The Modern Side Hustle

When I was 17, my father hired me to help him with his side hustle. He was writing software for a tech startup; he paid me to write the user manual. Continue reading

Why I Bought Another Laptop

One word: spreadsheets.

Late in 2011, as I was assessing the IT needs for my new business, I theorized that it might be possible to move to a tablet as my main computer when my aging laptop died (Read “I Need a Mobile Application Strategy“). Then I signed on two clients to produce survey research reports. Each of the nine reports involved datasets containing dozens of tables. Continue reading

Video Works. So Why Don’t We Use It?

Recently, I covered an event for a client, blogging about each presentation and subsequent discussion. (Sorry I can’t provide a link. The content is proprietary.) The event was in Tuscon, but I attended remotely, via videoconference. So did a handful of participants, including one of the presenters. Continue reading

What’s in a Name

Call me old-fashioned. I think the name of a company ought to tell you something about it: either who runs it, what they care about, where it is, or what it does. Retailers know this. So do lawyers. When companies choose made-up words or deliberately misspell real ones, I often conclude either a) they’re doing a poor job of trying to show how clever they are, or b) no one ever put it on a big poster board and asked strangers to read it aloud.

Tech companies are especially prone to contriving names. A list on the American Express Open Forum site of how 16 well-known companies got their names includes a few that work. You can guess at what they’re supposed to mean, plus there’s a good story about their origins. And who doesn’t like a good story?

Here’s mine:

When it was time to name my company, Cochituate Media wasn’t my first choice. The internet domain for the name I wanted was already taken.  I brainstormed a bit, and put the decision off until I had my first client.

I knew I wanted a name that evoked some physical object or space, to counterbalance the fact that my work is almost completely virtual. Cochituate (pronounced “coh-CHI-choo-it” ) was, and is, a place. An Algonquin word, it means “torrent,” “place of rushing water,” or “rapid stream”–the outfall, according to Natick, Mass. business owner and activist A. Richard Miller, of a lake located within a colonial-era Indian village that is now part of nearby Wayland. The name Cochituate endures, as the name of the suburban village, and of the lake, a state park on that lake, a brook and a major roadway that I use nearly every day.

There’s more local history, too. In the mid-19th century, the lake became part of a set of reservoirs and an aqueduct system that brought fresh water to Boston for more than 100 years. (If you’re interested in the history, check out Miller’s brief history of Cochituate, and this short piece about the Cochituate Aqueduct)

The lake shore is a short walk from where I live. When my kids were younger, we used to stand in the water and practice skipping rocks. The backyards and woods surrounding the lake present a lovely fall foliage show.  Once in a while, we’ll put in a canoe and paddle around.

It’s a name that connects my work with my life.

Watch This Space

According to the Kauffman Foundation, which reports every March on entrepreneurship trends in the United States, new businesses were started at a higher rate in 2009 and 2010 than at any time in the previous 15 years. As I launch Cochituate Media, my editorial consulting business, being part of a trend–even if it’s a trend founded at least in part upon economic woe–makes self-employment slightly less terrifying. Though I made a choice to do this (I left a job as executive editor of CIO magazine earlier this month), not everyone who started a company in the past four years, including some close friends and colleagues, planned on it.

Starting a business feels a bit like I imagine it would to jump out of an airplane (which I have no plans to do, ever). Exhilarating, provided the parachute opens and you don’t land on sharp rocks. It helps to have role models. Mine include my grandmother, who, when she needed money to support her family, started cooking meals for fellow tenants in her apartment building, and ended up running her own bakery until she retired. Also my great-aunt, a talented milliner with her own shop. And my grandfather-in-law. He wired homes to the power grid during the Great Depression, then sold his customers washers, dryers and refrigerators. The appliance business he built endured 70 years.

And so, here I go.

For now, I’ll use this blog to share what I’m learning about being self-employed, let you know what I’m up to and to think out loud about what I’m reading about or working on. I’m certain it will evolve along with my business, and I look forward to it becoming a place for conversation.

If you don’t know me yet, please take a look at my bio, or read my work.