Browsing Tag

CultureMap Austin


Education Innovation: Austin’s PelotonU is Making Higher Education Debt-Free


Surrounded by people who have their Master’s degrees, I often feel like a friggin’ idiot toy with the idea of going back to school.

Until I think about all the debt I’ll accumulate, which is a soul-crushing thought since I’ll essentially be debt-free this year.

During undergrad, I was one of the lucky ones. College cost me next to nothing due to being raised in a single parent, low income household. If I didn’t get the aid and grants that I received, college would have been extremely difficult, maybe even impossible. Though my mother would have held a butter knife to my neck and forced me to go to college ensured I went to college, I would be tens of thousands of dollars more in debt.

College is not cheap, and with reports that high-skilled labor is on the decline, some speculate that higher education might not be worth the price tag (current average: $24,000).

With that being said, that is why the program I’m about to share with you is absolutely essential.

PelotonU is (more…)

Austin, Fashion/Design

Vinca: Your New (Or Already) Favorite Locally-Made Jewelry

source: Vinca USA

Nestled in a garage apartment in Central Austin is Vinca, the inspired jewelry company of Amanda Dimova. Vinca concocts plastic, wood, crystal and leather jewelry and decorations for kids and the kid in every adult.

Ten of thousands of cupcake earrings, unicorn rings and mustache necklaces have been designed, cut and shipped out of Dimova’s 200 square foot space. At alone, Vinca saw over 11,000 pieces sold.

Not too shabby for a business initially started as an experiment.

Amanda Dimova grew up in Brownsville, Texas at her parents’ shoe factory, Bear Feet. As a child, she learned to be creative with the excess leather lying around the factory. It was here that she developed her entrepreneurial spark.

“I always had this idea I would either continue the shoe business, or use it to make something new. From a young age I aspired to be self-employed, though I wasn’t quite sure how it would happen,” Dimova says.

In middle school, the Dimova family moved (more…)


The Importance of Shopping Locally: A Personal Story

Last week I wrote about the inspiring entrepreneurial spirit of Austin, Texas. Small business is a subject near and dear to me. I grew up in a family-owned and operated clothing store named Leonard’s in Central New York.

Closing the business after 35 years was like a stake through the heart of my family. When I moved to Austin, I was overwhelmed by the locals’ support of mom and pop businesses. Would Leonard’s have had the same fate if it resided in Austin instead of the economically depressed Central New York?

I don’t think about Leonard’s often because the memory of its passing is too painful to dwell on. However, a former employee and friend, Gabrielle, died recently, and it stirred a wave of nostalgia.


I linger on the silkiness of my Grandma’s voice.

The faux aristocrat.

As though every time the phone rings, she’s expecting it to be the President.

I wait a beat.

Trying to make sure that what I’m about to say doesn’t explode out into a puddle (more…)

Austin, Fashion/Design

Ladies Need Mustache Rings

Have you guys heard of Vinca USA? Maybe you’ve seen them on lately!

This Austin-based company makes adorable and kitschy jewelry in their very own backyard!

Keep your eye out for my CultureMap piece next Monday about this inspiring company.

In the meantime, here is a photo of me with my brand new mustache ring. Only $10! Love it!


The Inspiring Nature of Austin’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

In the current Wild West days of start-ups and micro-entrepreneurs anything is possible, and there is no place more practicing of that ideology than Austin, Texas.

Having lived in Los Angeles for a number of years, I got used to people saying, “Well, I have this idea I’ve been playing around with…” or “One day, I’d like to build/create/grow…” but most of those people never got around to fulfilling their goals or dreams. In cities like New York or Los Angeles, unless you come from money, most people are more preoccupied with trying to survive over finding the time and money to actualize their passion project.

When I moved to Austin I began meeting individuals who were coming up with ideas and following through on them. Young people, old people, men, women and children. I discovered that in a town like Austin, one can focus on their goals more easily because not only is the cost of living affordable, there is also no personal or corporate income tax and state franchise business (more…)


Welcome to the Jungle, Graduates!

You’ve graduated. Congratulations!

Now — welcome to the jungle. We’ve got fun and games. Life’s not exactly like Axl Rose’s “Welcome to the Jungle”, but sometimes it kind of is. Sometimes it will make you bleed, sometimes it will bring you to your knees and sometimes you learn to live like an animal. Sometimes you’re forced to feel Axl’s serpentine.

Yeesh, that sounded mighty jaded, but I’m turning 29 this year so I’ve developed that obnoxious, “I know everything about your 20s!”-mentality now. The sort of mentality I like to spew upon younger people whether they like it or not.

Like right now. Here are a few things I’ve learned that might help you, too:

It’s OK if you don’t like your career: There is a good chance that you’ll discover the career you went to school for, you end up despising more than all of MTV’s programming once you try it in the real world. It’s OK if you want to switch careers; it’s not a sign of failure. In fact, most twenty-somethings will change (more…)

20-Something, Hipstercrite Life

I Miss LA

Visiting LA was amazing and confusing. I never imagined that I would miss LA, but I do. I think?

This week I visited Los Angeles. It was my first extended trip since I walked away from the city of wandering angels.

I met up with old friends and revisited familiar locations that I abruptly left almost four years ago. Jumping into the past is both energizing and intimidating. Will I feel disconnected from my old friends? Will I want to stay in the past? Will this trip trigger an existential crisis that will leave me curled up in a ball screaming, “Who am I?!?”

The longer I’ve lived away from Los Angeles the more I’ve romanticized it. I conveniently forgot the aimless journey I was taking there, long nights crying myself to sleep or staring at the ocean sky hoping life would finally happen.

I moved to Los Angeles when I was 20 after being offered an assistant position at an actor’s production company. It took me five years to realize that I didn’t want to put someone before me (more…)