A Recipe for Food & Travel: Chef Paulette Licitra

IMG_0288Some say the food can teach you everything you need to know about a culture.

Research shows that 39% of travelers say the key reason they recently took one or more trips was the availability of culinary activities. Chef Paulette Licitra, an Italian cooking instructor in Nashville, has combined that special love for food and travel by leading “live like the locals” Italian cooking adventures.  Paulette’s trips take small groups to experience Italy as an Italian.

She has taken women to Rome, Venice, and the Amalfi Coast.  The groups stay in apartments, shop outdoor food markets, visit butcher and produce stores, and then bring it back to their local kitchen to try their hand at local specialties.  Beyond cooking, they visit popular attractions and go on wine tours.

She shares a recipe with us that she found in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast from a local chef.  Buon Viaggio & Buon Appetito!


Simmered Cod in Acqua Pazza (Crazy Water) with Tomatoes, Garlic & Parsley.

2-3 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely diced

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

A pinch of hot pepper

1/4 cup minced parsley

salt & pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups water

4 Cod fillets

1/2 loaf baguette, sliced

In a large sauté pan, with a cover, add all the ingredients, except the fish. Cover and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for about 30 minutes. Take the cover off and let liquid reduce to at least half. Add the cod fillets. Season fish with salt. Cover partially (askew), and cook until fillets are done and cooked through — about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the bread slices. Serve a toasted bread slice to each person with a cod fillet and juices.

Paulette Licitra teaches cooking classes, and leads food-focused tours in Italy, Nashville & New York. Paulette completed her professional culinary studies at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in NYC. She was Chef at Rustico Cooking in New York, cooked in Mario Batali’s restaurant Lupa, and her catering company Chez Paulette specialized in appetizer parties for private and corporate events. Paulette has traveled extensively in Italy for culinary research, and studied with home cooks in Lazio, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Piemonte, Campania, and the Veneto. She can be seen on Nashville’s Channel 4 WSMV’s “More at Midday.” Paulette is also the publisher of the online food journal, Alimentum.

Does Mobile Matter In-Store?

iStock_000019937684LargeYes it does. In 2013, 52% of online shoppers used their smartphone throughout the shopping process. In fact, one in three shoppers would rather use their smartphone than ask for help in a store.  Smartphones are our personal shopping assistants, and considering mobile as part of your marketing mix is imperative.

Here are some of the facts on how mobile is impacting shopper behavior:

  • 84% of smartphone shoppers use their device while shopping in a store
  • 53% of shoppers are using their smartphones to make price comparisons
  • 39% use their smartphone to find promotional offers
  • One in three will use the their smartphone over asking for asking for help in store

Information Shoppers Need Online

In terms of search, the more helpful the information that shoppers find on line, the more likely they are to visit your store.  According to a recent Google, Ipsos MediaCT and Sterling Brands survey, the typical information they are searching for include:

  • Price of item at a nearby store – 75%;
  • Item is in stock at nearby store – 74%;
  • Location of closest store with item in stock – 66%;
  • Details about local stores (hours, phone number) – 63%
  • Map showing which stores carry the item searched for – 59%
  • What else is available at the store that carries the items searched for – 57%.

The Next Step

You have your website optimized for mobile and you have your information updated.  What’s next?  Personalized recommendations and coupons are valued by shoppers – 85% of respondents say they would be more likely to shop in stores that offer personalized and exclusive offers provided in store, and 64% are more likely to shop in stores that offer recommendations for products.



7 Questions: LeeAnn Maxwell, CEO, Vixen Vodka


LeeAnn Maxwell (left) and partner Carrie King (right) took an unforgettable girls trip to St. Simon’s Island and came home with the genesis of Vixen Vodka, a new vodka company targeted to women. Their research into vodka and distillers showed that vodka was ready for a female revolution.  Their vodka is available in five states in the Southeast.

1.  How did you decide to start a vodka business focused on selling to women?

It all started on a girls’ beach trip.  We’ve all been there – lying around the pool, coming up with these great ideas.  Then we get back to life, to work, to kids, to husbands, to school, and then next year’s beach trip comes around and we go, ‘remember that great idea we had last year?’  Well, we put actionable steps behind the crazy idea of starting a vodka by women for women (not a skinny, not a mix, not a flavor, just a pure 80 proof vodka that talked TO women, not down to them), and made our favorite quote come true:  a dream without action is merely a fantasy.  We made our dream a reality!

2.  How has being an entrepreneur changed your life?

It’s the best job; it’s the worst job.  You’re never ‘off’.  You live –  eat – breathe – sleep the brand.  It’s the first thing you think about in the morning and it’s the last thing you think about at night.  And I wouldn’t change a moment of it!

3.  What has been the best moment since you started the business?  What has been the worst?

The best moment (and it still is!) is seeing our dream a reality on the shelf.  Every time I see that bottle on a liquor store shelf or on a back bar or in someone’s cart – I get a chill up and down my spine.  I honestly can’t say there’s been a ‘worst’ moment, I’ve learned from every so-called mistake and obstacle.  I believe that the fear of never trying is much much worse than the fear of failure.

4.  How does having a partner help your business?

There are some entrepreneurs who live by the mantra:  ‘small ships, tall ships, no partnerships’.  I could not disagree more.  I don’t know how I would do this without my partner in crime, Carrie King.  We have a big age difference; I say she was born on the night of my high school prom.  But we’re targeting women ages 28-54 and we are living our own demographic.  We balance each other, we have similar work styles, similar work ethics.   And if we don’t agree, we don’t do it.  And it has served us very well.

 5.  What is the biggest surprise in starting your own business?

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is tough.  But surprisingly, most people want to help you.  They want to see you succeed.  All I do is ask people to ‘hold my hand’ and I think when you do that, it gives them permission to help you without condescending to you or being resentful of you. Oh yeah, and having to do everything!!!  I was just asked to coach at a business event.  They asked do you specialize in marketing, business start up, branding, social media, financing, or sales?   I said yes, all of the above.  Because as an entrepreneur, you have to do all that and more!

 6.  What does success look like?  

Success to me is not the sale of a bottle of vodka, although yes please everyone who is reading this go out and buy a bottle.  But success to me is the stay at home mom who comes up to me and says that I empowered her to turn her passion into a project.  Success is the wedding photographer who says after meeting us at an event she decided to start her own business of portrait couture, bringing out a woman’s best self.  Success is the woman who introduced herself to me as a sculptor, not a kindergarten teacher, because I inspired her to describe herself as her purpose not her paycheck.

 7.  Have other women been supportive of your business?

Absolutely!  Because it’s not about the vodka; (but again please go buy a bottle), it’s about the fact that Carrie and I took the leap.  We went for ‘it’.  Our ‘it’ happened to be starting a vodka company that is tailored to a female palate and does not look upon women as arm candy or sex objects.   But your ‘it’ may be climbing a mountain, running a marathon, becoming a race car driver (ok, I admit that’s on my bucket list).  We’re just using vodka.  And I started this company the year I turned 50, the year my boys moved out and my ex-husband came out. (oh by the way, he’s now the creative director for Vixen Vodka – life’s too short to be madJ)   If I can turn my life around from sitting at home watching “Dancing with the Stars”, anyone can!

Beth DeBauche, OVC Commissioner, Talks Sports Branding and Marketing

Beth DeBaucheWe are a fan of Beth DeBauche , our MVP for sports marketing for Nashville and the Ohio Valley Conference.  As head of the OVC, she shepherds sports for twelve university teams, including Tennessee teams Austin Peay, Belmont, TSU, Tennessee Tech, and UT Martin.  This year, she served as the Chair of the Nashville Local Organizing Committee (NLOC) for the 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Final Four, the largest event in women’s college sports that brought 30,000 fans to Nashville.  Here what she has to say on OVC branding, women in all areas of sports and whether women will ever play college football.  Oh, by the way, we said 5 questions but Beth was so interesting we actually asked her 7!

Unknown1.  How have your new branding efforts enhanced the image and reputation of the OVC?  And what’s new for 2014-15?

The OVC is entering its 66th year as an athletics conference and has sustained over the years because our member institutions have a similarity of mission and our focus is on the sustaining values of promoting academic success for our student–athletes and competitive excellence as a means of teaching valuable life lessons.  The OVC has great stories to tell, but we needed more direction and coordination in telling them to the broader public.

Accordingly, the membership recently identified a new tagline: “Inspiring Excellence Since 1948”.  We selected this tagline because it highlighted our commitment to excellence, both on the playing fields and in the classroom.  The tagline also gave the Conference a wonderful platform to describe how both the intercollegiate athletics experience and our student-athletes’ accomplishments can be inspiring.  We currently are featuring many stories of inspiration and excellence on our Website.

Two years ago, thanks to the OVC Board of Presidents’ leadership, we established the OVC Digital Network, which provides free of charge, HD quality coverage of over 800 sporting contests and other University programing via the Worldwide Web.  I am thrilled with the network, as it gives us more control over our message and allows us to reach current and new fans around the world. Most importantly, it lets us tell our student-athletes’ stories.

Additionally, we have established a new blog entitled OVC Extra, which is intended to distinguish the OVC from our peers by highlighting the fun and personal side of our intercollegiate athletics programs and truly allow folks to get an inside view of the real OVC intercollegiate athletics experience.

Together the Excellence Campaign, the OVC Digital Network and OVC Extra provide a comprehensive platform to promote the OVC. Please enjoy these resources at OVCSports.com

2.  How has women’s sports changed in the OVC in recent years?  

It may surprise you, but there has not been much of a change regarding women’s sports in the OVC over the past few years.  The reason being, women’s athletics has long been part of the fabric of the OVC.  Having sports programs that provide student-athletes with an opportunity to compete at the highest level, but in a way that is integrated into the overall academic experience, is central to the OVC’s mission.  It is critical to our OVC membership that our student-athletes, regardless of gender, use their athletics opportunities to enhance their overall educational experience.  In the OVC, we sponsor 18 sports and all are treated the same, regardless of the gender of the participants.   We would like to see the level of support and sponsorship for women’s sports increase and, therefore, have made it a Conference priority.

3.  What is the most exciting project you are working on now?  Why?

It is a busy time in the OVC Office and in the Conference as a whole.    Five years ago, when I first assumed my role as commissioner, we took the opportunity to engage in a new strategic planning exercise.  I am pleased to report the Conference has accomplished most of its strategic goals and objectives. Accordingly, it is an appropriate time to refresh the OVC’s strategic plan, as we eagerly look to the Conference’s future.  Led by the OVC Board of Presidents, we are using a collaborative, membership driven process; and while we are in the preliminary stages, it appears the Conference’s priorities will be focused on:

  • Further enhancing the OVC’s brand;
  • Continuing to promote the academic success of our fine student-athletes;
  • Furthering our competitive excellence in men’s basketball;
  • Better defining specific success goals and objectives for success in our “Olympic” sports; and
  • Building on our success in football.

Beyond our strategic planning efforts, both the Conference Office and member institutions are busy trying to grow and enhance the OVC Digital Network.  This HD quality network provides our fans around the world access to OVC sports programming free of charge.  The member institutions do a great job of producing programming and the network provides a wonderful platform, from which we can highlight the stories of the OVC and our student-athletes.

Finally, we are presently working on a project, which I am very excited about because of the potential it brings to open an important new chapter for OVC student-athletes.

On October 20, the OVC has invited our team physicians and athletics trainers to an OVC Health and Safety Summit.  Participants will have an opportunity to hear from the NCAA’s new Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Brian Hainline, and then engage in discussion regarding health and well-being issues impacting our student-athletes.  Our health care professionals currently do a fantastic job of serving our student-athletes, but I am thrilled about the opportunity to enhance the level of dialogue and collaboration throughout the Conference on these important issues.

4.  Have women become accepted in all parts of sports?  Coaching?  Management?  

Women have made great strides in the administration and management of intercollegiate athletics.  In my personal experience, I certainly have felt accepted and valued throughout my athletics administration career; whether it was working at Vanderbilt, the Southeastern Conference, the NCAA or now at the OVC.  While I feel responsible to be a good role model for both our male and female student-athletes, as a female commissioner, I am charged by the OVC Board of Presidents with helping to lead the OVC and my gender just cannot, and should not, be an issue. My experience seems to be shared by my fellow female commissioners, as well.  However, it is interesting to note, that of the last six Division I commissioners hired, four have been female. In total there are now eight Division I female commissioners out of a total of 32.

At the coaching level, it also appears women are accepted within their profession and judged based on their competency and quality of character, rather than their gender.  Nonetheless, there are a few trends that warrant noting for their potential impact on the number of females in the intercollegiate athletics coaching ranks.  More and more, men are applying to coach women’s intercollegiate sports teams, which I would argue symbolizes more acceptance of women’s intercollegiate athletics. This is occurring at the same time as we see a number of women leaving the coaching ranks after a few years in the profession. It is speculated the reason a number of women leave the profession is because coaching demands are not conducive to the life demands many women face.  As athletics administrators, we need to address some of these life-work balance issues, for coaches of both genders, because we need to make sure we keep good coaches in the profession.

Additionally, our female student-athletes appear to be accepted on campus.  This acceptance is critically important because we need to make sure our female students are provided the same opportunities to receive all the positive benefits that stem from athletics participation.  Benefits such as teamwork, self-confidence and feeling comfortable with competition must be available to students, regardless of gender.

While there is general acceptance within the administrative and coaching ranks of women, where women’s intercollegiate athletics appear to be lagging behind is in the area of support.   Attendance for women’s sports, sponsorship and media coverage all need to be improved.  There are some fantastic opportunities for smart businesses to sponsor, and promote, women’s intercollegiate athletics, for our female student-athletes are a terrific “product”.

 NCAAWF4-1-300x1785.  With your role as Chair of the Nashville Local Organizing Committee of the 2014 NCAA Division Women’s Basketball Final Four, what benefits did you see for Nashville and the OVC?

It was a true honor for the OVC to partner with the Nashville Sports Council to serve as the host of the 2014 Women’s Final Four.    In addition to the over 30,000 fans that visited Nashville for the Semifinal and Final games played at the Bridgestone Arena on April 6 and 8, it is estimated the event left over a $20,000,000 economic impact on the region.   Equally as important is the legacy this event has left behind, with the many programs that occurred in advance of the Final Four that are now sustaining for the benefit of the young people in the region.   These sustaining legacy programs included:

  • The Music City Girls Lead leadership program, housed by Lipscomb University’s Andrews Leadership Academy.
  • The Champions 4 Women luncheon project.
  • Funding for the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame exhibits intended to promote women’s athletics.
  • Additional financial support for the women in the media project, including coverage of TSSAA women’s basketball games.
  • Support for the Metropolitan Arts Commission to provide additional programming for young people.

Perhaps the most important aspect of hosting this Final Four was the pride that came from a job well done.  The NCAA staff reported Nashville was the best Final Four to date! Nashville and the OVC institutions should be proud of the passion and effort it took to successfully hosting the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four. We had such great support from the city and tremendous backing from our citizens, with over 1,000 volunteers giving of their time and effort to make sure the many programs went off without a hitch.  We were able to show to the world, what we have long known: Nashville is a world class city that can host large scale events.

On a personal note, I am proud of the OVC membership and our staff for a job well done, pleased with the additional publicity for the OVC and grateful for the many new friends I have made as a result of this experience.

6.  Where will you be during the first football game of the season?  And when you are not rooting for OVC teams, what’s your college team?  

Growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I am a huge football fan, so it is a real pleasure for me to follow our outstanding OVC football programs.  The OVC plays football at the Division I level in the FCS subdivision (which means OVC schools can offer 63 scholarships, rather than 85 scholarships, which is the limit at the FBS level).  FCS football is outstanding quality competition and the OVC schools provide an excellent game day environment.

During the course of the football season, I will make a point to go to games on each of the 9 OVC campuses that play football. It is wonderful to spend time with the administrators, coaches and fans while witnessing the accomplishments of our student-athletes.  As the competition for the OVC championship heats up toward the end of the season, I typically make a point to again see the teams in championship contention as well as follow our teams as they enter into the Division I playoffs.  The OVC had three teams in the Division I playoffs last year, so we have reason to be optimistic about this upcoming season.  I am very anxious for the OVC football season to start and busy planning my travel schedule.

In addition to actively following the OVC football teams, I have a keen interest in following the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as Notre Dame is my alma mater.

7.  Will we see women play football at a college level in the foreseeable future?  

While there are still many challenges relative to the growth of women’s intercollegiate athletics and full Title IX compliance, we should not lose track of all the progress that has been made in the area of women’s sports, since the adoption of Title IX 42 years ago.  There are more opportunities for women to participate in intercollegiate athletics in a broad range of sports than ever before.  Furthermore, institutions are doing a better job of monitoring and tracking sports trends and participant interest.  The NCAA also has developed an Emerging Sports Program to help guide the development of new sports to ultimately achieve championship status.  There are a number of new women’s sports that appear to be on the rise including: sand volleyball, triathlon and cheer; along with growth in traditional sports such as: soccer, softball and volleyball. To answer the specific question, it does not appear there is a strong movement at the youth, high school and college levels to establish girl’s/women’s football at this time; but given the general popularity of football, who knows what the future holds.



LA Times: The Brand Wise Take on Endorser Ads

65a15f5839fa11e393b222000aa8011b_6There’s a great story on social media ads reported by the LA Times and savvy writer Jessica Guynn.  The piece, entitled “Like it?  Social ads turn users into unwitting endorsers”, talks about the policies of Facebook and Google to turn our “Likes” into personal endorsement ads.  I am not a fan of endorser ads as you can tell from my quote in the story.

Here’s how the endorsement works:  You click on a “like” or Google “+1” and that endorsement might show up in an ad without your approval.  We have all participated in “Likes” to get a coupon or enter a contest, but we really didn’t like that brand enough to have our name used as an unknowing advertiser.

Social media is supposed to foster authenticity, transparency and conversation between brands and consumers.  It seems that using our unwitting acknowledgements as advertising flies in the face of the basic tenets of social media.

It also seems to work as a deterrent from every clicking on a “like” again.  What’s your take?  Want to be an endorser?



Minnie Pearl Still Winning Awards!


My friend Katharine Ray, Director of Communications & Marketing, at The Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation called to let us know that their “Celebrate Minnie Pearl and Her Legacy Campaign” has been named a finalist in PR News’ Nonprofit PR Awards in the category of Marketing.  They will be traveling to D.C. to collect the award for the campaign that celebrated the 25th anniversary of MPCF and the 100th birthday of Tennessee legend Minnie Pearl.

The Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation is a completely free support service for cancer patients and their families and caregivers.  Those impacted by cancer can receive one-on-one guidance for important needs such as –

  • decision support regarding clinical trials, treatment information, and options
  • personalized guidance
  • nutrition and side effect management recommendations
  • emotional and practical support

Brand Wise was happy to assist with the marketing planning for the fun salute to all things Minnie.  The year was based on storytelling because everyone has a special memory of Minnie.  The year included lots of Howdees, celebrations, pictures, t-shirts and even bumper stickers that said Visualize Minnie.  The heart of the celebration was the more than 100 Minnie Moments collected here, including everyone from governors to friends to celebrities like Dolly Parton and Marty Stuart.

I have included one of my favorite moments.  It’s a friend of mine who keeps Minnie’s spirit alive among her many friends, and tells a “right funny little story”  about being robbed on the train from Grinder Switch.