Reno as a launching pad for entrepreneurs

My quest to reinvent myself in the post-newspaper world has taken a decidedly entrepreneurial turn.  Networking and continuing education open doors to opportunities that may blend my long history as a writer/reporter, editor and photographer — and bring in a decent amount of money!

Three elements play into this latest adventure.  Education from the non-profit ProNetjobs network has expanded my social media, personal branding and

Matt Westfield of Startup Growth Strategies teaches entrepreneur classes unlike any other organization around. Read about it at

leadership/adult training credentials (including a UNR certification).  Taking the Startup Growth Strategies 101 class opened doors to working with the Entrepreneur’s Assembly — an umbrella coalition of non-profits in Reno that help people start and grow a business.  I call the dozen or so members the “alphabet soup” group. It includes SCORE, NSBDC, NIREC, NMI, EDAWN, KNPB, UNR, SGS, etc — more than a dozen entities.

Working with Entrepreneurship Nevada (, I developed, designed and created a newsletter celebrating successes already here.

Not being with the Reno Gazette Journal any longer has opened doors with Northern Nevada Business Weekly and other publications.  I have fewer conflicts of interest and no longer worry about crossing that invisible barrier between reporter and subject.  I am free to network.

Meeting with the Carson Area Marketing and PR Network is opening other opportunities …

Through it all, I am meeting terrific, professional people who really have a stake in making good things happen — and they’re contributing their talents to building a brighter economic future for northern Nevada.

Last week UNR selected six student-led business teams to compete in the Sontag competition — and for  $50,000 in grant money to start a business. The prize is winner-take-all, funded by a UNR Alum.  More than 35 groups submitted plans for businesses that ranged from a “made in the USA” snowboard company to high-tech innovative ways to reuse tar.

I wrote a story for about a former corporate worker starting

Denise Bevard is turning her passion for quilting into a money-making business as Fiddlesticks & Humility after taking the Entrepreneur's class from and joining the Entrepreneur's Assembly (

a business as a quilting expert.  Denise Bevard will parley her hand-quilting expertise under the Fiddlesticks & Humility banner. Her mentors believe she’ll be self-supporting quite soon.

The point is that mentors WANT to help start businesses here … and many offer their advice for free … because their organizations are privately funded or operate under government auspices.

A staffing company owner today told me that his business is picking up — and that hiring temporary staff is a leading indicator of economic recovery …   all hopeful signs ….


Reno medical-facility design firm goes global

Holly O’Driscoll, 2/27/2012

Marie Wikoff of Wikoff Design Studios in Reno is carving out a niche in profitable field of medical facility design — and she’s becoming a part of Nevada’s growing community of exporters in the process.

Wikoff specializes in creating welcoming, soothing healing spaces, often for children. Her 100-plus medical-related projects range from small waiting areas to full treatment centers.

Along with northern Nevada projects, she’s handling work in Brazil. That’s bringing fresh dollars into the region’s economy and helping to support local suppliers who are waiting out the long downturn in construction.

“(Studies show) color and design can help with the healing process,” said Wikoff, a graduate of the Design Institute of San Diego.

Designing spaces for children is a specialty within the specialty. “A lot of modern design has sharp edges (strong defined lines). Well that doesn’t work for children. They bump into things and could get hurt,” Wikoff said.

And when it comes to design, age matters a lot. “Designing for children means (considering) a range of sizes. Not everything for little ones will work for teenagers, and you need to take that into account,” she said.

Two current projects highlight her talents. Carson Medical Group selected architect Jeff Frame, contractor Shaheen Beauchamp and designer Wikoff to build a 20,000-square-foot office. They chose this team in large part because Frame brought Wikoff to meet the physicians.

“Marie really listened to us. She really understood what we wanted,” said Dr. Sandra Koch.

When completed in March, the building at 1470 Medical Parkway will house 16 physicians and two nurse practitioners for two types of practices: OB/GYN and pediatrics. The design has separate offices and a common break and meeting areas. The flooring and wall colors coordinate, yet have distinctive differences.

The pediatric office has two waiting areas: one for sick children, one for well-visits. A glass wall decorated with an underwater sea-life scene separates the two. Bright colors accent the sandy-toned walls.

The OB/GYN office has soft, warm feminine tones accented with tans and pastels.

Frame designed the building; Wikoff influenced the interior, suggested the central staff area and colors for the exterior and landscape.Marie Wikoff

“It’s even more impressive and appealing now that it’s nearly done than we imagined,” said Michael Lollich, the group’s administrator. “Marie brought an artistic view to the entire project. She was influential in all the details, right down to the furnishings,” he said.

Wikoff’s other current project is the Hospital de Cancer de Barretos in Brazil. The hospital hired her to do the complete interior design work for a 90,000-square-foot children’s cancer center in the state of Sao Paulo. The first phase of about 20,000-square-feet is scheduled to open March 24.

The firm’s Web site opened the door to the Brazilian project.

“Brazilians love American design,” Wikoff said. Her Web site intrigued one of the project’s local architects, who recommended her to the hospital’s director Henrique Prata, a member of the family that built the 50-acre, 20-building non-profit hospital.

Though far from the ocean, her design for the center features cheery beach colors, portholes, coral and sea scenes to entertain children. Every area is color-coded.

Working with an international client poses challenges, Wikoff said. The language (Brazilians speak Portuguese) was big. “Thank goodness for,” Wikoff said. The time difference (six hours), initially meant 4 a.m. phone calls. Brazil uses the metric system, so every measurement is converted.

Brazil’s love of America is helping the northern Nevada economy. Wikoff has shipped more than $500,000 worth of design products for the first phase of the project — much of it from local businesses.

“I am creating, or helping companies maintain, local jobs,” Wikoff said. Companies she uses include VIA Inc., Reno Business Interiors, SI Legacy Floor Finishing, Nevada Lighting Representatives and Graybar Services. She also contracts with five former co-workers on various phases of the design work.

Wikoff moved to Reno in 2003 to work with HMC Architects. When the housing market crashed in 2009, she struck out on her own. “It was an opportunity to reinvent myself,” she said.

She started with a tiny budget of about $5,000, which she invested in the Web site and top-notch photos of her work. It’s paid off.

Northern Nevada Business Weekly

Laughter can rock your world, Steve Rizzo tells Reno crowd

Perspective is everything. So said comedian and motivational speaker Steve Rizzo today in Reno. Shifting our perspectives can rock our world — and change our trajectory in life and at work.

As I listened to him, I was struck by how he used humor to communicate one of my deepest beliefs. Laughter, and being able to laugh, is the ultimate triumph. No matter what life throws at you, if you can eventually find something to be grateful for and to bring laughter into your life, or back into your life, things will be OK.

Bad things happen, yet the sun shines; puppies and children play.

Changing our attitudes in small ways can change an entire day’s outcome and open opportunities we never thought of, Rizzo told the crowd at the Western Industrial Nevada breakfast at the Peppermill Hotel, in Reno.

I believe it. I live it … most days.

Rizzo had the crowd in stitches. Humor cuts through our defenses and makes us open to change.

Rizzo encouraged specific actions.

“Make a conscious choice to enjoy yourself in whatever you are doing today,” he said.  Too many people wait for “someday” to be happy.  Wrong attitude, he said.

“Enjoy yourself in whatever you are doing, wherever you are in your life today. Find enjoyment during the process — don’t wait for someday,” he said.

Someday never really comes. People who put obstacles in the way of happiness – who tell themselves that they’ll be happy once they get that next promotion, or when they lose the weight, or whatever, miss the opportunity to be happy now, and ultimately throughout their entire lives.

“Don’t put happiness on hold,” he said. You’ll never have it if you do.

So to change the way we view our lives, Rizzo offered the following advice:

“Focus on something that makes you grateful. Feel it with your heart and soul as soon as you open your eyes,” he said. Do it as soon, or even before, opening your eyes each day. That, he said, will change the way you approach your day.

Changing this one thing, Rizzo said, can change how you think, and ultimately how you live your life.  That old saying about change your attitude and change your world is true.

The better your attitude, the more opportunity, whether for friends, family, a better (or any!) job will come – because you are more open to it.

Other points Rizzo made:

“See the funny side of life. It is everywhere,” he advised

“Laughter results in an instant mind shift,” he said.

“Laughter is positive energy,” he emphasized.

“Enjoyment is the spark that ignites passion and enthusiasm,” he promised.

Rizzo is an accomplished comedian with many professional accolades and television credits. He, of course, had a great delivery, many stories and one-liners. He also relayed sad and touching stories that motivate him.

My take: We all have tough experiences. Those who find something to laugh about, ultimately, will overcome.

Thanks Mr. Rizzo for reminding us of that, and for brightening my day.

Have you tried this? Did it work for you? Talk to me ….

Entrepreneurs find help under new Reno banner

Navigating the maze of rules, laws, pitfalls and deal breakers involved in starting a business can stump — or slow down — even the savviest potential entrepreneur.

A new umbrella coalition called Entrepreneurship Nevada ( brings more than a dozen groups to the table to help any business find the help they need. E-Nevada provides the info for you to find the right help for your niche. SCORE? NSBDC? NCET? UNR? SBA? — all the “alphabet soup” organizations are part of the coalition. 

It’s an unprecedented effort to help build a culture of cooperation with the goal of helping Reno, Sparks dig out of our economic mess.

I am editor of E-Nevada NOW — the newsletter. We published our first issue! Find it at  

This month’s  Success Story:  Soak Nail Spa & Lounge — from one employee to 25 in five years. Read how owners Shannon and Darin Dunlap did it. 

Board member Rod Hosilyk explains the mission behind the  NON-PROFIT

Business-Plan competitions vet ideas for startup companies, much like on the TV show “Shark Tank”  and provide money (up to $50,000) for the winners. 

 The newsletter will grow and add features each month. Follow us … this is  an unprecedented community effort!

Have a suggestion of a company to feature? Special advice? Let us know.