Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dr. Jones is in…and he’s got the ideal cure for the daily grind


The CHEN team took a much needed break on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, cutting out early to see the premiere of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – bright and early at the 11am performance.

It afforded us the opportunity to kick off what we refer to as our “Summer Friday” season to get out in the sun (still a relatively rare sight lately), get out of work early for the holiday weekend, and enjoy a departure from reality on a roller coaster ride that takes many of us back with great memories of childhood.

As you’ve probably seen, the movie has already become the #2 all time opener with north of $300M as of Tuesday. The critics have been mixed, though leaning toward positive. And fans have been all over the map.

But if you’re looking for an in-depth review of the movie’s strengths and weaknesses, you won’t find it here. Why? Because that’s not what Indiana Jones is about, at least not for this die hard fan. In a time of movie excess – excessive horror, violence, or in some cases WAY too much reality – Indiana Jones is about fun, imagination and a wild ride that never takes itself too seriously.

I will simply lay out – as education for the uninitiated, and as a reminder for those who may have forgotten what it means to enjoy a movie, not analyze it – the essential elements to this franchise that in my opinion make it great, and you can decide for yourself if you agree. And if you don’t, I’ll respect your opinion and promptly forget it as I prepare to enjoy the movie again and again and again…

Rules for enjoying an Indiana Jones movie:

  • There will be a supernatural element – Ark of the Covenant, Sankara Stone, Holy Grail, Area 51 and Crystal Skulls, it’s all good
  • There will be fantastic – and fantastical – chase scenes, built as much for fun and humor as they are for excitement
  • There will be massive leaps of faith, not to mention leaps over natural formations, from mountains, to waterfalls to caverns
  • And if you’re in it for the fun, there will be a smile on your face at the end…

There's plenty of trailers, but here's an early one that gives a good sense of all the movies and got me excited for this one:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

CHEN Friend Honored by New England Patriots with 2008 Community MVP Award

As a Boston Celtics multiple-game ticket holder a few years ago, I was introduced to Heroes Among Us, a community outreach program which honors individuals who have made an overwhelming impact on the lives of others. Honorees are recognized during each home game for their “unique commitment and humanitarian spirit, and for the exceptional and lasting contributions to the community.” Rising above the confluence of blaring rock n’ roll, fans posturing for jumbotron face time, and people positioning themselves in order to be the lucky recipient of a t-shirt during stoppages of play, I believe that this was, and still is, one of the truly excellent community outreach programs.

In fact, I always wanted to nominate one of my good friends, Rob Weissman, for consideration. But as it somehow always does, life – and admittedly, my own procrastination – got in the way. (Isn’t there an adage about good intentions and a road leading somewhere?)

For several years, Rob has been the head coach of a team called the Boston Renegades. Governed by the Association of Blind Citizens, and making its home in Watertown, the team plays beep baseball – “beep ball” for short – an adaptive form of baseball for blind and visually impaired athletes.

Players range in age from their early twenties to early fifties, and participate in a competitive league called the National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA). The season runs during the spring and summer, with the lion’s share of practices and all NBBA tournament games occupying the months of May, June and July.

Rob will readily admit – without resorting to hyperbole – that being head coach is a year-round, (second) full-time job. Developing practice plans and drills, helping with fundraising, writing letters for players’ grant applications, creating and updating the team web site, communicating with the NBBA and other teams around tournaments, coordinating travel, creating scouting reports, fielding calls from players, and writing weekly team update emails are among his many duties.

Though he will often deflect praise citing the dedication of a deep assistant coaching staff – which includes and extends well beyond me – Rob is the driving force behind the team. And yesterday, he was recognized for it.

During a luncheon and ceremony inside Gillette Stadium, the New England Patriots feted their 2008 Community MVPs. Part of the team’s Charitable Foundation, the program honored 21 volunteers from all six New England states – including Rob – who “demonstrate leadership, dedication and a commitment to bettering the community in which they live.”

Presented by the Kraft family, all honorees were awarded football-shaped wooden trophies and grants for their respective non-profit organizations. And each earned a welcome handshake and thank you from Pro Football Hall of Fame Linebacker Andre Tippett.

Other notable – and equally deserving – recipients included: Evan Heller, an impressive 14-year-old who has volunteered with the Attleboro Special Olympics team “Heller’s Angels” since he was nine; Jill Hrubes who has spearheaded events and programs to raise awareness of, and funds for, the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center; 73-year-old Anthony Hayter, who despite being diagnosed with lung cancer last year, has continued to volunteer as the head coach of the Tidal Waves swim team at the Boys & Girls Club of East Providence; and grand prize winner Cheryl Opper, the founder and executive director of School on Wheels of Massachusetts, the only Massachusetts organization to provide tutoring and academic support exclusively for homeless children.

As a sports fan, it’s refreshing to see professional franchises acknowledge these and other community members for their philanthropic endeavors. And I was honored to see a friend earn well-deserved (and long overdue) recognition.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The DNA of Entrepreneurship: Lessons Learned Across the Generations

We work with the MIT Enterprise Forum, so we attend a lot of their events. One of my favorites is the end-of-the-school-year event, which always features seasoned entrepreneurs, sharing their wisdom with attendees.

This year's event has a twist: It features a father/daughter team and a father/son team from the Hatsopoulos and Schmergel families, respectively. Doug Banks, editor of Mass High Tech, will moderate the session.

Since my husband used to work at Thermo Electron, now ThermoFisher Scientific, I was very familiar with the story of George Hatsopoulos, the legendary and highly respected founder of Thermo. Dr. Hatsopoulos provided his distinguished leadership at Thermo as chairman and CEO from the time of its inception in 1956 until his retirement from those positions in 1999. Under his direction, Thermo Electron innovated and acquired its way to become a powerhouse in multiple markets, and a multi-billion dollar pillar of the local economy.

I've also had the pleasure of hearing his highly articulate daughter, Marina Hatsopoulos, speak at the Nantucket Conference a few years back. She is best known as the founding CEO of Z Corporation, leading it from 1994 to its sale in 2005 for multiples of revenue. The company is a leader in 3D printing. These days, she's a director at GSI Group and Tea Forte. (Haven't we all bought their tea -- in their fancy little silk tea bags - like French lingerie for tea -- as gifts at one time or another?)

I was less familiar with the Schmergel family, but that's only because I was late to the life sciences party around here. Gabriel Schmergel is known as a biotech trailblazer, having led biopharma pioneer, Genetics Institute, Inc. from 1981 until its acquisition by Wyeth in 1996. He holds an honorary doctorate of engineering degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Schmergel's son Greg is president and CEO of Nantero, a red-hot nanotech company using carbon nanotubes for the development of next-generation semiconductor devices. The company has raised $31.5M in funding to date. The younger Schmergel is a serial entrepreneur, with hot Web properties like About Inc. and ExpertCentral in his pedigree.

Even if the rest of us feel like underachievers by the end of the night, this promises to be an evening of good business and management lessons. And who knows? Maybe the parents among us will get some tips on guiding our progeny to prosperous, fulfilling careers.



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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The BBJ's Green Biz Summit

It's common knowledge that a warm, delicious breakfast makes 7:30 on a Friday morning a little more bearable. This understanding was displayed to perfection last week at the Seaport Hotel for the Boston Business Journal's first ever Green Business Summit.


A room full of green entrepreneurs, investors and local business-folk gathered to eat cheese soufflé, and more importantly, to discuss the ways in which Boston businesses and business people can make changes to how we impact our environment.

The room listened intently to a keynote by local greentech guru Jim Gordon, President of Cape Wind, and two panels filled with innovative thinkers in the world of green business.

I've heard Mr. Gordon speak twice now, the first time at the MIT Enterprise Forum's Power, Drugs and Money conference in February, and he remains one of my favorite local voices. It's so obvious that Jim cares deeply not only for his company, but also for the benefits his company’s technology will undoubtedly provide to the Commonwealth.


Following the keynote, the panel discussions covered a number of issues relating to building, maintaining and expanding businesses - and doing so while keeping a keen eye on environmental impact. Some very simple ideas like riding a bike to work were followed by some more intensive ideas like cutting total energy consumption at major corporations like Millipore and Raytheon.

Joining the second panel of the morning was CHEN client and friend Dr. Christina Lampe-Onnerud, CEO of Boston-Power. Christina provided the voice of the entrepreneur on her panel, adding insight to topics like global environmental issues (Boston-Power has manufacturing facilities in China and Taiwan) and local environmental innovation (Christina chose Boston as the home for her company because of its vast resources in business, academia and investment).

The fact that the Summit sold out in short order was a pretty good sign that the Boston business community is concerned with environmental issues like those discussed on Friday. I think it’s safe to say everyone left with some “green” challenges to incorporate into both their business and personal lives.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Phase Forward Shares in Beantown Bliss










Maybe it’s something in the Boston water. No sooner had a weekend ended in which the Sox swept the Brew Crew to get back on track, and the Celtics clinched a regional championship berth in an exciting game seven, than Phase Forward opened the work week singled out in a Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) as a top stock pick in the software sector.

The company is on quite a roll lately – its Clinical Trials Signal Detection (CTSD) safety product just won a Best Practices award with GSK at the recent Bio-IT World Life Sciences Conference and Expo in Boston. With this and other success large in the rear view mirror, Phase Forward carries strong momentum into one of its industry’s most important events, the Drug Information Association (DIA) annual meeting, also here in Boston June 22-26.

We congratulate our friends and clients at Phase Forward for contributing to Boston’s winning ways!

Friday, May 16, 2008

MIT $100K Competition Winner: Diagnostics-for-All

The winning team: Krishna Yeshwant, Roozbeh Ghaffari, Hayat Sindi, Carol Waghorne, Jon Puz, and Gilbert Tang. Photo was supplied by MIT to the Boston Globe. Photo credit: Jeremy Gilbert

Yesterday's Globe brought us the news that a heartwarming non-profit won this year's MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. This generation of young entrepreneurs determined to do good warms my jaded, clogged arteries. Here's the Xconomy take as well.

According to the Globe, Diagnostics-For-All (DFA) seeks to deliver affordable point-of-care diagnostic solutions to the global medical community; based on patent-pending technology developed in chemist George Whitesides’ laboratory at Harvard, DFA’s offering will serve as a platform for simple, portable, low-cost, and easy-to-dispose diagnostic tools for developing countries. According to a press release: Field clinicians have applauded DFA for its efforts to date in developing rapid and accurate diagnostic tools for liver, kidney, and metabolic diseases.

This marks the second big win for the fledgling organization, which took home the top prize in the social enterprise track of the Harvard Business School annual Business Plan Contest in late April. That award came with a $10,000 check.

For the first time ever at the MIT $100K competition, the audience got to pick a winner. That $10,000 prize went to Covalent Solar, whose product uses an MIT-invented solar concentrator photovoltaic technology, based on the redirection of light using dyes, which is simpler and less expensive than existing methods.


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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hot ICE

One reason we enjoy our work with MIT: we find their enthusiasm for innovation infectious. That enthusiasm was very much on display at an event yesterday, the MIT Enterprise Forum’s ICE (Ignite Clean Energy) competition.

Capping the day’s events was a captivating keynote address by Chelsea Sexton, executive director of Plugin America. With an intriguingly varied background that includes a lead role in the sleeper 2006 documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car,” as well as firsthand work on GM’s EV1 electric vehicle program, Sexton offers a unique perspective on the clean tech boom.

Of the thoughtful observations Sexton shared, one that jumped out at me was the importance of knowing and understanding the electric vehicle target consumer audience. To illustrate the point, Sexton debunked the conventional wisdom that environmental advocates comprise the preponderance of electric car early adopters. In fact, technology enthusiasts are driving adoption. Even if we try to rise above stereotypes, one quickly senses the substantially different approach called for in marketing electric cars to environmental advocates on the one hand, and technology enthusiasts on the other. “Know your target audience” must be, in my experience, one of the most seemingly obvious yet frequently overlooked business maxims.

Congratulations to the event’s winners (link to a Mass High Tech article on the winners) and to the MIT Enterprise Forum for another event that keeps our own entrepreneurial fires stoked!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Simmons School of Management Leadership Conference: Diligence, Timing and a Little Bit of Bubbly

I had the pleasure of attending the Simmons SOM Leadership Conference last weekend where I sat in the audience listening to Mireille Guiliano, former president and CEO of Clicquot, Inc. (creators of my absolute favorite champagne, Veuve Clicquot). She is also the author of French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Women for All Seasons and has appeared on Oprah, The Early Show, The Today Show and Dateline.

I expected to hear Guiliano speak to us about how she focused on her goals at an early age and how she became a diligent businesswoman. I was waiting to hear, “When I was 8 years old, I read my first novel and I discovered my path…”


As extraordinary as it is to hear stories about men and women becoming young millionaires, as a woman with only a month left in her 20s, these stories of retiring at 35 just give me major anxiety
.

To my surprise, Guiliano began by telling us that when she was 30, being an author hadn’t even crossed her mind. She was actually a public relations account executive (who knew?) and at one point in her life, she gave up a great job because she fell in love. She told us how she questioned many of her decisions, but in the end she realized that you just can’t plan for everything. Most of the time, you have no other choice but to trust yourself. Life just happens
.

Of course, Guiliano didn’t just sit back and expect “fate” to do all of her work. She is an extremely intelligent, business-savvy woman who rolled up her sleeves and created her own success. At the same time, what I found most admirable about her is that she followed her intuition, allowed herself to take chances, looked for and eventually found equilibrium in life and above all, she maintained a sense of humor
.

One important message repeated throughout her speech was advice given by her mother; a question she asks herself before big decisions need to be made: What’s the worst thing that could happen? To my surprise, when I have asked myself this question during moments of uncertainty, the response is just as Guiliano said it would be – consistently and unexpectedly minor.


Of course, at some point, we all question the path we’ve taken. We wonder if we’ve made the right choices in our careers, our relationships, our commitments. We stress about our finances and our appearance. We panic that we might be wasting precious moments doing what we’re doing when we’re really just wasting time thinking about wasting time.

Guiliano’s keynote was a pleasant surprise – solid recommendations from a successful woman, advising us to seize the right opportunities, but also reminding us that timing does matter and success will vary from person to person.

In the meantime, it’s best to work hard, remain patient and have a sense of humor... What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

DEMO Get Together in Boston

Several of us from CHEN attended the DEMO party in Boston last night, which was a reunion of former and prospective presenters and DEMO attendees. The common thread was we were all enthusiastic supporters of Chris Shipley and the DEMO events.

It was great to see Chris, who has a travel schedule that would exhaust even the most veteran campaigner. She said she'd met with quite a few interesting New England companies for DEMO Fall. Her take on the next event is to strengthen the focus on solutions that will represent mainstream answers to immediate business issues and opportunities. Chris certainly always has a very real and strong perspective on what the market needs as Executive Producer of the DEMO events (globally) and the Co-Founder and Chairman of the Guidewire Group.

CHEN PR client TimeTrade Systems was the first presenter on stage at DEMO in January of this year and several of the senior team joined us at the party.

DEMO continues to be the premier event to launch companies and products.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Are We Major Players or Getting Played?


When Harold Burson, founding chairman of Burson-Marsteller, was asked, “If you were starting over, would you start Burson-Marsteller again?,” he jokingly replied, “No, I’d start Goldman Sachs.” All kidding aside, it begs the question – as we’re hurled into the new media tail spin, are we major players or are we being crowded out by major players?

2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the master of science in public relations degree program in the Boston University College of Communication (COM) -- the world's oldest public relations degree program. To honor this milestone, the College hosted leading minds in public relations at the Boston University Photonics Center on April 23, for a provocative discussion examining past practices and exploring the true state of public relations today.

Hosted by Professor T. Barton Carter, the panel featured renowned COM alumnae, Harold Burson, founding chairman, Burson-Marsteller; Carol Cone, chairman and founder, Cone Communications, Inc.; Paul M. Rand, president and CEO, Zócalo Group; and Dr. Otto Lerbinger, professor emeritus of Public Relations, Boston University College of Communications.

Burson provided a positive outlook on the progression and future of public relations when asked how things have changed in the field, but cautioned that there is “greater recognition than there is talent to fill those needs.”

“PR as a function will prevail; the problem is there may now be people who do not bear the PR title doing its functions.”

Rand agreed, noting that these are “challenging and confusing times for public relations” as the divide between traditional and new media channels widens.

Lerbinger, who taught public relations at Boston University for 50 years before recently retiring, reinforced his belief in public relations as a social science whose theories must continue to be practiced and applied in order for the field to develop and prosper. Ever the enthusiast, Lerbinger maintained that “communication specialists need to learn more about management, economics, and globalization and how to incorporate [those factors] into PR.”

Cone, a former student of Lerbinger, discussed the development of the social contract and social responsibility, which she defines “as an integrated business strategy, supported by policies, practices and communication that deliver social, environmental and economic value to the company and its stakeholders.” The fact that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is now a household term is proof enough that Cone’s brainchild is here to stay.

In the wake of all the changes and new media developments, the public relations field is forced to continually re-evaluate its position in the market. The medium for how we deliver messages will continue to change, but as long as there is a message to be delivered there will be public relations. After all, as Burson so prudently pointed out, “the Internet delivers messages, it does not speak for you.”

Monday, May 05, 2008

Technology Innovation Sparks Clean tech… But Not Overnight

I had the great opportunity to attend the inspiring Mass High Tech Clean Tech Forum last Thursday, May 1. The event was part of the quarterly MHT Forum series that is meant to “highlight growing sectors within New England’s innovation ecosystem by bringing together top tech professionals for lively and insightful discussion and networking.” And that it did!

MHT Editor Doug Banks kicked off the event by giving some remarkable statistics about Clean-tech innovation in Massachusetts. Since last year, clean-tech companies in the state have doubled and in terms of total amount spent, Massachusetts ranked #2 in the nation for clean-tech investment. Further underscoring that point, approximately 87% of VC funding last year in the state was targeted to clean-tech companies.

The event continued as Banks introduced panel moderator Eric Raciti, Partner at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner L.L.P, as well as the following panelists:

Bruce Anderson, CEO of Wilson TurboPower, Inc.
Abigail A. Barrow, Ph.D., Director, Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center
Robert M. Day, Principal, @Ventures
David Marcus, CEO & Director, General Compression

The first question for discussion was regarding sustainability vs. clean tech – are we economically sustainable or is sustainability just a bubble? Marcus chimed in saying that sustainability is not a bubble, that clean tech is more than just being energy efficient, that it is a huge space with several different categories of energy companies. He noted that its recent explosion in the marketplace is due to wanting to save the world and unfortunately, making money. Anderson noted that the bottom line is that we need to reduce our carbon emissions by 90%.

Raciti then asked the panelists if universities are at the front end of innovation, to which Barrow chimed in saying, absolutely. SunEthanol – a bio-fuels company that is utilizing biomass such as microorganisms to make ethanol just received $2.5 million in investment grants. The company was founded by the discovery of a UMass Amherst microbiologist and just one example of innovation from our local universities. Other local universities such as UMass Dartmouth, Tufts, Boston College and MIT have also produced clean-tech companies.

One of the most discussed questions was perhaps this one: “What is the proper role of the government and clean tech? Day noted that the space is not an easy one and that it takes a long time to gestate. He said there are two key parts to succeeding: 1. be sure the innovation will be accepted into the marketplace and 2. be sure you have the money to ramp up with the end goal of course being to commercialize the technology. Anderson noted that the atmosphere is a shared resource that we all need to start taking care of or we’ll self-destruct. He noted that the government needs to be more aggressive and that taxing carbon could be one solution to the carbon problem. He also said that the government has a huge role to play as far as bridging the technology out of the labs into the mainstream market. As a whole, it’s societies shared responsibility to reduce the amount of carbon in the environment, he said. Marcus noted that figuring out what carbon will cost us in the long run requires taking into account the national disasters and other catastrophes that will occur due to our actions. That’s a pretty powerful thought considering it was estimated that Hurricane Katrina alone cost the U.S. a whopping $110 billion dollars.

Regarding what mistakes have been made in cleant ech to this point, Anderson said changing the infrastructure is and will continue to be difficult. A sad example, he noted, is that the energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) have been around since the 1980s and we’re just now using them. The fact is, if every household in the U.S. replaced one light bulb with a CFL, it would prevent enough pollution to equal removing one million cars from the road!

As far as the future of clean tech, all the panelists agree that the efficiency of energy is a key driver to the success of carbon reduction, that as a society we need to use what resources we have and use them better. Barrow summed up the panel session with good advice for us all, “As a whole, we need to adopt the mindset to create and embrace change.”

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Simmons: From Fossils to Women's Health

I had the pleasure of attending two of the sessions at the Simmons Leadership Conference.

Dr. Louise Leakey is a paleoanthropologist, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, a pilot, the mother of two and the head of the Koobi Fora Research Project at Lake Turkana, East Africa. She’s also the granddaughter of the renowned Louis Leakey, who through his tireless efforts with his wife Mary unearthed the secrets of our very beginnings in Africa. Louise and her family continue the quest and have found remains that date back 3 million years.

At the Simmons Leadership Conference, Dr. Leakey shared her passion for continuing to explore and discover the evolution of human ancestors, especially in the period between 2 million and 1.5 million years ago. The work done by her team is vital to finding answers to questions raised about human evolution. As she stated, “We are one species and we all came from the same place,” making the global conflicts over religion, race, ethnic backgrounds all the more absurd.

Dr. Leakey is involved in transforming the Koobi Fora Research Camp into a year-round research station at Lake Turkana to be run by Africans. She shared her concern that more Africans need to be educated and to take ownership for the care of their country in the future – the time to invest in Africa is now as there is an incredible “brain drain” out of the country.

~~~~~~~

Dr. Nancy Snyderman is the chief medical editor for NBC News, a staff member of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (surgical and medical specialty concentrating on disorders and diseases involving the head and neck) at the University of Pennsylvania and the mother of three. An engaging speaker, Dr. Snyderman spoke about women needing to take charge of their health and well-being for their own good and for the good of their families. Pointing out that women are usually the last ones to worry about their own health as family caregivers, Dr. Snyderman peppered her talk with humorous stories about growing up as the daughter of a surgeon in Indiana.

With her mother as a role model (a common theme for many of the speakers), she stressed how important a life balance can be to staying healthy. As an example, she shared a story about having lunch with Julia Child in Paris (we all love Julia). At lunch when asked if she wanted white or red wine, Julia said, “Why can’t we have both?”

Julia’s approach to life was everything in moderation, and be open to new experiences. Stress and an unbalanced life can make us sick and Dr. Snyderman advocated good health practices, including exercise, regular check ups and healthy life balances as a way to “live life between the 40 yard lines.”

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Simmons School of Management Leadership Conference: Simply the Best

We've had the pleasure this year of promoting the Simmons Leadership Conference, which is in its 29th year. It is deservedly described as the pre-eminent women's leadership event in the country.

The conference has built a terrific reputation, and has featured such noteworthy women as Madeleine Albright, Maya Angelou, Jane Fonda, Toni Morrison, Queen Noor, Cokie Roberts, Jehan Sadat, Lily Tomlin and Oprah Winfrey, to name just a few. This year's event was dedicated to the late Benazir Bhutto, who had twice spoken at the conference.

The keynotes this year were Mireille Guiliano, former CEO of Clicquot and author of French Women Don't Get Fat; Louise Leakey, noted paleoanthropologist; and Dr. Nancy Snyderman, chief medical editor for NBC News. The incomparable Gloria Estefan -- five-time Grammy winner, entrepreneur, philanthropist and children's book author, presented the closing keynote.

Several of us attended the conference, so over a series of posts, we'll summarize some of the terrific women who took the stage. Here are a few highlights of the conference coverage:

Boston Globe's Names column and a conference preview story

Boston Globe Magazine "First Person" Q&A with Ms. Estefan

Boston Herald preview story

Fox 25 interview with Ms. Estefan

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