3 Successful Innovators Share Their Best Creativity Advice

3 Successful Innovators Share Their Best Creativity Advice

This week, we had the amazing opportunity to host an event with our partner Autodesk in San Francisco. A celebration of innovation and design, the evening was part of our Makers series.

With panelists Danielle Feinberg of Pixar, J. Sassaman of Autodesk’s Pier 9, and Katie Rast of Fab Lab San Diego, the conversation was fast-paced, dynamic, and open. Read on for a sneak peak into how these amazing women find ideas, stay creative, and take risks.

1. “Talking to people about what they’re passionate about can spur your own creativity.” – J. Sassaman

Sassaman informed the crowd that ideas come from all sorts of places, from movies to dinner parties.

2. “I was into coding and programming before I learned I wasn’t supposed to be.” – Danielle Feinberg

All panelists agreed that being a female maker in a predominately male space has its challenges. From the  classroom to the office, they recommend standing by your work, staying confident and supporting one another.

3. “Creativity is a muscle.”

This incredible piece of advice came from an audience member and was immediately taken up by the panel. Never fear “using up” your creativity—the more you share, the more you’ll have.

4. “Failure has been my biggest fear, but also my biggest teacher.” – Katie Rast

The panelists all agreed time and time again—the key to successful design and is constant iteration and sharing your work. Though you run the risk of “falling flat”—there’s a positive side to receiving feedback and improving upon your work.

5. “I always say yes to weird things! At the very least I get a good story out of it.” – Danielle Feinberg

Networking and meeting others can also help establish relationships with a mentor. Take Danielle’s advice and realize the power of saying YES to opportunities.

See what others are saying at the hashtag #TheMakers.

Photo: Helena Hounsel / Levo

Entrepreneurs: Are You Ready to Hire Your First Employee?

Entrepreneurs: Are You Ready to Hire Your First Employee?

One of the most important milestones for any budding entrepreneur is hiring your company’s first employee. It can be a scary step, but virtually every growing company has to do it.

We asked four experts what steps small-business owners should take in making their first hire. Here’s their advice.

1. Be sure you can afford to do it.

Before you hire someone, make sure you understand the actual cost of doing so. Let’s say your employee will make $35,000 a year. Your annual costs would exceed that amount, because you’d have to pay the FICA tax, worker’s compensation, and employment taxes. The new hire’s equipment, such as computers and office supplies, will also cost you.
—Bruce Barringer, professor, Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University

2. Write a job description.

You have to determine what you want the employee to do. If the position is undefined, it’ll be hard to screen applicants for required skills. It’s also difficult to know what training or development may be needed for the new hire.

—Karen Boroff, professor, Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University

For at least two to three months beforehand, pay close attention to the specific tasks and responsibilities you’ll want the new person to carry out. Document what you’re doing now, so you can transfer your knowledge of those tasks. Know what you want to delegate and how you’ll grow your business by hiring this employee. Define the role. This will streamline the onboarding process, smooth the transition for both you and your new employee and maximize your ROI (return on investment).
—Jason Frasca, instructor, Montclair State University School of Business

3. Look for someone who’ll enjoy working in a small business.

As a fledgling enterprise, you probably won’t be able to offer a competitive salary, so you’ll have to market yourself and find someone who can buy into the vision of your company. Make sure you hire someone who is incredibly jazzed about working for a start-up. You want someone who is passionate, innovative, and flexible. You, as an entrepreneur, are going to have to do a very good job of articulating your vision for the company. You also should make sure that person is a team player and enjoys working with others.
—Susan Scherreik, instructor, Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University

4. Get advice on benefits.

Get in touch with your local Small Business Administration agency and your state secretary of state’s office to learn about compensation, health insurance, and retirement requirements. Your secretary of state is usually responsible for incorporating businesses and providing licenses, and they’ll likely have information on what you should do to comply with local and federal laws. Of course, if you want to build a special culture within your organization, you may want to go above and beyond by offering competitive perks to attract outstanding talent.
—FrascaMontclair State University School of Business

5. Check references.

Too many employers don’t check references. Take the time to call the past employers and check academic credentials. Make sure your future employee has the education they say they have.
—Scherreik, Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University

6. Consider payroll taxes.

Make sure you keep up with payroll and employment taxes. Those are some of the most common ways small businesses get into trouble with their taxes. If you have tight cash flow, you may be tempted to not pay taxes, but there are stiff penalties when you get caught. In addition, ask an accountant who works with small businesses to help you address specific tax issues for your situation.
—Barringer, Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University

7. Outsource your payroll system.

Unless your business is payroll, you don’t need to bog yourself down with all the technical details of payroll and payroll taxes. Many services, large and small, offer web-based software that automates 90 percent of the process.
—Frasca, Montclair State University School of Business

8. Expand your network.

Entrepreneurs can find resources through meetups, government small-business agencies, online groups, LinkedIn and networking. One mistake a small-business owner can make is to just stay in the home or office. Get out, shake hands and network inside and outside your area of expertise. A broader network can connect you to people who can help you grow your business.
—Frasca, Montclair State University School of Business

 This article was originally published on Nerd Wallet.

Photo: lechatnoir / Getty Images

Now *This* is How to Throw a Dinner Party on a Budget

Now *This* is How to Throw a Dinner Party on a Budget

I make a point of getting together with my girlfriends at least once a month. It’s something I look forward to—and is even better over a great bottle of wine and some fabulous food. Meeting at a restaurant is easy, of course, but can get expensive—particularly for those of us hoping to save some extra cash.

If you’re looking to cut back on eating out, throwing a dinner party can seem like a great idea. Who doesn’t want to be the quintessential hostess, after all, complete with impeccably planned menu and well-paired cocktails? Once you add up all those fancy menu items, though, the bill can be quite shocking.

Still, it’s not time to throw in the dish towel quite yet. We have the tips for hosting in all your glory, and saving big on budget.

1. Set a budget.

Prior to planning your menu, your drinks, your decor—pretty much prior to doing anything—you need a set a budget. Figure out how much you’re willing (or able!) to spend per head. The total cost should include appetizers, entrees, desserts, and drinks. Establish this number before you start shopping, and you’ll be much less likely to go overboard.

2. Plan, plan, plan.

By knowing exactly what you’re planning to make before you shop, you can price out items based on what you need, AND you won’t make additional, unnecessary purchases when you’re out. Luckily, you’re not alone in the planning process—there are a number of helpful apps to help you collate recipes and . Check out Plan to Eat and Paprika—a few of our favorites.

3. Use seasonal foods.

Have you ever noticed that raspberries cost about $50 during the winter (well, not quite — but almost). By using seasonal foods, you can cut your food bill majorly. Check your local farmer’s market and scour the internet. You may find some new recipes that will thrill your friends (and your pocketbook).

4. Keep things simple.

Some of the best recipes only have a few ingredients. Keep things simple, and cut down on the amount of money you spend on spices and ingredients. Here are some easy, elegant suggestions to get you started.

5. Stick to the veggies.

Cook with chicken or vegetables rather than meat or fish, and you can save significantly. A huge vegetarian lasagna, for example, can be tasty, filling, and easy on the wallet.

6. Consider going pot-luck.

There’s nothing wrong with asking friends to bring an appetizer, desert, or bottle of wine. In fact, people are often happy to contribute (and if they’re not, you may want to re-consider your friendship). Think about providing the main course (a meat, fish, or pasta dish). Assign additional dishes based on what will work with your “big ticket item”.

7. Stay small.

You may have twenty close friends, but you don’t need to entertain twenty close friends—at least not at the same time. Think about throwing two or three smaller parties. That way, you can spread out the love—and the budget—over four or five months.

8. Buy liquor in bulk.

Liquor works out to be much cheaper when you buy in bulk. Costco and Trader Joe’s both have great deals on wine—most of which is generally good and “occasionally great”. Pour it into a decanter and no one will know they’re drinking the Kirkland brand.

9. Make use of what you have.

Resist the urge to buy disposable plates, napkins, and forks. Those costs can add up! Use what you have for serving; scour your local thrift shops if you need to invest in additional items. Better yet, ask friends to bring a few extra plates, forks, or glasses. Mismatched place settings can look incredibly chic!

This article was originally published on GOGIRL Finance.

Photo: Stokpic



The Brief: Read This—Then Shut Down Your Computer

Happy beginning of your Memorial Day Weekend! The Brief will be soaking up the sun on May 25, but we will be back with everything you need on Tuesday, May 26! Have a great long weekend! 

You’re the Secret Sauce

Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba, is on to something. The founder of the Chinese e-commerce giant says women, who make up 34 percent his company’s most powerful roles and more than 40 percent of its total workforce, are his “secret sauce.” “I feel proud that more than 34 percent of senior management are women. They really make this company’s yin and yang balanced,” Ma said at a recent conference, according to The Huffington Post. These numbers are especially staggering compared to U.S. companies in the tech space like Facebook and Cisco, where women make up 31 percent and 23 percent of the company’s total workforce, respectively. (Related: 8 Reasons We Need Women Leaders)

Chelsea’s Next Move

The Clinton family has some stuff going on, as you may have heard, but that doesn’t mean they won’t take on more projects. As big fans of Chelsea Clinton (watch her amazing Office Hours here!) we could not be more excited to hear that the new mom is writing a children’s book. It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going! is for kids ages 10-14 for good reason, says Clinton. “That’s the age when I started tuning in more to issues I cared about and trying to make a difference,” she told People. “I loved the book 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth and remember wishing there were books like that on other issues I cared about. This book is my attempt to do that for kids today.” We’re ready to pre-order whenever you say so, Chelsea!

Happy Memorial Day!

In case you didn’t know, this weekend is Memorial Day, which means you get Monday off! Yah! But whether you’re going to a fabulous beach house, a pool party, or just having a lovely stay-cation, we’ve got some good stuff for you to think about:

  • Yes, we know The Mindy Project will be back on Hulu soon and her new book will be out in the fall, but there’s even more good news. Mindy and her BFF/sometimes boyfriend/collaborator/colleague B.J. Novak just got a book deal together. The NY Daily News reports that Kaling and Novak are getting $7.5 million from Random House to give you a glimpse into their on-and-off again relationship. Wow. Having an “It’s Complicated” Facebook relationship status never paid off so well.
  • The Girl on the Train is coming to a theater near you. Everyone’s favorite new book (some are calling it this year’s Gone Girl) has just nabbed a great director for the film adaptation of Paula Hawkin’s best-seller. Tate Taylor, who directed The Help, will take on the thriller.
  • New emojis are coming! New emojis are coming! Seriously, how have we lived this long without an avocado, bacon, or selfie emoji? According to Yahoo Tech, 38 new emojis will be available for all our texting needs in 2016 (see the full list on Yahoo).
  • Fun Fact: Did you know Memorial Day was called Decoration Day until 1967? We didn’t either. Fascinating.

Levo Loves…

That darling Reese Witherspoon has been cast as everyone’s favorite Pixie in a new live-action story about Tinkerbell, tentatively titled Tink! Can you think of anyone more perfect for this role? Tinkerbell always needed a little Southern sass.

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Your Official Work Mistake Recovery Plan

Your Official Work Mistake Recovery Plan

I still remember the first mistake I made in my professional career.

I was a White House intern and I was asked to edit an Excel document filled with addresses for the President’s Christmas Cards. There must have been thousands of addresses on the sheet and I was supposed to edit the informal phrases—like “St.” and “PO Box”—to their formal equivalent (“Street” and “Post Office Box”). I wanted to find a quick solution, so I used the “Find and Replace” feature to quickly find and replace all informal words with the formal ones. It might have been a great solution, but I made a mistake—I didn’t realize that many names would also be changed as a result. So, Steven Potter became Streeteven Post Office Boxtter.

Unfortunately, mistakes happen. They happen in your personal life and they are bound to happen in your professional life, too. Some mistakes may even be out of your control—but what you can control is how you react and recover from your mistake.

Luckily, I was able to learn an effective and appropriate strategy for fixing a mistake early in my career.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Calm down. 

Making a big mistake is unnerving and you’ll be able to think more clearly if you’ve calmed down first. I recommend taking a walk around the block or listening to your favorite song. Take a few deep breaths and reassure yourself that everything will be okay. You’ll be better at thinking clearly and finding a solution to the problem if you are calm.

2. Identify a solution.

Don’t come to your manager or team with a problem. Come with a solution. In my case, the solution was restoring the document to the original draft. Auto-restore wasn’t working, so I decided I would stay late until everything was fixed. Identify two or three ways that you can fix your mistake. Don’t start implementing the plan until after you talk to the team. They may have suggestions and will probably want to be kept in the loop as you move forward. Regardless of the outcome, people will be impressed by your proactivity and willingness to take accountability for the mistake.

3. Tell your manager.

It will be much better if the news is coming from you, not someone else. Don’t try to hide your mistake in the hope that no one will find out. Calmly explain the mistake and outline your plan for fixing it. Take responsibility and don’t blame other people. Even if it is a group mistake, be accountable for your part in it. Your manager and team may have constructive criticism and feedback. Listen carefully to the feedback and show that you’ve acknowledged it. One good technique is to repeat what your manager has said to you. It shows that you are listening and also will help you remember the feedback in the future.

4. Create an action plan.

Reflect on the mistake and how you handled it. Create an action plan for how you can improve in the future. For example, if you missed an important client deadline, write down three or four ways that you can stay more organized. For example, you might write all of your deadlines on a Post-it Note on your computer screen, while also adding them as tasks on your calendar, so you get an email reminder a few days ahead of time. You could also ask team members how they stay organized and adopt some of their habits.

5. Move on. 

Making a mistake may decrease your confidence. It’s important to recognize that you are human and mistakes happen. Reframe the mistake in a positive light by acknowledging how it’s led you to make changes that will improve your performance in the long run. As James Joyce once said: “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” Don’t take yourself too seriously. I had to see the humor in my situation. I still sometimes sign Facebook posts or emails to my White House intern friends as “Streeteven Post Office Boxtter”. At the end of the day, the holiday cards went out and it wasn’t the Excel Spreadsheet that stole Christmas.

It’s helpful to remember that mistakes often happen when you are stressed out. Make sure to take good care of yourself and practice self-love at work.

Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone handles them maturely. Follow these five tips to gracefully and maturely handle and learn from your mistakes in the future.

This article was originally published on Elana Lyn.

Photo: Mark Edward Atikinson / Tracey Lee / Getty Images

This Is What It's Like for Women Working on Capitol Hill

This Is What It’s Like for Women Working on Capitol Hill

Those who don’t work on Capitol Hill often imagine it as one big blur of walking around in expertly-tailored suits, making Olivia Pope-like proclamations, and effecting change in one way or another. While the reality of it might not always be that exciting, Capitol Hill shares one ugly reality with the very entertainment industry that brought Olivia Pope to life: sexism is a problem.

National Journal surveyed over 500 women working on the Hill to find out the truth about their on-the-job experiences. “We received dozens of responses, from chiefs and deputy chiefs of staff, legislative and communications directors, legislative assistants and press secretaries, in the House and Senate, working for both parties. The youngest was 23, the oldest 60,” authors Marina Koren and Libby Isenstein say in the piece. “Their personal stories—astonishingly honest and painfully relatable—confirmed that being a woman on the Hill is a tricky balancing act.”

Sexism on the Hill

That’s the really insidious thing about gender issues on the Hill. Sure, some of it is blatant, like when one woman found out her new job would pay 76 cents for every dollar of the man who previously held it. “I refused and was eventually paid the same, but the process soured me on the experience, especially as it was taking place during the equal-pay and Lilly Ledbetter discussions,” the anonymous staffer wrote.

But beyond that, the “balancing act” the authors reference is often based on stereotypes that are hard to shake. “I also had a chief of staff tell me once that he ‘spends more time catering to women’s feelings because they are gentle creatures,” said one employee. That kind of benevolent sexism, rooted in the idea that women are fragile and emotional beings, can be damaging in an environment that runs on power and confidence.

Of course, many women on the Hill are savvy enough to turn that into an advantage. “People tend to think of women as nicer and easier to connect with, so it’s been easier to create good relationships with everyone in our office,” one explained. Another noted that “women are in demand,” which is always a good thing.

Alone Time With the Boss Might Be Hard to Find

One of the biggest revelations of the survey was unsettling enough to earn its own National Journal article: some male members of Congress are avoiding alone time with female staffers. “There was an office rule that I couldn’t be alone with the congressman. The rule was meant to protect him and me, but it still felt unfair,” one woman shared. That’s because it is. “For these women, the lack of access has meant an additional hurdle in their attempts to do their jobs, much less further their own careers. And in many instances, it forced them to seek employment in other congressional offices,” National Journal says.

The motivation here apparently isn’t to avoid temptation or reduce the chances of sexual harassment. It’s about perception. “It’s definitely something that a lot of women on the Hill experience and not necessarily because the boss is creepy or that it’s protecting her,” one staffer explained. “It’s to make situations not seem untoward.”

Pretty fittingly for the Hill, there’s a legal issue at hand in this kind of situation. “Policies, official or unofficial, that prohibit female staff from being alone with a Member can be discriminatory and create an unequal playing field in the workplace,” OOC spokesman Scott Mulligan said in a statement to National Journal. “A practice like this means that women can never become trusted advisors or rise to high positions within an office based solely upon their gender.”

Is There a Benefit?

While some men and women on the Hill aren’t fans of this tactic, it doesn’t annoy everyone. Former House Republican staffer Ellen Carmichael, President of the Lafayette Company, had a boss who wouldn’t do the one-on-one thing with female staffers. “It was a reflection of his personal and religious values. It wasn’t typically an inconvenience, as it was only really limited to riding in the car, and I appreciated that he was earnestly trying to be respectful of me, too,” said Carmichael.

Whether female staffers disapprove of or understand this policy, luckily it doesn’t seem to be a incredibly widespread issue. National Journal reached out to many male and female staffers, many of which hadn’t experienced or heard of it.

If one thing’s clear, it’s that being a woman on the Hill is a tough situation to navigate. The first step in tackling this kind of issue is talking about it, so kudos to National Journal for investigating. Up next? Let’s get more take-charge women in seats of political power so we’re even closer to leveling the playing field.

Photo: Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

Our Favorite Trending Story of the Week: #GirlsWithToys

Our Favorite Trending Story of the Week: #GirlsWithToys

Last Saturday NPR aired another episode in its “Joe’s Big Idea” series, in which correspondent Joe Palca looks at innovations in science. In that particular episode his guest was Shrinivas Kulkarni, an astronomer and planetary scientist. The two visited an observatory, ogled the stars, and talked about the Universe.

Then, about a minute and a half into the 5-minute show, Kulkarni made a remark that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way:

Kulkarni: “Many astronomers are I think, secretly, are what I call ‘boys with toys.”

Palca: “Boys with toys.”

Kulkarni: “And I think that there’s nothing wrong with that, except—”

Palca: “Boys with toys.”

Kulkarni: “—you’re not supposed to say that.”

By this, he probably means that the term trivializes astronomers in general. But given that approximately a quarter of all astronomers are women, Kulkarni’s statement rules out some of the field’s most important contributors.

Female scientists used social media to push back. Two days after the episode aired, almost 17,000 tweets with the hashtag #GirlsWithToys had already been published, and more flooded in. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. From Angela Speck, director of a university observatory:

2. From Katie Mack, who is helping to build a new dark matter detector: 

3. From Dawn Sumner, who is helping to drive the Curiosity Rover on Mars: 

4. From Tanya Harrison, who is also into Mars rovers:

5. From Alexandra del Carpio, who accessorizes with safety goggles:

6. From Alexandria Hounshell, who is handy with an acoustic Doppler current profiler:

7. From Caitlin Casey, who posted late because she was giving an astrophysics lecture. #shade:

8. And from this woman, who posted a picture of her 8-year-old daughter playing around with a rover:

Although women make up about half of the U.S. workforce, they hold less than 25 percent of jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. Remarks like Kulkarni’s are just another way to subliminally discourage women from becoming scientists. But #GirlsWithToys proves that female scientists are working even harder to break that stereotype.

Photo: Hero Images / Getty Images

Levo's CEO, Staffers, and Readers Share Their Thinking Talents! (How Do Yours Compare?)

Levo’s CEO, Staffers, and Readers Share Their Thinking Talents! (How Do Yours Compare?)

In case you haven’t heard, this week launched an all new Levo. And one of the coolest things about this launch is our new Thinking Talents app. Have you ever wondered what energizes you, or where your strengths fall from a cognitive perspective? Well this app will take away all the mystery and reveal your innate talents. You could fall into one of four quadrants: Innovation, Relational, Procedural, or Analytical. Of if you’re really special, you just might be in all four!

Many Levo members have already jumped on the bandwagon and taken the awesome Thinking Talents quiz. We’ve picked out a few of our favorites, in the hopes that you’ll understand a little bit more what this inspiring app is all about (check out our new guide, which shows how your Thinking Talents can help you find your purpose).


1. Natasha Benjamin

2. Caroline Ghosn

3. Nicole Smartt

4. Kim Topolewski

5. Kimmy


1. Jessica Wuensch

2. Jeanne Edson

Very cool little app from @levoleague about my #thinkingtalents #relational #careerstrengths A photo posted by Jeanne Edson (@jeanneedson) on

3. Nahal

4. Analisa Cantu


Say hi to @levoleague’s brand new app: #thinkingtalents ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• For all the Buzzfeed quiz junkies out there, give this one a whirl ;) #ThinkingTalents leads you through 35 questions to identify your eight largest strengths. You’ll find out how these work for you, but also how they could work against you and what you need to watch out for. Afterwards you can even go back and read incredible Levo sourced articles that will help you navigate each strength. ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Take your iPhone out and download, download!


A photo posted by @analisacantu on


1. Erica Murphy

Analytical 1. Helena Hounsel

All Four

1. Tina Wells

2. Sara Naatz

3. Dae

Photo: Sam Teich / Levo

Apple's Angela Ahrendts is the Highest-Paid Woman in the U.S.

Apple’s Angela Ahrendts is the Highest-Paid Woman in the U.S.

After being named vice president of Apple’s retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts earned $82.4 million in 2014, making her the highest-paid woman in the U.S., reports TIME magazine.

The former Burberry CEO’s total earnings included a sign-on bonus and a grant for unvested equity left at the British fashion retailer.

Aside from being responsible for Apple’s stores, Ahrendts played an integral role in the launch of the Apple Watch.

Other female CEOs on Bloomberg’s list are Oracle CEO Safra Catz with an earning of $71.2 million, and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer with $59.1 million.

This article was originally published on Makers.

Photo: Samir Hussein / Getty Images

My Power Outfit: Caroline Odorski, New Grad from NYU Law School

My Power Outfit: Caroline Odorski, New Grad from NYU Law School

Name: Caroline Odorski

School/Major: New York University School of Law, JD

What are you plans after graduation?

I’ll be taking the Bar Exam in late July, so most of my time for the next couple months will be focused on studying. After the Bar I’m going to travel in Asia and Europe, and then will be starting as an Associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in the Fall.

What are you wearing?

Shirt: Equipment
Skirt: J. Crew
Shoes: Aldo
Bracelets: David Yurman and Hermes
Watch: My Dad’s old Tag Heuer that he gave to me and I had re-sized

My Power Outfit: Caroline Odorski, New Grad from NYU Law School

Why does it make you feel powerful/confident?

Graduation can be a very long day, so I wanted to wear something fun, but also comfortable. I feel more confident when I can be at ease in what I’m wearing and a strong color like this royal blue makes me feel powerful. I like wearing thicker heels because I feel taller and more put-together, but can still run around and get things done.

Any advice for switching your wardrobe from new grad to full-time lawyer?

For some of my friends, the transition will be a drastic shift from casual classroom attire to wearing suits every day. Happily I won’t have to be business formal, so I’m mainly focused on finding versatile pieces I can combine with work-appropriate clothes I already own. I love color and patterns, so I look for pieces that incorporate my personality, but are still professional.

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Photos: Sam Teich / Levo