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Online exercise classes help businesses and clients survive quarantine



by Lisa Yaker

Quarantine can be incredibly challenging. But out of our moments in isolation, we can also cultivate great strength. Solitude bares for us who we are when no one else is around, allowing a level of mindfulness that can push us forward in ways we didn’t know were possible. Today, it is easier than ever to turn solitude into self-improvement through digital communications platforms that can bring physical fitness training and mindfulness classes to anyone, anywhere.

Before Joseph Pilates, inventor and namesake of the Pilates fitness regimen, came to the United States, he worked as a boxer and self-defense trainer in England. During World War I, Pilates, along with other German citizens living in England, was moved to an internment camp where he spent years separated from the outside world. There, he began leading his fellow internees in minimal-equipment exercises that would eventually become the modern field of Pilates. Soon, what he once used as a way to rehabilitate wounded veterans became a universal practice for building both mental and physical strength.

Today, not everyone is a natural Pilates expert, nor do most folks have a personal trainer in their home. But even though you can’t yet go back to your favorite fitness studio, the wealth of digital streaming and video platforms can bring classes into your own home. Only a few years ago, the COVID-19 shutdown would have been a fatal blow to most of New York’s gyms and fitness studios, but today we have the tools to be inventive, thanks to the rapid pace of innovation within the tech industry.

Getting out of your daily routine and breaking free from the physical strictures of quarantine are a huge way to take control of your health during this time. And the expertise of a good trainer is often the push our clients need to overcome that creeping feeling of quarantine lethargy. That’s why our studio, even while we’re temporarily closed, is offering online mat classes and keeping in touch with clients.

Day to day, we are using Facebook and Instagram to keep our clients in the loop about our online offerings. We’ve used Zoom video calls to connect clients and trainers, taking our classes face-to-face, even if we aren’t in the same room. And the backbone of our operation has been the digital infrastructure we’ve used to stay in touch with one another. Leaning on Gmail and Google Calendar to schedule meetings, we’ve kept up with both staff and clients, and our search engine listings remain updated with our current contact information, new schedule, and all the details clients need to hop into a Zoom class with us.

It’s hard to imagine where our business or any other local fitness studio would be today if it weren’t for our digital infrastructure. More than ever, we rely on digital tools to compete in the online market and prepare for crises like this pandemic, and that will only increase as our economy progresses.

A third of all small businesses say they would have been forced to close part or all of their business if it weren’t for digital platforms, according to a survey released by the Connected Commerce Council and Google. That’s why it’s so vital that our state’s small business owners are able to access digital business technologies at a reasonable price like we can today. They’re a lifeline small business can’t afford to lose. As local businesses across the country are under threat, worried we may never have the opportunity to reopen, New York’s elected leaders would be smart to invest in protecting and expanding access to these platforms and help build digitally-resilient communities statewide.



Lisa M. Yakel has over thirty years in the dance and fitness industry. She earned a B.A. in Dance Performance from Russell Sage College, performed with local dance companies, including Maude Baum & Co. and Dance Eclectic, taught at local dance studios, and Russell Sage College and choreographed for numerous school productions. Lisa also founded In Motion School of Dance, as well as taught fitness classes for many years at The Sweat Shop of Albany.

Discovering the Pilates Method was an “a-ha” moment for Lisa…sensible movement. It gave her an empowering awareness of her body and mind and truly connected the two.





The post Online exercise classes help businesses and clients survive quarantine appeared first on She Owns It.

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How Valence Aims to Provide Better Access and Funding for Black Founders & Executives



“I gotta say it was a good day.”

I’m so fricking pumped today. Really, truly. Yeah, Valence announced > $5 million in funding led by GGV and Upfront. That IS a big deal, but I’ll get to that. But Kamala Harris was picked to be the Vice Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. That means she’ll be the first female Vice President of the United States, the first female Black Vice President and the first Indian-American Vice President. I don’t take this for granted, be ready for a fight. But let’s be clear. WE WILL WIN. We might have to fight for it after the votes go our way but let’s get ready for the fight.

So let’s get it.

Guy Primus, CEO of Valence

Valence. It is a company with a mission to create better access and more funding for Black entrepreneurs and executives. Valence is led by a talented CEO, Guy Primus and was the brainchild of my partner, Kobie Fuller. If you want to follow two great Black executives who work at the intersection of technology and venture capital make sure to click on those links and follow them on Twitter.

So what exactly is Valence and why does it matter?

18 months ago, my partner Kobie Fuller was inspired to build a solution for a problem he faced regularly: as one of the few Black partners at a VC firm (an estimated 3% of GPs in venture are Black vs 14% of the US population), he was consistently asked for warm intros to Black professionals, to Black VCs, and to talented Black operators and entrepreneurs.

Venture firms wanted to meet talented Black founders but didn’t know where to start to find them. And Black entrepreneurs wanted access to decision makers but didn’t always have the easy connections. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms I personally get when I suggest that founders should “get introductions to VCs” is that this might reinforce existing racial imbalances by providing easier access to White professionals than people of color.

An imbalance clearly exists in access and networks that has resulted in a tech industry where an estimated only 1% of venture dollars go to Black founders and only 3% of the workforce is Black and a country where Black individuals hold a disproportionately low amount of the wealth — only 3%. As Kobie says, he didn’t have a “magical database” of great Black talent, so he set out to build a solution not just for himself, but also for the community.

Personally I believe that to fund more people of color you need to put check-writing authority in their hands the same way that if you want to see more women funded you need more women GPs. My greatest criticism of our industry is that women and people of color feel the need to leave larger VCs to create their own firms. We have a responsibility to help propel them to the top ranks of our biggest firms to make our check writers more representative of our society overall.

There is a very clear economic rational and strategic advantage for doing so. There are amazing Black entrepreneurs, Indian entrepreneurs, Chinese entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs, gay entrepreneurs and so forth. OBVIOUSLY! If 90% of the check writers are White, straight men then it’s clear if you are different than that you’re going to have an advantage. As I always say, being great as an investor is about having “edge” and edge means knowing somebody or something that very few others know. It’s about swimming in lanes where others aren’t present. Being diverse in the VC industry is a VERY LOW bar and a clear differentiator.

At Upfront we believe in improving access for founders and entrepreneurs to networking, professional development, and economic opportunities, and that’s what Kobie set out to do with Valence, which he incubated in our offices. Huge hats off to Kobie for the idea, energy, direction, evening hours and the foresight and salesmanship required to bring on Guy to take the helm.

Building a mission into a business

By the time Valence launched in late 2019, the team had built the necessary systems and technology to seamlessly engage and onboard the community — not just the users, but also some pilot corporate partners who also believed in the mission and opportunity and who wanted to leverage and support this amazing database of talent. It was also important to Valence to not only connect users, but also to celebrate the successes and spotlight great Black leaders through high-quality content and design.

As soon as Valence launched in November 2019, the business quickly had proven demand from the community, not only from senior business leaders but also from so many young, talented professionals who could benefit from the inter-generational networking that Valence supported so seamlessly. Since launch, the Valence platform has supported more than 5,000 micro-mentoring sessions (AKA Boosts)— allowing the kind of invaluable network support that’s so critical to success and advancement for even the most talented founders and operators.

You can hear more about the importance of mentoring from Kobie Fuller, Valence advisor James Lowry, and John Legend — yes, THE John Legend — in this video from the 2020 Upfront Summit.

So things were going well for Valence in 2020, amazingly even in a pandemic. And then in May the world was galvanized by the tragic murder of George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor. And Ahmaud Arbery. And Rayshard Brooks. And the many Black women and men before them whose lives were taken at the hands of the police.)

When the mission meets a movement

In these months, not only did we see widespread civic protests but so many industries, including ours, faced a reckoning that despite even the best intentions, lip service wasn’t enough. We all needed to take action to address the imbalance of access, and to literally put our money where our mouths are. Suddenly a spotlight was put on everything that the Valence team had been building, and there was even more energy around the business.

I always say that you can judge a startup’s future based on how fast they’re able to execute when it counts. Well, I can tell you that within weeks of the civil unrest, Valence had:

  • Introduced the Valence Funding Network, where GPs from more than 30 of the top venture funds representing more than $60B in assets under management joined Valence with the goal of linking Black entrepreneurs on the platform directly to venture decision makers.
  • Increased membership by more than 20%
  • Hired a CEO, Guy Primus, who was previously the CEO of The Virtual Reality Company as well as the COO of Overbrook Entertainment. He’s been a leader at the intersection of media and tech for many years and we’re grateful to partner with him.
  • Announced their Series A funding round, which Upfront participated in and which was led by Hans Tung from GGV. Hans has been a great peer and collaborator on other portfolio boards and we’re excited for him to join Valence at this pivotal time. We have worked closely with GGV for years and they were a natural fit for helping to build a network like this given their investment in Chief (for women) and The Mighty (which helps families with people facing health challenges).

Since day one we have anticipated great things for Valence and with this groundswell of support at the civic level as well as the industry level, we hope to see meaningful improvements in access and dollars for Black professionals. Please join me in congratulating Guy, Kobie and the team for what they’ve built so far, and what’s to come.

How Valence Aims to Provide Better Access and Funding for Black Founders & Executives was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Mistakes I made as a first-time manager



Contributed by Shawn Johal, business growth coach, leadership speaker and co-founder of DALS Lighting, Inc. He is also an active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Montreal chapter. 

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
–Albert Einstein

It’s almost hard to believe that I have been managing teams for more than 15 years. Time definitely flies!

I had the incredible privilege of being trained at one of the best schools for leadership in the world: Newell-Rubbermaid. As a business, it isn’t necessarily known for a dedication to improving talent, but I can say from first-hand experience they truly care about building each employee into a leader from the get-go.

I received weeks of leadership and sales training, learning from the industry’s best. They challenged me and pushed our entire team to always aim for higher goals.

In today’s fast-paced world, I often come across new managers who have never been trained for their job. The pattern often goes like this:

1. An employee performs very well at their job
2. They are promoted into a manager position
3. They are given a team and told to lead

From there, they are off to the races with an ill-equipped toolbox to learn from their mistakes.

It’s a dangerous game to play. The consequences can often result in poor company culture or a lack of focus and vision. Accountability is hard to come by and goals are either missed or never established in the first place. I don’t blame companies for doing it: We have an almost natural tendency to assume that “A” performers will figure out what to do—and they’ll (somehow) eventually succeed. Sometimes they will succeed, but often they won’t.

Even with great training and mentors, I made my share of massive mistakes as a first time leader. Learn from mine!

From Colleague to Boss

After 14 months in my first role as a sales representative, I was promoted to district manager. Suddenly I had a team of seven reporting to me. Half of them were former peers who worked with me—daily, side by side. Now they were being asked to report to me, and I was being told to lead them.

I decided to take on the “friendly” approach: We were all friends, after all! That failure was an epic one: I was not able to earn any respect and had so much trouble setting expectations and providing feedback. Being liked was too important to me. Ultimately, the friends strategy failed, and I wasn’t able to make the leap from colleague to boss while being a successful leader. Many problems were caused and the first six months were a major challenge.

While I eventually figured out a better way to lead the team, some of the employees left, not wanting to work for a former colleague and friend.

TIP #1:

If you are thrust into a position where you must suddenly manage a former peer, have an honest discussion with them. Set expectations. Be sure to communicate that while it may be an awkward situation, you will do your best to provide leadership and set up your team for success. It’s your team’s choice to respect the roles and perform at a high level.

The Firing Fiasco

There comes a moment in every leader’s life when he or she is forced to fire someone. It is a tremendously difficult moment that often causes anxiety and fear. I certainly felt both emotions when I was faced with this daunting task the first time. I did my best to prepare. I tried to plan in advance what the employee would reply, but things didn’t go as planned.

I came to the meeting with resolve. The problem? I hadn’t practiced what I would say or how I would handle any deviation from what I expected to happen. As always, the unexpected made its presence known quickly.

During the meeting, instead of explaining the reasons for the firing, I simply blurted it out. The approach was insensitive and lacked empathy. My employee began crying wholeheartedly. We were in a coffee shop as we didn’t have local offices. People stared in horror. They were right to do so: The scene was becoming a bad movie. I had unnecessarily hurt someone due to my insensitivity, my lack of planning and my nerves.

TIP #2:

If you are ever put in this situation as a first-time manager, it’s important to be prepared. Understand the facts inside and out. Rehearse what you will say. Write out bullet-point notes and stick to a script, but prepare for a difficult reaction and expect the unexpected.


As a young leader, I was obsessed with showing my boss how hard I worked. I wanted to put in the most hours and prove that, by pounding the pavement, I was the best employee in the company’s history. I was wearing 60+ hours per week on my sleeve as a badge of honor. My second boss showed me the error of my ways.

He explained that it was obvious I was trying to show my “incredible” work ethic as measured in hours—which had zero impact on him. He cared only about results and progress—and he wasn’t impressed with me trying to be a machine (all machines break down eventually, after all). He taught me how to value working smarter, not harder. He didn’t care how many hours I worked, as long goals were accomplished.

Second, he genuinely worried I would burn out and wanted me to care for my mental health. He had experienced burnout in his career and it set him back. Teaching me how to use my time better, while also showing me how to teach the practice to my direct reports was eye-opening. Everyone understood that our culture was based on setting expectations and doing our best to surpass them by always thinking through our actions.

TIP #3

Be clear on what productivity means to you, and learn to measure productivity for your team members accordingly. “Hours worked” will not necessarily be the best key performance indicator. It’s crucial to understand what numbers they need to hit and help them work into that reality. By learning to set S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, timely, realistic), you are setting your team up for success.

As a young leader, mistakes will be made: There is no avoiding it. In fact, we will continue to make mistakes throughout our career.

How quickly you learn from these mistakes will ultimately define your level of progress. Ask for help, ensure you get the right leadership training, and enjoy the process. Leading is both challenging and exhilarating, but the world needs better leaders. Can you be the next great leader? 

Shawn Johal is a Scaling Up Certified Coach currently working with several entrepreneurs and their businesses to help accelerate their growth, while finding personal balance and happiness.

The post Mistakes I made as a first-time manager appeared first on THE EO BLOG.

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6 Ways To Incorporate SEO While Building A Business in 2020



There’s no quick fix, or “one and done” solution when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). You have to be prepared to play the long game to see the full advantages of SEO when developing a site — and it’s worth it to see your site rank highly on search engine result pages.

That said, there are some methods that will give you a quick boost. Shift more attention to the most significant ranking factors and tactics that will give your site the ability to rise to the top of the search results this year.

Choose a Responsive Design

User experience is a big deal these days. Google loves to serve its users the best results possible. If your website isn’t easy to use on a mobile device, you’re going to suffer a setback in ranking. Think about it, have you ever landed on a site where you had to zoom in to read the text and scroll side-to-side to read all of the content? This was most likely the desktop version of a website. It was made for larger screens and doesn’t reformat to fit on different screen sizes.

Responsive sites will resize images and reorganize the blocks of content according to the size of the screen. If you want to test whether a website is responsive, open up a web page on a desktop or laptop. From the full screen, shrink the window by clicking and dragging, and you’ll see the sidebars move, the navigation and header will take on new positions and the content and images will line up differently. 

Mobile search volume accounts for more than half of the total searches made online (see chart below). A responsive, mobile friendly site is no longer an option, but a necessity, when it comes to providing an enjoyable user experience.

Create Keyword Clusters

Making a list of keywords that your ideal audience would use to find the content you’re offering will also boost your SEO ranking. Plug each keyword into a keyword tool to generate additional ideas. Assess the best options for keywords to include in your content strategy by grouping them into pools based on search intent. You’ll notice that many of those keyword options will be subtopics large enough to write an entire blog post about, in which you can provide more detailed content optimized for a related keyword.

For example, if you own a home improvement business, a central page on your site would be kitchen renovation. And because there are so many choices to make when renovating a kitchen, you could then go into depth and create a new page for every option, from counter tops and backsplash tile to faucets and refrigerators. When you’re planning your content, structure the website to feature central pages that are optimized for the most central, competitive keywords and most important aspects of your business.

Publish articles on the related subtopics in full detail in order to provide as much information on those major keyword topics, to show your expertise in your field, and to demonstrate authority within the content of your site. Google looks for this as partial evidence of your status as an expert in your niche.

Google also loves when there is a distinct organizational structure. By linking the subtopic posts to your major product pages, you signal what pages are most important to your site by creating a keyword cluster.

Image source:

Optimize Your Content

On-page optimization enhances the likelihood of your page being ranked for your target keywords. Avoid keyword stuffing and place your keywords strategically. For instance, use your target keywords in the front end of your titles, and keep your titles under 60 characters or they will get cut off in the search display.

Place your keyword in your URL. The most effective URLs are those that are under 5 words and summarize the title or content on the page. Keywords should also be included in the meta description. Using your keyword in the beginning of the meta description will improve the click-through rate for users. As will placing your keyword within the first 100 words in the first paragraph of your content, and using keywords and keyword synonyms in the subtitles.

Use structured data markup whenever possible. If you can provide a rich snippet, you may get a boost in the position your site is displayed.

Make Your Pages Quick and Nimble

With a heavy emphasis on user experience, page speed can make a huge difference in how your site performs. If you’re an ecommerce site, it becomes extremely important because every second your page takes to load will cost your business money from lower conversions.


 mPulse Mobile Case Study on Page Speed Vs Conversion Rates, Image source:

Test your mobile page speed here. You can improve your site speed by reducing image file sizes, using plugins, and using a content delivery network to give your website additional page speed.

  • To reduce the size of your images use Kraken or Smush.
  • W3 Cache is one of the most popular WordPress plugins that increase page speed, but you can decide for yourself by choosing one from this list.
  • Choose a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to reduce your pages load time from a list of options here.

Get Other Sites to Link to You

Establishing credibility and authority is a necessity to be competitive in search results. Backlinks are a powerful way to prove that your content is credible and authoritative because essentially it is being endorsed by the websites that link to you. But stay away from paid links, or any link scheme used to manipulate ranking in an underhanded way. Unnatural linking will lead to penalties and should be avoided altogether.

One approved method of link building is to become a guest author. There are guest posting sites in every niche and having knowledge about your business is all you need to create an article that can be submitted to a site for publication. It may take a few weeks to get a response, and you may need a few submissions before receiving acceptance. Get into a routine for guest posting to build backlinks as fast as possible.

Ask People to Share Your Content

A social network is a priceless asset for expanding your audience and getting more traffic to your website. Build your network by being active on the social media site that has the most impact on your business.

Install social sharing icons on your site and include a call to action to get the most shares. A retweet study revealed that content with share icons received 4 times as many retweets with the phrase “Please RT”.


Although there is a lot to put together to achieve a first page result, it’s a long-term game plan. Start building your website with SEO in mind to give your site the best chance at the top positions in search results.


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