I made this playlist 🙂
Rick Cook and his wife have been in the restaurant industry for decades: he as a cook and his wife Tyes as a front-of-house manager. Before the pandemic, while Rick was working first at Etto and then at 2Amys, he began experimenting with baking at home and applying some of the techniques he saw at work. (He used some of the leftover flour from work, too.)
He sold a couple dozen loaves at a weekly wine tasting at Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park. Back then, he was making two loaves at a time in his home oven, long-fermenting the sourdough in the fridge and using lidded cast iron pots for the bake. Between the rise and the baking, he needed a full day to produce a bread loaf.
Then the pandemic hit, and Rick found himself with a lot more time as restaurants shuttered their doors.
So, the Cooks started a monthly bread subscription service — a grain to gate, if you will (sorry, I love alliteration). Business was brisk and ballooned thanks to a fortuitous article in DCist (and a painting-worthy loaf picture).
“Overnight, I had 50 emails from people waiting to get on the delivery list,” he says. “We would post the menu on Instagram in the morning, and it would sell out in minutes.”
With this good problem on his hands, Rick upgraded his kitchen oven and got a mill to grind the flour. Much like the ever-multiplying yeast, the Cooks moved from making 12 to 200 loaves. They also started selling cookies and other baked goods.
The Cooks’ lifelong dream of opening their own restaurant manifested itself in the burgeoning bakery operation.
“We just had a kid, and I really started thinking seriously about building something for our family [that] I could pass down in a sustainable way,” Rick says. “A bunch of people from the restaurant industry moved into real estate and switched careers, but I realized the baker’s schedule of 4 a.m. – 5 p.m. is actually not a bad way to raise a family. My wife and I were so used to working 12 hours, and we saw this as something different. I have been cooking for 20 years and wanted to stay with the craft. This was perfect.”
About a year ago, the Cooks signed a lease to found Manifest Bread, their very own bakery dedicated to quality handmade products, in Riverdale, Maryland.
“[Even though] we signed the lease a year ago, we are opening in September. This gives you an idea of how much preparation goes into equipping and designing the space.”
Riverdale is close to Cottage City, home to the Cooks’ OG cottage food home bakery. They also ran a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign which overshot its goal in just 20 days. With the funds, they bought a stone mill, oven and mixer.
Milling the flour right before it is used is critical for the flavor profile (as any bread connoisseur will tell you), but it also makes for a beautiful bread biome of nutrients, oils and pre- and probiotics. Rick also sources local spelt, wheat and rye from Maryland and Pennsylvania.
“It is going to be a bit strange being in a commercial space,” Rick laughs. “Right now, our dining room doubles as the baking space. We have about 1,000 pounds of grain under my son’s bed.”
Rick describes himself as “the bread boy,” while Tyes wields “the binder and the bullhorn.” And much like baking, the Cooks’ dream of a space to call their own manifested itself organically.
“There is this huge underground community of home bakers across the country that feels very much like a family. We share tips and puzzle over techniques — the yeast is wild and has a life of its own. The rise seems to come out of nowhere and has its own kind of energy and pull.”
Give your carb knowledge a boost with these essential terms.
Alveoli: The holes created in the crumb of the bread. Many artisan breads boast an uneven structure with translucent strands of gluten.
Crumb: The interior of a loaf of bread. Often described as either open crumb (lots of irregular holes) or closed crumb (fine-textured).
First rise: The first fermentation after the dough is mixed but before the loaf is shaped. Also known as bulk fermentation.
Gluten: The proteins that allow dough to stretch out and maintain its shape. When combined with water, it gives structure to baked goods.
Maillard reaction: The reaction that occurs when a mix of protein, starch and water is heated above 250 degrees. It contributes to the browning of the bread crust and caramelized flavor.
Proofing: The final rise of dough after it is shaped. Also known as the second rise.
Sourdough: A culture of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that ferments cereal grains. Also known as sourdough starter or levain.
Gluten-free? Go with sourdough.
Bread that does not rely on commercial yeast strains for a quick rise is easier to digest — especially for those who have trouble with gluten, a protein that breaks down almost fully before the bread is baked.
When you mill your own flour — as we would have in days past — the result is a more rustic bread with a significantly richer array of nutrients, much higher fiber and a far lower GI. The fiber of whole grains contains many prebiotic fibers that fuel the good bacteria in the gut, promoting their growth.
Humility, the great antithesis to ego, might be considered an attribute that subtracts from the elan of leadership. But more and more research is showing the complexity of this trait and how those who espouse it are, in fact, some of the best leaders.
A 2021 study suggested that humility can be a positive trait for leaders, with implications for organizational strategy and performance. The study found that humble executives build integrative teams, promote pay equity among their teams, and establish profitable companies.
Jonathan Finkelstein, CEO and founder of New York City-based Credly, a business of Pearson, says “servant leadership is on the rise, for good reason. Those who lead with humility are great listeners, are committed to the growth and success of others, and are empathetic—not only to their teams but to the needs of their customers.”
What does humility look like in a workplace setting? First, it involves a willingness to know oneself. Humble individuals are aware of human limitations and accept that they have both strengths and weaknesses. Some terms that researchers have used to describe this orientation are “a transcendent self-concept and low self-focus and a lack of superiority or entitlement.” Exhibiting humility as a leader often involves being vulnerable in front of others. For some, this comes naturally; others have to work at it.
The second aspect of humility is keeping an open mind and continuously learning and improving. Humble leaders are open to new information, and they are willing to take contradictory advice or even criticism.
“Doing your job as a leader at any level within an organization means having the humility to surround yourself with people smarter and more capable than yourself, and then listening to what they need and removing obstacles in their way,” Finkelstein says. “It also means continuing to invest in their growth and development so they can serve the organization even better in the future.”
Asking for help is a sign of a secure leader—one who engages everyone to reach goals. Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Raleigh, N.C.-based open-source software maker Red Hat, says, “I found that being very open about the things I did not know actually had the opposite effect than I would have thought. It helped me build credibility.”
Asking for help is effective because it taps into the natural human impulse to cooperate with others.
“As a leader, others look to me for answers,” Finkelstein says. “By acknowledging that I don’t always have them, and that the best answers often come from the members of the team, I try to create a culture that empowers others to contribute their views without fear of personal judgment.”
According to Numerator, a white woman between the ages of 55 and 64 years old, married and living in the Southeastern suburbs of the US, is the “typical” US Walmart shopper. This shopper likely has an undergraduate degree and earns about $80,000 annually. She visits Walmart about once per week and picks up roughly 13 products for a total cost of under $60 per trip. This shopper spends about 13.5 percent of her income at Walmart and another 11 percent on Amazon.
The typical Walmart shopper primarily buys groceries, including chicken, fruit, snacks, and sweets, but she supplements her groceries with fast food meals. Her favorite five brands at Walmart are Turkey Knob, Cheetos, Betty Crocker, Dole, and Tyson.
With the price of goods continuously creeping up, consumer behavior has been surprisingly adaptive in response. During times of inflation, it’s expected that consumers will switch to cheaper alternatives and stop spending on items deemed non-essential. More surprising, however, is that higher-income households are on this tightening-of-belts pursuit of value to quite a similar degree as their lower-earning counterparts. In a CNBC report, Walmart CFO John David Rainey said the company is attracting more middle- and high-income shoppers. Seventy-five percent of the company’s market share gains came from customers with an annual household income of $100,000 or more. He told CNBC that inflation-strapped shoppers are trading down in quality and quantity.
So, what does this mean? The Morning Brew defines trading down as the phenomenon when consumers who are facing tough times swap high-priced items for cheaper versions. A similar trend occurred during the 2009-2011 economic downturn. The ratio of high-quality to low-quality goods shifts as recessions ebb. This is also a time when consumers start paying more attention to value, which Kogod professor Ron Hill describes as the idea of how much one must give up to get a specific good.
In addition to its convenience and low prices, Walmart’s recent investments in its digital capabilities are possible lures for upper and middle-class shoppers. Professor Hill suggests that another reason is that the pandemic eroded store loyalty.
People became used to uncertainty about what products they would find in the stores, so loyalty went out the window in favor of finding the best deal—or finding the item at all.”
“Plus, there may also be a ‘kitschiness’ factor at play where it may be kind of cool and quirky for someone who can afford to shop elsewhere to shop at Walmart,” says Hill.
Of course, Hill notes, the best strategy during inflationary times is to look widely for needed items to get the best value. Comparing prices online and planning your list ahead of shopping can offer the most significant time and money savings. And look to the experts like Professor Hill whenever you can for tips and tricks that you may not have tried yet to beat inflation woes!
Kogod MBA ‘19 alumna MaBinti Yillah is in the process of developing her startup company, Ziefah Health, a mental health platform that connects Muslims with pre-vetted, licensed providers of culturally responsive care.
When someone close to Yillah had a mental health difficulty, they struggled to seek treatment due to stigma and distrust of mental health professionals; Yillah did her own research to find a solution.
“I found that my loved one wasn’t alone. Finding the right mental health professional is a common problem, especially among certain cultures,” explains Yillah. “This led me to create Ziefah Health.”
Twenty-five percent of American Muslims report suffering from mental health challenges, but only 11 percent sought help. Many American Muslims don’t trust therapists because they fear privacy breaches, discrimination, and bias. Culturally, therapy also carries an unwarranted shame in being associated with mental illness instead of being part of a regular health care routine.
Muslims, especially those of the African diaspora, have encountered unique social experiences that someone from the same culture can better understand. Experts find that the most effective care comes from a person patients feel they can trust. Mental health professionals who share a cultural understanding with their patients can provide especially beneficial care. However, Yillah clarifies that there are many layers to someone’s identity, and it’s useful for everyone to see mental health professionals whom they feel they can trust and relate to.
Being Muslim is not just about religious practice—it’s a mindset and way of life. There is a particular family culture that also goes along with being from the African diaspora, independent from being Muslim.”
“Unlike other apps on the market, Ziefah Health recognizes that the one size fits all model doesn’t work—we will ask our clients to share their priorities with us, so we can best serve them,” explains Yillah. “In addition to our app, we plan to host a bi-monthly peer support group to help young Muslims learn and practice wellness tactics to support their life-long mental health journey.”
Yillah worked with General Assembly on the Ziefah Health app. “I’m running two three-month programs to develop, nurture, and convert customers. I’m running a low-tech version of the app to refine the provider matching and vetting process, understand my client’s needs, and ultimately convert these early adapters into customers. It’s a two-sided marketplace model, so I must get the business model right. I’m also shopping for tech partners to integrate with the app. This isn’t a business that’ll be an overnight success—much groundwork is involved!” says Yillah.
Yillah’s Kogod experience equipped her with the confidence and the knowledge required to take on such an important task. She credits Kogod professor Tom Kohn’s entrepreneurship course with teaching her the foundational skills needed to create a business plan and turn it into a reality. “I was familiar with the lean startup method, but I never put it into practice until Tom Kohn’s class. Ash Maurya’s book coined this term and is still a source of inspiration and guidance.”
I received so much advice from classmates and professors like Professor Bill Bellows. He was the one who suggested creating the peer support group with the idea of providing a service but also getting insight into the needs of youth.”
“Dr. Walters-Conte, who works closely with the American University Center for Innovation, also helped me pinpoint the root of the problem I am trying to solve by doing root-cause analysis with me,” says Yillah.
As Yillah continues to work on her startup mental health app, she remembers that the life of an entrepreneur is not always easy, but when her idea comes to fruition and helps create meaningful change in the world, it will be worth the years of hard work.
“The greatest advice I can offer young entrepreneurs and Kogod students is to remain inquisitive—you really don’t know everything. Don’t assume you know what your customers want. Ask your customers many questions and lean on your Kogod network for support and guidance,” says Yillah.
Millions of older Americans have re-entered the workforce in recent months. In fact, nearly 64 percent of adults between the ages of 55 and 64 were working in April.
Precipitous rises in the cost of living have forced many of them to return to work from retirement. Others have returned to work because they enjoy the engagement and camaraderie work provides.
That said, economists tend to believe that workers in their 50s and 60s have a harder time than their younger counterparts finding jobs, keeping them or moving ahead at a company, mostly due to ageism.
Beth Finkel, state director of the New York chapter of AARP, has been at the forefront of the organization’s fight at the state and national levels for laws and policies that protect older workers from age discrimination.
A recent AARP New York survey found that nearly half of voters age 50 years or older said they were subjected to or witnessed at least one type of workplace age discrimination. Twenty percent said they were passed over for a job because of their age, and almost 10 percent said they were fired due to their age. And a national AARP poll found that 78 percent of workers age 50 or older said they’ve seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. Age discrimination against Americans ages 50 and over robbed the U.S. economy of $850 billion in 2018 alone.
A large study of 5,000 workers and managers in seven countries by the global nonprofit Generation offers some rather grim statistics: People who are age 45 or older make up a high share of the long-term unemployed. Hiring managers tend to view job applicants who are 45 or older negatively, even though employers rate highly the job performance of the older people they do hire. The challenges and experiences of job seekers who are 45 or older, this study found, display striking consistency around the world.
One key insight from the survey is hugely positive, however. Yes, hiring managers express bias against applicants who are 45 or older. But those very same employers also acknowledge that once they hire people over 45, those workers perform on the job just as well as, or even better than, their peers who are a decade younger.
In New York, the state Senate passed a bill this year prohibiting employers from requiring or asking for job applicants’ age or birth and graduation dates unless clearly relevant to the job. In Washington, D.C., AARP is urging the U.S. Senate to follow the House by passing the Protect Older Workers Against Discrimination Act.
As older people seek work in a world where retirement ages are being pushed up by higher life expectancies and inadequate savings, they need employers and policymakers to take steps to counter rampant ageism, Finkel said.
“Advocacy with businesses is part of AARP’s ultimate goal—to protect people 45 [years or older] from age discrimination,” Finkel said. “At the end of the day, discrimination in any form is wrong, and multigenerational workforces are proven to be more productive.”
Tracey Gendron, author of Ageism Unmasked (Penguin Random House, 2022), wrote her book to “help myself and others understand how ageism (and ableism) have been silently yet pervasively embedded in society over the years. The book takes a journey through time to uncover the forces and events that shaped our understanding of what it means to age and be old. The book also describes the various expressions of ageism (e.g., internalized, externalized, relational) and how ageism manifests in different institutions (e.g., health care, workplace, technology).”
The book also offers the following points about ageism in the workplace:
- Ageism in the workplace can be subtle and hard to recognize. It can be embedded into the recruitment process; for instance, when job descriptions use terms such as “cultural fit,” “energetic,” or “fast-paced.”
- Ageism can be manifested in “over-the-hill” birthday celebrations or jokes.
- Ageism can manifest itself in commonly held myths about older people, such as “older people are out of touch with technology and current trends.”
Founder and CEO of Ageovisa, Samantha Bendt, creates a language learning platform for students who don’t want to take the one-size-fits-all approach.
Recent Kogod graduate Samantha Bendt founded Ageovisa to allow aspiring language learners to learn in the style that works best for them.
“Everyone learns differently, so Ageovisa allows students to choose what they want to learn and how they want to learn,” says Bendt.
Ageovisa offers language learning resources through different learning styles using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic formats to facilitate interactive learning.
“Ageovisa is designed for both beginners and experienced language learners,” says Bendt. “My team and I are language and culture enthusiasts. We love meeting new people from all over the world. We want to provide a more personalized and interconnected experience for learners. Most platforms have a one size fits all approach with limited flexibility for their learners, so our method is meant to be more user-friendly.”
Founder and CEO Bendt launched the Ageovisa platform this past spring using a minimum viable product (MVP) model, which currently offers Spanish vocabulary in all learning styles.
“Next spring, we hope to launch our core development which will include grammar, cultural content, more languages, and more kinesthetic options,” explains Bendt. “We will be announcing the launch of additional features later.”
Bendt is no stranger to language learning courses, having taken Spanish, French, German, Arabic, and Russian courses. Keeping up with her lessons became a real struggle when she realized that all current language learning platforms had a one-size-fits-all approach. This realization was the seed that grew Ageovisa.
While at Kogod, Bendt quickly understood how critical it is for business students and professionals to maintain a global perspective.
I’m grateful for my time at Kogod and the AUCI. The opportunities outside of the classroom were instrumental in my continued passion and entrepreneurial journey.”
Almost immediately after beginning her Kogod journey, Bendt became involved with the Private Equity and Venture Capital Club. Through this, Bendt was introduced to entrepreneurial-related competitions held by Kogod and the AUCI, such as the Venture Capital Investment Competition, the AU Hack-for-a-Change Hackathon, the Kogod Case Competition, and the Startup and Standout Series.
“I participated in all of these competitions, and with my teams’ help and support, we even won first place in a few!” says Bendt.
Now, as an alumna, Bendt remains connected to the AUCI.
The AUCI has been the most influential component of my journey. They provided continuous support and mentorship that was greatly appreciated during times of need.”
“Never be afraid to ask for help,” advises Bendt. “Entrepreneurship is a journey of learning, usually by trial and error. These experiences make you stronger and more resilient to challenges you may encounter in the future.”
Millions of older Americans have re-entered the workforce in recent months. Nearly 64 percent of adults between the ages of 55 and 64 worked in April, essentially the same rate as in February 2020. That’s a more complete pandemic recovery than among most younger age groups.
Inflation and precipitous rises in the cost of living have forced many professionals to return to work from retirement. Others enjoy the engagement and camaraderie work provides.
Older workers weren’t any more likely than younger workers to leave the labor force early in the pandemic. Still, economists thought aging workers might be slower to return because people in their 50s and 60s typically have a hard time finding jobs than their younger counterparts, primarily due to ageism.
Kogod alumna Beth Finkel State Director of the New York AARP branch has been at the forefront of AARP’s fight at the state and national level for laws and policies that protect older workers from age discrimination.
“A recent AARP New York survey found nearly half of voters 50-plus were subjected to or witnessed at least one type of workplace age discrimination. Twenty percent said they were passed over for a job because of their age, and almost 10 percent said they were laid off or fired due to their age,” says Finkel.
A national AARP poll found 78 percent of workers 50+ report they’ve seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace—age discrimination against Americans aged 50+ robbed the US economy of $850 billion in 2018 alone.”
Furthermore, those over 45 make up the bulk of the long-term unemployed in America and globally. Hiring managers admit they are reluctant to hire individuals over 40, arguing they probably won’t be a good “fit” or will be unable or unwilling to learn new skills.
A large study of 5,000 workers and managers in seven countries by the nonprofit generation offers some rather grim statistics. Individuals age 45+ make up a high share of the long-term unemployed. Hiring managers have a negative view of 45+ job seekers, even though employers rate highly the job performance of those they hire. Despite national differences, the challenges and experiences of 45+ individuals are global, displaying striking consistency worldwide.
One key insight from the survey is hugely positive, however. Yes, hiring managers express bias against 45+ individuals. Still, those same employers also acknowledge that once they hire people over 45, these workers perform on the job just as well as or even better than their peers who are a decade younger.
Yet still, many workers 45+ simply cannot seem to penetrate a wall of resistance to simple consideration for a job.”
Changes are being made at the state and national levels to assist aging workers in their employment searches and help provide equitable hiring opportunities.
“In New York, the State Senate passed a bill prohibiting employers from requiring or asking for job applicants’ age, birthdate, and graduation dates unless relevant to the job. In Washington, we are urging the US Senate to follow the House by passing the Protect Older Workers Against Discrimination Act. In New York City, we requested to rename its Department for The Aging to something like Boston’s Age Strong,” says Finkel.
As 45+ individuals continue to seek work in a world where higher life expectancies and inadequate savings are pushing up retirement ages, employers and policymakers need to take steps to counter rampant ageism.
“Advocacy with businesses is part of AARP’s ultimate goal—to protect people 45+ from age discrimination,” says Finkel.
“At the end of the day, discrimination of any form is wrong, and multigenerational workforces are proven to be more productive.”
Kogod School of Business alum Kaben Clauson has a new entrepreneurial venture—an innovative family-and-friends lending platform.
Kogod School of Business alum Kaben Clauson has a new entrepreneurial venture. This innovative family-and-friends lending platform takes the awkwardness (and risk) out of an all-too-familiar (and familial) financial relationship.
Pigeon Loans, founded by Clauson and Brian Bristol, makes lending to one’s loved ones a financially seamless process by incorporating a contract, a payment plan, and friendly reminders in a one-stop-shop platform. The Miami, Florida-based startup has already raised $2.5 million from Y Combinator, FundersClub, Kleiner Perkins Scout Fund, Sovereign’s Capital, Goodwater Capital, SaxeCap, Pareto Holdings, True Culture Fund, Magic Fund, Legal Tech Fund, Mentors Fund, Ascendo Venture Capital, and various angel investors.
We asked Kaben about this exciting new platform and to share tips for other young entrepreneurs like him.
Kogod School of Business: Can you tell us about Pigeon Loans?
Kaben Clausen: Pigeon Loans is a tool that makes it easy for friends and family to lend to one another. We built this software to remove the awkwardness that often comes with these types of loans.
We are bridging the gap between money and relationships. Our platform makes it easier to raise funds needed to start a business, go back to school, or pay for emergencies.”
As income inequality has skyrocketed across America, we’re seeing an exploding need for tools that allow people to help one another financially.
In the US, roughly $200B in personal loans are made each year—often through a ‘handshake’ deal that can go badly financially and interpersonally. Through Pigeon Loans, any two people can easily create a loan agreement that includes a contract, payment plan, and friendly reminders. Getting financial help from those who care for you most is the best path for many to get low-interest rates on favorable terms. We make this easy for the world.
How did you come up with the idea for this venture?
As the founders of Pigeon Loans, Brian Bristol and I have first-hand experience with the subject of borrowing and lending from those we know.
During the 2008 financial crisis, I witnessed the power of the community coming together to help each other. My family was in a tough spot, and loans were the only way out. Even back then, I realized that it made little sense that most of these loans were done without the help of any software.
As the pandemic began to rage, I saw many friends in need. It’s the balance between wanting to help and keeping the relationship from getting awkward.”
No one wants to send or receive those monthly payment reminders among friends.
Can you please share how your time at Kogod shaped your entrepreneurial journey?
Kogod is the place where I finally decided that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I had no idea how I would do it or even what I would build. The classes I took highlighted real problems in the world. I was motivated by the fact that so much of our planet is still broken and that there was no guarantee any other person would fix them.
The best thing about Kogod is the students—everyone brings a unique global perspective. I was in the minority as an American-born citizen in many of my classes. A global perspective is key because so much of our worldview gets stuck in the country we were raised in. This global atmosphere provides a deeper context for thinking about the problems that technology can solve.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
I know how hard it can be to break into the technology industry, especially as someone who didn’t have connections in the space from the start. Making that ‘breakthrough’ a little easier for the next generation of Kogod students is a goal of mine.
My main advice for budding entrepreneurs is twofold. First, have a ‘learner’s mindset’ about everything.