Insight News

Sep 04th


Lauren aims to inspire, uplift community

Lauren aims to inspire, uplift communityNot many businesses can attribute their launch to a bad hair day.

Yet if Ashley Lauren hadn’t awakened one morning with unruly hair when she was 15, she wouldn’t have started Diva Rags.  That fledgling enterprise, in turn, begat Diva Rags & Suave Clothing, a South Minneapolis boutique that sells custom clothing, shoes, jewelry and related accessories.

While Lauren, now 25, says her business is profitable, counting her riches isn’t her primary motivation in life.  She aims to inspire others to follow their dreams and uplift the community, particularly youth.

That’s why she conceived the Diva/Suave Project, a nonprofit through which she has donated hundreds of headscarves for cancer patients and others.  Numerous items she sells on the for-profit side—among them, hats, tennis shoes, ties, jeans, shawls and shirts, many of which are emblazoned with “wearable glitter” and gems and inscribed with positive messages such as “Live With Purpose,” “Persevere” and “Believe”—she also gives away through the nonprofit.  As part of her charitable efforts, she also teaches and inspires youngsters in after-school classes.

Work Smart: Taming the meeting monster

Work Smart:  Taming the meeting monsterIf you follow Gram around for a day, you’ll spend most of that day in meetings.  Gram manages six teams in a high profile department.  Gram is responsible for a fat budget, so his teams have to be effective.

Many employees dread meetings.  The very word, Meeting, in the subject line of an email can make people cringe and hide their calendars.  Gram spends most of every day involved in meetings, and yet no one complains when a meeting is called.  Gram’s meetings are effective because, some of the time, his teams may not realize there’s a meeting being held.  How does he do that?  Gram says the keys are consistency and a conservative guest list.

Co-worker clutter? It’s time to come clean

Co-worker clutter? It’s time to come clean Working alongside other people is still a way of life for most people.  During those forty hours they are together each week, co-workers stand in for roommates, existing in close proximity, dining at adjacent desks and sometimes sharing a stapler.  If a workspace is a reflection of what’s inside a brain, what does that say about the guy in the cube next door? 

If his space is a mess, he might be disorganized… or highly creative.  Can he easily find what he needs, even if nobody else can?  Some people are visually oriented, but that need to keep everything in plain sight can translate into fire hazard: piles of paper, folders, books and office supplies scattered across the desk and spilling onto the nearby chairs, onto the floor and into the hallway.

Save a stamp – pay your property taxes electronically

The first half of Hennepin County property taxes is due Monday, May 16. (Property taxes are split into equal payments due May 15 and Oct. 15 each year. This year May 15 falls on a Sunday, so taxes are due on Monday.)

Are you still paying the old-fashioned way – writing a check and rushing to the mailbox?

Pay your taxes online by E-check at  It’s easy, convenient, secure, fully automated – and it’s free. 

Minneapolis awards nearly $500,000 in small business grants

Mayor R.T. Rybak and the Minneapolis City Council approved funding of nearly $500,000 in grants to Minneapolis business districts. Grants, through the City’s Great Streets Neighborhood Business District Program, support technical assistance—planning, financial management and education in legal and tax matters—for small businesses. Grants also support business recruitment and marketing efforts aimed at bringing customers to a business district. The program is one of several finance tools the City offers in support of its small business community.

Feeling groovy at work

Feeling groovy at workFeelin’ Groovy is an old song; ask an old person and they just might remember the catchy tune and the words: Slow down, you’re moving too fast.

Lately, I have been required to ask competency-based questions during dozens of interviews.  These questions aim to reveal a person’s strengths and weaknesses through their own descriptions of specific experiences.  My task is to ask about a situation, find out how the candidate approached the challenge, and then learn what they learned or took away from that event. 

Black corporate board seats decline

Black corporate board seats declineWashington, D.C. - The release of a corporate board census by the Alliance for Board Diversity (ABD) on May 2, 2011 reported a surprising decline in the combined number of seats for women and minorities on the boards of the nation's leading corporations. The largest decline was among Blacks. This year's report found that in the Fortune 100 between 2004 and 2010, African Americans lost over 40 board seats while white men increased their presence on corporate boards, adding over 30. Overall, women did not see an appreciable increase in their share of board seats.
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