Wednesday, June 4, 2014

In the Mind of an Entrepreneur

Many fashion brands founded in Florence are world renowned, sought after and exclusively available in this area. In fact, “Made in Italy” alone suggests quality, craftsmanship and elegance in all that bears the label. Despite the prestigious distinction, even this phenomenon cannot withstand volatile economic conditions and the forever-evolving business practices without some reinforcement. Just as the Renaissance shed some well-needed light on the outdated medieval paintings and lifestyle, this new transparency era has opened the blinds on outdated business processes, marketing techniques and manufacturing policies. There has been a shift from a blindly hooked consumer to an aware and outspoken one, a satisfied and qualified employee to an individually ambitious one, minuscule costs to outsourcing costs, big profits to bigger socially responsible ones, and strategic management to creative leadership.
“Money Wall” in Florence
During my stay in Italy, I had the pleasure of meeting and picking the brilliant brains of two very unique, passionate, and courageous entrepreneurs (small business owners), Sara Amrhein and Elisabetta Renzoni. Both women have distinct backgrounds, business models and byproducts of their innate talents. I was so impressed with their designs, drawn to their tenacity and moved by their passion; I knew I had to share each of their unique stories.

Sara’s studio is a comfortable artistic playhouse where the only thing brighter than the aura around her as she talks about her art is the playfully colored jewelry she creates with polymer clay showcased throughout her space. I met Sara the day I visited her studio regarding an internship opportunity she posted online. The second I walked in, I was in awe at how the simplicity of the white walls are accented by the beautiful artwork and jewelry she creates. A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to sit down with her over some espresso in her studio where I picked her brain and was moved by her story.

Sara next to her contemporary jewelry collection.
Sara completed her formal education at University of California, Santa Barbara where she majored in art history and spent a quarter abroad in Florence. Having grown up in a household where creativity, art and fashion exploration were encouraged by her mother, Sara acknowledged that being surrounded by the Renaissance masterpieces in Florence felt like home. The young artist knew she had to pack her bags and say arrivaderci to Los Angeles only one month after her graduation. Fast-forward 14 years, Sara is sitting in her lovely studio, creating beautiful jewelry and artwork and networking with other great artists and designers scattered throughout this creative region of Tuscany. 

Sara’s first entrepreneurial endeavor was in high school selling bracelets and necklaces to classmates. Now, she sells directly out of her studio, partners with and works with two local concept stores to sell her wonderfully crafted and unique products. Sara’s biggest challenges during the first year of opening her studio were marketing and increasing brand awareness. “Selling your product just doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t just open your door and automatically people are rushing in and buying everything off your shelves,” she says. I wonder “how couldn’t they?” Her necklaces are aesthetically daring, colorfully welcoming and make their presence felt in an effortlessly flawless way. Who would be bold enough to wear these statement pieces? “Somebody who is after something different, always going to make a statement,” she says. “Somebody cultured and willing to seek out the handmade.”
Sara brings a flavorful product to the market, satisfying niche consumer needs by simply exercising her innate ability to create. Check out her website and enjoy the sight of her inimitable accessories yourself!

FLO Concept Store
My Fashion Entrepreneurship class of eight was surrounded by the blue-green fluid walls and custom clothing of Flo, a concept store boutique founded by Elisabetta R­­­enzoni.  Elisabetta, president of Flo, gracefully shared her entrepreneurial journey before store opening hours one Thursday morning, keeping all us students engaged and enthused with ears and eyes wide open. Her chic and welcoming demeanor coupled with her warm tone complimented the Flo philosophy of “quality and ethics traveling on the same track without sacrificing elegance.”

Elisabetta Renzoni, President of Flo Concept Store

Elisabetta shared a little bit about the business model and vision of the Flo Concept Store. Flo is founded on unique products and social responsibility based on concepts such as solidarity, sustainability and awareness. This organization grants disadvantaged and distressed individuals the opportunity to work or design products which are then sold in store. Elisabetta acknowledged that this socially aware model was inspired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus, the “Banker to the Poor,” a Bangladesh social entrepreneur who has established the Grameen Bank providing business loans to aspiring entrepreneurs with little to no collateral while teaching these clients basic financial principals to get their business up and running.

Elisabetta is a professional, inspiring and brilliant business woman who sees the talent in people and strives to bring out the best in them, while making a profit and sharing a beautifully crafted product with the excited end consumer. For more information on the Flo Concept Store and to check out the one-of-a-kind assortment of products, visit

Without a doubt, Sara and Elisabetta have given Made in Italy a completely new meaning. The poise, dedication and pure joy these two women radiate is both admirable and hopeful. By dedicating this post to the 2014 graduates, I want to leave you all with one message: Whether you want to open your own business, work for your dream company, save the world one city at a time, or still have no idea, I hope these two stories fueled your passion, motivated you to execute and be the driving force behind your OWN defined success.

Live and Learn...and Live.

Europe has spoiled me with enlightening adventures one beautiful city and culture at a time. Wonderful memories such as the incredibly friendly locals of Amsterdam, the breathtaking view of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City and the rustic gondolas floating on Venice’s water canals can all be easily revisited by browsing through my Instagram photos and camera roll. Despite the artsy candid photos and clever captions, I must admit, behind every photo is a lesson that can’t be relived through a camera lens, but can be shared through a story. Experiencing such a variety of newness and stepping outside of my comfort zone daily is exhausting, but so rewarding. As an independent traveler, I’ve been able to reexamine my experiences thus far and reflect on some of the key takeaways from my travels.

In March, I traded in ciao for bonjour as I recalled some of my high school French while taking a scenic stroll down the Champs-Élysées. With the spring-time air, dark blue skies and the hourly Eiffel Tower’s glisten, I couldn’t help but notice the countless couples soaking in Parisian romance. Lovers were everywhere shoulder-upon-shoulder, lip-on-lip and palm-in-palm, and all I can think was, “Wow, Paris truly is the city of amour.” It must be something about the crisp air, aesthetically perfect buildings and the spark of energy on every corner that enables these hundreds of couples to love as loudly as they do.
I was simply an onlooker navigating Parisian social dynamics and adjusting my visions to this new never-before-seen footage . Traveling with an open mind and no expectations is the best way to immerse oneself into a new culture and atmosphere,  even if it means casually walking past some PDA alongside the Louvre. What I say to my fellow lovebirds, continue spreading the joy of lip lock while I enjoy the baguette and Nutella crepes under the tower’s twinkle.

I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in Rome, the big, big city swimming in historical currency and an overwhelming amount of tourists. The impressive Roman Forum has a somewhat mysterious and eerie quality that keeps one mesmerized, fascinated and questioning ancient Roman moral conduct. Our lovely tour guide walked us through tsunami like crowds as she pointed out special areas and historical monuments throughout the city, including the Fontana di Trevi, famously giving birth to the “Lizzie McGuire Moment.” It was in this rich city that I had a poor experience when I was almost pick-pocketed by a young boy on the subway. Constantly monitoring your surroundings is absolutely crucial when traveling, no matter how easily distracted you are by the crowds of people and beautiful buildings. Needless to say, after this incident, my survival instinct is at its peak and my ninja reflexes have never been this agile. Violence is never the answer; however, I do have a few self-defense moves up my sleeve if I need them.

Crystal-clear sea water splashing through rocky coasts, narrow streets winding through hundred-foot cliffs, and colorful three-story homes tiered with Tetris like precision all make up the lovely Amalfi Coast and Salerno. One sweaty cab ride, a 45-minute train ride and shuttle bus-ride later, I went from my hotel room on the tip top of the hill back to the rocky beaches of Amalfi. After enjoying some Mediterranean sunshine at the entrance of an abandoned grotto and eating some nice southern Italian gelato, I was ready to call it a day when the only bus leading back into town never showed. Two and a half hours later, I was able to bypass the frustrated mob of Italians and make my way towards the only bus that drove about 60-plus tourists and locals back to the nearest train station. Squeezed in an aisle of what should be a 30-person shuttle, I watched the sea water splash along the shore as the driver fiercely drove down the windy narrow roads with Ferrari intricacy. “At least I’m holding on for dear life while watching a gorgeous sunset over the Mediterranean,” I optimistically thought to myself. Rest assured, I made it safely back to ground zero with some new Italian friends and new fixation for sunsets. Having the ability to anticipate abnormalities by observing non-verbal expressions and doing a little research on logistical information, such as public transportation, is absolutely critical when traveling. Despite day one’s transportation hassles, day two in Amalfi was a piece of cake as I hopped on and off trains and buses like it was my job. Still I can’t take all the credit; it helps when bus drivers arrive to and from bus stops on time like it’s their job.

I developed a new traveling mantra: Everything in life must be done twice: once to learn and another to live. It’s important to experience frustration, losses and uncertainty to better live excitement, achievements and confidence during your travels. After all, nothing about traveling is easy, but everything about traveling is worth it!

Last chance...

“This is my last chance to study abroad,” I thought to myself last March as I hit “enter” on my laptop screen, submitting the deposit to what has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Being part of the university and Business Honors programs for four years, successfully completing three summer internships, and being an active student leader on-campus, I had very little flexibility in my schedule to leave the country for five months. With one year left of school, I was able to strategically organize my class schedule, and all that remains is a global business course – so convenient. Now, I’m studying halfway across the globe, and I see more clearly than ever why studying abroad didn’t work out any of the four years prior.

Eli’s view from the Rose Garden in San Gimigiano.
Lorenzo de’Medici offers more than 400 courses ranging in disciplines from art and business to fashion, language and culture. Some unique courses linked specifically to the historic country and city include Italian Culture through Music; The Genius of Michelangelo; Lost Symbolisms: Secret Codes in Western Art; Corporate Social Responsibility; Wine Business and Marketing; Peace Studies – the list goes on and on. Needless to say, because of my new flexible schedule and curious nature, I completely nerded out and wanted to take them all! I had so many options to choose from with only one real “mandatory” course – let the fun begin!

Global marketing management. This three-hour course shed light on the theory behind why and how companies “go global.” The course dissects financial implications, cultural nuances and political factors, and each play a huge role in how companies market products and services in a foreign country. My brilliant and challenging professor, in her adorable Italian accent and traditionally fashionable Italian outfits, lectures via PowerPoint adding in several two- to five-minute informative YouTube videos pertaining to whatever topic she discusses that day. I’ve watched relevant clips about international patent laws and the way Oreo’s packaging is tailored to specific countries and regions all over the world. Our in-class case study discussions are my personal favorite, similar to what I experienced in MGMT 449 with good ol‛ Dr. Leibson. We analyzed the global expansion of several companies and the various challenges that arise when deciding to go global. Big established companies such as Ikea faced political unrest and were almost forced to operate in a bribe-infested business culture when expanding to Russia. When Starbucks expanded into Australia, the coffee giant failed to understand the Australian consumer preferences and completely underestimated the necessity of adaption when introducing its product in a competitive and saturated market. With these observed challenges, we also discussed the success of one of the strongest and most recognizable brands in the world: Coca-Cola. Its brand identity implies that no matter where in the world I am, I can count on having a trusted tasteful glass of America’s history to quench my thirst. Coca-Cola’s nearly flawless strategy to adapt to the ever-changing domestic and global environment in a socially relevant way that resonates with the loyal Coke consumer is a key factor in its successful global reign. Interesting stuff.  Now, I’m finalizing two projects: a research paper on Singapore, where I’m assessing the business marketing opportunities by analyzing its culture, current marketing practices, and its financial and currency market; and my partner, and dear friend, and I are developing  a full-length hypothetical business plan: “Studamo Bene: a coffee house study lounge” targeting college students, since no such space exists in Florence … sounds like first-mover’s advantage to me. I promise learning is fun; all one needs is to be engaged, challenged and openly curious.
Window display on Luisaviaroma, a Florentine boutique.

Fashion means business: One of my professional and very personal aspirations in life is to open my own fashion retail store, where all of the merchandise is sourced from ethically sustainable vendors with a precise moral compass. I really do believe I can leave this world better than I found it, and I hope my generation is able to find a solution to the human injustices the apparel manufacturing industry has grown so fond of. The industry is unfortunately plagued with a benchmark for unapologetically harvesting unsafe working conditions in poverty-stricken countries, where labor is conveniently cheap and human lives are reduced to profit-generating machines. Fashion means serious business, and it’s time we start taking this $1.7 trillion global industry more seriously. Let’s think: What other product forces one to express his/her innate personality daily resulting in social capital based on what the individual wears or doesn’t wear? It’s an evolving, fast-paced and interesting industry that relies on innovative technology to develop textiles, a futuristic approach and anticipative skill to forecast trends and a loyal informed customer whom now more than ever seeks transparency and honesty in the brands he/she hangs up in the closet. My first goal is to become aware and educated about the ever-changing and exciting industry, which is exactly what I’ve been doing in and outside the classroom.

In the voice of “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” I must proudly say, I don’t usually take fashion courses, but when I do, they are in the country which is home to prominent global fashion brands including Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci and Roberto Cavalli. I enrolled in three fashion courses, Fashion Marketing, Fashion Entrepreneurship and Retailing Management. Each course is taught by experienced women, who have worked in the industry for 10-plus years, two of which own their own business and share valuable insight and experiences with the class every week. Each professor has a distinct personality, career path, style of teaching, and of course, style of dressing. I am surrounded by fashion every single day, whether I’m learning about the business of fashion in the classroom, casually passing by Gucci and Zara on my way to the Rose Garden, or observing the fabulous yet effortless street style of Florence walking past the duomo, it’s a great environment to be in for all lovers of fashion.

Needless to say, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my classes at LdM. I’ve made some great lasting friendships with international classmates, built relationships with my sassy professors and am immersed in an industry that completely fascinates me. The last semester of my undergraduate career has been full of hard work and artistic business inspiration that I can’t wait to bring back to the States. Being an international business student in a city synonymous to art and creative freedom has been stimulating, eye opening and absolutely necessary. After all, accounting and finance professionals can be creative too, you know.

*This post has been shared on the Mihaylo College of Business & Economics website.

Farewell In-N-Out, Buongiorno panini

Ciao ragazzi! I’m now a little over halfway through my stay in Florence, and I must say, the concept of time truly amazes me. How have I been spending mine? Leisurely reading countless books on my growing list, befriending some phenomenal individuals from all over the world and most importantly, immersing myself in the unique culture Italy so proudly holds on to.

Florence has a unique atmosphere and historical richness that keeps me mesmerized and curious. The city’s historical significance is most notably attached to the Renaissance; however, Florence was also once home to Europe’s strongest banks and still thrives off of the profitable textile and fashion industries. This beautiful city is undoubtedly founded on artistic innovation and creativity, which brings a great abstract perspective to my business studies.

Italian lifestyle is very relationship driven: calm, cool, and somewhat collected. As an aspiring entrepreneur with a capitalistic mindset, this was VERY new to me. I was shocked to find out that most stores in high traffic areas close at 7 p.m. when there are STILL hundreds of potential customers willing to spend more money. Italians believe in a little something called “going home in time for dinner is more rewarding than earning a few extra bucks.” I had a lot of assimilating to do, so I decided to temporarily replace my “go, go, go” non-stop mentality with a new “slow down and open your eyes” frame of mind. With so many peaceful areas of the city to experience – my favorites being Piazzale Michelangelo and Giardino delle Rose – switching lifestyle pace was less conscious and more of a natural transition. Enjoying beautiful scenery while sunbathing, studying for midterms or having a nice picnic overlooking the Florentine clay tile roofs has been an enriching experience. I have learned to appreciate the simplicity in Italian lifestyle thanks to a much broader global perspective and openness to change.

My favorite aspect of Italian culture has to be the amount of walking I do. I walk to my classes all over the city, passing through cafes at every corner and luxury fashion brands through the center. I walk to the grocery store daily, to group meetings, to choir, you name it. I think I forgot what it’s like to be behind the wheel. (Warning: Stay off the road for a few weeks after I’m back folks!) This independent method of transportation has really helped me naturally become one with the city and its vibrant atmosphere.
Eli Garcia enjoys walking through Florence’s beautiful historical gardens.

I wouldn’t be experiencing Italian lifestyle if I didn’t indulge in the food culture. Heaven is now synonymous with cappuccino, caprese salads, panino and pizza. Although this sounds generic, you truly haven’t experienced Italian cuisine until you’ve sat down at a Trattoria to enjoy fresh soft bread and rich thick pasta that settles so perfectly on your taste buds; you’ll wonder how Olive Garden has survived for so long. As for that delicious Italian wine, I don’t usually go wine tasting, but when I do, I’m in the beautiful hills of Tuscany enjoying fresh cheese and meat slices to complement the smooth sips of Chianti wine.

Adapting to and living through a completely different culture has truly been an eye-opening and self-reflective transition everyone should experience. Being flexible enough to observe and react to my current surroundings by taking calculated risks in school, work, and life in general is a skill I have developed through this global experience. Italian culture is wonderfully traditional, and although it has not by any means been all rainbows and butterflies, I have adopted my favorite aspects and hope to continue them back in the states. On that note, I must say, I miss the Fullerton sunshine, lunch breaks at The Habit and casual small talk with my business peers in the Mihaylo hallways. For now, I’m enjoying rising temperatures, reading in the rose garden, lunch breaks at Panbrianco (best panino in Florence) and casual small talk with my new European friends and East Coast roommates. Thirty-six more days before graduation, 35 more days before my flight back, and 34 more days of learning and growth in beautiful Florence!

*This blog post was shared on The Mihaylo College of Business & Economics blog website.

Titan Travels Series

Welcome to my virtual playhouse typing to you halfway across the globe in Firenze, Italia! My name is Elizabeth, but call me Eli. As a fifth-year business student anticipating the bittersweet commencement in a couple of short months, chances are I might have sat next to you in an accounting or finance class; I may have reviewed your résumé or cover letter at Mihaylo Career Services; maybe I struck a conversation with you in the infamous Starbucks line, or I may have given you one too many Campus Special coupon books. Whatever the case may be, I hope you find as much joy and inspiration in my posts as I do in these 102.4 kilometers that Google Maps calls Florence.

Deciding to study abroad during the last semester of my undergraduate career was risky and scary, but someone had to do it. I committed to the next four months of a lifetime with the Global Student Experience program at CSUF which provides housing, tuition, several day and overnight trips to destinations throughout Italy and unlimited access to all the great museums throughout Florence. Travels to Rome, Viareggio, and Cinqueterre are led by on-site director Chiara, who quickly became one of my favorite aspects of the program. My traditional apartment (complete with adorable window shutters and oversized mosquitos) sits in the heart of Florence, about a two-minute walk from the historic Duomo, Piazza de la Republica, the Ponte Vecchio, and two Zara stores. My usual walk to class through the Mihaylo Foyer and past the Mihaylo statue has been replaced with a casual walk past a 400-year-old architecturally innovative church and countless historical renaissance statues…I’m sure Mr. Mihaylo would approve of this new route to class.

Now, I’m halfway through the semester, satisfying my last global business course requirement and taking a few exciting business fashion courses to completely satisfy my interests. Just as with all matters in life, I wanted my experience to be specific, memorable and purpose driven so I set a few goals which can be summed up in two general yet important words:LEARN and NETWORK.

LEARN: I truly believe in the significance of a multi-dimensional and global education. We’re all at MCBE for several reasons: to eventually get a job, to join clubs and attend workshops, and of course, to enjoy free pizza and ask Dean Puri a meaningful question during the annual Meet the Dean event. Most importantly, students should have one main priority: to learn. The art of learning has so much value and is often overlooked. Whether I’m learning in the classroom in another country, picking the brain of these insightful professors during a coffee break, or reading an interesting article found in The Economist, learning takes many different forms and I hope to continue this great habit even after earning that “A” in MGMT 449.

NETWORK: As a business student, if this hasn’t been drilled in that analytical and creative brain of yours, I’m here to remind you the importance of networking and building a brand for yourself. I have met so many interesting and industry relevant individuals in my short time here; it’s both exhausting and exciting. Just like learning, networking comes in many forms, whether it starts with a random conversation at a café or a formal classroom trip to a nearby boutique, as long as one in curious, willing to listen, and believe, he or she can add value to the conversation, welcome networking with a listening ear and  an open mind.

I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences and overall impressions of my travels abroad. On that note, keep this in mind, future business leaders of the world: Unlike that $5 mocha frapp, traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. Sounds like a pretty attractive ROI to me.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bon Apettito!


Risotto in Milan

....un cornetto, il gelato, margarita pizza, e il biscotti por favore! J Options are endless and so is the bottomless pit I call my tummy these days. Mama mia, the cuisine is delizioso and I can’t seem to explain  how I ever bothered with Top Ramen or even Olive Garden.

Meat platter I viciously devoured on my birthday. Blueberry steak anyone? #carnivore
It isn’t simply how effortlessly delicious and pure the produce and pasta tastes that’s fascinating; it’s the intimacy of the food culture that truly captivates me. Italians value relationships, and I can’t seem to think of a better way to develop and nurture relationships than nurturing your body and soul while chatting over a two-hour lunch with some fresh formaggio and red wine.

Let me clarify, I am LIVING and STUDYING abroad which is very different from vacationing. The Italian honeymoon phase of scarfing down everything in sight was short lived.  The only thing I LOVE more than bread, pasta, wine, and gelato, is living a healthy Californian lifestyle and feeling confident in vintage highwaisted swimwear casually strolling down Huntington Beach. I am by no means dieting; I simply have a balanced lifestyle which includes as much walking and yoga as it does food.
Because of the fresh, organic, and local produce available daily, my time in Florence consist of 3 trips to the grocery store a week. My inner chef is having a blast experimenting with Italian staples such as basil, tomato, pasta, meats, and fresh baked pane. Caprese salad topped with balsamic has been making its way to the top of my all-time favorite list, right under mom’s macaroni and grandma’s everything.
 The day I realized there is indeed such a thing as too much gelato. Another lesson learned
Nonetheless, mi piacciono i dolci!
In the not-so-lovely, raspy, eccentric, and inspirational voice of Mrs. Diana Vreeland “The body must stay fit. Fit people like themselves much better.” I like liking myself….but a little dolce never hurt anybody J
~ Eli


Monday, February 17, 2014

Smart in Love

 “The way you invest your love, you invest your life.” 
Chocolate Fair 
I’m a pretty savvy investor, putting most of my resources and energy into investments I deem absolutely worthy through careful observation, full understanding, and analysis of the expected return. With some investments riskier than others, I’ll admit, I’ve made a few bad calls and have been forced to learn a few lessons on strategy the hard way. However, just like the Dow Jones, I was up 126 points the minute I decided to make the biggest investment in a little something I like to call myself. Expected return: 15% increase in laughter, 20% increase in bread intake, 30% increase in global awareness, and 35% increase in brain power, my favorite!
The longer I’m in Florence, the longer I want to leave Florence to satisfy my innate child-like urges to navigate my curiosities. Glad to say, I exceeded my own expectations….Venice and Viareggio were both incredible.  Everywhere I go, there’s a taste of Italy, but everywhere I go, there’s an intangible uniqueness that gives me the variety and consistency I need to continue developing and adapting to new environments. Now, I have some more lifelong memories to grow old with all thanks to lifelong sacrifice and lifelong strategic investments.
I pour all my love into my friendships, family, work, and school, which each mean the world to me. I didn’t realize how much I’d actually miss home, until I did….everyday..…and I am beyond grateful to have so much to miss. However, it is now time to diversify my portfolio and invest my love into myself. Narcissistic? Nah. Egotistical? Possibly. Selfish, absolutely. But in the great words of Mr. Howard Roark “Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before distribution-or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary.” Let’s be true to ourselves and take care of our mind and body first. Selflessness is beautiful, but so is each individual and his/her creation. Mitigate a little risk and invest love without fear into yourself every now and then, it’s fun 

Happy Valentine’s Day <3 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Good, the Great, and the Reality

Gorgeous isn't it? 
This photo was taken at the tip top of Piazzale Michelangelo and for the first time ever, I stopped thinking, and simply felt. The orange clay tile roofs, the tall 5 story apartment buildings, the brown Arno river, the heavy clouds caressing the top of the mountains.....not your typical LA (<3), Chicago, or New York skyline, but I'd be out of my mind if I didn't appreciate the beauty and reality of this image. 
"Everyone may be underwater, but art always remains"
The perception of this breathtaking panoramic shares one story, however reality shares another. Example: In business, when a firm positions itself among its competitors, it perceives itself in a certain light based on its strategy, mission statement, values, and competitive advantage. Consumers, however, may shed a different light and reveal an unknown truth about the company, resulting in a harmful and uncomfortable identity gap. This becomes problematic when the firm remains in this position and does nothing to address the feedback and bridge the gap.  
The reality is, in this monumental city, there are pockets in streets where men hiss and meow at women as they pass along simply trying to get from point A -> B. In the city center, gypsies work intricately in teams, find the weakest tourist with a map in one hand, iPhone 5s in another,...and execute the infamous pickpocket. In my bank account, there are lingering negative side effects of the appreciating euro against the dollar, and still, a girl's gotta eat. The reality is, this darling city I cherish so much does have a dark side, just like everything else. I don't shove it under the rug or become numb to it, instead, I try to understand and navigate around it while bridging the gap between my old perception and the reality of it all. 
Despite the uncertainty, I'm not afraid. I can look beyond the creepy men hissing and high unemployment rates just to embrace the street art, new friendships, live musicians, rich history, and spunky fashion professionals. 
Whether it's College Dropout blasting through my ear buds, Mocking Jay fresh on my mind, or the discussion in class about large profitable retailers partnering with unethical suppliers (My professor shared a story about a site visit where the factory owner, wearing gold chains, an oversized runway watch, and a pompous personality openly admitted that most of this employees don't make it past age 30!), I'm just now realizing how much I simply do not know about the world......challenge accepted. 
With nothing but rain splashing my windows these past 3 weeks, blue skies were bound to come along. Pisa this past Sunday was great, but the reality of today is even better....Gorgeous isn't it?

- Eli

Friday, February 7, 2014

Let the new times roll

Being bold isn't easy, but it's fun.
Trying something new isn't easy, but it's thrilling. 
Not having a job for the first time in 6 years isn't easy, but it's well deserved...and I'm taking advantage of every minute of it. 
Whether I'm exploring an unknown side of town or developing friendships with cafe and boutique owners, there is absolutely no reason for me to be home....unless it's pouring rain like tonight. But even then, a little rain never hurt anybody. 
I'm a curious wanderer always asking questions and wanting to know more...and more...and then a little bit more. Yes, I'm thirsty.....but I don't crave mixed drinks or "wealthy young gentlemen" on instagram ( -_- smh). 
I crave newness, challenges, and simplicity.
 It's the effortless lifestyle that attracts me to the city the most. Everyone going about his/her day without a care in the world. Now, this is not the first time I've been exposed to this way of life. A few years ago, I visited my mom's home town of Tutuaca, Chihuahua where the locals were easygoing, friendly, and living day by day. This is new for a little ol' aspiring capitalist like myself, but I'm acclimating quite nicely. 
Oh, and the food! Goodness! Like nothing I've ever tasted. Whether it's a small, hidden, mildly sketchy cafe, tratorria, or ristorante where one can enjoy a delicious glass of  wine and unlimited appetizers (dangerous), your tummy will never feel so loved. 
Italy is a historically rich country but has some outdated business tendencies. I mean this in a big way, from both a macro and micro perspective. The heart of any business, the consumer, should devour the sales know, where the magic happens...or is supposed to happen. Customer service? Forget about it. Window displays are beautifully developed and breathtaking...but what's a good window display without an attentive (& hopefully well paid) sales associate ready to WOW you with a profound sales pitch increasing perceived value and most importantly, retaining a customer? The US is light years ahead when it comes to executing a basic business strategy on the sales floor. According to my retailing management professor, its just an Italian thing. 
No stroll along the via is without purpose. Every observation I make and encounter I have is intentional with one end goal in mind: to learn as much as I possibly can...what works, what doesn't, and how can I do it better? Soaking it all up like spongebob while using my futuristic skill set to create, develop, and formalize business ideas of my own. 

Being bold, trying new things, and solitude are all soo underrated. Getting lost in my own mind while looking up at this sky makes the music blasting through my headphones sound so much brighter, even on rainy days. 

Happy Friday :) 

Monday, February 3, 2014


"Why not Milan? Or Rome?Or Paris? What made you choose Florence?" 

My professor opened the class with a serious, subtly intimidating, yet approachable tone. 

Florence is home to the renaissance, giving birth to the development of what we see as modern western art and civilization today. Aside from the tangible evidence of this monumental transition from the Dark Ages to the "Rebirth", there was a shift in human ideals. The population that once emphasized the unknown afterlife began o focus on the here-and-now. Individuality, egoism, and the strength of man made its way into the beautiful minds of artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. This was the same time Galileo revolutionized science and discovered the well known fact we all intuitively understand and take for granted: THE earth, our earth, orbits the sun!! OMG!!!
I'll save the philosophical analysis for another day, but why did I choose Florence?
.......I simply wanted a breath of fresh air :)

I love learning and school, this is a well known fact (#nerdalert)... But I have a serious dilema.....
I can't decide what I like more, my professor's distinct italian accent as she brilliantly lectures on global marketing management and globalization, her contagious enthusiasm while describing the paramount success of the 100+ year old Coca-Cola company and its multi-national business marketing strategy, or her fly thigh high camel colored boots complete with a lovely beige cow neck sweater-dress and matching leggings. I do appreciate a great outfit and passionate professor when I see one....and no, I did not snap a creepy photo. Instead, below is a photo of my walk to class everyday :)

Stay tuned for some more updates on the rest of my awesome classes and any other mind blowing historical facts I learn about. I'll leave you with this adorable puppy I came across as I took a stroll down Via Roma admiring the fabulous window displays of the most beautiful boutiques in the world. 

~ Eli