Friday, March 29, 2013

Over 100 Attendees at 6th Annual NAWBO Day Thinking Ginormous!

6th Annual NAWBO Day, Think Ginormous, 

Big Branding for Small Business

Over 100 Attendees Thinking Ginormously about Branding

By Tamar Cerafici, Esq.

Last week was big for our unbeatable chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. March 22 was declared NAWBO Day by the City Council. I got to talk about the tremendous impact women have on the Post-Crash economy. And no review of a THINK GINORMOUS event should be printed without a quick review of these statistics.

If you’re a woman business owner, and you don’t think you’re making a contribution, print these numbers. Frame them. Put them on the mirrors right next to the “employees must wash their hands” signs. Write these in lipstick on your mirror. Don’t use lipstick? Use a crayon or something (watch for a super cool infographic as soon as I figure one out).

  10.1 Million:  The number of business in business during 2012 that were at least 50% women owned.

  $1.3 Trillion (that’s a T, folks): the ANNUAL contribution to the US economy by Women Owned Businesses.

  2X Faster: That’s the rate at which women will start their own businesses compared to every other sector in the United States.

  200,000: That’s the number of Women Owned Businesses started in 2012 alone. That’s 550 new businesses EACH DAY.

So you ask, Why should the National Association of Women Business Owners of Pittsburgh ( host a full day of international and local branding experts, like the group did last Friday?

Debbie Hickman
Because, as Debbie Hickman and Susan Newman pointed out, we are really good at starting businesses, and we’re really good at keeping them going, but we’re terrible at branding ourselves to really create an enterprise with a legacy.

That’s what THINK GINORMOUS was all about. Women Business Owners, and the men who employ bright intelligent women, must recognize the unique brand that each businesswomen has. Each speaker had a story to tell, and they boiled down to this: until you are true to your brand, the brand that is YOU, you will continue to slave away, staying in business, but failing to grow.

And women, in particular, need to grow and nurture; they suffer when they merely create a job for themselves and others. This was Debbie Hickman’s story.

Debbie Hickman, independent store owner of Giant Eagle on Frankstown Road, told her inspiring story about going from $2.20 an hour minimum wage employee to owning her own store and making it work despite four other franchises failing in the same place.  Her lesson was linking your business to a big brand without giving up your passion or autonomy. She also noted that her particular brand was to nurture her employees so they could grow in the business. Many of the Frankstown alums have gone on to manage other stores and even create their own businesses.

Susan Newman
Susan Newman of Broadcast Louder and Susan Newman Designs told a similar tale of growth. After being laid off from her large publishing company, she found work as a free lancer, but never felt that she had any identity. She finally realized her work/brand was her ability to create brand visibility on the web. This has been her mission; she’s fulfilled it by developing instructional videos and creating a fantastic interview series that helps people talk about  the thought process behind their brands.

She really straightened us out on how to keep our brands consistent from business cards to websites and Twitter and gave us some good information on long tail key words.

NAWBO Pittsburgh hosted a lovely buffet, but I didn’t get to eat any of it. I was too busy listening to Runa Magnusdottir, whose BrandIt online magazine resulted out of her trip to NAWBO Day in Pittsburgh in September of 2008. She returned to Iceland as that country’s economy collapsed.  Like all good women entrepreneurs, she simply refused to acknowledge the recession and relentlessly developed her brand.

Runa Magnusdottir
She did it by following some really simple rules:

People make decisions about you in 7 seconds or less. In those 7 seconds they make at least 11 decisions about you. You are your brand.

Besides her conviction, Runa left us with three indelible tips about our brands, what she called the three Cs:

1. Clarity. You must be clear about who you are and what you give.

2. Consistency. Showing true value means you show it all the time. People may not come to you immediately, but you will be remembered when the need arises.

3. Constancy. Your brand has to stand for the same things, as Runa said, “again and again and again.” If you’re constant, your network and their network are all repeating the same message.

Be clear. Be you. Everybody else is taken
I had never thought of branding myself through awards, but I read the things in the Pittsburgh Business Times, and I want to be those people. I had no idea they had people like JoAnn Forester to do the work for them!

Jo Ann Forrester
Jo Ann Forrester owns Blue Ribbon Profiles. She’s optimized her clients’ brands by creating peerless nomination packets that get noticed. Her clients have won national and local awards. She gave some remarkable tips for building our brands through nominations and awards. Most important take away: if you want an award, or if you think it will enhance your brand to have the award, go for it!

Oh, and have JoAnn write it. She’s a lot better at it that you are. Seriously. Jane Austen didn’t get much credit while she was alive because JoAnn wasn’t there to get her noticed.

Donna Baxter
Branding yourself on the airwaves and Internet was the topic of our panel discussion. It was a lively group of my personal heroes. Each of them created their own media presence because a need had to be filled. They have become their own brand, and live their vision each day.

Donna Baxter, founder of The Soul Pitt, recognized in college – maybe even
in high school – that minority groups needed a voice. She gave them that voice, first as a rapper, and then as an Internet entrepreneur. The Soul Pitt is a brand that is not only associated with Donna, but is intrinsically linked to the minority communities she represents. You must check out her brand at!

Ola Jackson
Ola Jackson, founder of OWN, OR Onyx Woman Network, gave the background of her brand. She has a powerful story; for 22 years she has leveraged radio, print media, TV and the Internet to build a brand that supports women of color – meaning colorful women! She talked about the consistency of her vision, and how it strengthened her brand. Check out the way she uses her brand and stays true to her vision at

Joanne Quinn-Smith
Joanne Quinn-Smith, aka The Techno Granny, was one of the first people to leverage the talk show format on the Web. Using a platform called Talkshoe (, she has created several talkshows, and publishes Pittsburgh’s First Internet Radio and TV Network which  gets 2.5 million visitors a year.   She’s been able to keep that going – winning the national SBA Journalist of the Year Award– by keeping relentlessly clear about what she does, and what she can accomplish for her clients. You must see what how Joanne spreads Good News about Pittsburgh at:

Ruth Byrd Smith is the Executive Director at  Allegheny County’s Minority, Women, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program. She has broadcast theMWDBE’s enterprise over the radio (at WGBN), and we learned that this
Ruth Byrd Smith
was simply a continuation of her student body radio show in high school. She explained the very solid results that can be seen from a radio and multimedia presence. She has used it to build the department’s brand and the brand of many small businesses over the years. Check out how she continues to build the departments vision and brand at

SO,  if after reading this review, you are kicking yourself that you missed it. YOU SHOULD. But you can get this kind of information on a daily basis simply by joining the National Association of Women Business Owners, the strongest voice for women-owned small businesses in the country. NAWBO and NAWBO Pittsburgh offer monthly workshops and unlimited resources for small businesses.
Through April, NAWBO and NAWBO Pittsburgh are offering a $50 discount on new membership dues. This is a wicked good deal. Don’t be kicking yourself again. Join NAWBO, and get access to an international group of successful professionals whose only goal is to see you succeed too. If you would like additional information about joining NAWBO you can go to: or contact Membership Director Tamar Cerafici at:

Tamar Cerafici is an environmental lawyer whose national practice includes nuclear power and sustainable development consulting. She is the author of “Dominate: How Lawyers Crush Their Competition (with these 4 Powerhouse Marketing Techniques),” and the founder of as well as LegalShoe, and The Lawyer’s New Clothes, new media channels on that teach lawyers how to build enterprises and find balance in their practices without selling their souls.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Afro Cuban Fever Hits Pittsburgh, Afro Cuban All Stars

Afro Cuban Fever Hits Pittsburgh, 

Juan De Marcos & The Afro- Cuban All Stars

by Martin Thomas and Helene Vidovich

Is it possible to be cool and hot at the same time? Usually there is a fever involved. Last thursday night was no exception at the August Wilson Afro-American Cultural Center. We were all taken by a fever of music from the Afro-Cuban All Stars. Band leader, arranger and producer Juan de Marcos started the evening declaring, "this is the first Afro-American Cultural Center we've ever played." The crowd cheered with Pittsburgh pride.

The group stemmed from the Buena Vista Social Club recordings that Ry Cooder and de Marcos put together in the early nineties. The cultural stir that the album created caused a resurgence of interest around the world for Cuban folk music and world bookings for de Marcos and the All Stars. It was no surprise when the band chose selections from the BVSC album including the crowd pleaser, "Dos Gardenias." The lead was sometimes tossed from performer to performer like a hot potato and other times more like Franco, hanging on tight, running to the end-zone. 

The All Stars ensemble 15 member line-up included vocalists, keyboards, piano, bass, congas, timbale and timbale set, clarinets, trumpets, fugelhorns and they all moved or danced during the entire performance and two song encore. De Marcos's orchestra entertained the audience subdividing the beats in ways you do not usually hear this far north. They encouraged us to clap on 1-and-3 and it didn't sound square. Although Martin and the more timid throughout the audience were reluctant to clap on those beats, it is hereby confirmed that they did clap (and dance) after all. The enthusiasm was infectious; the band brought the audience to their feet several times. Toward the end, we no longer needed our seats. They pulled children out of the audience to the stage which symbolized passing the torch onto future generations. The children danced with abandon while more children rushed the stage to join in. The band members just smiled and seemed to enjoy the exuberance. Then, the singers left the stage to sing and dance among the audience. They were like Pied Pipers with the most enthusiastic following them back up onto the stage. At the end of the concert the players came forward toward the front edge of the stage. It made us feel we were important to them.

It is notable that the most oppressed cultures produce the most joyous music. It appears the human spirit refuses to be held down; it will rear from the depths of the worst and rocket skyward to fly free. On a blisteringly cold night, many Pittsburgher's came out and were rewarded with the heat of the Caribbean. The only things missing were the ocean and palm trees.

Not professional reviewers just everyday Pittsburghers availing themselves of Pittsburgh Cultural and Dance Events by as Mark Freeman says,  "Being a Tourist in their Hometown."

Helene Vidovich, Freelance Cultural Reporter
Martin Thomas, Videographer ~ Troubadour

No Need for Interpreters--They Danced, Slask!

Niezwykle niesamowite!  Nie byliśmy gotowi do opuszczenia.  

Extremely awesome! We were not ready to leave.

by MartinThomas and Helene Vidovich

comments by Mary Thomas

Gladys Bailin, Martin’s dance instructor, used to tell him, "Stand up straight and look like a man.” Someone must have passed that bit of advice on to the Polish men.

In the first stop on their US tour, the performance of Slask, by the Song & Dance Ensemble of Poland, was quite amazing. 60 years ago, Stanislaw Hadyna started a company that would research and preserve Polish folk music, dance and costuming. One can only imagine the additional effect if we had been able to understand the lyrics. Based on our reactions to the other performance elements, one is tempted to learn Polish. There were over 1500 costumes for a troupe of 80. That is more than an average of 18 changes each. Some of the members were in the orchestra and/or performed on stage and some were mainly singers. Others sang while they danced and many were quite versatile in song and dance and appeared in a variety of the 29 selections. The show was sculpted from the musical overture, to the entrance of the dancers, and on, as the skirts flashed layers of colors when the women would spin, turn or twirl.

There were many "wow" moments from the use of costuming alone. Much of the clothing and head-dress or hats had several aspects and seemed to signify different cultural regions. The outside of the outfits might be ornate, have a layer of lace or embroidery, with the underside revealing a vivid red, lush lavender or robin egg blue. And then, there were the exquisite multi-layers of petticoats. The broad circling movements of the women manipulated aspects of their costumes that revealed the deep hues or stripes of different colors and patterns. Socks were sometimes added as contrasting layers.

A single decorative banner was displayed center-rear stage throughout the performance. The dancers would alternate facial expressions independently or en masse; they did not need the use of any sets or scrim to attract our attention. The view from the audience kept evolving, ebbing and flowing both in the scene and as a show. We knew it was the finale before the intermission and then again at the end.

As with most great music done with such efficiency, one is usually surprised how few parts there are. We were shocked at intermission when we looked in the orchestra pit and saw a minimal number of chairs and music stands. It sounded like a full orchestra. Also during intermission, we wondered how they could continue so exuberantly through another half -- especially in costuming. When the troupe came out in formal wear it made us smile and think, "that's how." Most of the songs were uplifting and enjoyable. The music was joyous, yet serious. Occasionally, the troupe would feature a soloist or duets that were sometimes done in a minor key, dark and dramatic. Red lights and shadows readied our hearts. It was a wonderful contrast.

The traditional tunes convey a sense of the traditions from the green pastures of Beskids Mountains and steep peaks of Tatras Mountains. Over the years, Śląsk have visited 44 countries on five continents and performed over seven thousand concerts to an audience of over 25 million. They performed for Pope John Paul II who was a patron of the troupe, and performed for him in the Vatican.

There was some extremely fast foot-stepping. The men had it tough on their knees dancing so low to the floor, kicking out and bending to-and-fro. One man even jumped using his own arm as the “rope!” You had to see it. The evening was similar to a day at an amusement park — lively, invigorating, lush with color, sights and sounds. We were not ready to leave when it was over. As Mary Thomas said, "Poland sent us their very best!"

Not professional reviewers just everyday Pittsburghers availing themselves of Pittsburgh Cultural and Dance Events by as Mark Freeman says,  "Being a Tourist in their Hometown."

Helene Vidovich, Freelance Cultural Reporter
Martin Thomas, Videographer ~ Troubadour

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Priscilla Rocks, No, Discos the Benedum

Priscilla Rocks, No, Discos the Benedum
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
March 5-9
Benedum Center
7:30 pm

                                                By Tamar Cerafici                                              

I hate March. March has a special, dark place in my heart that makes the knives in my house look particularly interesting, and not in a good way.

And when one wakes up to the white hellscape known as the North Hills and she has 6 inches of heavy spring snow to clear, she tempted to crawl back into the warm comfort of her bed and not come out until June. (I have to distance myself and speak in the third person this time of year.)

The bus, the queens, paint brush number
That is, unless one has the raucous fabulousness of Priscilla Queen of the Desert still ringing in her ears and creating microseizures in her brain. After last night’s performance, this morning’s heavy snow is a white wonderland, perfectly suited for memories of a pink bus and dancing paintbrushes.

Priscilla tries awfully hard to be a party from start to finish. Just to make sure we get the point, we’re occasionally bombarded with disco effects and party streamers. The trick succeeds, mostly. 

The show is based on the mid-90’s Australian offering, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Like others in the genre (think of Strictly Ballroom or Muriel’s Wedding) the movie boasts a thin plot line exploring the lives of outsiders who find their own place in the scorching Australian sun.

This particular sun shines on three performers, the young drag queens Tick and Adam, and their transsexual mentor, Bernadette. Tick, who has a wife named Marion and a kid named Benji in Alice Springs, hatches a plot to see his 6-year-old son. Tick enlists Adam and Bernadette to join him on the promise of a gig at Marion’s casino. Since none of them can afford plane tickets to the Outback, they journey west in renovated bus purchased from three Swedes named Lars. During the road trip, they come to terms with their own loneliness and sexuality, and confront the bigotry of the hicks, and find security and even love. That’s about it. They reach Alice Springs, they’re a hit, and Benji helps Tick understand that a family is often just a hodgepodge of people who love each other. You know, the usual.

But these performances are anything but usual:

Three Divas (Emily Afton, Bre Jackson, and Brit West) literally fly in and out of the show like a Greek Chorus, if a Greek Chorus belted dance tunes suspended 25 feet in the air. Crazy, but glorious.

Tick, Adam and Bernadette, oh the costumes!
Wade McCollum (Tick) does his best with a character. Unfortunately, he really doesn’t have much to work with – to be fair, Tick is one of those types who lets “I dare not” wait upon “I would.” Tick is really more of a confused little boy, who stays a confused little boy until his relationship with Benji anchors him. McCollum’s voice is as sweet as his character, when he’s not lip-syncing to the Divas. 

But Tick emerges as a reluctant hero who modifies the extremes of Adam (Bryan West), the rebel escaping from his conservative and wealthy mother, Bernadette (Scott Willis), who has found her place and is content, and the chorus of Outback hillbillies.

Bryan West dominates the show as Adam and his alter ego, Felicia. West humanized Adam, whose lines are a string of bitchy quotes, and in doing so treats us to several fine covers of Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Verdi (his Violetta is literally over the top). Scott Willis’s Bernadette grounds his co-stars; his calm baritone and rock-solid acting give us permission to become emotionally invested in these characters. Bernadette desperately wants someone to care for her; Willis wins us over immediately.

In addition,the supporting cast is raunchy and funny and horrifying. Joe Hart’s Bob is heartfelt and sincere. Chelsea Zeno’s turn as Bob’s Filipino wife is worth the price of admission – she literally steals one of the many shows within the show, introducing a jarring punk vibe and a wickedly funny trick involving ping-pong balls.  Babs Rubenstein is unstoppable as the sex-starved, mullet-headed pub-keeper. The Ensemble is always strong and fun to watch. Each member plays their many parts with gusto; clearly they’re having a lot of fun. 

The hillbilly ensemble
Oh, the staging! The costumes! The bus is the center of all activity and is gorgeous. The set designers, stuck with and Australian Outback represented mainly by red screens, went to town on the bus. Any money saved on scenery was lavished on the costumes, which retained the Oscar-winning verve of the movie.

Finally, plumed-headdresses off to the remarkable off-stage army of costume changers who must coordinate this bacchanalia every night. Um, wow!

Unlike its bus namesake, Priscilla moves at lightning speed. Anyone caught under it should be ready to dance their way out, ‘cause this groove train ain’t stopping. 

I think I can stop hiding the knives – summer is only a bus ride away, as long as the bus is pink, and named Priscilla.

Tamar Cerafici is an environmental lawyer whose national practice includes nuclear power and sustainable development consulting. She is the author of “Dominate: How Lawyers Crush Their Competition (with these 4 Powerhouse Marketing Techniques),” and the founder of as well as LegalShoe, and The Lawyer’s New Clothes, new media channels on that teach lawyers how to build enterprises and find balance in their practices without selling their souls.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Trilolgy of Syles at the Ballet

By Martin Thomas, Troubador
Helene Vidovich
Independent Reviewer

Ballet at the August Wilson Center? Yes, even on the Franco Harris Stage.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theater is creating a prodigious amount of work this year. One wonders how they remember all their steps while learning the moves of the next performance. They couldn't possibly learn these pieces so fast… could they?

Last night, presenting "Unspoken," which consisted of three pieces. The first, Serenade, set to Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings in C, Op, 48, a hauntingly uplifting piece, was originally choreographed by George Balanchine. While PBT brought in stage director (and veteran Antony Tudor dancer) Donald Mahler, a "repetitor" from NYC to maintain the integrity of Balanchine's work, PBT made it their own. The Corp sculpted the stage with their bodies. The ethereal quality of the music, the movements of the dancers and the high stage ceilings raised the viewers to an "other worldly" consciousness. The costumes were simple, yet aesthetically pleasing. There was no scenery to distract from the elegant scenes the Corps presented through their body movements and interactions with each other as they gracefully danced en pointe, jumped and did precision lifts and turns singularly and in unison. The lighting enhanced the overall beauty of the production.

Second on the program was a piece originally choreographed by 20th century icon, Antony Tudor. Jardin Aux Lilas (Lilac Garden) a love story set to the music, Poem for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 28, written by Ernest Chausson. Again the "repetitor" was brought in to retain the integrity of the original.

Dancer: Joseph Parr
Choreography: Mark Morris
Photo: Aimee DiAndrea

Third on the program was a Pittsburgh premier of a Mark Morris dance, Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes set to 13 etudes by Virgil Thompson and performed live by PBT Company pianist Yoland Collin. Some of the music was "folky" and some was "quirky" while the dancing reflected the setting of the music. This piece deviated the most from classical ballet which seemed appropriate given the 20th Century setting of the music.

Overall the performance had a strong "blood flow," pumping excitement throughout the audience. After the last curtain we definitely felt our minds were raised to a higher level of excitement. If you haven't gone to see the Ballet, please do yourself a favor and see one of PBTs performances. Many Pittsburghers are proud of their Ballet troupe and rightly so.

Still time to see this amazing trilogy.

Saturday, March 9, 2013 - 8:00pm
Sunday, March 10, 2013 - 2:00pm
Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 7:30pm
Friday, March 15, 2013 - 8:00pm
Saturday, March 16, 2013 - 8:00pm
Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 2:00pm
Additional information and tickets: 

Not professional reviewers just everyday Pittsburghers availing themselves of Pittsburgh Cultural and Dance Events by as Mark Freeman says,  "Being a Tourist in their Hometown."

Helene Vidovich, Freelance Cultural Reporter
Martin Thomas, Videographer ~ Troubadour