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Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce logo

When an Upstate NY organization revolutionized its strategy in order to stay on mission, we jumped in to help.

With a new executive director, new office space, and a new strategic plan, the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce needed a newly imagined logo to let everyone know that things had changed.

In our Discovery Process, we learned that the Chamber’s constituents saw it as a social organization. But it’s really an advocacy and business development organization.

So we looked for active, bold, businesslike images, and avoided anything passive, soft, or pastoral. Our three suggested designs focused on three concepts: “Voice of the Business Community,” “County-wide Reach,” and “Collaboration.”

The Chamber went for “Collaboration.”

Our inspiration for that design came from the executive director, who told us that “the Chamber is the cog in the wheel that sets the business machine in motion.” That image set our imaginations in motion!

In the design, each wheel represents one of the three Cs of Cayuga County Chamber. The central “C” shows the Chamber at the dynamic center of things. And we chose a strong “Neutraface” font to mirror the circular shapes in the logo.

The bright, multi-color palette reflects the energy of the Chamber’s diverse membership, as well as the area it serves. Blue for the water that brings tourists to the Finger Lakes, green for the beautiful farms and forests, and oranges and yellows to illustrate the vigorous arts and culture of the area.

That beauty and energy now appears in the Cayuga Chamber of Commerce logo.

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I’m taking a 12-week class called The Certified Networker, a program of The Referral Institute. Each week a small group of students – mostly solopreneurs like myself – meet in Ithaca to learn how to build our businesses by referral. I’m in the process of identifying my network (or ‘contact sphere’ of people who can help me with information, support, and referrals – and vice-versa); investing time to develop individual relationships that strengthen this network; working my network to generate referrals; and eventually, soon – although it hasn’t happened yet – turning those referrals into clients.

I’m spending more time than I ever did before, getting to know people better through ‘one-to-ones’. This might be the core benefit the program holds for me, since I am chronically afflicted with feelings of isolation (have an hour and a therapist’s couch? We can talk more about it). A recovering introvert, I’ve been wanting to pull myself out of the isolation for some time now, with half-baked notions of project collaborations with other creative professionals, but did not, until now, have a structured plan and rationale to do so.

What do I spend all that time talking about with my potential partners in these 60-minute ‘one-to-ones’? I’m still learning about it – and have yet to put it into practice – but in order to generate effective referrals, my contact sphere needs to know a whole lot about me and my business. And I need to know the same about them.

Our homework last week was to develop a GAINS profile (an acronym for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, Skills) I can give to the people on my list – the people I’ve identified as being strong potential referral partners – so we can share our personal, networking, and business goals.

My first effort read more like a curriculum vitae, but I’ve since made it more succinct. You can download it here: GAINS_JuliaReich.

Go ahead – download & read it. In my GAINS profile, you’ll probably learn more about me than you might have in a typical conversation or networking event. For instance, now you know that one of my goals this year is to get to NYC more often. If we were in a one-to-one, and you asked me why, that would give me the opportunity to let you know that I miss the city, and the relationships I developed there over 15 years. My intention this year is to re-commit to maintaining those relationships. I’d love to find a situation where I can land a retainer client or contract gig that gives me an excuse to get there every few weeks.

You might also not know that some of my accomplishments include: winning the 2009 Cayuga County Small Business of the Year award; having my design work featured in several books; writing a monthly food column for a local newspaper in 2008; and counting swing dancing and Settlers of Catan (a German board game) as two of my interests.

Why go into so much depth? What goes around comes around. If I help people achieve something important to them, they will remember me, and want to help me, too. And they will be more likely to share their information with me if I share mine with them. I’m learning a new, deeper way of communicating who I am and what I do, and my referral partners are being trained to employ the same strategies and language.

It makes so much sense, don’t you think? Stay tuned while I go out over the next several weeks and try this stuff in real life. I’ll be writing about the results.

This morning I found out I did not win a project located in Tompkins County, NY, in spite of the fact that the client contact said my proposal was “the most professional” and my “prices were competitive”. The reason I was given for losing the project:

“Your location and other work outside the community influenced the executive committee’s decision to “stay” local.”

I live and work in Cayuga County, about 30 miles north of Tompkins County. Tompkins County is a 30-minute drive away. I am a member of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce; I do most of my shopping in Tompkins County; and much of my leisure & professional activities take place there. I come to Ithaca at least once a week.

Last fall, The Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce President recommended my design firm to the Ithaca Times (a local newspaper), for their special feature on small businesses. They declined to interview me since I was not in the same county.
Last month I did not win a project with Cayuga County. One of the reasons given was that my work was not recognizable in the community (most of my clients are based in the metro area).

Sometimes I feel like giving it all up and moving back to NYC. Today is one of those days.

This past weekend I took my dogs for an early spring hike at Fillmore Glen State Park, in Moravia, NY, not too far from where I live. As we climbed the steep road, I noticed all these partially frozen puddles displaying unusual organic patterning. I don’t know what causes it, but thought it was visually kind of interesting and beautiful in its own unique way.

Kind of like my dog, Umber – also organic, unique and unusual – enjoying the breeze from the car window, on the way to the park.

I just learned this morning that I did not win a juicy design and branding project that I submitted a proposal for, in response to an RFP, and am bitterly disappointed. I feel I was an extremely strong candidate – well-qualified to handle the work, with a strong creative portfolio. This was a project in the tourism sector and included a “quality of life” brochure series; new county-wide brand identity for this central New York region; and a web site portal that would be utilized by several city and county agencies.

When I do not win a project, the first thing I do is ask the prospect why. Do you do that? It’s very useful. I promptly picked up the phone to discuss the matter with the agency leading the search, and was able to learn some things about how the committee made their decision and also how I can improve my proposals for the future. Our talk also led to some unanswered questions, so if you have any insight I’d really like to hear from you.

I learned that the committee – made up of reps from various city and county agencies – used a fair, thorough methodology to score candidates, consisting of categories and a point system. The decision was not based on price. Apparently I came pretty close to the top three firms that made the cut (I came in fourth).

In an ideal world, after I submit a proposal, I should be able to meet with the committee making the decision in order to discuss and answer questions. In this case, unfortunately, insisting on an in-person meeting was just out of the question. Because I was not able to talk to them, I’m afraid they made some assumptions about my work and my proposal that I was not able to defend:

• the committee questioned my ability to handle the research necessary to complete the branding portion because they thought Julia Reich Design consists of just one person – me – even though I emphasize “my creative team” in the cover letter. Which leads me to wonder if I need to change the name of my company. Does using my name make it sound like I am just one person?

• the RFP requested copywriting & photography services, and I received low marks here. Why, I wanted to know? I do not offer these services in-house so I included names, websites, and ballpark pricing of two highly talented creative freelancers in the area that I have worked with before, that I would hire as sub-contractors for the project team. Since the scope of work in the RFP for this portion of the project was as-yet undefined, I provided hourly rates for these services and indicated that in some cases, the fees were TBD. How did the firms that made it to the next level include these services? I discovered that they provided a fee range (for instance, $1200-$1800), and made it look like these services were provided in-house. The committee may have appreciated the apparent “ease” that comes with hiring a design firm which provides “the whole package”. Lesson learned – next time, I will do the same, and save the specifics of each creative team member for the interview stage. How do you list sub-contractors in your proposals?

• finally, even though I submitted a strong portfolio showcasing several brand identity projects I have done, I found out that the committee chose other firms over mine because of the recognizability of the other projects. In other words, the decision-makers had seen the other firms’ work previously in the local central New York community – while much of my client base is in New York City. I am not sure what to do about this. Like McDonalds, is the familiar always preferable? I moved to this small community 2.5 years ago from New York City, and have thrown myself into all sorts of community endeavors and taken on leadership positions in local organizations. In spite of this, are they suspicious of perceived outsiders?  Should I take this as a lesson to re-focus my efforts back to metro New York?

……

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the changes I make in my next proposal, based on the lessons I learned from all of this, will win me the next project. But I’m glad I made the effort to call my contact to communicate about the decision rather than fuming silently in my office.

Have you lost a project recently? What would you do differently next time?

You could be my neighbor!

an amazing piece of real estate in central New York

The subject of this post is, admittedly, a little beyond the scope of my blog, but this piece of property, The Merrifield Estate, is such a dream, such a steal at $429k, that I want to get the word out. I had the pleasure of seeing the interior when they held an auction to sell the house contents. It would make a great B&B. Plus, it’s right down the street from me, so if you buy it we’ll be neighbors – how about that!

This home was featured on The Today Show in a story, “What You Can Get for Under $500k”.

Here’s the description from the site, (sorry it’s all in caps).

#4. SCIPIO CENTER, NEW YORK — $429,000

Broker: Todd Post toddpost@postrealty.com

THIS TOWN IS LOCATED IN THE FINGERLAKES REGION OF UPSTATE NY, 35 MILES FROM SYRACUSE

THIS HISTORIC HOME WAS ONCE PART OF HARRIET TUBMAN’S UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

IT’S ORIGINAL ASKING PRICE WAS $1.5 MILLION, BUT IT’S BEEN REDUCED TO $429,000!

ANTIQUE COBBLESTONE FARMHOUSE W/ ORIG BLACK CHESTNUT, MAPLE & PINE HDWD FLRS & EXPOSED BEAMS THROUGHOUT!

EAT-IN COUNTRY KITCH, FAM RM W/ WALK-IN FP, A 700 SQ FOOT GARDEN RM

MASTER SUITE HAS WORKING FP & SITTING AREA

FRENCH DOORS LEAD TO A 40 COVERED SIDE PORCH & A BRICK PATIO COURTYARD

HOUSE COMES W/ 3 BIG ACRES W/ MATURE PINE TREES & 2 BARNS

4 BDR, 2 BATH

alpaca at the Cayuga County Fair

Patagonia pup

Patagonia pup

alpaca at the Cayuga County Fair
4-H-ers exercising their frisky calves at the Cayuga County Fair

4-H-ers exercising their frisky calves at the Cayuga County Fair

Dock Dogs: annual event whereby canines who are trained to leap off a ledge and go flying into a pool of water.

Dock Dogs: annual event whereby canines who are trained to leap off a ledge and go flying into a pool of water.

I’ve been negligent in writing blog entries lately, now that the rainy season has ended. Instead I’ve been out & about trying to get the most out of summer. And dear readers, let me tell you, that looong, cold, harsh central NY winter IS worth it when summer finally arrives. Here’s a smattering of recent adventures:

• Cayuga County Fair

• backpacking in the ‘dacks with husband and dog in tow

High Falls in the Adirondacks, reached only by arduous backpack thru marshes, woods, and over beaver dams.

High Falls in the Adirondacks, reached only by arduous backpack thru marshes, woods, and over beaver dams.

• kayaking on Cayuga Lake

Paddling in Aurora, NY

Paddling in Aurora, NY

• hay day at the ag museum, Auburn, NY

Mennonite family watching old-fashioned hay demo at O'Hara Ag Museum in Auburn, NY

Mennonite family watching old-fashioned hay demo at O'Hara Ag Museum in Auburn, NY

• u-pick blueberries

Biggest friggin' blueberries I've ever seen (Newfield, NY)

Biggest friggin' blueberries I've ever seen (Newfield, NY)

• adopted two more SPCA “unadoptable” felines; one is a big mush and has become my office muse

newest adoptee from SPCA: Neitzsche the cat

newest adoptee from SPCA: Neitzsche the cat

• and finally, relaxing in the rockers and being a porch potato

Watching the corn grow

Watching the corn grow

a still from movie I shot at fair Haven Beach State Park

a still from movie I shot at fair Haven Beach State Park

During the first six months of 2009, I participated in an intensive and esteemed program called Leadership Cayuga (LC) with about 25 other people (Much has been previously documented and written about LC, so I won’t go into the details of its history or purpose – click here to learn more).

As part of our many activities, we were responsible for undertaking a county-wide scavenger hunt, on our own time and at our own pace over the course of 6 months. There were many items on the list and the goal was to get at least 200 points, with most items fetching 10 points apiece. One of the items on the list was “an art project”, which I decided to take on using online mapping and video. I documented my travels around Cayuga County with both a camera and a video camera, with special focus (groan) on the county’s many parks and natural areas and the trips I made to these places with my dog, Rory, in tow. Among the places I explored and filmed were Fillmore Glen, Fair Haven Beach, Bear Swamp, Howlands Island, and Long Point.

In some of the videos I’ve created a musical soundtrack, while in others I’m narrating about such things as nature sitings, comments about cute things Rory is doing, and other observations.

The video camera was on loan from BOCES, with whom I partnered to create the videos, as I had never previously used or even held a video camera prior to this project. I worked with instructor Terry Cuddy and his media and graphic design students to edit the resulting 5 or 6 videos which were then uploaded to the appropriate place on the Flikr map where each was filmed.

I chose to film these places because exploring natural areas with my dog (and husband) is one of my all-time favorite activities. Access to nature is one of the reasons I chose to move to central New York from New York City two years ago. The natural beauty of Cayuga County inspires me daily and greatly contributes to my quality of life.

Flikr map with photos and video of Cayuag County points of interest

Flikr map with photos and video of Cayuag County points of interest

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