Author Archives: Corey Francis

Re-Discover SYEP: A Hidden Gem For Small Businesses

You never know what treasures you will find until you step out of your office to mingle with other businesses, organizations, and people in your community. Dr. Roy Hastick of the Caribbean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (CACCI) always says “Networking Works.” It was during one of CACCI’s very engaging meetings that District 40 Council Member Dr. Eugene Mathieu reminded us of one of New York City’s (NYC) oldest treasures, the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).

At first glance, it may seem most apparent that SYEP is a valuable asset for youths because it provides up to six weeks of paid work experience for the City’s residents, ages 14 to 24 years old. Businesses are able to increase youth career awareness and shape the workforce of the future. However, the exceptional value gained by the worksites is what may not be as apparent. These participants, not only, step into a variety of entry-level positions, but they also FOLLOW, LEAD, and INNOVATE.


While supervising and guiding additional workers may seem like a daunting task for some entrepreneurs or small businesses with one or two employees, the process is not to be feared. Businesses, large or small, should take this as an opportunity to learn and grow. Ashalla Design Shop, LLC was privileged to work with two SYEP placement sites this summer Medgar Evers College and CAMBA.  These two placement sites were assigned during our initial online worksite request application process. It is a web-based enrollment system on the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) website.

The program has a variety of placement sites throughout the City with very organized and passionate staff members. With over 50 placement sites throughout the five boroughs, there are plenty of opportunities for applicants to be chosen from. Placement sites range from community-based organizations to government offices. Some placement sites give their worksites the opportunity to interview their potential summer employees beforehand. Allowing the worksite to conduct interviews helps to ensure businesses receive the help they are looking for.

The placement site directors guide the worksites on employing these new hires. They advise on topics like “setting the ground rules from day one”, “how to effectively fill out time sheets”, and “how to handle emergencies”. The placement sites did an excellent job of preparing Ashalla on what to expect and how to have a successful summer with its participants.


left to right: Alex Gibbons (SYEP), Dianne Campbell (Business & Marketing Officer), Tiffany Farrell (SYEP), Natasha Brewer (SYEP), KimShala Hibbert (Founder & Principal Designer), Corey Francis (SYEP)


As a company committed to the prosperity of other businesses in the community, Ashalla would be remiss not to share this gem with others. Ashalla was able to accommodate 4 bright young adults who worked on a variety of projects for the company.


“Now that the SYEP program is coming to a close, it will be sad to see them go. So we decided to take the next step and hire.”
KimShala Hibbert, Founder and Principal Designer

” Ashalla Design Shop was an amazing place to work. It showed my true potential in designing and branding; and got me the opportunity to be offered a part-time position here!”
Tiffany Farrell, Junior Designer

“The SYEP program always provides me with great summer jobs. It’s a good way for me to work during the summer as well as make professional connections.
Alex Gibbons, Client and Partner Relations.


All businesses should take the opportunity to host at least one SYEP participant, as they will make a lasting impact on your business. Likewise you will play a very important role in their career and professional development.

The SYEP participants scripted, recorded, and edited a video on how to express a perfect pitch. Having an elevator pitch prepared is essential in world of business. 


Eco Friendly Design Practices

The environment has been under more threat today than it has ever been. Natural resources are steadily declining and the ecosystems are under scrutiny. Establishing more eco-friendly practices is actually often less costly than many assume; it just takes a little creativity and thinking outside the box. Here are some innovative ways for business owners to get the desired designs and the marketing results at an affordable price, that represent your brands commitment to a responsible cause.




A great 1st step your business can take toward becoming more eco-friendly marketing, is to use digital branding and advertising campaigns.  Examples of this include websites, digital business directories, evites, and the use of social media for building communities. These options have international reach, and in the current electronic age, have proven to be more effective than direct mail campaigns. Direct mailers have lower response rates and have higher cost due to printing and rising mailing expenses. Online readership is increasing year by year, and your tweets and posts are free. So design digital campaigns for the online communities.

During the design process, there may be many rounds of proofs and revisions before you approve your finals. With an environmentally conscious mindset, your graphic designers can present preliminary proofs in digital or paperless forms, and when deciding on how to present the final ideas that same designer should present you with options that are less burdensome on the environment. Using recycled papers or biodegradable materials is an easy alternative, especially when combined with cost reducing options and techniques.


A great example of this: Given a typically tight budget to produce a catalog, two University of Illinois design students assumed that recycled paper would be cost prohibitive. But using innovative techniques, they discovered that if they trimmed just 1″ off the book height they would save around 1,000 press sheets. This saved them $3,000, allowing them to specify a high quality, 100% recycled, FSC-certified paper. With a little design thinking, they saved 9,717 gallons of water, 13 million BTUs of energy, 942 pounds of solid waste and avoided 2,255 pounds of greenhouse gases. (source:

Some best practices for greener print design includes these positive steps:

  1. Reduce the amount of paper and other materials used overall by designing smaller pieces.
  2. Reduce wasted paper and other materials through clear decision-making during production.
  3. Replace wood fiber papers with agri-fiber papers when doing so is regionally and environmentally preferable.
  4. Aim for 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled content paper.
  5. Use vegetable-based, low-VOC inks on press.
  6. Stick to digital printing for shorter runs.
  7. Avoid additives or excess finishing like foil stamps, varnishes, and laminates.
  8. Design the piece for extended use, or intentional reuse.
  9. Let others know about the eco-friendly aspects of the product. This increases awareness while your product is organically being valued and promoted.

To create a greener printed piece, use your socially and environmentally responsible Ashalla designer and preferred local print vendors.


Know Your Audience

Social media is essential for every business in this age. Establishing a presence on social media gives you access to existing customers as well as provides an outlet to attract new customers. Deciding which social media is best suited for business is key. In order to know which social media is best for your business you must know where your audience presence is within the online community.


Facebook — Facebook is currently the largest social media community. The ability to share photos, videos links and other visuals makes Facebook for ideal for any business. For example a restaurant looking to showcase their new menu items could use Facebook to display their new dishes as well as receive feedback from visitors on their page.

Twitter — Creating a twitter account helps to create a brand image online. It allows for real-time interaction between clients and a brand. Many businesses use twitter for customer support. If your company may require troubleshooting twitter could be a reliable source to keep in contact with your customers. Twitter is a great place to get feedback from customers as well as reach out to them with new products.

LinkedIn — Small business use LinkedIn more than any other social network. LinkedIn is a professional network that allows employees to be representatives of your brand and also can increase awareness of your brand amongst professionals.

YouTube — The largest video sharing app can be a major player in promoting your brand. Youtube is a great way to show what your company offers more extensively through video. Videos are more engaging than images, and are easily shared throughout social media. Using videos can market certain products more efficiently than just text or images. Youtube is a useful tool for promotions.

Instagram — Instagram is a mobile photo and video sharing app. It is ideal for those in which visuals are a big aspect of their brand such as artists, food companies, and clothing brands. The sharing capabilities are endless with Instagram and since the implementation of video within the app it expands the capabilities it can have for reaching the right customers.


Pinterest —A great tool to showcase your products from your business. It consists of mostly sharing videos and photos in collections called boards. The ability to organize the different aspects of your business for the public to see is one of Pinterest’s strong points. For companies looking to increase traffic to their site; Pinterest is a great way to cross-promote through all forms of social media.

Google+ — Google Plus is one of the newest social media outlets and is on the rise. If you are a company trying to increase your visibility on the web GooglePlus is for you. Powered by the world’s largest search engine Google, GooglePlus is helpful in increasing your search engine optimization which helps to bring your brand at the top of search engine searches. It also has google communities which can help draw in new customers and allows you to network with other companies within your field.

There are many other popular social media outlets that were not mentioned, but more importantly, you must know which outlets play to your strengths and are most beneficial to the growth of your brand. Maintaining that strong online presence for your business is vital to the development of your company.


Image Source:

Getting The Best Out of Your Deal

… When Working With a Design Firm.

In order to control cost and timing, you must plan well and communicate early, clearly and consistently. You must decide, first of all, what is most important to you speed, design, or cost. These three variables are linked in that the more complex a piece, the slower the production may be and the higher the price. If you are in need of a quick response time, you risk including RUSH charges and therefore you may need to simplify things.


Clear communication can also keep cost under control. In your initial planning meeting you should describe the visual effect and market response you desire. It is often helpful if you bring samples or references of your previous pieces as well as, admired pieces from others. Resolve any conflicting goals or preferences within your organization before this meeting. Again, if you do have more than one person in your organization making design decisions, then choose one representative as the conduit of communication with the designer. From here , please organize your materials with labels, captions, outlines and mock ups.

Next … let your designer create. If you really would not like to use the color yellow, say so. However, it is important to give your designer the freedom to create beautiful and strategically sound pieces without micro-management. If you see a problem, call attention to it and even share solutions. You can even allow the designer the flexibility to find some other fix.


Finally, thoroughly check the samples and proofs provided to you in there varying stages. You are responsible for everything on a proof. Examine the text,photos,color and illustrations with care. If others must approve the design, make sure they see the earliest proofs. It is simplest, least frustrating and cheapest way to correct a problem the first time it shows up.

These are all ways to get the best out of your deal.