottle. Grannie caught him in his first attempt. He shouted when he was caught. He had no excuse and felt very ashamed, which eventually led to his going to live in Yengema, Sierra Leone, for good. But I loved him. I searched for him from school to our house, but to no avail. I had been his mentor.

He took to his heels and walked to Yengema, which is where I trekked to get to school. That walk was not fun, especially when you were hungry.

Augustine’s last chapter: Tragedy Falls on Our Doorstep  Or scroll down to catch up on earlier posts in the remarkable tale.

A Mother’s Journey: The tipping point

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

In his debut book “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell wrote: “In the late 1960s, a television producer named Joan Ganz Cooney set out to start an epidemic. Her target was three-, four-, and five-year-olds. Her agent of infection was television, and the ‘virus’ she wanted to spread was literacy. The show would last an hour and run five days a week, and the hope was that if that hour was contagious enough it could serve as an educational Tipping Point: giving children from disadvantaged homes a leg up once they began elementary school, spreading pro-learning values from watchers to non-watchers, infecting children and their parents, and lingering long enough to have an impact well after the children stopped watching the show. … She called her idea ‘Sesame Street.’ ”

Gladwell calls this the stickiness factor. In discovering that making “small but critical adjustments in how they presented ideas to preschoolers,” Malcolm wrote, “they could overcome television’s weakness as a teaching tool and make what they had to say memorable.”

In concept, I, too, look to produce such an epidemic of proportionate educational value that the children who attend The Learning Hub will generate a level of stickiness for us, so that we start to discuss more serious methods of how we teach our children in our public schools. We want them to have a leg up as they make their way through the winding paths of what is our current school system.

But as many parents like me believe, the current school system is not up to par, and with that void in the market, the Hub’s stickiness factor can be a bit more contagious.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The shape of the city, or scroll down to explore more of her story.