The 20 Funniest HumbleBrags on Twitter

(DISCLAIMER: The concept behind collecting Humblebrag Tweets, ranking, and responding to them is not mine. It was created by Harris Wittels, a writer for NBC’s Parks and Recreation and a regular Grantland contributor. I just thought his @Humblebrags Twitter feed and his Grantland monthly rankings were horrifying/funny, so I thought I’d write some of my own. They are similar to his, only I’ve been informed that mine are “meaner”. To which I reply: whatever. P.S. Originally I wrote these for, but they weren’t published. So here they are for your enjoyment)

The 20 Funniest “HumbleBrags” (my version)

An argument could be made that celebrities have a duty to entertain and horrify us with their Tweeted boasts: after all, if they’re not livin’ the dream, then what do us poor schmoes have to aspire to? Plus, they are famous, after all, and vast numbers of otherwise reasonable people – professional people who contribute to society in many important ways – inexplicably fall all over each other to validate their uninformed opinions.

But what of those lesser celebrities, those who only have the capacity to offend a comparatively small circle of followers at best, or at worst just a finger-wagging from their moms back in Wisconsin?

For those minor stars, and even for some larger ones, we have the relatively new phenomenon of the Humblebrag – a promotional tactic for those who desperately want to brag about their accomplishments/awards nominations/swag/celebrity connections, but just as desperately want to pretend they are not, with oft-times hilariously false humility.

But lest anyone be fooled by this fancy-pants tweeting, trust me: every one of them think they are great.

And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that. In this world – where so many thousands of creative people toil, mostly anonymously, for any scrap of publicity – for the sake of their own careers, they should lionize their accomplishments. Just go ahead and brag!

And I say just maybe, children, there will come a day, not far off, when every one of these celebrities will rest proudly atop the clouds of supreme confidence that right now, perhaps only Mr. Kanye West occupies.  And yea, they will own their boasts.

But for now, let us be entertained by their tortured HumbleBrags.

1. Blake Shelton (country singer) – @blakeshelton

Still can’t believe I’m up for The People’s Choice Awards!! I mean who are the people?!! And why do they like me?!!

At the risk of interrupting your existential crisis, Blake, I’d say you’re just going to have to accept it. They like you! They reeeeally like you!

2. Rebecca Black (teen YouTube sensation, singer of Friday) @MsRebeccaBlack

 …that awkward moment when you’re watching the AMA’s and BAM there you are.

BAM. A classic Humblebrag, Ms. Black.

3. David Spade (actor and comedian) – @DavidSpade

At @redcross breakfast getting an award for some reason. Honored to be w all these actual heroes

But let’s see, you’re receiving an award from these heroes. Which makes you the hero-iest hero in the room! Just in case you didn’t think of it that way.

 4.  Justin Ching (author, Google ad exec) @Justin_Ching

just took one of the more epic naps ever, I’m sooo glad I don’t have to jetset for a living. Not as glamourous as advertised

For a fun little exercise, take out every word in this Tweet but “epic”, “jetset”, and “glamorous”. What do you have left? Yeah, you’re getting the picture.

5. Sia Furler (Grammy-nominated musician) @siamusic

How weird is it when your watching a rerun of friends over cereal when your ex boyfriend jogs onto the show? It’s weird! #friendsforever

I don’t remember this episode. Oh wait wait….now I remember. It’s The One Where Sia’s Famous Ex-Boyfriend Tricks Her into Humblebragging. All right, Sia. Fess up. Was it Joey? Chandler? It better not be Ross – Rachel’s gonna OWN your ass.


6. Neil Patrick Harris (actor, Doogie Howser) @ActuallyNPH

  love the new H&K Xmas movie. It’s rad. Talking about myself in 4 minute interviews for 7 straight hours? Not as rad. #mushybrain

Yet somehow, he still found the inner strength to Humblebrag to his Twitter followers. Whatta champ!

7.  Beardyman (hip-hop artist) @beardyman

Saw tonight. Reminisced about the time me him and Wyclef played an improvised jam in front of al gore. My life is fucking weird.

Ah, Beardyman. Beardyman, Beardyman. Bless you for your world-weary insights. But Wyclef? Al Gore? Even a philosophizer such as yourself has gotta admit: It’s kinda fucking weirdly awesome though, right?

8. Josh Horowitz (MTV presenter/interviewer) – @joshuahorowitz

Hey whoever just screamed “I love you” from a cab, right back at you. My stunned confusion = gratitude. #ThatsANewOne

Josh, did you just arrive in New York City? Awww! Okay, let me clue you in: they were drunk and high. You could have been literally anyone. But I’ll shut up and let you have your moment.

9 Dane Cook (comedian/actor) – @danecook

Being famous and having a fenderbender is weird. You want to be upset but the other drivers just thrilled & giddy that it’s you.

Uh….yeah. Weird. But is it really thrilled giddiness, Dane? Or are they just in life-threatening shock from whiplash? Well, when you get through strenuously high-fiving yourself, buddy, I think he might have just passed out.

10. Brett Davern (star of MTV’s Awkward as Jake) –  @BDavv

Getting recognized at the grocery store while wearing the same T-shirt you wore at the VMA’s #awkward

Wow, another double-Humblebrag. So far these up and coming Tweeters are really out-douching their elders.

11. Greta Van Susteren (Fox News personality) – @gretawire

Ugh. I just pocket dialed spokesperson for Pentagon.

Greta? Greta? Can I call you back, I’m kinda in the middle of someth…..oh SHIT. There goes the Eastern seaboard. Double Ugh.

12. Maggie Q (actress/fashion model – @MaggieQ

I AM featured in People’s “Most Beautiful” (what can I say, they all make mistakes) BUT did the shoot w no makeup and I have to say…SCARY!

The only scary thing is how tremendously you are twisting yourself in order to avoid making this sound like the blatant boast that it is. Careful! You might give yourself a hernia.

13. Adam Levine (singer, Maroon5) – @adamlevine

Wow. We got mobbed at the airport. I think they thought we were @justinbieber

That must be it. What a shameful waste of journalistic resources. You must stop this travesty and immediately alert them that it’s only you guys, White Soul.

14. Joe Jonas (singer/guitarist, The Jonas Brothers) – @joejonas

Totally walked down the wrong escalator at the airport from the flashes of the cameras…Go me

Yeah, go you!…No, really. Just go.

15. Anna Kendrick (movie actress, Scott Pilgrim vs the World)

I am in an LCD Soundsystem video. Who knew?

Why, if no one else, you knew. And now – oh dear! – everyone else does too. That couldn’t have been why you just Tweeted it, though, right?

16. Karey Dornetto (comedian, writer, Community and Portlandia) @kareydornetto

ugh, community may top all the best of ’10 lists but we’re last place in xmas gifts that fit me. new years res: gain weight, u waify bitch.

Woah, two – almost three! – Humblebrags in one post. Add to that what may have been the least sincere “ugh” of all time. You know, they should really create a new fattening-up reality show just for “u waify bitches”: The Biggest Humblebragger.

17. Khloe Kardashian (actress/model/reality TV star):

I still can’t believe I have a Cosmo cover! #RandomTweet

Oh yes, you can. You definitely can. Unless Cosmo’s editors jumped you in an alley, kidnapped you, smuggled you to their studio in a windowless van, and then blackmailed you into posing for the cover photo. In that case, you have my sincere apologies.

18. Patton Oswalt (stand-up comedian/actor) @pattonoswalt

I have got to stop saying yes to every interview request. 9 minutes that felt like a week.

It’s a heavy, heavy burden being in such demand. But…curse your big heart!… you feel bad for them and their families. What would they do without you?


19.  Sam Halliday (singer/guitarist, Two Door Cinema Club) @SamTDCC

What? How are we up for this MTV thing…that’s just silly… Someone is humouring us up there. Very good.

You said it, not me. But now that you mention it, it is rather silly, no? With all the great live acts out there, MTV picked a paste-faced indie-rock outfit with little stage presence or charisma as one of their Top Live Performances of 2011? Well, maybe it will score you guys a guest spot on 16 and Pregnant.

20.  Jemmye Carroll (reality T.V. star/MTV’s Real World: New Orleans) @JustJem24

Omg these two chicks are googling me as I sit next to them.. #awkward. I can see the computer screen you fools..

Yeah…those two chicks? Like the rest of America, they think they might recognize you from somewhere, but have no idea who you are. Except now, all America is aware that you compulsively spy on complete strangers’ personal computer screens for mentions of yourself. Wow! You’re fast becoming the most popular lunch mate in the cafeteria.

10.29.2011 – Conspiracy Roundup: Population Control Shocker (for’s Conspiratorium)

Conspiracy Roundup: Population Control Shocker

Benjamin J Spencer
By Benjamin J Spencer
October 29, 2011 3:21PM

What a coincidence: ABC and CBS both claimed “technical difficulties” at the same time protesters getting teargassed by the coppers in Oakland, then cut away.

We agree: this conspiracy theory about how John Elway wants Tim Tebow as a starting quarterback so he can fail and they “can get rid of him” is a head-scratcher.

Jonathan Nolan, writer of the new show “Person of Interest” and brother of director Christopher, talks about his Facebook conspiracy theory.

There’s an obvious attempt by the mainstream media to discredit Occupy Wall Street by painting its goals as confusing or hard to understand. Not so, says Slate.

This liberal blog explores the “reason” Rick Perry wants to see Obama’s report card.

Am I alone, or a Neo-Luddite, to think that this Glorious Vision of our Shared Utopian Future has a sinister edge to it?

Major food companies are starting to reject genetically-modified Monsanto corn.

And is population control just a conspiracy by rich countries, threatened by change, to keep the poor down? Or is it a new form of eugenics? This is an interesting take on a usually unquestioned assumption.

06.03.2011 – People to Watch in Silcon Alley – Slideshow Profiles – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

The Video Guy





05.29.2011 – Martha Stewart Posts (Tasteful) ‘For Sale’ Sign – Week On the Web – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Martha Stewart posts (tasteful) ‘For sale’ sign

Media and home decor franchise explores options, while Albany decides on a property tax limit and hedge funder David Einhorn invests in the Mets.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
May 29, 2011 5:59 a.m

Bloomberg News

Even DIY craft maven Martha Stewart knows when she needs help. On Wednesday, her limping Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia announced that it had hired Blackstone Advisory Partners to evaluate its options, including a possible sale of the company.

The news sent MSLO shares soaring nearly 30%—to all of $5 each. The value of Ms. Stewart’s famed franchise, nearly $2 billion back in early 2005, was a mere $250 million after the day’s trading.

It’s been a hard few years for the media and home decor franchise. Magazine ad dollars dried up; a merchandising deal with Kmart wasn’t renewed. In January, NBC dropped Ms. Stewart’s morning television show and its related spinoffs, relegating them to Hallmark Channel oblivion. The company’s CEO position has been vacant since 2008; Lisa Gersh, a founder of Oxygen Media, is slated to assume the post June 6.

The company’s announcement came just as 69-year-old Ms. Stewart, who has had the job title of chief editorial officer the past few years, is set to rejoin its board of directors, ending a five-year banishment due to her 2004 federal conviction for obstruction of justice.

TAX-SQUEEZED SUBURBANITES, REJOICE: Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state leaders agreed to impose a 2% limit on annual property tax increases statewide. The guv says property taxes soared 5.5% per year between 1999 and 2009, and the new cap aims to combat economic decline. Still, the state teachers union said limiting tax increases would devastate low-income schools outside of New York City. Legislators seem set to vote on the cap next month. …

HEDGE FUNDER DAVID EINHORN BET $200 MILLION ON THE METS, buying a minority stake in the financially strapped team. Whether that’s enough to buy a championship, or even downplay owner Fred Wilpon’s recent tongue-lashing, remains to be seen. …

THE HUFFINGTON POST IS NOT OFF THE HOOK, YET. A federal judge declined to throw out a lawsuit claiming the media company’s founders, Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer, stole the idea for the online news site from a duo of Democratic political consultants—a charge AOL Huffington Post Media Group said is “pure fantasy.” …

THE FEDS ARRESTED GERARD DENAULT, the lead manager on the controversial CityTime project, and charged him with receiving $5.6 million in kickbacks from a technology subcontractor. Mr. Denault, who oversaw the rollout of the computerized timekeeping system for more than 100,000 municipal workers, could not be reached for comment. His employer, Virginia-based SAIC, has not been charged with wrongdoing. …

TWO MASSIVE, LONG-VACANT BROOKLYN PROPERTIES WERE FINALLY CLEARED for redevelopment. A judge rejected a community group’s lawsuit and green-lighted a $2 billion redo for the former Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg. The city is now free to rezone the 11-acre site for a mixed-use residential project. And in Sunset Park, a 1.1 million-acre warehouse shut since 2000 gets its own shot at redemption: The city’s Economic Development Corp. tapped Salmar Properties to redevelop the charmingly named Federal Building #2 for light industrial use.

05.27.2011 – Crowds to Storm NYC for Summer’s Start – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Crowds to storm NYC for summer’s start

Grab your sunglasses, sunscreen and MetroCard—this Memorial Day weekend promises to be city’s busiest ever.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
May 27, 2011 3:22 p.m.
tour bus

Buck EnniS
Tourism is expected to thrive this Memorial Day weekend.

With fair weather forecast, the start of Fleet Week, and new attractions this year on the waterfront and Governors Island, the city is gearing up for an unusually crowded Memorial Day weekend.

Hotels are at around 88% capacity, according to Chris Heywood, a spokesman for NYC & Co., the city’s marketing and tourism organization.

“Last year was a record” for Memorial Day weekend lodging, he said, “and so far, we’re on track for another record year. Demand is very strong.”

Travelocity, a leading online travel agency, has seen bookings for Memorial Day weekend flights to the city soar in the past few years.

“New York City is the No. 4 destination for Memorial Day weekend, coming in behind Las Vegas, Orlando and South Florida,” said Genevieve Shaw Brown, senior editor at Travelocity. “It also happens to be the most expensive of those, in terms of hotel stays.”

New York was also the No. 4 destination for Memorial Day weekend in 2010 and 2009, Ms. Brown said.

The city is promoting revamped waterfront attractions at Coney Island, with its new Scream Zone, and expanded activities on Governors Island, where officials are hoping two new public sculpture exhibitions and free outdoor concerts will draw crowds.

A new smoking ban took effect this week, for the first time covering city beaches and parks. City Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe said the city introduced the smoking ban partly as a result of public pressure, and partly because cigarette butts, which he said represent up to 70% of the pieces of garbage picked up on beaches, are “a particularly long-lasting and pernicious form of litter.”

Although 19 million visitors crowded New York’s shoreline parks last Memorial Day weekend—three times as many as in 2009—for the first time in years there are enough lifeguards, more than 1,300, to cover all of the city’s beaches and pools, according to Mr. Benepe. The lifeguard jobs pay $13.50 per hour with 48-hour work weeks through the season.

Tourist attractions, businesses and cultural institutions are also launching into high gear.

A spokeswoman for New York Water Taxi and the downtown Circle Line said the company had expanded its popular hop-on, hop-off tours from weekends only to seven days all season amid growing demand, and have also seen especially high interest from resident New Yorkers in the company’s newest tour, “Bike the Brooklyn Bridge/Water Taxi Back.”

And a costume exhibition of Alexander McQueen designs has drawn lines since 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, according to museum spokeswoman Elyse Topalian.

05.23.2011 – NY’s Top Public Companies Are Roaring Back – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

NY’s top public companies are roaring back

Crain’s list shows a collective 75% spike in income last year for the region’s 250 largest public businesses. The group’s $2.44 trillion-with-a-T market cap is now so big that it rivals the GDP of France.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
May 23, 2011 12:15 p.m.
New York Stock Exchange

Buck Ennis
The finance sector was the biggest winner, with companies in the financial field accounting for 47% of all the revenue reported by the Top 250 companies.

Big business in New York is bouncing back from the Great Recession—big time, according to the latest Crain’s ranking of the region’s top publicly held companies.

The total stock-market value of the 250 biggest public companies in the New York metro area, for instance, climbed 11% last year, to $2.44 trillion, compared with a total market capitalization of $2.19 trillion for the top 250 in 2009.

To put that $2.44 trillion figure into perspective: The total market cap for New York’s 250 biggest public companies exceeds the gross domestic of the United Kingdom (around $2.25 trillion last year, according to International Monetary Fund estimates) and comes in just under the GDP of France ($2.58 trillion).

Total revenue for the Crain’s 250 also rose 11% last year, to $1.75 trillion (that would be around the GDP figure for Canada), while overall profits soared 75% to $158.9 billion (somewhere between Peru and Romania).

Revenue winners last year included health care and consumer goods companies, such as Pfizer and PepsiCo, with gains of 35% and 33.8%, respectively.

But the finance sector was the biggest winner, with companies in the financial field accounting for 47% of all the revenue reported by the Top 250 companies, mostly due to stronger markets and more acquisitions than in recent years.

Bank of New York Mellon, mainly a custodian of corporate assets, saw revenues shoot up more than 75%, to around $14.5 billion after its 2010 acquisitions of PNC Financial Services Group and BHF Assets. And at BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, revenues soared 83.2%, to more than $8.6 billion, in a year that saw BlackRock’s merger with Barclay’s Global Investors finalized.

05.17.2011 – Long Way From El Dorado: A Profile of Journalist Elisabeth Butler Cordova

Long Way from El Dorado: A Profile of Journalist Elisabeth Butler Cordova

by Benjamin J Spencer

Crain’s New York Business senior Web news producer Elisabeth Cordova seems to regret few things about leaving El Dorado.


She would, however, have liked to take advantage of the “El Dorado Promise” – a college scholarship fund for residents set up by Murphy Oil, the major employer of the small city in the far southeast of Arkansas, where she grew up in a trailer park. Her father was a beat cop and the DARE officer of the town, her mother worked long hours at the hospital admitting room, and she had a half-brother and two younger sisters to boot, so she could have used a little financial help. But the program didn’t start until 1997, a year after she had graduated from tiny Parker’s Chapel High School (graduating class: 46 students).

Cordova got to college anyway, five hours away in Fayetteville. “I went as far north in the state as I could without leaving,” she says.

At first, she says, she had no clue what she wanted to do. Luckily, the University of Arkansas’s Fayetteville campus happened to have a great journalism program, and by the time senior year rolled around Cordova, who had done mostly creative writing up until college, knew that it was for her. She immediately sent in her first internship application to the offices of Southern Living in Birmingham, Alabama.

“I just assumed I’d be working in magazines, right? Because that’s what you do,” she laughs.

Southern Living rejected her application. Cordova hadn’t known that the internship was for another trade publication owned by the magazine’s publisher, and it specialized in a topic that at the time, she knew little about: cooking.

Bummed, she relied on the advice of her advisor Patsy Watkins – the first in a series of important figures who would help shape her future – and took a job with Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, a small publication with a newsroom stuffed full of former sports writers. This turned out to be fortuitous.

“Sports reporters make good business writers,” says Cordova, “because they can turn boring statistics into a human story.”

The clubhouse atmosphere must have made an impression as well, because she stayed until the editors gave her a small business column of her own. After two years she’d made Associate Editor. But then, a long-term relationship crumbled and she knew the time had come to say goodbye to the Gem State.

“I got my heart broken in Arkansas,” she says ruefully.  “I had to leave. I just could not stand to see my old life driving around in my old truck.”

Rootless for the first time in her life and not caring much where she settled, Cordova consulted the AABP list and picked 10 different cities throughout the U.S. with well-regarded independent business journals. Then she blasted a volley of applications to all four corners of the country – “even Hawaii,” she says. She got a response from City Business in New Orleans and moved immediately.

But covering business in New Orleans proved slightly more challenging than in northern Arkansas.

“I was in way over my head in New Orleans,” Cordova recalls. “I almost left and went back to Fayetteville.”

Her old job still awaited. All she’d need to do was say the word and she’d be hailed as a returning hero (partly, she says, because she had done the work of three people at the NABJ, commandeering graphics, editing and reporting).

But that didn’t happen. Instead, the second of her big helpers came through – her City Business managing editor, Keith Brannon, who convinced her to stay and tough it out. “He helped me become a better business writer,” she says of Brannon.

So Cordova rallied. She went on to a two-year stint at City Business, eventually helping the journal establish its first Web department. And again, fate intervened.  She had a falling-out with a “terrible” editor, “the worst boss I have ever worked for”, she says.

This time she had a plan.

Cordova had friends who had moved to New York, including a former colleague, Keith Pandolfi, and somehow they were making it. And she was well aware of the reputation of Crain’s New York Business: at the New Orleans and Fayetteville journals, she says, the journal “had always been held up as a standard” for clear, in-depth reporting and graphic presentation.

“I wrote  [then Crain’s editor] Greg David an absolutely glowing letter,” she says.

David contacted her shortly and told her to give him a call when she got into town. Elated, Cordova moved – and ended up selling soap in Herald Square for three months. The journal had no openings. She could have gone into public relations, as many struggling writers did. But then she thought better of it.

“I know a lot of good journalists who’ve gone into P.R.,” she says. “And you just can’t come back from it. Once someone has paid you to write what they want you to say, it’s hard to look credible as a journalist anymore.”

“They do pay better, though,” she laughs.

Finally, luck was on her side, and she landed a six-week freelance gig filling in for a health care reporter on a leave of absence. When the reporter unexpectedly returned a week early, she says, “it was a bit awkward.”

“All of my stuff was at her desk. I was kind of like, ‘Hi, I’ve been filling in for you!” she laughs. But she was determined not to leave just yet. “I just sort of moved everything to a different desk nearby,” she says, and waited to hear from David. And when the journal’s fashion reporter left unexpectedly, she was there to take over.

She stayed on the fashion desk for the next three and a half years. The beat culminated in one of the best scoops of her reporting career, when she anticipated in a story that fashion icon Liz Claiborne would be completely reorganizing her empire. And it was during this time, in 2005, that she met her husband, John Cordova, with whom she now has a one-year-old daughter, Olivia. The two are expecting their second child in October.

She and her husband never would never have met, she says, if her friend Keith Pandolfi had been a bit less hung-over. She, Pandolfi and two other New Orleans friends were scheduled to meet for a brunch at Prune in the Lower East Side. Pandolfi cancelled, and one spot at their table unexpectedly opened up.  “John was there by himself,” she says, and the place was packed.

“I just thought, ‘that guy’s never going to get to eat,” she remembers. So she invited him to dine with she and her friends.

Her altruism paid off. It turned out they were a perfect match. John was a line cook at Le Bernardin, the famous fish spot, and an aspiring chef. Cordova loved to try new restaurants and occasionally cooked for her friends.  A year and a half later, they were married and living in Brooklyn, where they are on their fourth apartment. The two recently returned to Prune for the fifth anniversary of their meeting.

Spending the last four years helping create and edit news, video and graphics for the Web – she was just promoted to senior news editor last January – Cordova has learned a few things about what makes good business news.

“I was really intimidated by business journalism at first. I knew nothing about business,” she says.

But she’ll always remember a lesson she learned as a rookie reporter covering small, local companies, years ago, in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

“The best business reporters,” she says, “get at the people behind the numbers.”

05.03.2011 – Asian-Americans Dominate NY’s Top Minority Firms – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Asian-Americans dominate NY’s top minority firms

Latest Crain’s ranking of minority-owned businesses shows Asian-American firms accounting for 10 of the 25 largest names. Top Asian-American firm? ASI System Integration

By Benjamin J. Spencer
May 3, 2011 3:00 p.m.

Asian-American firms are making it big in the Big Apple, accounting for 10 of the Top 25 minority-owned companies in the New York area, according to a new Crain’s list.

There were nine Hispanic and Latino-owned companies and six African-American firms on the Crain’s list, which ranked the region’s 25 largest minority businesses by their 2010 revenues. The No .1 company was Goya Foods Inc., of Secaucus, N.J., with an estimated 1.7 billion in revenues last year.

The top Asian-American firm on the list was information technology company ASI System Integration, which reported $175 million in revenues for 2010, placing No. 5 overall.

Six of the 10 Asian-American-owned companies on the list operate in either apparel or construction and construction supplies, industries that have struggled during the recent recession. Indeed, seven of the 10 Asian-American firms on the list lost revenue from the year earlier.

By Design, a Manhattan-based apparel wholesale company, was founded in 1994 by Korean-American Chief Executive Jay Lee. Though still successful enough to make No. 10 on the list, the company’s revenue last year dropped to $77.1 million from $87.1 million in 2009. By Design’s director of human resources, Richard Eagan, said the continuing lull in the economy, paired with some retailers’ desire to save money by sourcing their own apparel overseas, made things tough last year.

The company is banking on innovation to help blunt the impact of falling revenue, acquiring a partner last summer in Los Angeles-based jeans-maker-to-the-stars David Kahn. Their high-end denims should appear in New York boutiques soon, Mr. Eagan said, noting that the move is “totally new” for a company that sells mainly knits and sweaters for young women.

One apparel wholesaler appears to have emerged unscathed: Lafayette 148 New York. The women’s apparel company ranked No. 8 on this year’s list with $100 million in revenues in 2010, up from $95 million in 2009.

Chief Executive Shun Yen Sui said Lafayette 148’s success in rough times resulted from a refusal to compromise the brand and the product. Favorable manufacturing locations also helped: “Certainly,” Mr. Sui said, “our vertical operations, with our own production facility in Shantou, China, give us a competitive advantage.”

Despite individual success stories, John Wang, president of the Manhattan-based Asian American Business Development Center, said apparel manufacturing has been falling for years. “Much of the manufacturing has moved to Asia, Vietnam,” he said. “And Americans are not spending as freely as before.”

Construction services also continued to slow in 2010: Though all three of the Asian-American construction and construction supplies firms on the Crain’s list moved up in the rankings, their total revenue dropped anywhere from 7% to 22%. (Overall construction spending in New York City plunged 12% in 2010 alone, and it’s off more than 20% from peaks seen in 2007 and 2008.)

Mr. Wang said whatever the sector, local Asian-American businesses will need to continue expanding into unfamiliar territory—even international markets—to stay competitive. He mentioned Latin America and Africa as potential markets for expansion, a trend growing for decades in Chinese business. But he also pointed to a growth market much closer to home.

Previously isolated minority groups are starting to put aside language and cultural barriers and are “developing each other” as potential customers, he said.

“On the smaller scale, people have been teaming up from the neighboring minority communities,” said Mr. Wang. But he said Asian American-owned companies “could be marketing much more heavily to Hispanic, African-American and gay and lesbian markets.”

04.14.2011 – Mayor Proclaims City’s First ‘Foursquare Day’ – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Mayor proclaims city’s first ‘Foursquare Day’

Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially creates the Big Apple’s first social media holiday, named after local startup Foursquare; event will include parties, business discounts and charity events.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
April 14, 2011 3:43 p.m
Dennis Crowley

Buck Ennis [+] Enlarge
Dennis Crowley co-founded Foursquare in Manhattan.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday created the city’s first social media holiday, declaring Saturday, April 16, to be “Foursquare Day” in honor of one of the city’s most successful startups.

Mr. Bloomberg visited Foursquare’s office to announce the holiday, which will be celebrated with parties, business discounts and charity events. More than a dozen cities in the U.S. have officially proclaimed Foursquare Day for April 16—the fourth sixteenth of the year (the mathematically inclined get it: four, squared). Other participating cities include Miami, Atlanta and Austin, Texas.

Foursquare lets mobile phone users “check in” at their current location. A certain number of check-ins can make someone a virtual mayor, and different types of check-ins earn users virtual badges. Checking in also provides Foursquare users with tips and business discounts associated with their location. In return for the free advertising, businesses give discounts to users who recommend them. The social media service currently has 8 million users, more than $20 million in venture capital funding and more than 60 employees (up from five in January 2010). Co-founder Dennis Crowley was named a 40 Under 40 by Crain’s this year.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office said honoring companies like Foursquare showcases the city’s focus on promoting its cutting-edge home-grown tech industry.

“New York City has a lot of competitive advantages, most importantly a diverse and skilled workforce,” he said.

The city will also honor Foursquare at the sixth annual Made in New York Awards on June 6. It will be the first time a social media company is honored, said the spokesman.
Mr. Crowley said via email that he was “blown away” by the level of enthusiasm.
“The city has been extremely supportive of what we’re doing, and it’s amazing to get this level of recognition from Mayor Bloomberg,” he said. “Both me and [co-founder Naveen Selvadurai] are long-term New Yorkers, and we have always felt like this is the best place to build a startup.”

Foursquare Day started small last year, when a user in Tampa, Fla. invented it as a way to generate foot traffic to his own company. Meetups quickly multiplied, as did the level of organizer creativity.

This year, Mr. Crowley said, users from “over 500 communities” around the world are sponsoring anything from “scavenger hunts to food drives to actual games of [the schoolyard game] foursquare.”

Big Apple Foursquare users have planned several meetups on Saturday; listings are available on Foursquare. With more time to prepare this year, many businesses have been stepping up to sponsor special events.

One meetup on Saturday will take place at the SideBar. Participants can go online to score a free ride in a double-decker bus from Times Square to the venue, complete with a tour guide and free swag from Pretzel Crisps.

Another meetup will be held at the boutique Roger Smith hotel; festivities include a competitive bacon-eating contest sponsored by the League of Amateur Competitive Eaters.

The marketing potential of Foursquare Day is not lost on businesses, said Walter Elly, emerging technology director at Portsmouth, N.H.-based creative branding company MicroArts.

“All sorts of fun things start to happen when everyone in a town is using Foursquare at the same time,” he said. Last year, more than 30 businesses sponsored events for Portsmouth’s Foursquare Day.

04.01.2011 – Escapee Cobra May be a Boon to Bronx Zoo – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Escapee cobra may be a boon to Bronx Zoo

Venomous cobra that escaped from its Bronx Zoo enclosure becomes media sensation, with merchandise tie-ins and a Twitter handle to boot. Zoo considers naming contest to capitalize on snake’s fame.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
April 1, 2011 6:06 p.m.

The saga of an adolescent runaway cobra could prove a publicity godsend for the Bronx Zoo.

The extremely venomous snake’s slither for freedom ended in an anticlimax Thursday morning, when staff combing the recesses of the zoo’s reptile house found her coiled near the enclosure she escaped from last Saturday.

Though Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny assured the press Thursday that, “if the snake had a choice between fight and flight, it would choose flight,” during the five days the reptile went AWOL, her whereabouts became a media sensation. Local television and print outlets provided daily, sometimes hourly, updates on their websites and news of the snake’s escape made big waves on Twitter, where an anonymous user created a faux Twitter feed for the escaped cobra. The account gained more than 200,000 followers in four days.

The unexpected publicity may prove a boon for the Bronx Zoo, a nonprofit institution dependent entirely on public and private donations.

“This is what we in the field we call a teachable moment,” said Dr. Alan Friedman, former director of the New York Hall of Science in Queens, who consults for museum development and science communication. “Anytime anything attracts the public’s attention, all nonprofits should say, ‘Whatever the issue is, can we use this to further [our] mission?’ ”

Some businesses wasted no time in furthering their own missions—profit. At San Mateo, Calif.-based online retailer, shoppers can now browse through an array of Bronx Zoo Cobra-themed merchandise. As of Friday, the snake was featured on hundreds of knickknacks on the site, ranging from iPod covers to underwear. (CafePress allows online subscribers to submit their own artwork.) By Monday morning—two days after zoo staff reported the snake missing—a dozen unique Bronx Zoo cobra designs had already been uploaded to CafePress, according to a spokesman for the company.

“At that point the story hadn’t reached us on the West Coast,” said the spokesman. “We were all sort of wondering, ‘what is this about?’” By Wednesday, Bronx Zoo cobra was the second most popular search term on CafePress.

Despite the zoo’s flub, Dr. Friedman says the media’s coverage of the event should yield positive results. “The cost of advertising in a place like New York City is just way beyond the means of most cultural institutions,” he said. “We have to be opportunistic and take publicity when we can get it—and the Bronx Zoo people are really good at this.”

At a press conference Thursday, Zoo Director Mr. Breheny admitted that the snake had no name as of yet, but said because of the interest, “maybe we’ll do some sort of naming contest.”

But time to capitalize on the snake’s notoriety may be running out. CafePress’ sales of cobra-themed gear, which hit $2,000 by Thursday, are already waning, according to the company’s spokesman.

“If the snake had stayed hidden for another few days, the products might have had more legs, so to speak,” he said.