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Tuesday
Jul152014

LC woman’s company creates emojis for everyone

By LAURA ELDER | Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014 10:30 pm

Apple of her idea

LEAGUE CITY — Katrina Parrott isn’t a programmer or even a techie. But Parrott developed aApple of her idea. Katrina Parrott was inspired by her daughter, Katy, to develop an app with diverse emojis that represent a wide range of different faces, images and expressions. The app, iDiversicons, is available at Apple’s App Store and at Google Play. mobile app that could change the way the world expresses itself through emojis, those little cartoon pictures used to convey emotions in texts and emails. 
It all started in June last year, a month after Parrott was laid off from NASA, where she had managed logistics contracts. Parrott’s daughter Katy, a pre-med student at the University of Texas at Austin, was home in League City sending text messages on her smartphone. Katy wondered aloud why emojis lacked racial and cultural diversity. Emojis were either yellow variations of the smiley face or cartoon images of Caucasians.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to send an image that looked like me to my friends?” Katy asked her mother.
Katrina Parrott immediately set out to help her daughter make that happen. 
 
iDiversicons is born

Through Cub Club Investment, a real estate company she already had formed, Parrot and her daughter created emojis under the product name iDiversicons. The idea was to create emojis representing an entire world of faces — African-American, Asian, Latino and Hispanic, Indian, Caucasian and biracial, Parrott said. 

“We wanted to be inclusive and give everybody a sense of belonging,” Parrott said.
The Parrotts brainstormed and came up with hundreds of cartoon characters and images. They hired an illustrator and senior programmer. Then, Parrott applied to Apple and Cub Club Investment was accepted as a developer. 

In October, iDiversicons, which are compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, became available in Apple’s App store. Just last month, the Android app became available in the Google Play Store. 

The timing couldn’t have been better. About 8 trillion text messages are sent around the world each year with emojis and emoticons frequently replacing old-school expressions like words. Increasingly, people were asking why emojis weren’t more racially representative.

Digital roots

Emojis and emoticons differ. Emoticons used standard keyboard characters to create representations of things like smiley faces. Emojis are cartoonlike images of things such as human faces, hearts, animals and common objects that can be conjured at the press of a single key.
 
Professor Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, is said to have been the first to post an emoticon, back in 1982 on an online bulletin board. “I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-),” Fahlman wrote. “Read it sideways.” 
The first emojis were created in the late 1990s by Shigetaka Kurita.
 
Eventually, Microsoft and AOL began intercepting emoticon character strings and translating them into emojis.
 
Falling behind 

But of the more than 800 emojis released by the Unicode Consortium and found on keyboards, the only two resembling people of color are a man who looks vaguely Asian and another in a turban.

Emojis haven’t kept up with a youth culture that, for the most part, embraces cultural and racial integration. Celebrities have taken up the issue. Actress and singer/songwriter Miley Cyrus and actor Tahj Mowry have called for more diverse emojis.

And earlier this year, MTV blogger Joey Parker took issue about the lack of nonwhite emojis in most text-message apps used by Apple, Google and Microsoft, according to reports.
 
Katie Cotton, Apple’s vice president of corporate communication, responded: “We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.”
 
Right place, right time

Parrott found herself positioned to take part in changing the Unicode Standard by becoming a member of the technical committee of the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit organization of technology companies that sets standards for software and cellular products. The consortium, which is charged with the gate-keeping of emojis used in Internet and in texting, aims to create a single worldwide character encoding standard for all languages. There are almost 100,000 characters in the latest definition of Unicode.

In May, Parrott traveled to San Jose, Calif., for the Unicode Technical Committee’s quarterly meeting, at which she gave her pitch on emoji diversity and iDiversicons.
 
Apple’s committee representative got the director of Apple’s headquarters to meet with Parrott while she was at the San Jose meeting. In August, Parrott will attend the committee’s meeting in Redmond, Wash. Microsoft is the host. 

Cub Club wants to add its diverse emojis to the next updated Unicode Standard and wants to work with the Unicode Consortium to update the standards with iDiversicons’ images. Cub Club already has hundreds of diverse emojis that fit the size, design and style, Parrott said. 

Approval by the Unicode Consortium is vital to the iDiversicons app and would make it easier to use, Parrott said.

Cub Club would like Apple to license iDiversicons’ emojis, but there’s been no such agreement to date. 
 
‘Sky’s the limit’

With just a little grass roots marketing, Cub Club has sold more than 500 iDiversicons apps for $1.99 each.

A licensing agreement with Apple would be a game-changer. Parrott used credit cards and a successful Kickstarter Campaign — raising $2,000 — to finance iDiversicons. 
Cub Club continues to add to iDiversicons’ product line, to date offering 900 images. The company’s images also include mascots from local schools, fist bumps, sports images, flags, occupations and more. 

The company recently added images of redheads and a hot dog based on consumer demand. 

“We are very responsive,” Parrott said. “The sky is the limit.”
Sunday
Jun292014

Get to Know Lisa Frison 

Meet the woman at the helm of helping Wells Fargo build meaningful relationships with African American communities and consumers

Lisa FrisonFor many, it’s a dream to have your profession align with your personal passions and values. For Lisa Frison, vice president, African American segment manager at Wells Fargo, it’s a reality she truly appreciates and does not take for granted.

When it comes to understanding the segment, Lisa is keenly informed regarding what motivates and challenges African Americans as it relates to financial management. She is a zealous student of the segment, immersing herself in research, data and other literature to deepen her awareness and sharpen her acumen – making her a sought after subject matter expert on engaging African American consumers in impactful ways. 

In her role with one of the largest financial services companies in the country, Lisa is responsible for building and executing the enterprise marketing strategy for reaching the African American segment. As a thought leader, she has a vital role in shaping the company’s priorities on key initiatives to increase Wells Fargo’s brand presence among the segment.  She leads these efforts by partnering with internal leaders and stakeholders across the company to deliver key knowledge and insights to ensure African American consumers are top of mind when developing business strategies, products and services. Lisa is committed to making sure that African Americans are well represented in every facet of company business. 

Lisa also works in close alignment with external stakeholders to support underrepresented communities through initiatives that provide financial empowerment and guidance. 

Prior to Wells Fargo, Lisa worked at Disney, holding several roles in brand and alliance development. She managed profit and loss, and successfully launched Disney’s Visa Credit Card. Her professional journey began at Xerox supervising a manufacturing product line until she eventually transitioned to finance and business strategy planner. 

Financial empowerment through education 

With a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University and an MBA from the University of Rochester, Lisa believes that education, combined with discipline, proper guidance and smart decision making, is the true formula for financial success.  She takes responsibility for using her voice to inform and empower others, helping them to become savers, owners, investors and philanthropists. 

She credits her niece Brianna as her inspiration to provide guidance for future leaders. Lisa aims to be someone she can look to for motivation as she carves her own path in life. The younger generation is one she holds near and dear as she encourages them to move from the consumer mentality and become responsible owners of their financial future. 

Dedicated to leadership and service 

Most recently, Lisa served as the board chair for KIPP Charlotte, a free open enrollment college preparatory school in underserved communities. As part of this commitment, she mentored students to support the school’s promise to open up a new future for youth by helping them get to and through college. She has also volunteered with Wells Fargo’s Reading First Program and tutored students at Highland Renaissance Academy in Charlotte. 

In 2012, she was recognized with the Wells Fargo Black/African American Connection Trailblazer Award and now serves as program officer on the Enterprise Leadership team. Her previous philanthropic efforts have resulted in her winning an “Ears to You” Volunteer Service award and being recognized twice with the President’s National Volunteer Service Award for community service and outstanding volunteer and civic participation. 

Work life balance 

In order to remain grounded, Lisa makes it a priority to maintain a healthy balance between work and life. She starts her mornings with personal devotion and exercise to help set the tone for the day. Even with her busy travel schedule for work, she carves out time to have meaningful time with her husband and take weekend trips to recharge. 

“I enjoy the times in my life and career when I can step up and take on something completely new,” says Lisa Frison. “I love immersing myself in learning and figuring out a way to create and add value.” 

In addition to being a continuous learner, her ability to remain calm is cited as one of her greatest strengths. This characteristic allows her to navigate through difficult situations and maintain great relationships. She speaks passionately about the work she does and encourages candid conversations around topics of empowerment. You can find Lisa Frison on Twitter @Lisa_Frison

Tuesday
Jun242014

Group O Announces ISO 9001 Recertification

June 24, 2014
 

 

MILAN, IL — Group O, the leader in business process outsourcing solutions, announced today that it has been recertified for another three years under the ISO 9001:2008 standard – and added four new locations to its list of certified operations.

ISO 9001:2008 is a set of quality standards established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), thelargest developer of international standards for product and service quality.  The ISO 9001:2008 standard measures a company’s ability to understand and meet customer quality requirements, enhance customer satisfaction and achieve continual improvement.

Group O received recertification and certification of the new facilities following a comprehensive audit conducted by Det Norske Veritas, an independent accredited certification body.  The audit reviewed core quality management principles, including customer focus, leadership, involvement, process approach, system approach, continual improvement, factual approach to decision making and supplier relationships.  Group O also conducts ongoing internal audits to ensure that its quality management system continues to produce positive results and drive continuous improvement for its Fortune 100 clientele.

“As a global leader in marketing, supply chain and packaging solutions, it’s imperative that our quality systems are meeting and exceeding expectations and conforming to the ISO standards,” said Gregg Ontiveros, Group O CEO.  “The fact that our recertification effort was completed smoothly with zero non-conformities shows that quality is embedded throughout our organization – and is helping us to drive significant value for our clients every day.”
Group O first gained ISO certification in 2002.  Group O also maintains TL 9000 certification, which focuses on supplier quality requirements for the global telecommunications industry.  Group O was the first marketing solutions provider to achieve TL 9000 certification.
In additional to recertifying existing operations, new Group O facilities in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, Carrollton and Fort Worth Texas, and Memphis, Tennessee also received certification.  The new locations provide supply chain solutions for the mobile device, telecommunications, electronics and retail industries.


About Group O
Group O is a diversified business process outsourcing provider specializing in marketing services, business analytics, supply chain operations and strategic packaging solutions. A Corporate Plus member of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (nmsdc.org), Group O is an NMSDC National Minority Supplier of the Year honoree and is recognized as a Top 5 Latino-owned Business by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Headquartered in Milan, IL, and with major operations in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Texas, Group O is one of the largest Hispanic-owned companies in the United States and employs more than 1,400. To learn more, visit www.GroupO.com.

 

Monday
Jun232014

Boys and Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Valley 2014 Golf Invitational to be Held July 8 at Short Hills

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