Articles Tagged with: Sacred Fire Creative

Customer Experience in the New Reality

We’re now living in a so-called “new normal” for more than a year because of the Covid-19 global pandemic. Each one of us experiences this new normal in different ways.

As business owners, we have to adapt how we serve our customers depending on how they live through their new normal. We are now called to shift from simply providing customer service to creating customer experience.

In this article, we answer three main questions:

  1. What is customer experience?
  2. How does a profound customer experience look like?
  3. How can small businesses offer an innovative and exceptional new-normal customer experience?

What is customer experience?

Customer experience is not the same as customer service or customer care.

Customer service is the advice or assistance a company gives its clients. On the other hand, customer care relates to how well clients are taken care of when interacting with the brand, whether through social media or other channels.

It’s important to note that individuals may not even be customers during the brand interaction.

What about customer experience? Customer experience involves every interaction between the customer and the brand at every point of contact or touchpoint.

Brands have many different touchpoints with individuals, and these cover the entire customer journey. This journey begins when someone makes their first inquiry. Moreover, it extends even after they use the product or service.

Consciously or not, customers evaluate each touchpoint with the brand. It’s how they decide whether they will continue doing business with the brand or not. This underscores the importance of customer service.

If a person has a profound customer experience with your brand, they may decide to continue doing business with you. Therefore, our ultimate goal is to create a profound customer experience for each of our clients and prospects.

Why is customer experience important?

Here’s a quote by Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Why is this quote relevant to our discussion of customer experience?

You see, we can’t just tell people what our brand is and expect them to believe that. That’s not how it works.

Instead, how you make your customers feel is what makes the strongest impact.

Why?

People’s memories of an experience often involve emotions—how they felt at moments in time. The customer experience involves how you make your clients feel. And that’s what they will walk away with.

What you’re doing at every single touchpoint with your client is you’re creating a mini-customer experience. These mini-experiences add up. And then, all together, all of those different experiences that involve deep emotion create brand loyalty.

What are the dimensions of a customer experience?

According to Gentile, Spiller, and Noci (2007), there are six dimensions of the customer experience.

1. Sensorial dimension

The sensorial dimension addresses sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell to arouse aesthetic pleasure, excitement, satisfaction, and a sense of beauty.

One example is that some handbag brands add a specific scent to their products. So, when they deliver any gift to their customers, the gift comes infused with their branded scent. The customer then subconsciously comes to associate the fragrance with the brand.

2. Emotional dimension

The emotional dimension generates moods, feelings, and emotions that hopefully positively influence the customer’s image and attitude toward the brand or company.

You generate this emotion. When you create a touchpoint with your customer, how do you want them to feel afterward? Do you want them to feel relieved? Enlightened? Entertained?

You’ll want to consider this question before deciding what kind of customer experience you’re creating.

3. Cognitive dimension

The cognitive dimension relates to experiences requiring thinking. It engages a customer’s creativity.

It is similar to the emotional dimension. The emotional one activates the heart, while the cognitive one stimulates the brain.

When you interact with your clients, are you activating their minds? Are they thinking, being creative, and running through their head the different scenarios and memories they have relating to this experience?

4. Pragmatic dimension

The pragmatic dimension comes from the practical art of doing something or using a product. It is the art of doing, and it involves action steps. It’s the physical part of doing something while using the product.

Any kind of unboxing belongs to the pragmatic dimension. Let’s look at unboxing an Apple product as an example.

When you open an Apple product, everything lines up just so. When you pull the box apart, you’ll see that there’s just enough space. This creates the feeling that they had taken care of every single step along the way when they made their product.

5. Lifestyle dimension

The lifestyle dimension affirms the beliefs and values shared between the brand and the customer.

When you create a brand, what happens is you’re making a set of shared beliefs and values for your brand and the customer.

For example, Apple’s “Think Different” slogan, part of Steve Jobs’ early marketing campaigns, means they want you to think beyond the ordinary. It implies that people who use Apple are out-of-the-box thinkers. They’re extraordinary; they’re “rebels.”

Disney is another example. The House of Mouse is a brand that relates to the family—its shared belief is the importance of taking care of and spending quality time with your family.

The lifestyle dimension is about confirming the values a brand shares with its customers. It’s about making people raise their hands and say, “That’s me. I identify with that.”

So, when you create customer experience, you’ll want to think about what beliefs and core values are going into your brand. Your implied values will make people who believe the same things come to you.

6. Relational dimension

The relational dimension encourages experiencing the product or service together with other people.

This is how we observe, live through, anticipate, and participate in a customer experience in a community. Some products and services are meant to be used independently and alone. And then, there are others where this relational dimension becomes extremely important.

For example, let’s say you’re going to a Disney park. The experience will vary depending on who you’re with, but you probably wouldn’t go for it on your own. People go there with their families or friends. This means the relational dimension will be crucial here.

What is a profound customer experience, then?

We mentioned earlier that our ultimate goal is to create a profound customer experience for our clients and prospects. But what exactly is a profound customer experience?

Any experience that involves ALL SIX DIMENSIONS is considered a profound experience. So, a profound customer experience engages all of the emotions and senses.

It brings you to the point of creativity, firing up your imagination. And it’s pragmatic—you’re immersed in it, you can feel and touch it, and you can use it.

It has a lifestyle component, where you feel its impact on your core values. You believe in it. And it’s relational, one that you experience in your community.

How does a profound customer experience look like?

Disney provides what is considered a great example of a profound customer experience.

The Disney guest experience

Disney is in the business of creating magic for guests to experience and remember. Walt Disney’s vision is driven by a common purpose that every member of the Disney organization is taught:

“We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for all ages, everywhere.”

How do they do this? Disney attracts guests of all ages, from all walks of life, and from all countries. It’s a tourist attraction for the parks’ host countries: the United States, Japan, France, China, and Hong Kong. Seven out of 10 Disney guests are likely to return to the park a second time.

When you go to one of the Disney parks, here’s what people really love and experience:

  1. The parades and the castle fireworks shows
  2. The character meet-and-greet
  3. All the different characters at live shows in the park, like Lion King and Moana.
  4. The interactive themed attractions, such as creating your own lightsaber in Savi’s Workshop, the new attraction at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Disney’s guest experience is a range of various experiences within one bigger experience. It definitely hits all of the different dimensions of a customer experience.

Moreover, Disney does it multiple times in different ways so that people can experience any part of it as much or as little as they want. This creates a deeper level of loyalty.

How does the new-normal Disney guest experience look like?

Disney closed down parks at the height of the pandemic, with some slowly reopening depending on the health crisis status in their respective countries.

As they couldn’t open in full capacity, they offered alternatives—they shifted from in-person, dynamic experiences in the park and took it all online.

#DisneyMagicMoments

Disney took advantage of their digital assets: their blogs and social media. They launched the #DisneyMagicMoments campaign and released virtual tours of the Disney parks. It was a brilliant way to be immersed and experience the parks in a digital environment.

This campaign also encouraged guests to share photos and videos they took during their Disney vacations. It got a lot of people sharing their memories. They got into reminiscing and sharing the last time they went on a Disney vacation. That way, people could still relate as a community and share their experiences.

#AdventuresatHome

Disney also launched #AdventuresatHome, a DIY at-home adventure pack that allows fans to experience Disney travel adventures at home. They produced six adventure packs featuring Montana, South Africa, the Rhone River, Iceland, Greece, and Alaska. They published those in the Disney parks blog.

Each adventure pack includes:

  1. The Disney shows to catch related to each area
  2. A recipe developed by Disney chefs that you could cook at home
  3. A simple board game with downloadable printables
  4. A high-resolution photo of beautiful scenery or landscape from the area

The Disney new-normal guest experience is genius. The company shifted quickly during the pandemic by offering something new that people could share with their families while in lockdown at home. People aren’t just reliving things they had already seen, and they weren’t just looking at their own photos from before.

The Disney online experiences are interactive and highly engaged. Moreover, they bring some relatable elements to the Disney brand. The recipe touches on different senses, and the board game touches on different dimensions. The core values are brought in—that Disney is a fun brand that you experience with your family. It has all six dimensions of the customer experience melded into one.

What about small businesses?

Obviously, Disney is a giant entity with a considerable capacity for delivering profound customer experiences. But what can small businesses offer as innovative and exceptional new-normal customer experiences?

First, as a small business owner, you should keep in mind:

  • What do your customers need and want from you?
  • What pain points can you solve? How can you delight?
  • How do you bring the customer experience to your clients safely and conveniently?

These are notable examples of how some Sacred Fire Creative small business clients shifted during the pandemic:

Asian Mint

Asian Mint is a restaurant business that serves Thai cuisine in Dallas, Texas. They were shut down right away by the pandemic, though eventually, they got to do takeout and delivery.

One of the most significant shifts they did to cope with the pandemic was offering ChefMint kits. People were at home, but they still wanted to spend quality time with their families in a restaurant setting.

The ChefMint kits made it easy to cook Thai food at home and replicate the experience of dining at Asian Mint. The ingredients were pre-packaged, the recipes were included and worded in an easy-to-follow language. The dishes can be cooked in 20 minutes or less. Anybody within the Dallas area could get these kits delivered in cooler bags. Anybody throughout the US could also order these kits with dry ingredients and recipes.

ChefMint became a way for Asian Mint to increase its outreach. It brought the Asian Mint restaurant experience into the home kitchen.

Nikky Feeding Souls

Nikky Feeding Souls is another brand from the owner of Asian Mint, Nikky Phinyawatana. Before the pandemic, she took small groups on tours of Thailand to experience the culture and cook the food. When the pandemic hit, she created her “Escape to Thailand” series, a virtual Thai cooking, culture, and travel experience. She had ChefMint kits mailed out, along with different kinds of small gifts and little notes about Thai culture. Then she wrapped up the whole experience with live webinars in group settings so that people could experience it together.

Cindy Briggs Workshops

Cindy Briggs is an internationally renowned watercolor artist. She’s been teaching art for 20 years through plein air or live, open-air workshops in places like Italy and France. She had workshops scheduled up to 2022.

With the pandemic, Cindy canceled her plein air workshops and took these workshops online. Cindy had been doing online classes before and simply expanded the workshops.

Through these online workshops, people experienced Cindy through videos, live webinars, and exclusive Facebook groups. Her students got PDF lists of everything they needed for the class and detailed video instructions they could watch on their own time from the comfort of their homes. The advantage of these videos is Cindy’s students can rewind them, speed them up, or go back to a section if they want to. And they can watch one section over and over.

In live webinars, Cindy starts a painting from scratch, and her students can paint along with her. She also gives specific feedback on work submitted through her Facebook group.s.

OMEGA Gymnastics

Gymnastics is a sport that people need to do in a gym. However, with the pandemic requiring gyms to be closed, OMEGA Gymnastics transitioned online. They did Zoom classes where their kids trained from home.

One of the things they did differently was their distance learning program. Following all Covid cleaning and distancing protocols, OMEGA opened a section of the gym for a small number of students. They could come in during the day, do their online classes, get help with homework, and get some time doing movement in the gym. Through this distance learning program, OMEGA provided students technical assistance, helped them stay focused during classes, and got them active during breaks.

 

The new normal is upon us. Our customers expect, and even demand, customer experiences that fit their perception of the new normal. It’s up to us business owners to adapt and create the experiences they’re looking for.

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Kamonwan Wipulakorn: A Leader’s Profile

A well-respected figure in the hospitality industry, Kamonwan Wipulakorn started her career in finance and is now a prominent leader in the Southeast Asian hotel and tourism industry. Notably, she is also one of the few female executives in this male-dominated field.

Although she has a long list of accomplishments under her belt, she is most well-known for her former position as the president and director of Erawan Group. Erawan is Thailand’s leading hotel investment company with a diversified hotel portfolio across Southeast Asia. Kamonwan was also included in Prospects Top 10 Women in Entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia.

Kamonwan’s educational background and professional start

In October 2021, she was appointed Managing Director of Bound and Beyond Public Company Limited (BEYOND). She is also Vision CEO of business investor One Origin and an independent director of Star Petroleum Refining Public Limited, a leading producer of petroleum products in Thailand.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and obtained her MBA from Western Illinois University in the USA. Even after these accomplishments, she didn’t stop learning and continued to pursue self-development. She also attended the Certificate Harvard Executive Program in Harvard Business School and the Certificate Stanford Executive Program at Stanford University. Her impressive educational background is a testament to her dedication to continuous learning and improvement.

Kamonwan started her professional career as an associate at a brokerage firm more than thirty years ago and has worked her way up ever since. “I’ve worked in the financial field for 15 years, mainly in investment advisory,” Kamonwan said in an interview with the Bangkok Post. “I left the banks in 2002 to become the chief financial officer of my client’s petrochemical company for five years. But I always had an interest in the hotel business.”

Joining and leading Erawan

Kamonwan joined Erawan in 2008 when she heard about the vacant position of Chief Financial Officer in the hospitality company. After she entered, she continued climbing the corporate ladder. In 2011, she became president and director of the group and joined senior management in 2013.

Kamonwan calls her management style adaptable and always tailored to the situation she faces. She left Erawan in 2018 and continued to hold director-level positions in other companies. Her current positions are Director of Origin Property PLC, Board Member of Padaeng Industry PCL, and Managing Director of BEYOND.

While she was with Erawan, she was essential in driving the group forward and spearheading its expansion in Southeast Asia. She oversaw more than 7,000 hotel rooms and 6,000 workers in Thailand and the Philippines during her time as president of Erawan.

She expounded on how she works with people around and under her management. “My style is very flexible. It’s my job is lead my team to achieve the result we want, so I can be direct and diplomatic at the same time. My other important responsibility is to build my team to succeed me, so coaching and empathy are essential in my routine,” Kamonwan shared.

A goal of learning every day

Her life philosophy of learning and re-learning for self-improvement is reflected in both her personal and professional life. She lives with the goal of learning every day because the hotel industry and the world around her are constantly changing. The only way to keep up is to be open to learning. She believes that the best way to work with uncertainty is to keep learning. Kamonwan also wants others to have this mindset, and she focused much of her attention on staff development.

Another one of her key goals with Erawan was to create and implement sustainable practices throughout its operations. She wanted to develop a sustainable platform for the group to carry it well into the future. The group also gives back to local communities and is mindful that each property should benefit the local community. From hotel construction to operations, the group made sure that locals would gain income from the project. Locals were employed from the hotels’ building phase, and some were employed by the hotels when they were operational.

A product of Thailand’s openness to female leadership

Kamonwan has also shared her experience being a top Thai executive and if being a woman affected her career path in any way. “I’ve never felt that there were barriers for women getting into leadership roles in Thailand, but I do see it is an issue elsewhere. In Thailand in general, you see more and more women given the opportunity to run organizations. We have a very open work culture and are probably in the top 10 countries in the world for the number of women in leadership roles,” she said.

It’s important to note that Thailand is one of the leaders globally that accepts and supports women in leadership roles. According to studies, women hold 37% percent of leadership roles in the country, compared to 24% globally. In terms of education, it ranks first in the world of enrollment of women in higher education. For every man enrolled in university, 1.41 women are enrolled as well.

The world can learn from Thailand’s attitude towards women leading companies and in other leadership positions. Kamonwan explained how the decision-making process works in Thai corporations. “We see diversity at all levels. But in other aspects, we welcome comments from everyone. We don’t do top-down decision-making. Everyone in the company drives the business. Every decision or project, it comes from a team, not from one person. The way we make decisions comes from the different opinions in the team, and it is always cross-functional, and everyone has the same chance to get their views across,” she said in an interview in 2019.

“This approach is quite common, especially among the big corporations in Thailand. That’s why they become so big; I believe that if the organization does not embrace diversity, it is difficult to grow. For family businesses that haven’t yet transformed into that corporate environment, it may be different. There is perhaps not so much diversity there,” Kamonwan explained.

Valuing inclusiveness

Aside from gender diversity, Thai companies value inclusiveness as well. Kamonwan emphasized that it’s more about respecting everyone’s opinion than seeing decision-making as solely coming from management. She has also imbibed this in her own management style and empowers the people around her. For example, when she was working in Erawan, they conducted town hall meetings to encourage employees to give their feedback and comments to management.

Kamonwan is a woman everyone can look up to and should admire. From finance to hospitality, and from an entry-level position to CEO, she made her way to the top through hard work and an open leadership style. Even if she’s leading top corporations, she also makes time for her family. She enjoys traveling with them around Thailand and other countries.

Openness, continuous learning, self-improvement, and flexibility are recurring themes in Kamonwan’s life. Because of these admirable traits, she has led teams of thousands of people to success and continues to be a prominent figure in the hospitality industry. She has made it to the top through the combination of all these traits. “All people make mistakes, but we should not repeat our mistakes. Life should be a process of improvement,” Kamonwan mused. Indeed, these are wonderful words of wisdom from a great leader showing the world how life should be done.

Sources:

Bangkok Times

Grant Thornton

Business Times


Maria Ressa: First Filipino Nobel Peace Prize Awardee

When Rodrigo Duterte became president of the Philippines in 2016, he waged a violent war on drugs that instantly caused deep divisions in the country. Some people agreed with his tactics, while many others considered his so-called war inhumane and unjust. Rappler, a leading digital-only news site led by Maria Ressa, was among those who reported about and spoke out against this drug war.

Who Is Maria Ressa?

Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa is the CEO and co-founder of Rappler. A long-time journalist, she was CNN’s bureau chief in Manila and then in Jakarta for more than a decade. She also held the position of senior vice-president of ABS-CBN’s multimedia news operations. Before Duterte orchestrated its shutdown, ABS-CBN was the largest news organization in the Philippines.

After working for CNN and ABS-CBN, Maria co-founded Rappler in 2012. Since then, Rappler has built a reputation for leading the fight for press freedom in the Philippines, with Maria at its helm. Because of Rappler’s criticism of the Duterte government, Maria has been arrested and charged with several crimes, including cyber-libel. This cyber-libel case and how Maria fought against it caught the attention of the world.

Nobel Peace Prize Among Ressa’s Growing List of Accolades

As Maria continues to spotlight press freedom and how the Philippine government tries to curtail it, her list of accolades continues to grow. She was Time’s Person of the Year in 2018. In 2019, BBC included her in its list of 100 most inspiring and influential women of that year. She also made the 2020 Bloomberg 50 list. And she was the subject of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival documentary, “A Thousand Cuts.”

In 2021, Maria was one of two journalists awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The other journalist awarded is Dmitry Muratov of Russia. Maria is the first Filipino to win this acclaimed honor. It was given in recognition of her “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” The last time a journalist received a Nobel Peace Prize was in 1935.

Ressa’s Court Battles Continue

Even today, Maria faces criminal charges in the Philippines. In June 2020, the Philippine courts found her guilty of the cyber-libel charge. However, the country passed its cyber-libel law long after Rappler published the article in question. She still has several tax and securities cases pending in local courts.

“I hope today’s Nobel Peace Prize 2021 award will remind the authorities in the Philippines, Russia, and around the world of the need to respect journalists and journalism. Independent journalism holding power to account has never been so important,” Maria said.

Recently, the Philippine Court of Appeals has granted Maria overseas travel after subjecting her to hold orders for the last couple of years. She will be delivering a series of lectures at the Harvard Kennedy School in Boston. However, she will return to Manila in December. To attend the awarding in Oslo, Maria would need to file new travel requests before the courts handling her seven pending cases.

As one of the newest Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Maria continues to inspire people around the world. Whether you see her as a journalist, a woman, or an Asian, her story is worth commending. How she fights for the truth and stands up to injustice demonstrates her strong character, worthy of our admiration.


Value in the Valley: Empowering Women to Reach Their Highest Potential

On September 27, 2021, the Oregon Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO Oregon) will hold a virtual event entitled “Value in the Valley.” It is a message to encourage every professional woman to climb their highest mountain and become who they are capable of becoming. The guest speaker for this event is Tammy Butler Robinson.

We invite you to join us at this event. You can register here: https://bit.ly/33FVY7g

About the event

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, and how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once wrote that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. You may know which destination you’re headed to, you may know how to get there, and you may even have that strong desire to arrive there. But you will never reach that destination if you don’t make that first, small, single step.

Our journey to greatness begins this way. We may have the passion, the drive, and the plan to make our dreams a reality. But without taking that first step, our dreams will be just that—dreams. And there’s no assurance that the journey itself will be easy. More likely than not, we’ll be called upon to make sacrifices, as well as to face setbacks and heartaches. Nonetheless, if you truly believe that your dreams are worth pursuing, that you’re willing to persevere against all challenges, that you stay true to your values, and that you exercise self-care no matter how hard it gets, you will see the value in the valley and finally reach your destination.

About NAWBO

The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) is the unified voice of over 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States representing the fastest-growing segment of the economy.

Founded in 1975, NAWBO propels women entrepreneurs into economic, social, and political spheres of power worldwide by:

  • Strengthening the wealth-creating capacity of our members and promoting economic development within the entrepreneurial community
  • Creating innovative and effective change in the business culture
  • Building strategic alliances, coalitions, and affiliations
  • Transforming public policy and influencing opinion-makers

About Tammy Butler Robinson

Tammy Butler is a proven leader with a strong background in housing and community development, expertise in public finance and management, and a deep commitment to improving communities and the lives of women in Indiana. As a Managing Principal with Engaging Solutions, she has successfully led and managed the company’s call center business and co-managed the firm’s planning and community outreach sector. Prior to that, Tammy spent over a decade in State government as a fiscal analyst for the Indiana House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee; Assistant Director of the Indiana State Budget Agency; Director of Claims Management for the Family and Social Services Agency; and Data Director for the Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning.

Tammy’s passion for improving the lives of women and families in Indiana extends beyond her corporate life. She is pastor of The House of God Church in Indianapolis, leading a congregation whose members are among the most underserved and underrepresented populations in the state. Her problem-solving skills, knowledge, and experience engaging stakeholders in the community planning process have led to the creation of multiple programs that have changed lives.

Tammy lives in McCordsville, Indiana with her two children, Myles and Brian Jr.


Maria Ressa, Journalist and Activist

Journalism wasn’t always a life-threatening field of study. Times have changed, however, and some journalists have become activists who risk life and limb—even their freedom—to publish the truth. According to a New York Times article, 2018 was the most dangerous year on record for journalists; this trend has not shown any sign of waning.

No one knows this better than Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa. She was Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2018, part of this year’s Bloomberg 50 List, former bureau chief of CNN Philippines and Indonesia, and founder of Manila-based news outlet Rappler. In June of this year, in the middle of a global pandemic, she was convicted of cyber-libel.

Who is Maria Ressa?

Maria Ressa was born in the Philippines and moved to the United States with her family as a young child. She spent her early years living in New Jersey and studied English and Theater at Princeton University. In the 1980s, after the regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos came to an end, Ressa decided to return to the Philippines. Back to her roots, she discovered journalism and spent the next 30 years as a television and broadcast journalist working around Southeast Asia. While working as a journalist, she had her first interview with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who would later become president of the Philippines in 2016.

She is the Chief Executive Officer of Rappler, which she founded in January 2012 along with three other female founders and 12 journalists. With the ultimate goal of building communities while using social media to do good, Rappler has grown into a well-respected independent news outlet known for its investigative journalism.

Before founding Rappler, Maria Ressa spent six years as the news division leader of ABS-CBN, formerly the Philippines’ largest TV network. Earlier this year, ABS-CBN was shut down due to legal issues, although many believe President Duterte had a direct hand in closing the networking giant down. This closure is just another example of the kind of political climate Ressa and other Filipino journalists face.

Covering Duterte’s “War on Drugs”

In 2016, under Ressa’s guidance, Rappler first started to cover President Duterte’s “army of trolls” who were seeding and spreading fake news to millions of his followers online during the Philippine presidential campaign. When he eventually won the election and became President, Rappler began to write stories on the administration’s “War on Drugs,” which killed over 7,000 people between July 2016 and July 2017.

During this dark time, President Duterte ordered the Philippine police to kill anyone they suspected of drug connections. Unsurprisingly, only small-time and usually lower-class drug users and street-side pushers were caught and killed in this brutal war. It left international syndicates and influential drug dealers who control the drug trade unscathed. Reporting on this is what put Rappler and Ressa in the spotlight and right in front of President Duterte’s line of fire. That would be the beginning of Ressa’s legal battles.

Her Legal Battles

Maria Ressa’s current legal battles stem from an 8-year old story that Rappler published alleging a Filipino business person had links to illegal drugs and human trafficking. The story was published in 2012, four months after the “cyber-libel law” was passed. In 2014, the story was re-published due to a typo, and the courts declared that it fell under the jurisdiction of the said law.

During the proceedings, the judge stated that Rappler did not offer proof of their allegations and convicted Maria Ressa with cyber-libel. She now faces the possibility of serving six years in jail. According to Ressa and Rappler, the case was politically motivated. Since 2018, there have been 11 cases filed against Rappler, including tax evasion and foreign ownership violations.

As her legal battles grew, so did her profile, both locally and internationally. She has become known worldwide as a symbol of standing up for the truth and battling an authoritarian president and would-be dictator. As Maria Ressa has said in an interview, “In a battle for facts, in a battle for truth, journalism is activism.”

An Inspiring Voice

The 2020 documentary “A Thousand Cuts,” produced by fellow Filipino-American Ramona S. Diaz, features Ressa. The film covers Maria Ressa and Rappler as they put up a fight against President Duterte’s attack on them and, inevitably, on freedom of the press. Throughout the film, Maria Ressa is a beacon of hope and strength-showing her humanity by voicing out her fears, yet never giving up on what she believes is right.

She has become an inspiring voice around the world. When Ressa talks about the attacks on freedom of speech, the truth, and facts, she is not just talking about the state of the Philippine press and politics but the state of the world. In this day and age, where people can get the news with a click of the button, they can also get fake news and lies at just the same speed. It has become Maria’s advocacy to stand up for facts and not give in to political pressure.

Currently, Maria Ressa is out on bail and still publishing. Rappler continues to cover the Philippines’ daily news, together with fearless views on the current Philippine administration. Ressa continues to stand for what she believes in and to fight the legal cases piling up against her and Rappler. It is interesting to note that in “A Thousand Cuts,” she asks the lawyer what the worst case can be filed against her. Her lawyer answered that it didn’t matter because the government would find the opportunity to file any claim against her, even child abuse, in their attempt to silence her.

From journalist to activist, Maria Ressa inspires journalists and women around the world with her strength and poise. She is an excellent example of the power of an individual who refuses to give up on facts and continues to fight for the truth.


NAWBO Oregon Past President Chosen for Exclusive Accelerated Growth Training

NAWBO Oregon past president and Sacred Fire Creative founder Malee Ojua joins a select group of 25 women business owners undergoing the NAWBO Accelerated Growth Program, a 10-month business leadership training created by NAWBO and sponsored by Wells-Fargo. 

Portland, OR, March 2021—Sacred Fire Creative (SFC) announced the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) selected SFC CEO Malee Ojua as part of its new learning program. Open to only 25 participants, the NAWBO Accelerated Growth Program helps women business owners scale up their enterprises.

The NAWBO Accelerated Growth Program aims to increase its participants’ market competitiveness.

The NAWBO Accelerated Growth Program is an offering of the organization’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Development. The program, launched in 2021, is a top-tier educational plan designed to help women business owners increase their competitiveness in their respective markets. It’s also meant to set them up for higher levels of growth and expansion. Wells-Fargo sponsors the program.

Participants are to attend eight one-hour online learning sessions for four months. Topics covered in these sessions include developing a leadership mindset, building successful teams, strategic planning, and brand messaging. After completing the program, they will take part in mentorship/mastermind groups for six months. They will also receive other benefits that will help them grow their business.

According to NAWBO, women own 40% of all privately held companies in the country today. Still, the size of their revenues remains significantly below other types of businesses. Educating women business owners enables them to progress to the same or greater levels.

NAWBO is a network of women business owners in the US formed in 1975. Its purpose is to share resources and to provide mutual support among its members. It also lobbies economic and public policies benefiting women entrepreneurs.

Sacred Fire Creative is named one of the top digital marketing agencies in Portland.

SFC is a Portland-based digital marketing agency specializing in helping its clients build a legacy through solid branding. With a unique and robust brand, SFC clients can forge deep connections with its customers, thus creating a loyal community. Among the companies that SFC has worked with are ArisGlobal Software, RiverWest Acupuncture, Johnson & Johnson, and NYU Langone Medical Center. Expertise.com named SFC one of the top digital marketing agencies in the city.

Aside from her role as SFC head, Malee Ojua is also involved with NAWBO’s Oregon chapter. She is the chapter’s current program director and served as its president in 2020. Additionally, she hosts bimonthly virtual forums on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). Ojua participated in the Goldman Sachs 10KSB program in 2019. A former aeronautics engineer, she founded SFC in 2014.


Kamala Harris – A Woman of Many Firsts

The year 2020 has been historic in more ways than one. Despite being a year that many people would like to forget, it was also filled with remarkable firsts. It was the first time the US elected a woman to the second-highest position in government. Vice president-elect Kamala Harris made history and has become a bright light in these dark times. Not only is she the first woman vice president, but she is also the first African-American and first Asian-American to occupy this esteemed position. 

She shattered the infamous glass ceiling for women by being elected vice-president. More than that, she also broke through the “concrete ceiling” – a term used to describe the obstacles women of color particularly face. She went through it all with positive energy and a smile on her face. Kamala is a beacon of hope for women around the world, as she herself said during her victory speech, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” 

Her early years

Kamala Devi Harris was born in 1964 to immigrant parents, her mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris from India, and her father Donald Harris from Jamaica. Both her parents migrated to the United States to study for doctorate degrees at the University of California, Berkeley. This is where they met, got married, started a family, and continued pursuing their own careers. It would be natural to assume, and rightly so, that the environment that Kamala and her sister Maya were exposed to at a young age helped shape who they are today. With both parents being accomplished in their own fields and active in the civil rights movement, it was inevitable that these factors would influence Kamala and Maya in their own career choices. 

Kamala has said, “My parents marched and shouted in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It’s because of them and the folks who also took to the streets to fight for justice that I am where I am.” 

Her parents divorced in 1971, and Kamala and her sister were mostly raised by their single mother. They moved to Montreal, where Kamala finished high school before going back to the US to study political science and economics at Howard University. She, later on, obtained her law degree from Hastings College. 

Her mother Shayamala had a huge impact on Kamala’s life, and she often mentions her even today. In her own words, “There is no title or honor on earth I’ll treasure more than to say I am Shyamala Gopalan Harris’s daughter.” Sadly, her mother passed away from cancer in 2009 and is not here today to see how far her daughter has come. Despite this, Kamala never fails to mention just how much influence her mother had on her life and accomplishments.

A woman of many firsts

Throughout her life and her career, Kamala has been breaking barriers. We all know that she’s about to become the first woman Vice President, but she had many firsts even before she made her presence known on the national stage. She was also the first woman, the first African-American, and the first Asian-American woman to become the attorney general of California. In the Senate, she is the first Indian-American to serve as Senator while also being only the second African-American woman to hold this position. She is also the first Vice President to graduate from a historically black college, Howard University. 

Her husband Doug Emhoff also contributes to her string of firsts – he will be the first second gentleman and the first Jewish spouse of a US Vice President. Kamala didn’t set out to become the first in all these things – she accomplished them by following her own path and working hard towards her goals. Something we can all learn from. Kamala serves as an inspiration to women all over the world. She also shows that women can truly be trailblazers in any field.

Her love of cooking

For all her professional accomplishments, Kamala has also become famous for one more thing – her love of cooking. She is a self-professed passionate home cook and has shared a few of her personal recipes on her social media accounts. Recently, she shared a step-by-step recipe of her family’s favorite cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving. “During difficult times, I have always turned to cooking,” Kamala has said. Cooking is a source of comfort for her, and this passion started when she was a young child watching her own mother in the kitchen. 

“One of the things that I do to relax at the end of the day is I read recipes,” she shared in 2018, something many people can relate to. Now, we can all imagine her flipping through her favorite cookbooks after a long day at work. This open love of cooking is another thing that makes Kamala stand out from other career politicians. Her willingness to share snippets of her personal life with others is a wonderful way she connects to people. 

Kamala Harris and the future

The past few years in the US have not been easy, with racial and political divisions growing and becoming more evident in everyday life. Kamala Harris winning as vice president is a much-welcome change and a refreshing breath of fresh air. She serves as an inspiration to both women and people of color everywhere. 

We can all learn a lesson or two from Kamala and her journey — the importance of family, the influence of a mother’s love and example, and the greatness you can accomplish when you combine hard work and heart, no matter your circumstances. It will take many years to overcome the negativity and discord that have been sown in the US landscape. However, when there is someone like Kamala Harris helping lead the way to heal these wounds and to create a more equitable and just society, we can allow ourselves to envision and believe in a better future.


10 Questions with Abby Tarsches

In her own words, Abby Tarsches loves photographing people. A fine art photographer whose work has been published in the likes of Vogue and Bazaar, Abby strives to capture her subjects in their most beautiful and authentic. Every photo is a moment of memory and should, therefore, be timeless and enduring.

With these ten questions, Abby shares her insights on her work and life.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 11-year-old self?

Nothing stays the same. Go with the change.

What advice do you wish you had been given when you first started your business?

Get educated regarding running the business side of things.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned the hard way (in life or business)?

You cannot control everything. Live and let live.

What do people always get wrong about you or what you do?

That my work is glamorous and sexy all the time.

What shifts did you make in life or business as a result of the pandemic?

Focusing on shop local. Using all my skills as a photographer to help others keep their memories alive.

What do you love about what you do?

I love how a camera can freeze a moment in time. That people’s portraits and special occasions will have a history that will be remembered. I love that every time I photograph, I learn and see something new. That hopefully, I can make someone’s life better through the art of photography.

What is the best thing about doing business in Portland?

People are very friendly here. I like the connections I have made.

What is one of your favorite things to do where you live?

I love to hike with my dog at Mt Tabor!

Who has been the most important influence in your life and why?

My two children, Iris and Cara. They have expanded my heart and soul and give me new perspectives on life every day!

Who do you help in your business?

Women with body positivity and empowerment, business owners, families, and individuals.

Sacred Fire Creative features the members of Portland Connect Online in this series. Our goal here is to help womxn realize that they are extraordinary, that they can make a difference in their own lives, as well as in others’.

For Abby Tarsches, making a difference means capturing her subjects’ inner beauty with her photographs and helping them keep cherished memories alive.


10 Questions with Winslett Carr

Winslett Carr is an acupuncturist specializing in treating a range of women’s health issues, including sexual and reproductive health. It gives her great satisfaction in seeing her patients find relief from stress, chronic pain, and other conditions.

Her patients’ experiences mirror her own. In her 20s, Winslett led a stressful lifestyle working as a researcher for a non-profit in Washington, D.C. The day-to-day stress led her to get diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. It was rather ironic, considering that the non-profit she worked for is in the women’s health niche. Her quest for better health led her to study Chinese medicine and switching careers.

Winslett’s years of experience, both as a patient and as a clinician, have equipped her to help other women find healing. She shares her insights on her work and her life with Sacred Fire Creative by answering these 10 questions:

1. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 11-year-old self?

Enjoy your time growing up: play softball, have fun with your friends, keep enjoying your favorite subjects, but most importantly, be your most authentic self. This will guide you to where you need to be.

2. What advice do you wish you had been given when you first started your business?

Start now, even if you start small. Find a mentor who can show you the ropes. Connect with colleagues in the field and beyond and stay in touch with your community for support. Send referrals; receive referrals.

3. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned the hard way (in life or business)?

If you have no expertise in an area (tax planning), do not hammer yourself about it. Find and pay for excellent professional help and re-focus on what you do best.

4. What do people always get wrong about you or what you do?

Acupuncturist is a title, not the act of what I do. Acupuncturists study Chinese medicine and East Asian medicine theory, modalities, herbs, and nutrition. We are not just technicians with needles; we practice the complete art of medicine.

5. What shifts did you make in life or business as a result of the pandemic?

Although I spend as much time in the room with a patient as before, I do it wearing scrubs, masks, protective eyewear. I crinkle my eyes more to show people I’m smiling behind the mask. That, and I spend more time allowing Cavicide to dry on every surface between patients and before resetting the treatment room for the next patient. New normal.

6. What do you love about what you do?

I love hearing each person’s unique story. They’re not just sharing a health history but the way they shape their lives and what their dreams and goals are for the future. If I can help them, in some small way, to continue moving towards their dreams and goals, well, there’s nothing better than helping people in that way.

7. What is the best thing about doing business in Portland?

Portland is still a wonderfully small city with 7 degrees of separation. There are many entrepreneurs here. Everyone understands that if you are an effective and caring professional, your business will steadily grow.

8. What is one of your favorite things to do where you live?

I hike to see everything that the area offers. Portland and the entire Pacific Northwest are filled with world-class vistas—Douglas fir-covered capes with trails to secluded beaches, the snow-covered Cascade Range of still active volcanoes, prehistoric forests with cool mountain streams, and even high desert landscapes with wild horses.

9. Who has been the most important influence in your life and why?

My mother is a force and a force for good for everyone who surrounds her. She returned to graduate school with my then-infant brother in tow. She works smart for sure, but she gets more things done in a day than almost anyone I know. She’s a “Type A” and also very intuitive and caring. I aim high because of her, and I help others where I can because that’s what she always did.

10. Who do you help in your business?

I help women working on goals and really pursuing their dreams of having a family, having health, living authentically and pain-free.

Sacred Fire Creative shines the spotlight on the members of Portland Connect Online in this series. Through this series, we aim to help womxn realize and believe that they can be extraordinary and make a difference in other people’s lives.

For Winslett Carr, making a difference means assisting women in their journey to better health and a family of their own through her acupuncture practice.


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