Succeeding in Small Business – Entrepreneurship Insights

Are you involved in entrepreneurial programs or teaching entrepreneurship? Take a look at the award-winning “Succeeding in Small Business” blog, authored by public relations expert Jeanne Yocum. The blog features Q&A posts with small businesses plus tips and insights for small businesses. I recently connected with Jeanne, and she published a Q&A about my experience as a small business owner.

The blog address is

The profile is here.

Exploring Labor Markets in a Mosaic Economy

The concept of the mosaic economy suggests a fresh approach to analyzing labor market trends. The job market can be very dynamic, with new opportunities emerging as the economy shapes and re-shapes itself. People work in many creative efforts, often in jobs that do not fit neatly into the categories defined by labor market statistics.  Economic trends can create clusters of new jobs that span several different industries and occupations, and therefore could be easily missed by the formal data.

Formal labor market data should be just a starting point for discussion, helping to identify trends and to raise good questions. The data should be supplemented by observation, conversation about underlying trends and entrepreneurial prospects and other exploration.

In a healthy economy, industries and occupations may surprise experts by rebounding after a period of decline. New technology or rediscovery of old technology, and new consumer needs or renewed attention to earlier values can result in a turnaround of industries that had been expected to decline and die. Entrepreneurial efforts can tap into areas neglected by others, resulting in new energy and revival. Recently, revitalization in manufacturing and agriculture have demonstrated this concept. Recent news reports have highlighted a shortage of manufacturing workers suggests that decision-making by individuals and organizations in the past few decades was not sufficiently responsive to signs of resilience and revitalization in manufacturing.

Most importantly, there is a danger that if we view this data too rigidly, to imply that workers must be prepared and trained to compete for a limited number of pre-defined jobs, we will fail to understand the full potential of the economy.

For the past several years, I have worked with students and colleagues to gather informational interviews with people in a variety of career fields. I also gather data through several youth employment database projects that I manage, getting a glimpse of people’s careers and career paths. I have learned that many people have careers that evolved over many years, having been shaped by personal choices, changes in technology, local, national and world economic trends, environmental concerns, and other factors. Many people are now working in areas very different from the career paths that they started on when they were in high school, college and first jobs. Many work in job titles that they had never heard of and would not have thought of when they were in school and preparing to launch their careers. Many are pursuing their original career values and interests in ways they would not have predicted, in occupations and industries that are different from their earliest expectations.

When we ask people about their careers, several themes emerge. Basic themes of food, personal health, environment, community connectedness, artisanship and entrepreneurship mix together across industries and occupations to create a mosaic of career opportunities. Different ways of organizing work have produced opportunities in professional and business services in support of manufacturing, technology, health care and other sectors.

The values of “personal environment” and “community connectedness” are apparent in a variety of jobs. One example is a bookstore events coordinator who organizes readings, book clubs, discussion groups and lectures, making the bookstore a source of community connection. Another example is a workshop instructor in a “sewing lounge,” a fabric store where people can drop in to rent the sewing machines, take classes and workshops, buy fabrics and meet people.

Similarly-themed examples include a community gardening coordinator, farmers’ market coordinator, yoga instructor, fitness center manager, developer of a new social media website, writer for an online newspaper, park landscaper, instructor in a homelessness outreach project, pastor in a small community church, and a variety of other professionals in health, education, social and community settings. These jobs, which span private and public sectors, and include technology, services, hospitality and retailing, all center on the themes of personal environment and community connectedness.

Another theme is the importance in our personal, community and professional lives of making, growing, fixing and building things.

A small but visible artisanal economy is emerging, with both established producers and newer firms creatively producing organic food products, building wooden furniture, building boats, manufacturing custom bicycles, producing organic cotton fabrics, and designing and producing clothing.

On a larger scale, manufacturers are finding new niches in green technology, medical product development and even in many almost-forgotten sectors of basic manufacturing. Construction and mechanic/repair trades are evolving with the use of new technology and environmental approaches. Professional services in support of manufacturing and agriculture are re-emerging, with new demands for technical training, research, marketing and distribution support.

Another theme of the mosaic economy is the theme of social, personal and business entrepreneurship. People create and share open source software, create and launch new websites, organize community arts programs, youth programs, sports leagues, or recovery and self-help programs. People create start-up businesses and work in freelance roles. People invest time in community organizing, volunteer work and internships, not only for the experience itself, and not only for the benefit to communities, but, increasingly, as a way of investing in future careers.  Understanding the entrepreneurial focus of the current economy is important. Even in regular wage and salary jobs, people are most successful when they take an entrepreneurial approach to their work and long-term career path, being willing to try new things, take on new assignments, learn about new products and develop new skills.

Mosaic Economy Over the past year or so, I worked on a book called “The Mosaic Economy” about the mosaic of jobs and opportunities in today’s job market. The book is available as a paperback for $16 plus shipping from the Harvard Bookstore and as an e-book from Amazon. This week I have a “countdown deal” on Amazon allowing readers to purchase the e-book for a discounted rate of $1.99 rather than the usual e-book price of $9.99. While most of the work I do is available free of charge, this is a separate project…. and is something new for me. I appreciate your support on this exciting project and invite you to enjoy this excerpt and share this post via your organization’s social media.

The Mosaic Economy:

Ordering Information: Paperback from Harvard Bookstore | e-book from

Ordering information can also be found on the home page at


New Year’s 2014

We don`t want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel that new possibilities of being have been opened to us. We don`t want to close a book with a sense that life is totally unfair and that there is no light in the darkness; we want to feel that we have been given illumination. | Madeleine L’Engle

2013. In 2013 I completed work on my new book ”The Mosaic Economy” — which is now available both in paperback and e-book. This quote from Madeleine L’Engle is an inspiration for my writing as well as for all of my professional work.  The Mosaic Economy portrays the positive energy and organic patterns of growth and change that make up the “mosaic economy.” I wrote it with the goal that readers will “add to the story” as they read, with each chapter stimulating your own thoughts about what you see in the mosaic around you.  I hope you will buy a copy to enjoy for the New Year and pass along a recommendation to others.

Book cover - The Mosaic EconomyThe Mosaic Economy:

Ordering Information: Paperback from Harvard Bookstore | e-book from

Ordering information can also be found on the home page at

2014. One of my goals for 2014 is to continue to look at the skills and experiences provided in youth employment programs and contextual learning projects, and to continue to share stories through this blog. What skills are taught? What information is shared? What kind of messages do programs convey? What expectations are created? How do programs support youth to move forward with education, careers, family and community life? Do programs create a feeling of “new possibilities” being opened? I hope that readers of the blog are inspired — and that you see yourselves and your positive work reflected in the articles here. If you have been enjoying the blog, please pass along the link to encourage colleagues and others to read and subscribe as well.

Happy 2014!

Benefits of Youth Jobs and Internships

By providing first jobs in your industry, you are investing in the future of your industry locally and beyond.

Does your community have a School-to-Career/Connecting Activities program that helps students find jobs and internships?  Have you been asked to consider offering a job or internship to local youth?  Are you wondering if hiring youth might be a good step for your business or organization?  A job or internship is a great experience for youth, helping them to develop skills, start to build a resume, and have an opportunity to support a local business or organization and support their community.   But how will this step support you and your organizational goals?

Seven good reasons to consider hiring a youth employee or intern:

1.) Social Networking at its best….  Youth employees make great ambassadors for your company or organization.  Through word-of-mouth, they spread goodwill about your company or organization through their family, friends, teachers and classmates.

2.) Customer Service….  Your customers appreciate the energy that youth employees offer in your business or organization – youth can provide great customer service in retail stores, restaurants, medical and veterinarian offices, parks, museums, city halls, tourism offices, chamber of commerce offices and more.

3.) Projects!  How often do you wish you could focus attention on a special project that needs to be done?   An interesting project can make a good learning experience for a semester-long or year-long internship.

4.) A Boost to Your Own Productivity and Creativity.   Having an intern can be a boost to your own creativity and productivity.  As you engage in your own work, you can guide your intern through the process and assign them some supporting tasks.  You often learn the most when you are teaching others, and as you teach a youth about your work, you will be surprised at how much you discover or re-discover about your own work.

5.) Youth Voice. Youth employees can lend youth voice to your business or organization, allowing you and your staff to informally  gather ideas and perspectives that help you shape your marketing, merchandising, production and programming initiatives.

6.) Connecting with Your Community.  Hiring youth through a job or internship program in your city or town helps you to connect with the local school, Chamber of Commerce, School to Career program or other networks, and to enhance the image of your company or organization within the community.

7.) Investing in Your Industry.  By providing first jobs in your industry, you are helping youth to learn about career options and you are investing in the future of your industry locally and beyond.

When you hire youth through a local School-to-Career/Connecting Activities job or internship program, you are assured that the program staff will provide orientation to the youth, providing coaching in key communication skills, customer service skills and other workplace skills.   Youth employment programs in Massachusetts use the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan to provide structure, outline key skills and provide feedback to students to ensure a successful work experience.

The Mosaic Economy – Career Exploration & “Telling Stories”

Mosaic EconomyOver the past year or so, I have been working on a book called “The Mosaic Economy” — now available through Harvard Bookstore (paperback) and Amazon (e-book).  The Mosaic Economy looks at the way different pieces come together, like the pieces of a mosaic, to create a mosaic of jobs and opportunities.  The emphasis is on the real, sometimes less-than-perfect, paths that people take to create their careers, the values that shape people’s careers, and the constant flow of discovery and re-discovery of different types of work. 

One emphasis in this book is on “telling stories” — using real stories about people and their jobs, along with statistics, history and other analysis to take a fresh look at the job market.

Link to The Mosaic Economy (ebook) on Amazon
Link to The Mosaic Economy (paperback) through Harvard Bookstore

Telling Stories  

When I was in college I attended a retirement party for an economics professor, a woman who had entered the economics field when it was unusual for women to do so. “I knew I wanted to be an economist,” she explained, “when I was a little girl and traveled with my family. Whenever we went through a town I would ask ‘I wonder what people do for a living here?’”

She would have observed that some towns were surrounded by sprawling farms, with a grain mill or feed store in the center of town; other towns had a mill in the town center, with mill worker housing circled around; other towns had a stately courthouse and busy retail district; other towns might have a college or university that provided the economic focal point.

Now, several decades later, in many towns and cities, the visual cues of farms and mills may no longer provide an answer, and instead the question calls for gathering individual stories, clues from history, statistics and other analyses to get a picture of what people do for a living.

Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence MA

By telling stories, looking at history and digging into economic statistics, we get a fresh look into jobs, career values and career paths. The concept of a mosaic economy suggests the many ways that different bits and pieces come together to make a coherent whole.

Early in the 1980s I was teaching economics in a local two-year college, and took a group of young college-aged women on a tour of the Lowell Heritage Park, in Lowell, Massachusetts, a park that celebrates the history of Lowell’s textile mills and canals. The tour was part of a unit on economic history, an exploration of the long-term evolution of the U.S. economy from agriculture to manufacturing to a service-oriented economy.

As part of the economic history unit, I had presented statistics showing that in the late 1700s and early 1800s when the country was new, about four out of five workers in the United States worked in agriculture. Relatively few worked in manufacturing and relatively few were in service sector jobs – with teachers, doctors, ministers and shopkeepers as examples. As the industrial revolution began in the early 1800s, the number of people working in agriculture decreased, reflecting rising agricultural productivity, while the number working in both manufacturing and services increased. Manufacturing employment as a percent of total employment peaked in the 1920s. Throughout the rest of the century, employment in manufacturing began to give way to more service-sector employment, and by the 1980s when I was teaching this class, and even more so now, the majority of workers in the United States worked in service-sector jobs.

The Lowell Offering was a publication by and for the Lowell "Mill Girls" -- the first generation of workers in Lowell's factories.

The Lowell Offering was a publication by and for the Lowell “Mill Girls” — the first generation of workers in Lowell’s factories.

During the Lowell mill tour, the tour guide explained that when the mills first opened, they employed a generation of “mill girls” who came from New England farms. The mill girls were young women who were not needed on their family farms any more in an era of increasing farm productivity, and were sent, or went seeking adventure, to the brand-new mills of Lowell to work. There, they lived in dormitories and participated in book clubs, discussion groups and other cultural events in the evening, after working for twelve hours or more each day in the mills.

“They were our age!” my students exclaimed in amazement, as we toured the dormitories and heard the guide retell their stories.

A generation later, the tour guide went on to explain, the mill workers were mostly immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Greece and other parts of Europe, marking a new chapter in industrial history. We heard about the struggles of mill workers for better pay, hours and working conditions and about the technology shifts that helped the mills to thrive and later to decline. Lowell now has relatively few mills, but has a thriving arts culture, several minor league sports teams, proximity to high tech companies and an eclectic mix of other jobs.

The story of the Lowell mill girls energized our subsequent classroom discussions of economic history, providing a  frame for understanding the way job markets shift from one decade to the next.

What stories do you see in your local, state and national economy?   You may see an eclectic mix of jobs in technology, arts and culture, health, education, restaurants and retail trade.  You may see a revitalization of manufacturing and production.  You may see a rediscovery of artistanal production and organic methods of agriculture.  In a mosaic economy, a diverse set of jobs come together to create an economic picture, just as different colorful bits and pieces of ceramic come together in a mosaic to make a coherent whole. The idea of a mosaic suggests that it is always possible to look at the economy in different ways, allowing different pictures and stories to emerge.

The Mosaic Economy – A Fresh Look at the Labor Market

Mosaic EconomyOver the past year or so, I have been working on a book called “The Mosaic Economy” — now available through Harvard Bookstore (paperback) and Amazon (e-book).  The Mosaic Economy looks at the way different pieces come together, like the pieces of a mosaic, to create a mosaic of jobs and opportunities.  The emphasis is on the real, sometimes less-than-perfect, paths that people take to create their careers, the values that shape people’s careers, and the constant flow of discovery and re-discovery of different types of work.  This is a new venture for me and I hope to do more of this type of writing and publishing in the future.  It is wonderful to have the luxury of writing a full-length book to explore and share ideas.   You can download the e-book free on July 31st – August 1st (and I will post other free promotional days over the next month or two).   Or purchase or borrow anytime.  Or spread the word and encourage friends/colleagues to take a look.  The book uses stories, interviews, statistics and history to create a picture of the mosaic of jobs in today’s economy.   Themes of entrepreneurship, technology, community connectedness, personal living environments, community health and more come together in this mosaic.   The book creates an optimistic picture that comes from talking with and listening to people in a variety of careers and hearing about their goals, values and career paths.  

Link to The Mosaic Economy (ebook) on Amazon
Link to The Mosaic Economy (paperback) through Harvard Bookstore

“There is no longer a lobstering industry in Massachusetts,” the professor said confidently to his students in his introductory economics class. My friend’s son’s eyes opened wide, his face still tanned from a summer spent with his father on their lobster boat in Quincy, Massachusetts. He tried to talk to the professor, but sensed that the professor didn’t quite believe his description of the lobster fishing that took place off the shores of Boston, from boats that came out from Quincy, South Boston, Saugus and other urban ports.

We all have stories of hearing of the demise of something we know is alive and well.   In his book “Deep Economy,” environmental activist Bill McKibben writes about an official from the U.S. Department of Agriculture who spoke several years ago about the demise of farming, suggesting that in the near future, agriculture in the United States would largely be focused on supplying turf for lawns and golf courses and seedlings for backyard gardens; and that farming for food would continue to be a smaller and smaller sector of the economy. The official did not anticipate the expansion of organic farming, urban agriculture, and many other food and farming movements that are breathing new life into agriculture and drawing many people back into agriculture and related work.   The recent resurgence of manufacturing provides another example of new life, as many high tech and traditional manufacturing fields are re-tooling, expanding and eagerly seeking workers.

It is easy to over-generalize trends and patterns to tell a story, and to publish media reports about a future where practically everyone is working in the newest, up-and-coming fields, and virtually no one is working in older, traditional fields. It is also easy to develop career advice based on whatever seems to be the currently most popular career fields.

But how can we take a fresh look at labor market data to get a realistic picture of the full mosaic of jobs where people work?  I have been using interviews, statistics, history and other data to dig into the labor market to find patterns of creative energy, renewal and optimism.   Labor market statistics show that the distribution of jobs is much more diverse than many media reports suggest.  A study of  history shows the natural tendency of market economies to revive and renew traditional sectors of the economy, reclaiming valuable knowledge and technologies.  My experience working with people in continuing education courses and workforce training programs shows a deeply-held optimism about investing in skills and career pathways.

In “The Mosaic Economy” my focus is on leading a gentle, inviting conversation. Many economic analysis are full of urgent “ought-to” messages, leaving audiences and readers feeling somewhat drained and powerless. I want people to feel empowered as they read.  Readers should be creatively empowered to “add to” the story of the mosaic and personally empowered to take small positive steps to build their own careers, support others in their career development, or know that they can have a positive impact on the economic development of their communities.

Read more in the book and watch this blog for excerpts from the book.

Profile of Career Skills – Marketing and Sales

Marketing & Sales - the Sales Cycle

The sales cycle is a model for understanding how sales work is done. Suppose you are a salesperson working in a shoe store, a sporting goods store or a hardware store, a waiter working in a restaurant, or a sales representative working for a software company.  In each of these settings, there is a similar process:


Step 1: Find out about customer wants and needs.

Step 2: Draw on your knowledge of the product line to present options.

Step 3: Assist the customer in exploring and evaluating the options.

Step 4: Based on the customer choice, suggest any accessories or add-on options that the customer might also want.

Step 5: Complete the sale. Or, if there is no sale, suggest next steps.

What are some examples of the sales cycle?  Think of various types of retail stores and non-retail settings.  What are some of the factors that make a sales person successful?  What are some of the challenges?  Have you done this type of work?  Were you successful?  Did you enjoy it?

Of course, some businesses have more of a self-service model, in which customers can select and purchase the products they want with minimal assistance from staff. But even in these businesses, there are staff who can help the customer find products and make choices if needed, and there is an overall marketing strategy that helps customers identify their wants and needs and select and purchase products.



Marketing is the term for the overall strategy promoting sales of your product or service and meeting customer needs. Marketing also has a five-part model:

1. CUSTOMER. Identify customer wants and needs.
2. PRODUCT. Develop your products and/or services to meet customer wants and needs.
3. IDENTITY. Develop an identity for the product or service, including name of the product, packaging, pricing strategy and special features of the product or service.
4. COMMUNICATION. Develop channels of communication to promote the company and the product, including signs, advertising, social media, community events and community sponsorships, and other strategies.
5. DISTRIBUTION. Develop channels for physical distribution and sales, including selling through stores, catalogs, online, and other channels.

What are some examples of products and services. Discuss how these products and services are marketed. Consider the various aspects of the marketing process. What customer need is being addressed? What is the image or “identity” of the product? How does the company promote and distribute the product?

Labor Market Statistics & New Occupations

Solar photovoltaic cell installers - one of the new occupations in the BLS list of occupationsIf you use labor market data, you know that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) generally tracks employment information for a list of over one thousand occupations.  The BLS faces the challenge of tracking a consistent list from year-to-year, while also keeping the list of occupations up-to-date, reflecting the jobs that are common in the current economy.

Last week, the employment statistics released by the BLS included 24 occupations that are new to the list.   Previously, people in these jobs would have been grouped in with other categories.

Here, below, is a chart with the new occupations.   Many are not at all “new” — but reflect changes that have taken place over several decades — web developers, computer network architects, computer network support specialists, information security analysts.  Others have a “newer” feel — such as two new occupational groups in alternative energy — Solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service technicians.

How is this data useful for career planning? Schools and job training programs use the data for long-range planning, deciding whether to invest in programs in alternative energy, healthcare, computer technology and other growing fields. Individuals may look at labor market data as a reality check before investing time and money in a program of study. Individuals also look at the data as inspiration for brainstorming about next steps in their education and careers.

Labor market data should be part of a three-part strategy for planning — looking at opportunities, interests/values and personal timeframe.  Read more in a next post — how do people make the best use of labor market data for career planning?


Table A. National employment and wages for occupations identified as new in the 2010 Standard
Occupational Classification (SOC) system, May 2012
  2010                                                  Employment       Mean wages     Median Hourly
  SOC                     Occupation                                 Hourly    Annual      Wages
13-1131 Fundraisers ....................................  48,530     $26.55    $55,220     $24.37
15-1122 Information security analysts ..................  72,670      42.93     89,290      41.43
15-1134 Web developers ................................. 102,940      31.78     66,100      30.05
15-1143 Computer network architects .................... 137,890      45.19     94,000      43.75
15-1152 Computer network support specialists ........... 167,980      30.27     62,960      28.41
21-1094 Community health workers .......................  38,020      18.02     37,490      16.64
25-2051 Special education teachers, preschool ..........  21,770       (2)      57,770       (2)
25-2059 Special education teachers, all other ..........  39,260       (2)      56,160       (2)
29-1128 Exercise physiologists .........................   5,820      22.89     47,610      21.53
29-1151 Nurse anesthetists .............................  34,180      74.22    154,390      71.23
29-1161 Nurse midwives .................................   5,710      43.78     91,070      43.08
29-1171 Nurse practitioners ............................ 105,780      43.97     91,450      43.25
29-2035 Magnetic resonance imaging technologists .......  29,560      31.45     65,410      31.42
29-2057 Ophthalmic medical technicians .................  29,170      17.11     35,590      16.46
29-2092 Hearing aid specialists ........................   4,980      22.49     46,780      19.92
29-9092 Genetic counselors .............................   2,000      26.84     55,820      27.31
31-1015 Orderlies ......................................  53,920      12.35     25,700      11.53
31-9097 Phlebotomists .................................. 100,380      14.86     30,910      14.29
33-9093 Transportation security screeners ..............  47,200      17.85     37,130      17.71
39-4031 Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors .  23,070      25.33     52,690      22.52
43-3099 Financial clerks, all other ....................  39,290      19.03     39,580      17.72
47-2231 Solar photovoltaic installers ..................   4,710      19.53     40,620      18.22
49-9081 Wind turbine service technicians ...............   3,200      23.23     48,320      22.10
51-3099 Food processing workers, all other .............  37,570      11.96     24,880      11.12

Reflection and Journaling

Last spring, we added a new “Reflection Screen” to the Work-Based Learning Database.   The screen provides a choice of reflection questions, based on the Work-Based Learning Plan skills, and provides space for participants to  write brief responses.  This provides “online journaling” for summer jobs programs, internship programs and other youth employment experiences.

While developing the reflection screen, I talked with people about the question “What makes a good reflection question?”  Ideally, the purpose of the reflective writing is to help program participants to consolidate what they have learned and to expand on their ideas and insights.

Reflective writing is valuable for consolidating your knowledge – reviewing and summarizing what you have learned about a job, about career options, and about skills you have obtained.  This type of reflection is valuable as a foundation for taking next steps in your career development: for setting goals, looking at postsecondary education options, writing college applications, writing resumes, answering job interview questions, and other next steps.

Reflective writing is also valuable for  expanding your ideas and insights –using your experience as a starting point for exploring ideas, thinking about trends, and working out your own opinions on various subjects.  The topics for these reflections may be very specific or very broad, including reflections on specific skills used during the work experience — such as leadership skills or listening skills or motivation – or reflections on larger trends in technology, job markets and other areas.

Reflection can be a very important part of summer jobs programs, internship programs, transition programs and other youth employment experiences.   As you plan your summer jobs programs and next year’s internshp programs, consider making the reflection screen and resources part of your programming.

Read more about reflection in general at  Read more about the reflection screen at .

Career Development Tools Workshop – May 9th CWC Annual Conference

I am excited to be presenting a workshop at the upcoming May 9th Commonwealth Workforce Coalition Annual Conference.  This annual conference brings together all types of workforce development professionals, for both youth and adults.

Conference registration is now open at

When you register, look for my workshop:

Career Development Tools for a Mosaic Economy

Jennifer Leonard, The Skills Library

Careers can take many different shapes based on people’s values, personal situations and opportunities. Even in the midst of economic worries, the economy is dynamic, with new opportunities emerging. This workshop provides career development tools, lesson plans, and approaches for career exploration and advising in today’s mosaic economy.