• What Do Fluffy Pink Flamingos Have To Do with Entrepreneurship?

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    Big D 2

    Much more than you might think!

    Last week I was in Sarasota Florida at The Institute for the Ages’ Seventh Annual Conference on Positive Aging to launch eProvStudio, a new program I’ve created with colleagues at Babson College – the #1 Entrepreneurship College in the US.

    eProvStudio is designed to help individuals aged 50+ explore the world of entrepreneuring. It combines Babson’s methodology of Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® with the art of improvisation to harness the individual and collective experience of older adults, thereby boosting prosperity for all ages.

    eProvStudio puts the skills and mindset of entrepreneuring into the hands of seniors to help them ignite and build ideas. In a truly experiential environment, players explore the mindset of an entrepreneur and practice the methodology of acting, learning and building on ideas. They draw upon who they are, what they know, who they know, and what resources they have at hand.

    The Sarasota workshop, filled to capacity by creative and energetic seniors 50+, was a huge success, but the workshop represents just one aspect of this pioneering new approach to entrepreneurship. We had several opportunities to engage seniors outside the workshop and the results were life changing.

    Just one example involves my Babson colleague and eProvStudio co-creator, Cheryl Kiser, who was walking with a crutch as she was still recovering from some horrific knee surgery. It was your typical boring aluminum crutch, and I kept saying we really need to do something to spiff that up. It reminded me of a remarkable 89 year-old senior, affectionately nicknamed Kickstarter Granny, who being bored with her old black canes began decorating them with flowers. Her grandson urged her to create some for others and helped her launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise $3000 to start her new business, “Happy Canes,” which sold online through Etsy.com.

    After the workshop, our Babson team drove off in search of a little retail therapy. We found a fun beach store, where I spotted an adorable fluffy pink flamingo. Turning to Cheryl I said, “This is the perfect decoration for your crutch.” She said, “If only I had a piece of string to attach it, and that’s when the “life-changing moment” occurred….

    The store manager had been observing us and with no prompting whatsoever said, “I think I have some twine in the back to hang the flamingo onto your crutch.”

    She found the twine and handed it to Cheryl who was about to loop it around the flamingo’s neck and hang it from the crutch’s crosspiece.

    The manger gently said, “No,” and began playing with possibilities. After a few minutes she had looped the twine under the bird’s wings and tied it to the crutch in such a way as to make the bodacious – some might say a wee bit bawdy – flamingo swing gracefully back and forth with every step.

    As we were thanking the manager, she said, “I thank you. This was joyful and made me feel great.” She asked us what we were doing in Sarasota, and when we told her about eProvStudio, she said, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur but never had the courage or resources to do it.”

    We explained how she was already thinking entrepreneurially in the ways she had thought and acted to address a customer challenge. She had used who she was, what she knew, and the resources she had at hand to create new value for the customer and one of her products. We said, “You already have what it takes to think and act as an entrepreneur.”  She is a real-life example of a 50+ year old woman who absolutely can be an entrepreneur but  doesn’t realize it.

    She was delighted, we were delighted with the encounter, and anyone who sees our fluffy pink flamingo – especially now that it is back in snow country – swinging from Cheryl’s crutch is delighted. We could not have had a better beginning for eProvStudio, which aims to “Launch, Lift, Learn and Leverage” all manner of entrepreneurial thinking!

    Cheryl and Big D

     

     

  • Take Back the Word SENIOR!

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    These Super Heroes are now in their 70's!

    These Super Heroes are now in their 70′s!

     

    As we dance into the New Year, it’s time to take back the word SENIOR! Really.

    When did “senior” become the uber- negative to be avoided at any cost?  Remember when you were in high school and couldn’t wait to become a senior? Even more so in college when “upperclassman” was okay but senior was the penultimate. Then, after graduation and out in the work world, did you strive to be the junior partner? No – your goal was senior partner, senior editor, senior designer, senior producer etc. Achieving “seniorhood” was always the aim until…  until you hit age 50 and then it became the pariah it is today.

    2014 is the time to reclaim our “senior” creds. Those of us over 50 are among or children of those called the “greatest generation.” We are brave and iconoclastic. We successfully fought for political freedom, eradicated barriers to racial, gender, religious and sexual discrimination, conquered diseases and global epidemics, provided broad access to healthcare and education, and explored the moon.

    Today’s seniors are providing an essential boost to the economy. Eighteen percent of Americans 65 and older continue to work and pay taxes, at least $120 billion a year, a figure that doesn’t include state income taxes.

    Senior entrepreneurs are launching new businesses stimulating job creation and growth, and boosting prosperity for all age groups. The highest rate of business start-up activity over the past decade has consistently been among people in the 55-to-64 age bracket. Almost half of all new entrepreneurs are between the ages of 45 and 64, and this cohort continues to grow.

    It’s time to stop the “senior” gloom and doom. This is not, as too many espouse, a “silver tsunami.” It is, rather, a “golden dividend!”

    Advocacy matters but action’s even better. Here’s to shaking things up, reclaiming the word, “senior,” and to the people who can make it happen!

    Happy New Year!

  • Six Reasons Why It’s Time for You To Write a Book!

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    You’ve done all the right things to try and secure a job. You’ve honed your experience and qualifications to create a brand for yourself and retooled your old resumé into a pro-active working proposal. More, you’ve networked your socks off and beefed up your interviewing skills.  Yet – and yet, and yet you’re still unemployed. You may feel you have every right to be blue, but why waste the time?  As Confucious said, “To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.”

    Why not take advantage of this hiatus and write about all those “right” things you’ve accomplished in your job search.  Writing a book can be a terrific new self-marketing tool.

    Here are six great reasons for you to hit the keyboard, start typing, or even take pen in hand:

    1. Share your expertise – Expand the experience that you’ve bulleted in your resumé. In a book you can include a story or two to bring that expertise to life and help others.

    2. Build Your Authority – Nothing beats authority like having a published book. You can become the go-to resource in your area of expertise.

    3. Separate yourself from the competition – Writing a book provides an opportunity for people to hear your thoughts and insights. Don’t be afraid to say what you really think. Be authentic and your voice will stand out.

    4. Expand your network – Too often we limit ourselves to who and what we know. Your book can introduce you to individuals who you never thought would be interested in your passions.

    5. Break down your protective/self-limiting walls – If you’ve never written a book before you, the experience will jolt you out of your comfort zone. Acting outside the box you’ve created for yourself is a great experience. As we’ve said before, “You have to step outside the batting cage to hit a home run.”

    6. Change your life – Even though you began with the idea of sharing your expertise with the world, the very act of writing is introspective. As you review what you’ve done and strategies you’ve designed, you may come up with a brand new idea of what you’d like to do next!

    And the best part about writing a book is that you don’t need to wait for someone to read your resumé, to invite you to an interview, or for that next networking event. You can “Just Start!”

    Happy Thanksgiving, and we look forward to seeing your name in print.

  • Rosie the Riveter – Still Riveting and Relevant at 93!

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    I was amazed to read NBC News Correspondent, Mike Taibbi’s, report “A Rosie the Riveter Still on the Job at 93” and learn that one of the original Rosies continues to work and not just at any job but at the Boeing plant in Long Beach California. Taibbi interviewed, Elinor Otto, 93,  who still gets up at 4 a.m. each morning and drives to the Boeing plant, where she inserts rivets into the wing sections of C-17 cargo planes.  It’s a job she’s been doing at various aircraft assembly plants since 1942 when she was part of the original Rosie Brigades.

    “We were part of this big thing,” Otto said. “We hoped we’d win the war. We worked hard as women, and were proud to have that job.”

    Otto’s first job paid 65 cents an hour, about $38 less than she makes now, and she had to pay $20 a month for her young son’s childcare.

    At war’s end, the “Rosies” disappeared. “Within days we were gone,” Otto said.

    And with bills still to pay, Taibbi notes, Otto tried other lines of work.  But office jobs didn’t appeal to her, and a short stretch as a carhop fell by the wayside when they told her she had to do the job on roller-skates.  A stroke of luck though: Southern California had come out of the war with a booming aircraft industry and Otto’s skill set — she was an ace with a rivet gun — brought her back into the game.

    Otto’s story inspired me to do a little more “Rosie Brigade” research and I discovered there really was a riveter named Rose who worked in the Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Neither that Rosie or our Otto, however, was the famous character depicted in the well-known 1942 poster by J. Howard Miller with the title ”We Can Do It.” Miller’s character was a fictional representation of all the Rosies, and his bandanna-clad Rosie became one of the most successful recruitment tools in American history, and remains an iconic image of working women.

    Rosie-the-Riveter-poster-s

    Another iconic, albeit far more political, Rosie poster was created by Norman Rockwell for The Saturday Evening Post May, 1943, cover. Rockwell portrayed Rosie with a flag in the background and a copy of Adolf Hitler’s racist tract “Mein Kampf” under her feet.

    rosie-the-riveter-1943

    Though the images are fiction the working Rosies were certainly real. American women entered the workforce in unprecedented numbers during World War II, as widespread male enlistment left gaping holes in the labor force. More than 310,000 women worked in the U.S. aircraft industry in 1943, making up 65 percent of the industry’s total workforce (compared to just 1 percent in the pre-war years).

    So why is Elinor Otto, one of the original Rosie’s still working today?

    She says, “I’m a working person, I guess. I like to work. I like to be around people that work. I like to get up, get out of the house, get something accomplished during the day.”

    One of the things she’s accomplished, Taibbi reports, is to serve as an inspiration — to her co-workers, her boss, and to those who honored Otto when they founded the Rosie the Riveter Park in Long Beach, CA this past September.

    Perhaps the greatest accolade came from her boss, Don Pitcher, who said, “Otto is still on the job because she can still do it!

    To remain so relevant at age 93 – that’s truly an inspiring accomplishment!

     

     

  • The Open 24-Hours Diner, the Open Talent Economy, and a Gent Named “Sawbones”

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    Diner

    I love diners – always have. You can eat whatever you want whenever you want. There’s no, “we stop serving breakfast at ten.” I can pop in for eggs over easy and bacon charred to a crisp (the way I like it) at 3pm or 3am.

    Who knew that these culinary establishments would be trendsetters? I read about today’s “Open Talent Economy,” and think that economy du jour is perfect for those of us aged 50+ who wish to work at what we want when we want.

    Deloitte has a nifty report, explaining the nuts and bolts of an “Open Talent Economy,” and Elaine Pofeldt writes in Forbes, Traditional Jobs Keep Fading, and It’s Time to Adapt.

    This is good news for the legions of 50+ year olds who are out of work, many of whom statistics demonstrate can basically forget about getting hired for a full-time job.

    But the remarkable, true story, “On the Contrary: Taking a Tip From Sawbones’s Career,” shared by Susan Jepson, Director of the National Senior Network, SCSEP, in Lowell, Massachusetts, brings to life just what it means to be multi-talented in today’s economy.

    Susan writes:

    I was rushing through the white-tented terminal at Denver International Airport when my attention was diverted by a storefront massage business.  Checking my wristwatch, I calculated that I had just enough time for a 20-minute massage.

    I settled onto the light gray vinyl chair and placed my face inside the cushioned headrest.  The massage therapist introduced himself.  “I’m Lee,” he said.  “But friends call me Sawbones.”

    He must have seen the cartoon question mark floating above my head in an imaginary white bubble — Sawbones? — for he went on to tell me about himself.

    Digging his thumbs into the back of my neck, Sawbones explained that massage was a new line of work for him.

    “Do you like it?” I asked.

    “Yes ma’am,” he said, revealing a slight rancher’s drawl.  “I get to meet interesting people, especially here at the airport.  A few weeks ago, I massaged Timothy McVeigh’s lawyer, who was on his way to the execution…He was a little tense.”

    Although that demanded a smart-alecky response, I could not think of one fast enough.  Instead. I asked Sawbones if he worked only at the airport.

    “No ma’am,” he said, I also have an office by the Stock Show Complex.  I have another business. “Custom cowboy hats.”

    “ The cartoon question mark made another appearance.” Cowboy hats?”

    “Yes ma’am. I sell them at the Grizzly Rose, the country-western bar on I-25.”

    I inhaled the rosemary scent of the massage oil and debated whether to prod Sawbones for more information.  Since I was unlikely to meet another cowboy-hat-maker masseur in the near future, I asked him if his massage business was growing.

    “Yes ma’am. See, I massage horses, too.”

    “Horses?” I asked, feeling like I was being sucked down a conversational rabbit hole.

    “Yes ma’am. Horses like massage.  They can get testy though.”

    “I’ll bet,” I said, picturing a blond Palomino lying hooves up on a massage table.

    As Sawbones kneaded my upper arms, he asked what I did for a living.

    “I’m a writer,” I said. Actually, I didn’t say that because just then, his fingers pushed my head into the headrest, making my answer sound more like “Imamiffer.”

    Sawbones was unfazed.  “Really?! I’m a writer, too!” he exclaimed, as if we were distant cousins meeting at a genealogy conference. I write scripts!”

    “Scripts?”

    “Yes ma’am. See I also perform in Wild West shows.”

    The rabbit hole was getting deeper by the second. “What kinds of things are in your shows?”

    “Shoot-outs.  Stuff like that. I have a friend who looks like Abraham Lincoln.  He’s gonna be in our show tomorrow night.”

    Now, I’ve never been that great at history, but it seems to me the Lincoln didn’t have that much to do with the Wild West. I was about to ask Sawbones how Abe figured into his act when he pulled my arms behind my back and away from my body like he was dressing a chicken.

    Soon, our 20 minutes was up, and Sawbones handed me his business card: ”Massage,” it read.  “For Horses and Humans.”

    “Just for future reference,” he added, “I also do home massage. It’s only 50 bucks, and I bring my own table, oil, and CD’s.” I accept the card graciously, even though I was fairly certain I’d never pay a man named Sawbones to tote oil and soft music into my house.

    It’s been a week since my encounter with the custom-cowboy-hat-making, Wild West show performing, horse- and – human massage therapist, and I can’t get him out of my mind.;  The more I think about Sawbones, the more I think he is ideally suited to today’s work world.  He’s adaptable, multi-talented, enthusiastic, and independent.  Think about it. They say people in their twenties today can expect to have seven different careers.  Sawbones has all seven at once.

    Now, I know there are people who might find Sawbones a little lowbrow and unfocused.  But to me, Sawbones is wise. He can work indoors or out.  He has built-in job security.  The bottom could fall out of the cowboy-hat market and Sawbones would still make it in the world.

    To check my impressions of him as a poster child for the new economy, I referred to Career Intelligence: The 12 New Rules for Work and Life Success, by Barbara Moses, Ph.D.  Here are a few of them:

    1. Ensure marketability: Sawbones has not one but seven fallback positions.  He has a broad network of contacts.  And, with a slogan that reads “Healing the West one massage at a time,” Sawbones clearly knows what creative marketing is all about.

    2. Be able to communicate:  In the space of 20 minutes, Sawbones managed to sell me on his talent, enthusiasm, business, savvy, and manners.  I haven’t been called ma’am so much since I invited a vacuum cleaner salesman into my house—something you should never do under any circumstances.

    3. Think income streams, not salary:  By calculations, Sawbones has at least six income sources, all in which include the potential for tips.

    In fact, Sawbones has already figured out what many of us spend our entire careers learning: how important it is to always try new things.  “Ma’am,” he said, “I do all these things because I promised myself I would never do the same boring thing all day long.”

    Now, most people I know have said this same thing to themselves at one time or another.  But the difference between Sawbones and most people is that he is not afraid to tackle new challenges.  Think about him the next time you’re confronted with a new opportunity.

     

  • What Is Your Stage Presence?

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    Elvis by William Medeiros, courtesy www.toonpool.com

    Elvis by William Medeiros, courtesy www.toonpool.com

     

    This week, I read two great articles that highlighted the importance of authenticity in today’s brand-crazed world. The first, What do you reveal onstage?, was by the inimitable singer, Suzanne Vega, who lately in her tours has been doing a fair amount of workshops. She describes her two kinds of workshops — “one in which I watch performances, and another where I lead the participants through a kind of guided meditation called ‘What Is In Your Toolbox?’”

    Vega tells her students, “Whatever you carry in your mind while you are onstage shows up through the magic of theater, so that everyone in the audience sees it, too. This is something my director, Kay Matschullat, said to me while we were working on a play together a couple of years ago. This is so intriguing to me. How can that be? And yet we see it happening over and over, not just in theater or dance, but in music, too. We go to see a performer. We like his music. We like the way he looks. We prepare to see him by listening to his music and thinking about his life and the stories he tells. And yet once we get to the show we look at him on the stage, in the lights. But his mind isn’t on it, he doesn’t like the audience, he’s not inspired, he’s thinking of his laundry. How do we know? We can just tell. He sees his laundry, and we see it, too.”

    Another article, Rethink ‘Brand You:’ Find Your Authentic Self, by Meghan M. Biro in Forbes.com, reinforces Vega’s insight that you can’t hide your laundry, if that’s really what’s on your mind. You may not be a songstress like Vega, but as Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage.”

    For Biro that “stage” is your business world, and she says, “If there’s one business slogan/fad/concept that’s in danger of becoming meaningless through overuse, it’s ‘brand you.’ These days I can can spot a ‘brand’ (as opposed to an authentic person) from the first word out of his or her mouth. ‘Brands’ tend to be a little too perfect — packaged, programmed, and plastic. They’re pushing what they think we want to buy, not their real selves…  You won’t get very far if you try to be something you’re not. Rather, your personal brand is about figuring out who you really are and what you do best, and then living that brand out. It’s the essence of authenticity.”

    Recently, we published 6 Tips to Charge of Your Brand in These Hyper-connected Times. Check them out, for as the great Bard also said, “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

     

     

     

  • All that Is New Is Old: Celebrating Vintage and Resilience

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    “The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.” — Aldous Huxley.

    I was struck , today, by the incongruence of three recent articles: two about the sadness of losing, in one case, and the shrinking of, in another, two highly successful, beloved, media institutions, and a third celebrating  5 Vintage Versions of Modern Social Media from Centuries Ago.

    Our loss of the venerable, weekly Life magazine, was a salient point in the NY Times obituary of Life’s last Managing Editor, Ralph Graves. The obit hails Graves’ valiant efforts to keep this American institution afloat in its turbulent final years.

    “Life,” the obituary notes, “was one of a number of general-interest magazines — among the others were Look and The Saturday Evening Post — that both informed and entertained large numbers of Americans throughout the 1940s and ’50s.

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    Life, in particular, with its emphasis on photography, was said to be the country’s chief source for learning what the world looked like.” Until the advent of TV…

    Another headline, PBS News Hour Facing Cutbacks, Layoffs and Office Closings, mournfully reminds us of the rapidly shrinking halcyon days of in-depth news coverage.

    Then, thank heavens, Maria Popova’s, weekly edition of Brain Pickings popped up in my in-box. Popova’s celebrating  5 Vintage Versions of Modern Social Media from Centuries Ago assures us that all that is new in modern start-ups definitely has roots in all that is old. Positively music to the ears of this 60+ start-up entrepreneur!

    Popova covers everything from Voltaire’s status updates to Edison’s viral videos, including what Diderot has to do with data visualization as she notes, “We’ve previously made the case that everything builds on what came before yet our human tendency is to inflate and overestimate the novelty of our ideas. Today, we turn to five concepts from the centuries of yore remarkably similar to the central premises of five of today’s social web darlings [Twitter, Facebook, Quora, YouTube, and Tumblr].”

    Popova’s insights are, as always, brilliant in their clarity. I’d only add one more “modern darling,” infographics. In another illuminating posting, The Lives of 10 Famous Painters Visualized  as Minimalist Infographic Biographies, Popova visually distills the lives of artists, Pollock, Dalí, Matisse, Klimt, Picasso, Mondrian, Klee, Boccioni, Kandinsky, and Miro, in modern infographics!

    We never stop learning. The format may be completely different, but our curiosity never changes.

    Vintage is vintage and Resilience is key!

  • Confidence – in the Eye of the Beholder and Captain America

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    Confidence – it’s a critical, if not the, ingredient you need whether you’re looking for a new job, trying to be more creative in your current job, or thinking of launching a business of your own.

    Just a few weeks ago, as I was in Washington, DC, driving to Capitol Hill for an important meeting, my radio suddenly announced a traffic alert, “Avoid the downtown area. Streets are closed because Captain America is filming on the mall.”

    I thought, “That’s me!” Not that I am Captain America, but I felt that my tackling a meeting on Capitol Hill required a Captain America dose of confidence.

    Real confidence – not just some superficial braggadocio – can be difficult to achieve. It comes from deep within, and, while we may be confident in certain areas of our lives where we have a lot of experience, new situations and opportunities can challenge.

    How to Be Confident, Even When You’re Not  is a great article by Kevin Daum at Inc.com. Daum has three terrific tips on how to build on the strengths you have to help you deal with the unfamiliar confidently.

    Another valuable online confidence-boosting resource is Linda Descanos, Mastering the Three V’s to Project Confidence and Presence where she provides tools to help us identify and polish our strengths.

    Anne Fisher’s article,  Shy at Work? Seven Ways to Speak Up, at Fortune online shares excellent and actionable tips on how to overcome lack of confidence.

    Lack of confidence does not have to be an insurmountable hurdle. Believe in yourself and, with just a little practice, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy in your eyes and everyone else’s, including Captain America’s.

  • How Celebrity Chef and Cookbook Author, Thomas Keller, Parlayed His Dishwashing Days into a Culinary Empire

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    I had just read another of Maria Popova’s fabulous Brain Pickings blog posts – this one on How To Find Meaningful Work or, as she says,  “The art-science of allowing the various petals of our identity to fully unfold,” when I saw this video of Thomas Keller addressing a packed auditorium of Stanford Business School students about how he attributes the lessons he learned as a dishwasher to his success.

    Keller’s mother managed several restaurants and, as a young boy he spent a lot of hours in those restaurants, beginning as a dishwasher. He says that early experience was formative because, as a dishwasher, he needed to be:

    1. Organized, efficient, attentive to detail. How he loaded the machine counted as much as how he unloaded it: the dishes, glasses and silverware had to be loaded a certain way to get them cleanest and unloaded efficiently. Feedback was instantaneous: things were either clean or not, and he could not afford for them not to be clean on his watch.

    2. Part of a team: everyone relied on him to get their plates, glasses and silverware clean. 

    3. Aware of rituals: loading the washer, emptying it, or sweeping the floor – everything had to be done at a certain time. He equates this today to every aspect of a meal needing to be done at a certain time for the whole to come together.

    4. Purposefully repetitive. He perfected his skills as a dishwasher by doing it over and over again, just as a chef perfects slicing onions by slicing them over and over again.

    Today, Thomas Keller’s culinary empire includes four restaurants and a bakery, cookbooks, wines, a line with Williams Sonoma and now Cup4Cup - a Gluten free flour business.  Keller is the only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings by the Michelin Guide.

    The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group is made up of a family of restaurants that range from the gastronomic experiences of The French Laundry, which actually was a French Steam Laundry dating back to the 1920′s, in Yountville, California and Per Se in New York City to the more relaxed atmosphere of Bouchon Bistro, the family style dishes of Ad Hoc, and the exquisite sweets you’ll discover at Bouchon Bakery.  Each are bound by Keller’s passion to nourish and to provide memorable experiences for every guest that visits.

    To quantify these experiences specifically:

    Gift Cards for French Laundry in Yountville, Ca or Per Se in New York City range from:  Silver at $750-800; Gold at $1550; and Black at $2500 – thankfully each card is for two!

    Ad Hoc, also in Yountville has gift cards from $58 per person.

    Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery, with added locations in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas, from $31 per person per gift.

     

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     I’d say, Keller definitely found what Popov describes as meaningful work by “allowing the petals of his identity to unfold!”

     

     

     

     

     

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