Local Entrepreneurs Rise to the Occasion and Share the Ride

As written for iluvlocalplaces.com 10/2016

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you have no doubt heard of rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft.  What you may not know is that Cape Girardeau is poised to get its very own version by the name of carGO.  The ride share service is designed to work in micropolitan, or hometown markets, where people are more likely to know each other.  Up until now, this is a market untapped by larger rideshare companies as they tend to focus on larger cities.

I recently sat down with carGO business managers, Gunnar Knudtson and  Kyle Campbell, to get the scoop on their exciting new venture.   James Stapleton of Codefi and Jeffrey Maurer of Mayson Capital Partners of Cape Girardeau spearheaded the micropolitan rideshare concept.  The service is designed to be an on-demand ride service similar to those in the larger markets.  A major defining feature of carGO is the ability to request a ride from your smartphone – connecting you with background checked and safety trained drivers.  A further defining feature specific to carGO is the ability to “favorite” and request particular drivers or be matched with nearby drivers.

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L to R, Maurer, Stapleton, Campbell, Knudtson

When I asked Gunnar and Kyle why this particular business, they said an opportunity like this right out of college was not something they could walk away from.  Both Gunnar and Kyle were studying business at the University of Mississippi, and both had no plans to come back to Cape.  But as we all know, life is funny that way.  Gunner explained the pair received a call one day indicating Stapleton and Maurer wanted to meet and discuss the business idea over dinner.  Gunner recalls with a laugh, “that meeting lasted over four hours.”  He said they felt like they were on “cloud nine” afterward, recognizing that they had an incredible opportunity in front of them.  Although the pair has a background in business management and interest in starting a business, neither has experience launching a tech-infused start-up.

Gunnar and Kyle immediately took up residence in the Codefi co-working space in the Federal Building and started the grind.  Although the business idea was already in place, the pair would have to create processes and finalize details.  This meant partnership agreements, working with the app development, logistics, and a host of legalities and marketing issues related to locating drivers and riders.  Then there is the fact that the service has never been tried in the Cape area.  No pressure guys.  Gunnar and Kyle both express sincere gratitude to the folks at Codefi (https://www.codefiworks.com/) and for the way the up and coming Tech District have nurtured the process.

When asked what success looks like for the new venture Kyle said, “getting that first ride requested and completed.” As the pair laugh, Gunnar chimes in saying that he is hopeful for “future expansion into multiple markets” as the long-term indicator of success.  Both gentlemen agree that the experience is going to be a great learning experience.

 

Notables

The carGO app and website are currently under development.  Potential drivers and riders can visit the site http://www.gocargo.io/ to sign up for more information.

carGO headquarters will be located in the Marquette Tower Tech District.

A Weekend in Southern Illinois

As written for iluvlocalplaces.com 8/2016

Looking for something fun to do over the weekend?  Why not take a trip over to Kinkaid Lake in Murphysboro, Illinois? There is a surprising array of things to do in the area!  I was actually going to open this story by telling you that the beach is only an hour away.  But truth be told (journalism rule #1) it’s not a real beach.  However, the “beach” at Kinkaid Lake does offer a tranquil spot for a sunny picnic or a quiet fisherman’s stop.

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The 2,750-acre lake was built in the late 60s in an area surrounded by sandstone bluffs and the Shawnee National Forest.  A partnership between the Department of Natural Resources, the US Forest Service, and Kinkaid-Reed’s Conservancy District means the lake is meticulous maintained year-round.

The beautiful shorelines cutting into the bluffs and the surrounding forest remain untouched by residential building.  The lake is perfect for skiing, jet skiing, kayaking, tubing, or my personal favorite – relaxing with a cold beverage.  For the outdoorsy type, the lake system shares a border with the 31.5 mile Kinkaid Lake Trail System.  Buttermilk Hill trail juts into the lake and offers a picnic area accessible by foot or by boat.

For the more lively crowd, the party cove is just the spot.  Named Three Mile by visitors, it offers panoramic views of, well, other boats and party people.  It is a great place to meet up with friends, take a gander at the houseboats, or float along with your kiddos and dog.

Don’t have a boat?  The Marina offers rentals! They also have camp spots to accommodate RVs or tents and a restaurant with the best cheeseburger around.  If you are looking to make a weekend out of it, you can take a jaunt around to Little Grand Canyon in the Shawnee National Forest.  As a bonus, there are several points of interest you can hit along the way.

My trip from the Cape area often includes a stop by the Ware Produce stand at Route 3 and 146. They have a great selection of seasonal fruits, veggies, and specialty cheeses.  The journey from IL-146E to IL-127N will take you past the county Fish and Wildlife area, and on a scenic drive by the Brown Barrens Nature Preserve.

The winding drive along 127 takes you by grapevines, ranches, and scenic overlooks in Alto Pass.  Alto Pass offers several stops including wineries along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, the Bald Knob Cross, a brewery, the strangely unique Root Beer Saloon, and a farmers market.

You never know what is going to be around the corner as you drive to the Little Grand Canyon – an area known for year-round wildlife spotting and scenic views.

My stop in the Little Grand Canyon included a 30-minute hike down to the Mississippi Valley, complete with a dog and a camera man.  You can take the trail to the canyon, or complete the entire loop which is about 3.6 miles. The trail we took was not too difficult, and the large beautiful trees provided shade along the way.  The trail is well maintained and offers benches to rest your feet or soak in the quiet nature of the area. The Little Grand Canyon is only about 30 minutes travel time from Lake Kinkaid.

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No trip to Lake Kinkaid is complete without a stop by the Spillway- it is always worth the extra couple of minutes! While you are in the Murphysboro area why not take a peek around downtown?  There are several shops and great options if you are hungry.  Whiffleboy’s pizza is amazing, and in the event your caveman fire-building skills fail, they do deliver to the campground!  If you are in the mood for barbecue, you will not be disappointed with 17th Street Bar and Grill.  The staff is friendly, the beer is cold, and there isn’t a bad thing on the menu.

 

Ghost Writing for Wedding Photography

This is a sample of my ghost writing work:

 

Creative brief: The blog post will be used to link to a photo shoot she did at the location (http://nemusphotography.com/gallery/granlibakken-resort-tahoe-city-ca/) and the wedding page (http://nemusphotography.com/wedding-photography/)

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There was something in the air that day.  You could feel the energy between Fay and Scott rustling through the trees as they eagerly awaited their wedding ceremony.  There was a sense of great anticipation and good vibes that resonated from the private bridal dressing area.  This couple truly sparkles with love and excitement, making it hard not to get caught up in the emotions of the day.  Especially Scott’s first peek at his bride, as she stood tall and graceful among the sheltered firs of the Lake Tahoe wooded valley.

The Granlibakken Tahoe venue, tucked into the mountainous Tahoe area, was a perfect wedding and reception location for the playful couple.  They found themselves surrounded by opalescent views and plenty of room for all the family and friends that came to help them celebrate their special day.

The family owned Granlibakken Tahoe venue has so much to offer in terms of style.  Couples are treated to the rustic feel afforded by the mountains and treetops surrounding the Lake Tahoe area.  Between the two ceremony locations, and four reception locations there is a style and size perfect for every couple; locations that glow with elegance and charm.

The Executive Lodge Lawn where Fay and Scott held their ceremony is separate from the rest of the resort. The panoramic views of the valley make it feel like an intimate secret to be whispered amongst the woods.

However, don’t let this tranquil location fool you.  When it is time to party, the resort staff pulls out all the stops! The Big Pine Executive Lodge Room is appointed with all the features you would expect to find in an old Tahoe lodge.  It comes complete with warm features such as a stone fireplace, an area perfect for dancing the night away, and cozy outdoor seating for the reception dinner.

Capturing memories at Fay and Scott’s reception was a blast.  There was an abundance of joy among family and friends. Happy splashes of color seemed to awaken the sleepy pine lodge and bring it to life.  As the evening wore on, the party trickled in and out of the night air and sparkling lights. Laugher and music emanated from the lodge.  And I am once again reminded of why I love photographing weddings this area.  Such beauty among the stars.

Religious Freedom > Gay Marriage?

In the words of Manhattan Mini Storage: “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.”

The Civil Rights Act was passed under the interstate commerce clause of the US Constitution. The interstate commerce clause was a federal mandate to ensure that nothing affects free trade. When I think about the Religious Freedom bill I wonder how it is passed? It is clearly designed to allow trade to be restricted like it was back before the 1960s. Except in this case, it is against the LGBT group instead of minorities.

Do we need religious freedom laws? The classic example that we often hear is about the bakery that does not want to make a cake for a gay wedding. Unless the couple asks the baker to make something obscene what really is the problem here? It is perfectly acceptable for a store owner to have policies in place regarding what they will and will not do. For example Walmart has rules in place for what they will put on cakes – they do not allow obscene pics or language.

This law in essence appears to be an unwillingness to “play nicely with others”. And isn’t that against the “christian way”? We don’t all have to see eye to eye but we do have to treat each other with respect and dignity. Not like school yard bullies who turn people away because they don’t fit the group mold. What happened to the Golden Rule??

There are a few stores around town that I will not frequent because of all their christian symbols such as giant crosses outside in the parking lots. It is not because I am anti-christian, but more that I feel that they are anti-other faiths.  As a person of another faith, a giant cross in the parking lot does not exactly make me feel welcome. But thanks to the free market I am welcome to take my business elsewhere where I may feel more welcome. That is an exercise of religious freedom in and of itself don’t you think?

Post update 10/13/2016 Here is a link to a recent survey on the issue by the PEW Research Center:

2. Americans divided over whether wedding-related businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples

 

Let me know your thoughts!

 

Stripped Down Make-up and Full Cover Suits.

Between the ban on burkinis and the backlash Alicia Keys received over going make-upless I find myself feeling overwhelmingly confused.  Think about this… people are having heated debates about women who refuse to uncover their bodies and women who refuse to slather make-up masks on their faces.

It’s the 21 century people – why must women who do not conform to the Barbie prototype be offered up for a witch burning? This is especially scary in the context of what is going on around the world with mass shootings, hate crimes, disasters, and our current presidential election (if you can call this election presidential).

No one seems to care what men look like or wear.  The fact that a woman is scrutinized under a lens of fashion speaks to our long standing paternalistic society.  It is truly ridiculous.

Miss B

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a rant about credit reports

A few months ago I tried to pull my annual free credit report.  They were unable to verify my identity online based on some questions I answered.  In order to move forward I had to mail sensitive information to the credit bureau to verify my info.  After not hearing anything back from them for six weeks I gave them a call.  I was informed that they did not have the documents I sent in! They asked me to verify my identity by answering questions about my past creditors and told me that because I could not remember my info I would have to mail my documents AGAIN.

I understand the idea behind the process and why they ask all the security questions. But for the average person, remembering details about their credit history and addresses can be difficult. Especially if you’ve moved frequently or traveled for work. I also think that corporate America is to blame. No I don’t remember the original name of the mortgage company that I had in 2007, that changed names or providers three times. The credit card I had? Well it started as company x but then became company Y. Student loan.. same thing.  Corporations outsource “customer service” and sell off debt in a way that makes it infuriating.  There has got to be a better way!

 

“Change your apartment, change the world”, Not. So. Much.

I’m sure by now most of you have seen the commercial that Apartments.com did with Jeff Goldblum around the time of the superbowl.  (in case you missed it) The commercial features a cheeky reference to the sitcom, The Jeffersons with the theme song about their move from a working class neighborhood to an affluent neighborhood.

For those that do not know The Jeffersons, the show was about a working class minority couple that accumulated wealth and moved to the upper east side of Manhattan.  The show was a spinoff of All in the Family, about a white working class patriarch and his family.  The show tackled controversial issues with what John Roleke (2014) refers to as undercurrents of racism that prompted “white flight”  in predominantly white working-class neighborhoods like that of All in the Family.

This is an interesting frame for Apartments.com to debut their new apartment selection tools.  The new tool allows renters to go beyond identifying the neighborhood they want to live in.  It allows them to exclude areas right down to the street, or section of a neighborhood.

The commercial has already caught some heat for endorsing subtle racism, (take a look at this post by Moira Keihm) but I’m going to suggest that it goes much deeper than that.

Lets discuss the new apartment selection tool debuted in the commercial in the frame of disparate impact.  According to the National Fair Housing Alliance disparate impact refers to a practice that could be considered discriminatory if it has a disproportionate “adverse impact” against a protected class.  This means that whether intentional or not, if the housing industry negatively impacts an area by allowing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and/or familial status, they have broken the law.

So what does all this have to do with apartments.com?  It is widely known that planning and zoning practices have built in discriminatory biases.  These are things like where to sit low income housing, reduced access to community assets such as quality schools and grocery stores, and transportation systems that cut off areas perceived as low in  value.  You can read my research paper here.

Because the new selection tools allow you to define your search on more than just zip code or neighborhood, it allows for cutting out areas that may be characterized as “bad parts of town”.  The tool allows people a seemingly innocuous way to narrow down their apartment search.

On its face the tool looks like just another apartment selection tool.  However, given the ability to cut out areas perceived as bad parts of a neighborhood, it becomes a quintessential example of disparate impact.  It can also be compared to subtle steering practices that landlords have used to “guide” people into housing options “appropriate” for their race, gender, handicap,familial status, etc.

This is not about the end user.  Should you want to be discriminatory in your choice of housing that is your right.  This is about apartments.com, an industry endorsed site, that is required to uphold the Fair Housing laws.  They should not facilitate discrimination in any form and allow the continued impact to be felt in depressed neighborhoods.

“Change your apartment, change the world” – I think not.

-Miss B

 

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Grandma Can’t Remember, Now What?

Are you charged with the burden of care for a family member? It can be an overwhelming task that can take an emotional toll on all those involved. It is important to set up a strategic plan for you, your loved one, and any other family members or friends that are involved.

Often the elderly person will feel a sense of a loss of control as their health and memory declines. They may need more help and are too proud to ask – or feel that they are burdensome to the family. Sometimes these changes can go unnoticed for months. This happens easily as the person may stumble on memory and the family or friends will finish sentences and anticipate needs. Though this may seem helpful to the elderly person it can make it easy for them to cover up how bad they are doing. Give them a moment to try and remember what they wanted to say to see if they recall it. Make notes of how often this happens if you are concerned.

My great grandmother covered her memory loss so well that by the time we had a part-time aid she was actually beyond the scope of part-time and needed around the clock care. This was during a time that family members and friends saw her almost every day!! They knew that she was declining but did not know what to look for and unintentionally helped her hide her symptoms by trying to be helpful.

It’s a good idea to start the conversation of bringing in care takers if your family can afford to do so. There are many area agencies that provide reduced cost services for low income seniors, veterans, or surviving spouses of veterans. Your local senior center, non profit agencies, and county offices such as Extension offices, can usually direct you to more information for obtaining low cost providers. There are also usually a plethora of private pay aides that can provide companion care, errands, and light housekeeping to your loved one.

Having an early conversation about care prevents some of the anger that can occur after their memory has faded significantly. Memory loss can be very frustrating. If you spring a care taker on your loved one after significant memory loss they are likely to be angry and quarrelsome with the stranger. Having the conversation in advance may still result in some anger or resentment, but it far more likely to form a memory in advance that will help reduce confusion.

There are also several ways to introduce companion care in advance of more in depth assistance. The companion can be introduced as a helper for things like trying to figure out the remote, or grocery shopping. They can also help with hobbies such as baking, quilting, reading and trips to the senior center. Companion care agencies are great resources for a strategic plan of care for your loved one. They meet with them at their home to asses needs. They also have an unbiased view of how memory loss or other ailments are progressing in your loved one.
Do you have any other tips or strategies for managing care for your elderly loved one?

Read the Fine Print!

Did you know that many lease agreements come with stiff penalties for breaking them? Did you know you can be charged for liquidated damages even if you never occupy the premises (aka two month’s rent plus a lost deposit)?

Did you agree to an increase in sub-metered utility payments payable to your landlord at anytime during your contract?

Did you sign away your right to sue, even if the property owners negligence causes you harm? Some leases also contain language forcing you to sign away your right to jury trial. (Which is an illegal practice I believe).

Parents, and other co-signers – check out your responsibility before you sign the lease!

Lets talk about a couple of scenarios:
You pre-lease an apartment and 6 months before you move-in a change in circumstances requires you to move somewhere else. If you signed the lease and plunked down the security deposit, you have lost the deposit.  Some landlords go as far as charging the lease termination fees as well.

Does your lease contains the following language? “Landlord may modify the method by which utilities are furnished to the premises and/or billed to Resident during the term of this Lease Agreement, including, but not limited to sub- metering of the premises for certain utility services or billing Resident for utilities previously included within the rent”.  This means that if the landlord decides to add or increase utility charges for your unit, you are obligated to pay them.  This is true even if it occurs during the term of your lease.  It’s called an escalation clause.

Your kiddo moves into their first college apartment and they ask you to co-sign the lease.  One weekend while they are at home visiting you like the good kid they are, the other roommate decides to have a party.  The party gets out of hand, the unit gets trashed, and the other roommate moves out.  Guess who is on the hook for the other half of the rent and the damages to the unit?  Worse yet, guess what happens if the unit goes to eviction status?  Many rental agreements are whole-unit, not separate tenant.  This means that as a co-signer you are fullly responsible for what happens with the unit should either party default.

These are “big city” practices occurring all over the nation, including small towns. Your best defense? READ THE LEASE BEFORE SIGNING IT!  If you will be pressed for time at your move-in, request a blank copy to read before your move-in date.  If something is not clear, ASK QUESTIONS.

In addition to reading the lease, you should know your rights as a resident.  Every state has some form of Landlord-Tenant Act that spells out both landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities.  Under federal law your landlord also has a responsibility to uphold the Fair Housing Act which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.  In addition, there are reasonable accommodations that can be made available to those with a disability, including the required acceptance of service animals at no charge.

I’m not an attorney, but I do have 10 years of property management experience in three states.  If I can help with any leasing questions, ask away!

-Miss B

 

“It Came From Outerspace”

King Tut, the ancient teenage Egyptian king, was buried with many ceremonial objects, including an iron-blade dagger complete with a gold handle and sheathe. As if the golden fixtures weren’t impressive enough, it turns out the blade was made with metal that came from outer space. In a paper published last month in the journal…

via Scientists discovered King Tut’s dagger came from outer space — Quartz

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