OK, it’s not quite a year. I filed my DBA on January 28, 2019.
My first year as a small business owner has had a few glitches, but I’m very happy with the trendline.
Right out of the gate, I landed a retainer client, who just renewed for 2020. It’s a lobbying firm owned by a friend, who is very good at what he does but could never find the time to write clear, compelling materials for his clients. From cover letters for annual reports to a summary of New York’s new campaign finance system, and from organizing and promoting industry briefings to covering news conferences, I help him keep his clients happy. I told him my middle name is “proof of performance.”
Working with the Central Avenue Business Improvement District and the STEAM Garden brings so many of my personal and professional interests together. It’s community development, historic preservation, high tech … and it’s housed in a building on Central Avenue, the street where I rented my first off-campus apartment while attending the College of St. Rose. In 1983, William Kennedy wrote that Central Avenue was “scraggly, raffish, unloved, unsung, but staying busy even so, trying to tidy up and get it together.” I helped the BID plan, promote and coordinate their grand opening celebration, attended by nearly 200 people. Looking ahead to 2020, I’ll be working on securing additional support for Phase 2 of their plan to deliver more classroom and office space and promoting their offerings to entrepreneurs.
In the past couple of weeks, I signed a new client and had a series of productive conversations with a prospective client.
The new client is NABA, the Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany. NABA began on December 7, 1908, when ten blind men and women came together to adjust to their vision loss. Then known as the Albany Association of the Blind, the organization was housed at 105 Lancaster Street, and offered social and workshop activities to its members. Now serving 7 counties and employing 100 people, NABA trains and places legally blind adults in professional employment, provides rehabilitation services to seniors with age-related vision loss, and offers free vision screening for children 18 months to 4 years old through its KidSight Program. I’ll be working with their Communications and Development department to write and manage their foundation grants, State and Federal Grants, research new grant prospects and funding opportunities and assist with public relations.
I’m working on a proposal for the prospective client, so don’t want to jinx it, but it’s a statewide non-profit association that delivers much-needed financial resources to underserved communities … so it’s right in my wheelhouse!
Here’s to a great 2020. Drop me a line and I’ll carve out some time to make #SmallTalk!
Every once in a while, you get to work on a project that ticks all the boxes.
The S.T.E.A.M. Garden in Albany is one of those projects. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Media – S.T.E.A.M. – is breathing new life into a once-vacant building, a neighborhood, and the Capital Region’s creative economy.
The S.T.E.A.M. Garden is a collaborative effort led by the Central Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) and its partners to create an innovative living lab that offers co-work space and other vital resources to entrepreneurs and small startups that may not otherwise be able to avoid office space.
You know I’m a big booster of historic preservation, neighborhood revitalization and the creative economy – but to find them all in one place? Count me in!
I’ve been following the work to develop the S.T.E.A.M. Garden for many years, and I’m beyond delighted to be able to help with promotions and publicity – especially around the Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting, coming up on December 10.
The S.T.E.A.M. Garden is housed in the former St. Patrick’s Elementary School, built in 1905. The former St. Patrick’s Church next door is now the Shrine Church of our Lady of the Americas, which is affiliated with Blessed Sacrament Parish further west on Central Avenue.
The Central Avenue BID bought the building from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany in 2011 for $200,000. Rehabilitation of two floors is substantially complete, with additional work planned for the upper two floors. Historic 15-over-15 windows in the Co-Work Flex Space (the former gymnasium) will be removed one at a time and restored in an on-site Maker Lab with assistance from the State Historic Preservation Office and Hudson Valley Community College’s trades training program.
Beyond historic preservation, the S.T.E.A.M. Garden is helping to strengthen the relationships between Central Avenue’s commercial assets, its adjacent residential neighborhoods and nearby educational institutions. Walkable and well-served by public transportation, the neighborhood around the S.T.E.A.M. Garden is rich with small and minority-owned businesses.
CMR Communications is helping to spread the word that the S.T.E.A.M. Garden is making the Central Avenue Corridor into an economic force to be reckoned with, as project partners work to cultivate technology innovation, entrepreneurship, workforce training and talent attraction.
For more info check out the S.T.E.A.M. Garden or the Central Avenue BID online, or RSVP for the ribbon cutting and public Open House on Tuesday, December 10 from noon - 3:00 p.m.!
How can I help you or your organization celebrate a milestone? Drop me a line – let’s make #SmallTalk!
What do you get when Albany Barn, the Albany Housing Authority and the City of Albany partner to redevelop the former St. Joseph’s Academy, an abandoned school in the heart of Albany’s Arbor Hill? 22 low-cost live/work residences, and 13,500+ square feet of multi-tenant creative arts incubator, enterprise and program space called The Barn.
I’ve been a big fan of their work for several years – starting in 2014 when I wrote up their Excellence in Historic Preservation Award for the Preservation League.
This month, I had a chance to help make their annual fundraiser – the FUSION AntiGala – an even bigger success by helping with event marketing through social media.
I started by drafting a portfolio of social media posts to promote FUSION in a way that also highlighted the ongoing work of the Albany Barn. I developed a Facebook post with links and images for each day of the four weeks leading up to the event on October 18.
The posts provided background on the organization and the event, as well as sneak previews of elements of the event itself. Each post included a hashtag and included a link to purchase tickets. Posts included:
To further support these posts, I developed a couple of eyecatching images for the Hour Food Challenge and Upcycle Challenge. They’re in the slideshow at the top of this post – along with the ad for CMR Communications in the program book distributed at the event.
We all know successful events don't just happen. Whether it’s a grand opening, a lecture series or an author talk and book signing - without strategic promotion, seemingly great ideas can fall flat. No one can guarantee a sizable audience for an event, but there are proven techniques to help identify and mobilize prospective attendees.
CMR Communications has years of experience in event marketing strategies that get programs in front of the right audiences and drive RSVPs through digital and traditional channels.
How can I help you make your next event a big success? Drop me a line and let’s make #SmallTalk!
One of the things I’ve most enjoyed since launching CMR Communications is getting to tell Albany’s stories. Shortly after I started the business, I began to hear rumblings of a new website that was aiming to fill the void left by the demise of All Over Albany.
I was a huge fan of All Over Albany, and, for a brief time, even toyed with the idea of launching a similar site. The idea rose from my work with Albany’s Heritage Tourism Working Group, convened by Mayor Sheehan.
A small subset of the group hatched a plan to develop a mobile-friendly blog, maintained by Albanians, with a focus on what makes Albany special – whether you lived here or were just passing through. We dubbed it The A-List, and determined that the blog would have a personality, a voice, enthusiasm ... people would want to invite The A-List out for a drink.
Unfortunately, despite early enthusiasm, the effort fizzled for want of content.
So, when I heard about CivMix, I was determined to provide all the content they could use!
The founders of the site say that:
this region not only needs news about local happenings, the arts, government and community events, it deserves to have that information delivered in the most thoughtful, engaging way possible.
And how did they land on the name?
It turned out to be more straightforward that we feared. We wanted something that spoke to the amazing blend that makes up our rich community. The phrase “community blend,” translated to Latin, is “civitas mixtio,” or CivMix, for short.
CivMix launched in early June, and my first article ran on June 5. Since then, I’ve written some 20 articles about everything from a Revolutionary War Gossip Tour at Fort Ticonderoga to a mural of a sturgeon painted on a building in Troy. But the beat that I’m staking out is cool and quirky – or thought-provoking and compelling – stories about Albany.
I’ve included links to several of them below. Get yourself a beverage and poke around some of these articles. And as you’re reading, I hope you’ll think of ways that I can help you tell your story! Drop me a line and we can talk!
The Language of Houses by Alison Lurie.
At Home by Bill Bryson.
The History of Here by Akum Norder.
A brief glance at my bookshelves reveals that I’ve long harbored a love old houses.
My youth was shaped by a series of homes within feet of each other at Melville and Continental Avenues in Cohoes. A 1970s raised ranch built by my parents. A 1929 Dutch Colonial style built by my paternal grandparents. The ancestral home of the Janotte family (my paternal great-grandparents), just across the street, where two great aunts lived. The difference in craftsmanship between the latter two and the 1970s construction was clear to me even as a child.
In grade school, my best friend was the granddaughter of the family living in the Van Schaick Mansion at the time. Built around 1735, the house is where plans were made for the Battle of Saratoga. History hung thick around the house and grounds.
Over the past several months, I’ve been a pretty regular correspondent for CivMix.com, the blog that highlights local happenings, the arts, government and community events. Two of my pieces focused on new dining options on Lark Street, but in each case, I did a bit of research on former uses of the buildings.
When the owners of Frajee’s Grill at 189 Lark cut the ribbon on the storefront nestled between Jewel of India and the Imperial Market, they became just the latest in a long line of stewards of the building.
It was Ikes’ Pizzeria in 2008; Romeo’s Pizza for several years; one of those sketchy cell phone shops that painted the exterior neon green in 2016; and My Dacha Slavonian European Café was open in the summer of 2017 but closed the following year. The Dacha’s interior featured brick walls painted dark red and terra cotta vinyl floor tiles. The shop has been completely overhauled for its latest iteration.
Just up the block, 197 Lark St. – most recently the home of Crisan Bakery & Edible Art Gallery – had been vacant for nearly five years. Before Crisan, it was Carosello’s Bakery for many years, though the space had another brief brush with art when it hosted the pop-up “Bakery Show” in 2004 for Albany Underground Artists.
And before that? For at least three decades, the Domenico family operated a business there. In 1960, it was Domenico’s Modern Market, and James J. Domenico Jr. lived above the shop. For much of the 1940s, it was Domenico Brothers Fruit, and in 1930, the storefront was occupied by George D. Price, News Dealer, though a James Domenico was listed as a tenant. In 1920, Mary G. Hickey, a milliner, had a shop there.
Soon, 197 Lark St. will have yet another incarnation as the new home of D.P. Dough, previously located at 212 Western Avenue. The co-owners of the franchise are Nick Warchol and Craig Dutra, who, along with August Rosa of Pint Sized at 250 Lark, also operate Post Wine Bar across the street.
In September, I’ll present my first “House Story” to a new neighbor in the Center Square Historic District. He reached out to me before he had even closed on the property.
Using deeds, assessment rolls, city directories and other public records, I’m developing a compelling narrative history of his house, its builder and its occupants, including copies of photos and original documents as available.
Unless you’re living in new construction, every building has a story to tell. Can I help give voice to your House Story? Drop me a line!
In mid-June, a loose coalition of grassroots activists, with support from long-standing immigrants’ rights organizations and other organizers, announced a nationwide mass mobilization.
On Friday, July 12th, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps, would bring thousands of Americans to detention camps across the country, into the streets and into their own front yards, to protest the inhumane conditions faced by refugees.
As the 2019 Legislative Session was wrapping up, I found myself with a bit of extra time on my hands. I decided to get involved.
I knew that many local organizations were already doing good work around immigration issues. I began reaching out on June 20 to create a Capital Region SUPERGROUP to take part in Lights for Liberty. My goal was visibility and allyship – and to empower people from many different backgrounds to make a stand for justice.
On July 12, we filled Albany’s West Capitol Park with speeches, poetry, prayers and song. And candles. Lots of candles. We were part of a mass mobilization with tens of thousands of people, at 817 events, on 5 continents. Here's what the Washington Post had to say about Lights for Liberty.
I’m profoundly grateful that dozens of local and regional organizations and several individuals brought their expertise and deep ties in their respective communities to this coalition.
So many people commented on the variety of speakers at the event, and how inspiring their remarks were, that I put together an online resource with links to participating organizations. One of the goals of Lights for Liberty was to support and amplify the work of direct service organizations, and based on reports from the participating groups, we delivered!
Please click on the Sway below to bring up navigation tools, and learn more about these great organizations. (Frustrated by poking at the image? Here's a direct link to the resource.)
When you're done, I hope you'll let me know - how can I help you tell your story?
So many nonprofit arts and cultural organizations have all they can do to support their mission – it’s even harder to find the time to tell their stories.
That’s where CMR Communications comes in!
When the Arts Center of the Capital Region was getting ready to launch a series of public art projects, they needed some help spreading the word.
I started by reviewing and consolidating their existing materials (such as grant applications, proposals, and artist agreements). I talked with staff and artists to collect additional information and create a narrative theme.
Once we all agreed on the vision and direction, we:
Do you need some help managing the ways you deliver content and messages to your members and supporters? Do you need to share information with your club or organization members, elected officials, advocacy allies and social media influencers?
CMR Communications will work with you to tailor and deliver timely, clear and compelling messages for key audiences, ensure that all platforms are coordinated and used appropriately and analyze results to improve outreach strategies.
How can we help you tell your story? Drop me a line!
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It's getting harder and harder to come up with exclamation-point-worthy blog headlines. This one was a doozy.
Does it seem macabre to look forward to a 4-part lecture series on the bubonic plague? Maybe not if you look at it through the lens of Connections - the 1970s BBC series that "took an interdisciplinary approach to the history of science and invention, and demonstrated how various discoveries, scientific achievements, and historical world events were built from one another successively in an interconnected way to bring about particular aspects of modern technology."
Here, for example, are 10 Good Things We Got From the Black Death. That's how I'm looking at it, anyway. Check out the full syllabus for the program that starts on May 15 at the University Club, and I hope you'll sign up to learn more about The Black Death in History.
Shortly after I launched CMR Communications, I was invited to be a panelist for “Thayer Day” at SUNY Purchase. I spent April 2nd on the campus and enjoyed presentations from outstanding seniors in the State University of New York system in visual arts, theater, video, music, dance and spoken word.
More photos and clips of the students work are in the presentation below. Let me know if you like it!
Go to this Sway
I had a call today from a friend with questions about the New York State Department of Labor’s SEAP - the Self Employment Assistance Program, so I thought I’d share my experience.
According to a Mathematica Policy Research report issued in January, 2017:
Individuals who lose their jobs may have the skills and desire to start their own businesses. Some states have taken action to help unemployed workers create their own jobs by establishing Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) programs, which allow Unemployment Insurance (UI) eligible individuals who meet SEA program requirements to receive a weekly self-employment allowance while they are setting up their businesses. This allowance is equal in amount and duration to regular UI benefits. SEA program participants are also exempted from actively seeking wage and salary jobs so they can devote their energies to self-employment activities while they receive SEA allowances.
This is a long way of saying – the NYS DOL is giving me training wheels for my business!
I received a letter from the NYS Department of Labor on New Year’s Eve, inviting me to apply for SEAP. Seemed like a sign from the universe – instead of going back to work for someone, I’d become a solopreneur!
Here’s the timeline:
Enrollment in SEAP lets you work on your business, but at the same time, requires you to complete 20 hours of training, meet (at least twice) with a business mentor, and submit five benchmark forms. The timeline SEAP provided for benchmarks was:
I’m pleased to report that – as of yesterday - I’ve completed all training and submitted all benchmark forms to fulfill my SEAP requirements! Here’s the list of trainings I completed – all online. SCORE and the US SBA have helpful resources!
Drop me a line if you would like to share advice or if I can tell you more about SEAP!
Colleen M. Ryan is an