Understanding Successful Women Entrepreneurs: Cat Flag Helps the Cause of Science!

I imagine by now you’re wondering why I haven’t made a new video in a long time. The truth is, I have been extremely busy these past few months, between studying for my MBA, working, updating this blog every week, and, oh, yeah, helping in a scientific research study being prepared by some Cal Poly professors!

Dr. Lynn Metcalf, Dr. Jonathan York, and Dr. Stern Neill have been conducting research into the psychology of women who have successfully started high-growth businesses. They wanted to study women in particular, because entrepreneurship is still a career path that tends to attract far more men than women. Their hope was that understanding women who have succeeded as start-up business owners would allow future educators, researchers, and policymakers to encourage greater gender equality in this career field.

They started by conducting a survey, sending a questionnaire to women who met their basic criteria. Then, after the survey results were collected, they invited some of the respondents to come to Cal Poly and participate in a one-on-one interview to get some deeper insight.

The research is not yet published, and the last I heard is that it is still under review. Having said that, what the results appear, tentatively, to show is really intriguing. It appears that the number of new ventures these women end up starting is based partially on their confidence in their own talents and abilities, and partially on what the researchers have called a “Discover Mindset”: the idea that opportunities are something that she “discovers”. In this line of thinking, the opportunity is there, it exists and is ready for the taking, but not everyone sees it. This mindset, in turn, develops from a number of factors. One is a willingness to explore and experiment with new product ideas, new markets, or new technologies. Another is exploiting existing resources and build off of them to create new things. Simply observing the world around them, asking questions about the marketplace, and networking with highly-qualified people with diverse backgrounds also help to build this mindset.

Again, I must stress that these are just the initial, tentative results, and I’m sure that we will know far more when the results are published. The researchers also tell me they hope this study will be the basis of future research that will make the picture even clearer.

So, where do I fit in with all of this? Well, these professors reached out to me and two of my classmates to help them conduct the interviews and write up the final publication. In particular, they wanted me to film the interviews, and to create a video presentation showcasing these women and their stories.

Now, for you to enjoy, here it is:

In addition to that video, I was asked to make two more videos using the footage I obtained that can be used by Cal Poly to help inspire students to pursue a career as an entrepreneur. The first showcases two local business owners operating right here on the central coast:

The second asks the businesswomen a simple question: What advice would you give to aspiring Cal Poly entrepreneurs?

I personally feel that participating in this study has been a very rewarding experience. I’ve been able to meet some really inspiring people, and in my own way, helped to advance scientific knowledge in an understudied area. I thank all of you, Cat Flaggers, for bearing with me over these past few very busy months.

A Community without Plastic Bags: The impact of San Luis Obispo County’s bag ban


The perennial question shoppers are always asked, “Paper or plastic?”, has disappeared from San Luis Obispo County, California. On October 1, an ordinance adopted by the San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority banned the use of plastic grocery bags in large stores.

You can read the ordinance here.

The law does not apply to most small businesses, but it has made shopping at grocery stores and other large retailers a bit more of a hassle – if you don’t bring your own reusable bag, you either have to buy a cloth one there (usually for a few dollars), or pay 10 cents for the right to use a paper bag.

The law’s supporters say it’s all worth it. Because plastic is made from petroleum, does not biodegrade, and can injure or kill wildlife, a growing number of communities across the United States, even whole states, have decided to ban them directly (as here in San Luis Obispo County) or to tax them in order to encourage shoppers to find alternatives. It is estimated that up to a trillion disposable plastic grocery bags are used worldwide, including 380 billion in the United States alone. Only about 5% of these bags are recycled – the rest winds up in landfills or as litter.

On the other hand, organizations like the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition argue that such bans do not help the environment the way they are intended, claiming plastic bags use less greenhouse gas emissions than paper bags, and that paper bags release toxins from their inks when they biodegrade.  Other critics claim that poor shoppers are burdened by such bans. And one study conducted by the National Center for Policy Analysis found that in communities that have such bans, customers may forego local stores and take their business to places where plastic bags are legal.

So, what do the locals, who have actually been directly affected by the ban, think? I decided to find out:

Most stores now have signs in the parking lot or on the front door reminding customers to bring reusable bags for their shopping. Some stores offered free reusable bags immediately before the ban, in order to help make the transition easier for customers.

For more information, you can visit PlasticBagLaws.org to learn about current legislation regarding plastic bag use, Ban the Bag! for information on how you can support such bans, and the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition for information on how to oppose them.

Homeless in Paradise

Coming soon… Homeless in Paradise

I told you a ways back that I’d keep you updated on my Senior Project. Well, it’s getting down to crunch time for me. Just nine more days of filming and editing. Here’s a preview of what is in store…

See you soon!

What now, Occupy Wall Street? The future of a movement in question.

Police in New York City prevented Occupy Wall Street protesters from entering the New York Stock exchange Thursday, arresting more than 200 people. This is the latest in a series of crackdowns against Occupy protesters in cities across the nation, driving them out of their camps, including the famous Zuccotti Park encampment. Protesters have been evicted by police in Atlanta, Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore. There were 80 arrests in Los Angeles in response to protesters attempting to pitch tents in front of a Bank of America building. The Oakland protesters had regrouped at UC Berkeley, only to be dispersed by police again. Protesters in San Francisco fear they, too, may be evicted soon.

The incident in New York led to seven police being injured, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, Occupy protesters claim to have been victimized by police brutality. There is a report of an 84-year-old woman from Seattle being sprayed in the face with pepper spray.

Yesterday’s protests and violence were a part of a nationwide “Call to Action” in honor of the movement’s two-month anniversary. Not all protests were violent: a march on Key Bridge in Washington, D.C. passed without incident. Protesters in Chicago attempted to block rush hour traffic, but complied with police when ordered to disperse. The Occupy Kansas City protest has been peaceful since the beginning. However, protesters in Portland shut down a Wells Fargo branch for an hour before police dispersed them, and there are reports of criminals using the Occupy protests as cover.

In spite of these setbacks, the protests continue to attract support from unlikely places. Amalgamated Bank, a financial institution owned by a labor union, has supported the protesters and given them shelter in their offices during police crackdowns. The Occupy Wall Street movement’s $326,000 collected in donations so far are kept in an Amalgamated account. Furthermore, actress Anne Hathaway was spotted among Occupy protesters in Manhattan.

Here in San Luis Obispo, California, “Occupy SLO” protesters have been camped out in front of the county courthouse for weeks. I spoke to some of the protesters to get a sense of what they believe, what they face, and where the movement is headed in the face of crackdowns:

The Occupy Wall Street movement traces its origins to Canadian anti-capitalist activist group Adbusters, who posted an article on July 13, 2011 calling on people to occupy, well, Wall Street, beginning on September 17. Their goal was to replicate the Tahrir Square protests that contributed to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt earlier this year. They sought to reduce or eliminate the influence of large corporations on American politics. The idea of the protest attracted some buzz online, and somewhere along the way the slogan “We Are the 99%” was adopted. The movement was endorsed by online “hacktivist” group Anonymous, famous (or, rather, infamous) for hacking attacks against major corporations’ websites.

The first protests were small and largely forgettable affairs, until a major police crackdown on September 24 (day eight) at Union Square. Videos taken of the incident showed police officers beating and pepper spraying random people for what appeared to be no reason. (Warning: This video may be disturbing to some viewers) These videos went viral, and thousands across America began to protest in New York and across the nation out of sympathy.

The movement has not been without criticism. Conservative critics have launched their own campaign calling themselves “The 53%”, a reference to the number of Americans who pay federal income taxes. They reject the notion that government and finance are completely to blame, and claim decisions of individuals play their part, too. Frank Decker, a 53-percenter, talked about his own struggles with poverty and said, “I didn’t go through all that struggle while raising three children so that I could support lazy-[expletive] people who want nothing but government handouts.”

A poll conducted by United Technologies and the National Journal states that 59% of Americans support the protests and 31% oppose it. What do you think?

Information from Reuters, Know Your Meme, and the other sources listed above.