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Read the full interview with Jaume Plensa, creator of Tolerance Statues on Montrose and Allen Parkway in Houston.
Article by Starlight Communication’s author published in Katy Lifestyles and Home Magazine, April 2011
Being young and lost is a common experience for many in their twenties. However, two young sisters from Katy have not only realized their passion, but have also become entrepreneurs along the way at a very young age.
Sisters Vanessa O’Donnell and Casi Newbill each own their own businesses in the Katy area. Vanessa went to the Art Institute of Houston to pursue her love of baking and came out with a degree in culinary arts. Casi followed Vanessa’s footsteps to the Art Institute and pursued a degree in interior design.
“We always used to joke about having a store together and we were going to call it Two Sisters,” says Casi. Things turned out a bit differently, though. A few years down the line, both sisters run their own stores in their respected fields of passion.
Casi is the owner and interior designer at Cobblestone Cottage, while Vanessa is the owner and pastry chef at Ooh LaLa — the Dessert Boutique.
Designing spaces was always a passion for Casi, but was running a business also a goal? “Everyone wants to have something of their own, so it was definitely a goal,” says Casi. “The opportunity arose and I decided that it was a good time and offer, so I said, why not?”
Managing a business may seem ideal for those working nine-to-five jobs, but the grass always seems greener from the other side. “It does get tiring and sometimes even frustrating because you are doing it all the time,” says Casi. “But when you own your own business, you are getting to do what you love every day — there is just a little more to it because now you have to manage everything.”
Being a young business owner also comes with a unique set of challenges. “It’s hard to be so young and give directions to people,” says Casi. “Also, I don’t get to do a lot of things that most kids my age are doing, but that’s something you have to sacrifice — your social life and your time.” But not to discourage other budding entrepreneurs, Casi says, “It’s hard, but it’s possible. If you have the opportunity to do it, you should do it.”
Cobblestone Cottage is a small home decor and gift shop that has something for everyone. Casi tries to offer affordable prices while maintaining quality products. Her strategy is to spread out the prices, so everyone can find something in her store.
On the other hand, Vanessa is having equally as much fun baking cupcakes and pastries at her dessert boutique — Ooh LaLa. “I fell in love with baking early on in my childhood,” says Vanessa. “Dolores Balusek, a family friend who took care of my sister and me after school, taught me my love for baking. The smells and tastes of those long afternoons — I still keep close to my heart.”
Vanessa says that one of her biggest challenges is to step back and look at the big picture. “You can’t always get caught up in the daily grind of business,” she says. A management tip that guides Vanessa is not thinking of herself as the owner all of the time. “You have to put yourself in the shoes of your employees,” she says. “I won’t make my employees do something that I haven’t done or won’t do.”
Vanessa owns two locations of Ooh LaLa and getting involved with the business aspect vs. actually baking seems inevitable. “It’s a balancing act,” she says. “I balance my time between production and business and interact with my kitchen staff on a daily basis.”
Ooh LaLa offers desserts that are classic and comforting. A large family can come in and everyone can find their favorite dessert, from oatmeal raisin cookies to Snickers pie and even cupcake truffles. “Looking back on what have been our best sellers, it is the classic homemade desserts that everyone can relate to from their childhood that are the most successful,” says Vanessa.
Turning passion into a business has its up side and down side, but how can anyone go wrong when doing something they love? As Vanessa says, “My inspiration comes from knowing everyday when I get up that I am going to a job that I absolutely love.”
Cobblestone Cottage is located at 23701 Cinco Ranch Blvd., Suite 150, Katy; 281-693-4080.
Ooh La La — the Dessert Boutique is located at 23920 Westheimer Parkway, Katy; 281-391-2253.
Location 2 is at 20155 Park Row, Katy; 281-492-6166.
Article by Starlight Communication’s author is the cover story on Fort Bend Lifestyles and Home and Katy Lifestyles Magazine. Published April, 2011.
Once upon a time, there was an interior designer who envied her neighbor’s house. Not that she was unhappy in her own home, but there was just something special about the house across from her street. Every day she would pass the stunning Sweetwater home and wish that her family could live there.
Then one day, the designer, Teena Caldwell, owner of Twenty-Two Fifty Interiors, was overjoyed to see a “For Sale” sign go up at her dream home. “I knew right then that I wanted to buy the house,” Teena recalls. “Its structure and French flair attracted me.”
And so it was that five years ago, Teena and her husband, pediatric dentist Larry Caldwell, became the proud owners of the 6000-plus-square-foot house. “The home was very dark inside, and many prospective buyers probably could not see beyond the paint,” Teena says. “Buyers should always focus on the bones of the house. The floor plan should be the determining factor, because paint and the interiors can easily be changed.”
Taking her own advice, Teena decided to remodel the house into her dream home, which remains an ongoing project. Her goal was to redesign the house while keeping intact its French panache. “The house has 17 French doors,” Teena notes. “We often call it the house of doors.” The home’s front yard was completely redone to achieve the look of a well-trimmed symmetrical French garden. “The outside of a home should flow with the inside,” she adds.
The entrance foyer features several unique accessories and a grand piano positioned near an elegant staircase. Impressive faux walls throughout the home were finished by Segreto Finishes and Decorative & Faux Finishes. Visitors also are immediately attracted to the large silk draperies that open to a beautiful view of a sprawling pool — or as the family likes to call it, the “dogs’ playground,” where pooches Dakota and Zoe enjoy hanging out. (Family pets also include Prada, a formerly homeless — and now very fortunate — feline.)
The home beautifully blends traditional, contemporary, Asian and antiques. Teena is a firm believer in mixing a variety of style elements. “Sugar Land has a lot of people who like traditional designs, but I try to get my clients to think a little outside the box and include a few contemporary pieces,” she says. A good example is her own dining and living room, which has traditional furniture highlighted by contemporary art pieces. The result is a stylish blend of eclectic elements.
The kitchen was remodeled to accommodate the family’s lifestyle. “We completely tore down the old kitchen,” Teena says. “We opened it up, added more space, and installed new appliances.” The result was stunning. Features include distressed knotty alder cabinets and Enkeboll trim, honed granite countertops and a walnut-stained island. Custom-made cabinets neatly stow appliances. A large armoire beautifully conceals a Sub-Zero refrigerator.
On the first floor, the couple’s master bedroom, with its combination of wood and travertine floors, offers a serene and relaxing refuge at the end of a long day. Traditional browns are beautifully balanced with a lightened hint of blues. A two-way-mirror truly does double-duty, serving as a decorative mirror and a television in one.
Upstairs, the house has three more bedrooms. Two serve as a home away from home for the family’s guests, and the other is for Lauren Caldwell, Larry and Teena’s only daughter, who manages her mother’s design studio. Teena recalls that Lauren danced from the time she could walk through her days on the high school dance team, so her room reflects her love for dance, fashion, and design. A custom-designed iron bed adds a graceful charm.
Another gem upstairs is the nautical-themed media room, where automatic blackout draperies provide an ideal environment for watching movies. Anchoring the room is the entertainment wall where a pair of antique sirens, once used on an old ship to scare off demons of the water, frame the television. The walls have the appearance of torn paper, and a built-in aquarium completes the nautical theme. “This room is usually where you find the family and dogs watching the latest movies,” says Lauren, as she proudly talks about her mother’s work.
Finally, who wouldn’t love to work out in a well-equipped gym that makes you feel like you’re on a balcony in Italy, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea? “I don’t really like to exercise,” admits Teena. “So when I designed the gym, I wanted it to be a place that would encourage me to work out.” Scenic views of Italy are painted on all the walls, providing a sense of relaxation and of being surrounded by nature.
So once upon a time, a designer had a dream — and it became a reality. Is it even necessary to say that the Caldwell family lived happily ever after?
Article by Starlight Communication’s Author. Published January 14, 2011 on City’s Best- AOL.
Houston is known for its arts, culture, and theatre scene. However, sometimes you’ve just got to plan ahead. You can escape the chill this weekend at an art opening or live music show — but for the best shows of the season, look into tickets now.
Billy Elliot The Musical, The Sleeping Beauty, Curtains, The Music of Led Zeppelin, and The Taming of the Shrew made the list.
Read the full article and show descriptions here.
- Article screenshot from Houston Lifestyles October 2010 Issue
Article by Starlight Communication’s Author. Published in the Houston Lifestyles and Home Magazine.
“It was quite hot,” said Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, as he referred to the US economy prior to the recession. “We have seen a dramatic cooling off in our economy, we knew it had to cool off,” he explained further.
In comparison to other US cities, Houston has one of the top performing economies as a region in USA. “While we have seen the job creation drop and unemployment go up, Houston has always been almost a full percentage below the US unemployment rate,” he said. “We have a lot for which to give thanks.”
Moseley leads the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP), a primary advocate of Houston’s business community that is dedicated to building regional economic prosperity. The organization’s efforts include lobbying for legislation that favors the region’s business community; facilitating relocations and expansions in the Houston area; strategic planning; and international outreach and trade initiatives.
According to population estimates, Moseley said that in the next thirty years, Texas will double its population, “For Houston region that means we gain the same population as Los Angeles- three million (approximately).” In order to prepare for the growth in population, GHP is striving to grow high paying jobs in Houston’s ten county regional economies to provide a strong tax base, “So services like police, fire, health and public schools will have the funding necessary to take care of all the new Houstonians.”
Opportunity Houston Expected to Grow Jobs, Capital, and Trade
A direct result of the Partnership’s ten-year strategic plan, Opportunity Houston is an aggressive five-year marketing and lead generation program that will help grow jobs by 600,000, increase capital investment by $60 billion, and expand foreign trade by $120 billion for the greater Houston area by the end of 2015. According to the Opportunity Houston Strategic Plan (houston.org), “The Houston region’s economic future is tied to its ability to attract companies to locate, expand and maintain their operations here, and for Houston area companies to sell their products and services abroad and / or to operate overseas.”
Houston’s Job Growth Predicted in Energy, Health, and Aerospace Sectors
“We now know due to the data that almost fifty percent of our $400 billion regional economy is from the energy sector, so we know the specifics of how we go after jobs within that cluster,” replied Moseley when asked, which sector the strategic plan will provide job opportunities in. “Well there is no doubt about it that energy is the lion of our economy.” Considered by many to be the energy capital of the world, some of the world’s major energy companies maintain large bases of operations in Houston.
“A close second is the healthcare sector and that is symbolized by the Texas Medical Center, which has more than 90,000 trained professionals that go to work there every day… and we have a lot of health care providers outside of the Texas Medical Center as well,” Moseley explained. “So that is a tremendous opportunity for us to continue to grow healthcare jobs.” Additionally, GHP conducted a research in 2009, which proved that Harris County Hospital District is Texas’ largest hospital district.
“We also interestingly enough are a high tech city,” Moseley said. Houston’s technology factor can be observed when thinking about all the technology that drives Houston’s economy- the technology used upstream and downstream in energy, technology in the medical center, and technology at the Johnson Space Center. “Talking about Johnson Space Center, aerospace is a big opportunity in Houston,” he said. Thus, there is tremendous opportunity in Houston to grow technology jobs and jobs in the aerospace industry. “Energy, health, and aerospace,” rated Moseley as the top three industries for job opportunities in Houston.
Business Development and Public Policy is the Key
The Opportunity Houston Strategic Plan to create jobs, grow capital investment, and expand foreign trade will be achieved by working towards the Partnership’s primary and overarching purpose in four visions that fall within two broad and mutually supportive categories of business development and public policy. The first vision of the strategic plan is to establish Houston region as a business magnet. To do so, GHP will facilitate initiatives that differentiate Houston and capitalize on its core strengths and resources. Secondly, GHP will lead and facilitate initiatives that establish the Houston region as the leading gateway to global markets. The goal is to establish Houston as one of the top four international trade regions in US. Thirdly, GHP will be a proactive visionary to build and maintain an infrastructure and business environment that sets Houston apart, nationally and globally, as the most attractive place to do business. Lastly, GHP will be an aggressive driver of local, regional, state and federal public policy that makes Houston one of the top four regions in the United States for business.
Houston’s Quality of Life Ranks Amongst the Top Cities
“We are one the most affordable large cities in the world and we fight to keep the affordability and business friendly climate here,” replied Moseley when asked about the Partnership’s efforts towards quality of life. In addition to that, “We have a tremendous resource in Houston and that is our climate,” Moseley said. “We have got more rainfall than Seattle and perhaps as much sunshine as Miami.” This resource makes Houston friendly for reestablishing the region’s urban forest and green space. Such commitment will not only enhance the quality of life for Houstonians, but also attract businesses.
Home to 25 Fortune 500 companies and yet still ranked as having one of the lowest cost of living amongst major metro cities, Houston has a lifestyle that many can enjoy from professionals and entrepreneurs to children and families. Even students aren’t left out as Princeton Review (2009) ranked Rice University as having the highest quality of life among students. Recent rankings compiled by Forbes (2010) placed Houston as America’s Best City for Young Professionals. In prior rankings conducted by
Forbes, Houston was not left behind- Houston was ranked as the Best City to Get Ahead (2009), the Best City to Buy a Home (2008), and the Best US City to Earn a Living (2008). Unable to hide his confidence in Houston’s economic future, Moseley acclaimed, “We see Houston as a top 10 global community.”
Ernie Manouse, Producer and Anchor at Houston PBS, on the sets of the forum
Why is the census so important?
Why is it important to have an accurate count of not just the US citizen, but also non-citizen legal residents, and undocumented immigrants?
How does this informaiton help out our region?
Farah Lalani of our team was involved in the production and on-set assistance of this town-forum, which aired April 2010 on Houston PBS, channel 8.
Watch the Houston PBS special presentation here:
In the public school systems of the Greater Houston region, the dropout rate is high and there are growing concerns about quality education and funding. These are troubling issues for a metropolitan region seeking to distinguish itself as one of the best places to live and work in the 21st century global community. HoustonPBS, in partnership with the Center for Houston’s Future, Houston Community Newspapers and KUHF Houston Public Radio, presents a discussion on the future of public education.
Farah Lalani of our team was involved in the production and on-set assistance of this town-forum, which aired April 2010 on Houston PBS, channel 8.
Watch Houston Have Your Say Education Crisis and Aftershow: http://www.houstonpbs.org/haveyoursay/education/
Article screenshot from Fort Bend Lifestyles May 2010 issue
Article by Starlight Communication’s Author. Published in the Fort Bend Lifestyles and Home Magazine.
“Can you imagine waking up in the morning and not hearing any birds all day long,” said Bob Pack, Sugar Land’s renowned sculptor, as he casually spoke about the launch of his next series of bronze sculptures focused on the beauty of birds. Art works of this highly acclaimed Texas-based sculptor has been collected worldwide, ranging from small collectibles to life-sized monumental pieces of art. His energy level and artistic abilities appear just as boundless as the life-size bronze monuments that he diligently sculpts. Bob will launch his new collection focused on the theme of birds in Fort Bend County at an exhibit scheduled to open on May 28th at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Sugar Land. “It’s a perfect marriage for me to be able to do this exhibit in Fort Bend County,” explained Bob referring to Fort Bend’s rich culture of bird watching.
Texas is fortunate to be home to over 620 species of some of God’s most beautiful and interesting creations—birds. Approximately half of these species can be seen in Fort Bend County during some parts of the year. Brazos Bend is a popular State park suggested for bird watchers. More than 300 species of birds have been sighted at Brazos Bend alone. When asked where Bob likes to go for bird watching, he enthusiastically led the way to the lake at his Sugar Land home and said, “My favorite spot for bird watching is right here in my backyard.”
Ever wondered what triggers an artist to select what his or her next theme will be? According to Bob, “When you forget about the time and the hours, and get into the flow of painting or sculpting, and then you stop for a mid morning break and it’s already 5:30 in the evening … then, you know what your next theme is going to be.” In the last thirty-five years, Bob’s themes have generally focused on concepts such as golf, hunting, life size monuments, and now birds. “I work on a theme for so long that after a while I want to try something that has not been done before,” he says. When he sees something that catches his eye, he immediately begins sketching it on whatever he sees nearby, even paper napkins. What ever an artist creates, Bob says, “It has to be close to the heart, it has to be original, and it has to be something that really moves him.”
With birding or bird watching being one of Bob’s passions for the last twenty-five years, it is natural that he turned his artistic eyes towards birds. Working together with the help of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Bob was able to study specimens of various Fort Bend species to insure accuracy in the anatomy of each bird’s creation. Each piece Bob creates requires almost six months for production: three months study (measuring, photographing, and drafting in wax), and approximately three months on the actual sculpting (mold making and casting the piece in bronze). As of date, the exhibit at HMNS will display eight species of bird, with two sculptures of each- one in a brown patina and one in a polychrome (painted) patina. Approximately four additional species will be exhibited in the final clay model stage prior to casting. These models are an attempt to give viewers a glimpse of the meticulous process of sculpting. This exhibit should be educational and a feast for the eyes as viewers will indulge in the beauty of birds. Additionally, the illustrated panels around the exhibit should be an informative representation of the general theme of birds that call Fort Bend County their home.
Bob began sculpting in 1976 and specializes in realistic bronze figures ranging from small collectibles to life-sized monumental pieces of art. He has about twenty-five life sized works on display around the world, as well as pieces in the permanent collections of seven museums. Fort Bend’s residents are probably familiar with his sculpture of the Stephen F. Austin monument at Sugar Land Town Square. The monument depicts Austin emerging from the Brazos River on horseback. His horse rearing, Austin struggles to lead a packhorse stumbling in the river’s current, represented by the surrounding fountain waters. A portrayal of the struggles of settlement and colonization, this monument pays homage to Austin, whose original Texas colony encompassed what is today Fort Bend County. Other local examples of Bob’s work can be seen at the Sugar Land Police Station and Sugar Land First Methodist Church.
For the next seven to ten years, Bob plans to focus his attention on illustrating the beauty of birds through his new bronze collectibles. When asked if he is a full time artist, Bob modestly said, “This is all I do … I have never done anything else!”
Article by Starlight Communication’s Author. Published on City’s Best – AOL.
Houston’s talented artists are getting entrepreneurial this weekend — and you’re invited to the party. The Winter Holiday Art Market (WHAM) at Winter Street Studio — now in its fifth year — is a mix of festival, holiday party and celebration of the arts.
Read the full article here.
While this was a personal contribution to Seeking Alpha, it is still worth archiving as this piece is written by Starlight Communication’s Author and gained massive publicity within hours that it was published. It was in early 2009 when talks about nationalizing big banks seemed to be the only news topic. Within hours, this article on BAC stock was on the popular feeds of top news sites including Google News, Yahoo Finance, Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch and many more.
Click here to read the full article on Seeking Alpha