Kickstarter offers all of us a great lesson in collective capitalism. Such an innovative version of the most efficient economic system known to man has especially offered substantive hope to new and inspired entrepreneurs looking to invest in underdeveloped neighborhoods.
On my way to a weekly MyWeekend project meeting, I passed by a construction project on the northwest corner of St. Nicholas and West 127th Street. I had passed this construction many times before. However, this morning, a banner was placed on the composite wood construction barriers around Maison Harlem advertising its utilization of Kickstarter funds to get going.
Sami and Romain are two French expats who are planning Maison Harlem as a jazz club and restaurant focusing on southern french cuisine. This promising project found 82 backers on kickstarter which collectively raised $6,912 of the targeted $20,000.
While the “all-or-nothing” parameters of Kickstarter disallow Sami and Romain from collecting this $6,912, these two entrepreneurs have received a still valuable lesson: there are other individuals who also believe in their business idea for a section of Harlem that is still lagging behind in the neighborhoods on going revitalization.
Growing our Economy
In the ongoing election, we seem to have two parties which find it impossible to address the question of economic growth, wherein business owners need to hire workers to create a product or provide a service that they believe individual buyers are willing to pay for.
We have republicans arguing for more tax cuts for large corporations whose rates of hiring are far outpaced by their profit earnings. On the converse, democrats are pushing for more billion dollar federal projects which too often are not meeting any real market demand and create only temporary employment for relatively small segment of the American workforce. Both parties neglect the idea of “growth”
Crowd funding companies like KickStarter have found a free market solution to a systemic problem of investment dollars for new businesses. Such dollars come with little to low interest and allow for small business owners to create real growth that can meet existing market demand.
Moreover, for many business owners in under-served, low socioeconomic neighborhoods, investment dollars, for one reason or another, can be hard to come by. The ability to have real liquidity infused into their projects is not only a substantive project boost for these small business owners, but an emotional one as well.
After such encouragement and investment dollars, neighborhoods such as Harlem will soon be seeing the number of service and small scale manufacturing jobs needed to sustain their local economy.
I wish Sami and Romain the best of luck and even plan to stop by their new restaurant for a meal. More importantly though, as a young entrepreneur and American voter, I hope policy makers across the country take note of philosophical principles behind crowd funding as we search for viable solutions for generating genuine economic growth.
For if their is demand, only then should you build “it.” For then once you build it, you know they will come.
YouTube is launching a brand new tool to help teachers and students get their learn on. “YouTube for Schools” is a portal that helps curate education materials and videos on subjects such as history and math while filtering out potentially offensive or distracting content. YouTube for …
I came to New York City, fresh out of university, away from Detroit, jobless and on a very fixed budget. I would spend a month and a half pounding the pavement to meet with a Colgate alum, to drop off my resume, to attend an interview, or to simply reconnect with an old friend in the city.
One night, after one of my many early failed excursions in the city, I was heading back to my sisters’ Harlem apartment at 3 am, when the irresistible smell of street meat drew me in. I crossed the sidewalk to the street food stand on 125th and Lenox. After placing my order for lamb and rice, I simply asked one of the cooks, “how do you do it? How does this work?”
He informed me that he and his three brothers emigrated from Egypt and put together the little funds they had to invest in a cart. They worked in shifts of two, allowing two brothers to nap inside of their utility van. At the end of their day at 4am, they travel back to their home North Jersey to shower, nap, and prep for the next day, before getting back to Harlem at 8:50 am and set up for the next day.
Every morning vendors, small grocers, etc venture to Hunts Point to pick up wholesale products , travel to midtown to pick up a shipment of cheap jewelry. Before this, many spend weeks or months filing for a permit with the City’s Vendor enrollment center. During a time of economic uncertainty in which the Tea Party, OccupyWallStreet, Democrats, and Republicans argue about how to solve our nation’s socio-economic dilemmas, its newest residents and later citizens seem to have already found a solution. To just “Work”- tirelessly and creatively.
This includes engaging family members, networkign, improving one’s self-presentation and language abilities, convention, and being willing to grind as early or late as possible in order to meet a legal service people are willing to pay for. As I heard Suzie Orman say on CNN back in July, “America doesn’t have a jobs problem. We have a productivity problem.” I think Ms. Orman is onto something.
Poor, and especially non-Caucasian, immigrants are too often the afterthought of our society, despite being so visible. Poor immigrants are often viewed as ignorant and having little to teach. However, these individuals are God-sent teachers.
Their social resilience, undying economic optimism, communal solidarity, and burning desire to be productive members of society are all variables that too many in our nation are lacking. Best of all, the lessons they have to teach don’t have the $48,000 price tag of our best universities. Just ask, listen, learn, and apply.
Me: Yo, What is a Knish? (Pronouncing it Ka-neesh)
Max: “Ka-neesh?” What the hell is a ka-neesh? You mean a knish? It’s Yiddish food, not Indian (lol). You want a knish? C’mon, we’re getting on the train.
A few stops later my friend and I were at Yonah Schimmel Bakery. Located on 137 Houston Street on the East Side, one feels transported to 1915 New York. The store is virtually un-changed with regards to décor and construction, creating a very nostalgic aesthetic for the bakery’s patrons. Yonah Schimmel even still rocks the manual elevator which brings up the warm knishes from the kitchen in the basement where they craft each one of those delicious creations.
So what exactly is a knish? It is an Eastern European snack made popular by Jewish Immigrants to the United States. It is basically a potato or cheese filled ball of oven-baked dough. Knishes as you can imagine can come in a great amount of variety, including meet fillings. At Yonah Schimmel, I understand them to have one kosher kitchen, which means no meat. However, they maintain a great level of variety in their menu, including desert fillings (crème cheese and chocolate, cherry, or blueberry). I got to try the mozzarella and potato knish and the cherry and cheese knish. While I enjoyed them both, I especially enjoyed the mozzarella and potato filling knish.
While the $2 falafel from Cheeps is still #1 in my Manhattan list of eateries, I do plan on many more visits to Yonah Schimmel. Not only do I feel that I received bang for my buck, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Olde World atmosphere and service. Good lookin out bro.
Since the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) issued an expected but controversial downgrade, the Securities Exchange Commission has launched an investigation into possible insider trading. Also, the Department of Justice announced yesterday that it would be investigating Standard and Poor’s for possible fixing of credit ratings of mortgage backed securities prior to 2008. Lastly, after the S &P downgraded the municipal bonds of Los Angeles and 14 other municipalities on Wednesday, they all decided to discontinue their contracts with the S & P. Interesting. You see, I personally believe that the motives, procedures, and protocol of Standard and Poor’s are extremely subjective and that the S & P (and a few other ratings agencies) were a huge part of the subprime mortgage catastrophe in 2008. However, it also appears that the federal government is simply getting even with the S & P for the downgrade (which itself may have been a bit political).
While much of the general public and in politics were shocked by the S&P’s downgrade, many in the financial world were gearing up for it, especially considering that Standard and Poor’s announced back in April 2011 that a downgrade would be likely. Ergo, the SEC’s charges of material insider trading will be hard to make. The investigation of the Justice Department, on the other-hand, appears to be far more vindictive in nature. Why did it take a federal downgrade to occur for the Justice Department to investigate rating fixing from over 4 years ago? Lastly, I find it incredibly ridiculous that Los Angeles, and others, would cite their reason for dropping the S&P as their rating agency as: “L.A. ha[s] lost faith in the S&P after it lowered the credit of the federal government and its role in the Wall Street financial crisis several years ago.” These municipalities didn’t drop the S & P until their own bonds were downgraded. Furthermore, if Standard and Poor’s had kept their rating at AAA, I doubt that either the fact that the S&P downgraded the federal government or that it had a role in the 2008 crash would have caused them to drop S & P. If their role in the 2008 crash was so important to them (which everyone knew about since 2008), what took them so long to drop the S&P?
To say that the rating industry is a huge mess would be an understatement. However, our financial system needs credit rating agencies which are transparent in their procedures. More importantly, they must be able to be confident that they will be able to rate credit with no fear of gangster-style politics from the federal government or that their client will fire them. Otherwise, we’ll have a repeat of 2008 in which agencies realized that they could only give favorable ratings (whether deserved or not) or else risk losing business. Only now, they also have to fear burdensome reprisal investigations from the feds.
Okay! So maybe this 2006 film (which I actually just last night) is not one which me and my boys from “the Gate” would have kicked back to in the 1934 House or Parker 120. However, it is a film that serves up very critical lesson of priority and understanding the cost of one’s decision.
In the film, the main character, Andrea “Andy” Sachs (played by Anne Hathaway) is a fresh, young, and talented writer from Ohio who recently graduated from Northwestern University. After not being able to break directly into journalism, she accepts a position at the prestigious Runway magazine what demands as much of her personal time and energy as it desires, but offers a ladder to her career goals. Sounds like a textbook career track in New York City right? Well her roommate and boyfriend, and three other friends (all from undergrad) struggle to understand this, constantly questioning her character.
To be the best in a very competitive field, one must be willing to sacrifice personal time. Ergo, one won’t have time to be prompt with Facebook replies to wall post and inbox messages. Text message replies may be a bit delayed. We may have to miss some very important events and will often be unavailable on weekends. What matters in the end is intention and understanding. Despite the long hours, does one make a strong effort to let their friends and family know that they are still of great importance? Can one sense that one is at least making the effort.
In short. My bros are my bros (also other dear friends and family). If one guy has been too busy to hang out, no biggie: I’ll bring a six pack by his apt later in the week when he has a few hours to chill. And likewise, my real bros, will keep me in mind, when work has me super busy. The point is that for those who are important, you make time for. If you don’t, those persons were simply in your life, but not a part of it, for good or for bad.
Okay so let’s be real. I graduated on May 15th. I got my last pay check just around that time. I’ve been in New York City for all but 3 weeks of the summer trying to make it. I’ve been networking, submitting cover letters and resumes, interviewing, and reflecting on what it is I really want to do with my life. However, being in one of the most expensive cities on earth to “try and make it” gets super expensive. Ergo, with my summer stockpile starting to run low, chicken burritos with guac from Chipotle is becoming a passing luxury. However, there’s hope. For Jesus has given us…**drumroll** cheeps!
Located on 7th and St. Marks on 2nd Ave, this place is sooo worth the trek. For just $2, one can get a filling felafel sandwich or a chicken sandwich for just $2 more. And these sandwiches come stuffed with all the fillings: cabbage, carrots, onions, hummus, etc. They have other stuff on the menu, but I’m looking at the under $5 range. This place is a beacon of light in a city of overpriced and often unsatisfying food. I now dread when I actually have to go with someone to a real restaurant and order some $17 plate of food when I could be eating a more reliable and predictable meal for an insanely small fraction of the price. Cheeps has become like a food-conscience for me, indicting me when ever I pause and consider a $8 entree in New York City.
So as I do another week in the Big Apple with no “income,” I will be rushing to a cool new internship (unpaid), meeting up with an old Colgate friends, and going to some unknown office for a much anticipated interview with the image, taste and smell of a much long awaited felafel at …Cheeps!
Being raised in Detroit, Michigan by a very traditional Jamaican father, I seemed to always hold some type of misplaced, or even false patriotism, for this small 4243 sq mile island thousands of miles away from my own birth place. While I am a much prouder American today who understands that I am in fact not “Jamaican” but a yankee, I still share a deep passion for the islands history, culture, and current well-being. For in this island rest not only half of my ancestral roots, but also symbols of pride and self-determination.
It was pride and self-determination which served as the catalysts for the push for Jamaican independence in the decade and a half after WWII. Not only had Britain’s economic ability to govern this small island began to wane, but so to had the patience of Jamaicans. They were tired of the economic exploitation which concentrated wealth amongst a small elite and the lack of sovereignty which had been the basis for the islands existence. In short, Jamaica’s new forefathers wanted and island which got to keep its wealth within its own boarders. In light of such ideological and philosophical principles for its independence, I believe Jamaicans must use the ideas of pride and self-determination to measure the full reach of their independence. The rampant debt, corruption and mis-appropriation of dearly needed public funds need to become a greater concern for young Jamaicans if the island will grab hold of the ideals their forefathers sought after.
With remittances and tourism making up 25% of Jamaica’s GDP, there is a clear sign that the island is far to dependent on foreign dollars. (Much tourism is in large part all-inclusive resorts owned by foreign investors who creates the incentive for their guests to spend their money with foreign vendors instead of establishments owned and operated by Jamaican residents). Its public debt was at over 123% of GDP in 2010, leaving the island to rank 4th in the world in its debt obligation when assessed on a per-capita basis. This debt leaves the government unable to make serious strides in the improvement of the nation’s infrastructure and population. The resulting poor roads and crumbling buildings only dampens pride and the quality of life needed to encourage Jamaican’s to invest in their own island. The good news is that it Jamaica was not always this way, which shows better can come.
Pride and self-determination. Those two qualities will light the way towards restored prosperity. When the government decides to spend $33 million US on a trial which holds a fine of only $600 J, pride and self-determination will cause young youth to flood twitter and facebook with signs of their disapproval. When the government raises taxes with the purpose of fixing roads and then lets years pass without serious headway on road repairs taking place, pride and self-determination will inspire Jamaicans to make the responsible parties pay politically at all costs. But it takes a pride and self-determination to make the island truly independent of the neo-colonial policies and economic exploitation (both domestic and foreign in root) which its founding fathers were so adamantly against. Pride and self-determination is at your finger tips Jamaica. They’re a tweet and a “post” away.
For me, the popular absence of such an abstract quality creates a lot of substantive social rubbish. But what is realness and why is it important for this blog?
For this blog, realness is the ability to discuss a personal experience and deconstruct it in search of individual, social, and political truth. Much of this truth will remain in my eternal ignorance on a subject.
However, any decision to discus is an agreement to admit; admit my own views, bias, doubt, and the composite reality of an issue as constructed by the reports, critiques and experiences of leading experts and voices in the particular field. In doing this, I hope to inject a dose a realness, enlightening you (the reader) of an experience and its place in the grander scheme of things.