Business voice


(SXSW 2020 Speaker Sheet)

Errors, Sacrifices, Change-Ups, Pickles & Home Runs

How standing tall while down in the count transformed a driven former player into one of the foremost figures in the business of baseball

Nice guys finish first. Nez Balelo is a Major League Baseball super-agent, representing such players as Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, and Arizona D-back Adam Jones.

Balelo also stands out as an anomaly. Raised in San Diego, CA of first-generation Portuguese descent, Balelo and his family migrated from the Madeira Islands, where he was brought up in the commercial fishing industry. Balelo’s strong values and determination would eventually push him to realize his boyhood dream of becoming an MLB infielder, only to have that goal broken by a devastating injury that cut short his playing days.

Adversity and opportunity became the catalysts for Balelo positioning himself as one of the most humble, venerable, and successful professionals in all of sports. After a horrific accident took him permanently out of the lineup, Nez focused on his entrepreneurial skills and opened up a baseball finishing program outside of Los Angeles called West Coast Baseball School. At the same time, he accepted a job with the Atlanta Braves as a hybrid developer, scout, and consultant.

Balelo’s 10-year-run with the Braves is where he nurtured his talents for building successful sports organizations, which he later applied in establishing and purchasing numerous baseball facilities. After a decade at the top of his game, Balelo drove his aspirations even higher by walking away from the Braves, selling his schools and branding licenses, and starting a sports agency with three players he mentored to play in the Major Leagues.

During the three years he spent building his agency, Balelo also cultivated his legacy by signing several key first-round picks, as well as numerous active MLB players. Balelo would later be asked to join IMG global sports group as a senior executive before being called up to join CAA Entertainment and help create CAA Sports in 2006.

As a major player with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Nez Balelo helps keep CAA Sports atop the standings in MLB player signings. When it comes to the dotted line, Nez is the penultimate example of how MLB players are represented and supported. Instilled with dedication and tenacity ingrained from working alongside his father, Balelo knows how ethics, mindset, commitment, and staying active, play such a vital role in the prosperity of an organization that led him to a place on Forbes “Most Powerful Sports Agents in the World” list.

Today, Nez’s knowledge is your gain. Learn mental toughness from the OG of MLB’s zero-tolerance policy. Pick up negotiation skills from a man responsible for over 3 billion dollars in negotiated contracts in MLB. Start your own team with insight from a legendary entrepreneur who played, developed, and scouted the game, to now running one of the most potent divisions in all of the MLB.


Playing Both Sides (Negotiation): Go behind the art of the deal with the super-agent responsible for orchestrating some of the biggest signings in Major League Baseball history. Listen, as Nez Balelo offers his brilliant 100 million-dollar techniques for negotiating to ensure both parties emerge victoriously.

Building a Winning Lineup (Team Building): Business, as in baseball, is a team sport. Whether you’re in a league of your own or managing a group of 800, encouraging people to commit to a common goal is the centerpiece of success. Nez Balelo will show you how to keep everyone focused and in position to turn a concept into a reality.

Backing Them Up (Ethical Leadership): Raised in the commercial fishing industry, Nez Balelo, learned at a very young age the value of working hard and leading by example, even in the face of adversity. Nez shares how he harnessed his upbringing and traditions to fight for a “fairness with excellence” code to protect players at the highest level.

Keeping Your Head in the Game (Mental Toughness): After a crushing injury took him out of baseball, Nez Balelo resurrected his dream of making it in the Majors. Find out how he went from getting cut to fulfilling his destiny by keeping his eye on the prize.

Launching Your Solo Shot (Starting a Business): Capitalize on entrepreneurship advice from a man who pursued his passion with a singular vision and built a thriving career as a teacher, developer, and multi-million dollar business owner - all using his knowledge of baseball.


(Lamkin Grip Catalog, CEO Address)

To commemorate 95 years of empowering millions of golfers to get a better feel for their game, Lamkin is pleased to introduce our 2020 grips.

This collection of Lamkin Grip technology represents what I believe to be the most innovative offering in our company’s history in both the swinging grip and putter grip categories.

Highlighted by the launch of the new pioneering “Smooth Tack” (ST) Genesis Material, two ST Hybrid grips are loaded with advanced features for superior playability and performance. Beyond ST, Calibrate Technology is a major signature for the brand in 2020 as we continue to push the design envelope to find creative ways to improve performance for all golfers. Calibrate models feature the most prominent reminder of any grip we have ever produced to help optimize hand placement, clubface awareness, control, and feel.

In the putter grip category, we’re introducing the new SINKFIT Deep-V, as well as the industry’s first Putter Grip Fitting System – developed to ensure golfers select the right grip every time.

Lastly, we are also pleased to announce the launch of our Regrip America program designed to get complimentary Lamkin grips into the hands of golfers across the country, while also driving consumers to our partner retailer locations.

As Lamkin approaches its millennium mark, our focus remains to enable our customers to enjoy the game of golf as much as we enjoy the challenge of developing new technology and performance-based products for manufacturers, Tour players, golf professionals, and the golf community at large.

As we look forward, we view this Lamkin catalog as a culmination of three generations worth of unrelenting commitment to innovation, technology, and quality. On behalf of myself and the over 500 dedicated employees of Lamkin, we appreciate the opportunity to help you enjoy this challenging game that we all love.


Bob Lamkin


(Company Mission Statement)

Jackie Shepard, the Founder and CEO of Xrula, is on a mission to deliver wellness for all with a simple click of a button.

As a member of Fortune magazine’s list of Top 50 Most Powerful Women in the U.S., Jackie brings over 40 years of corporate savvy and focus to the consumer sector. No stranger to building and growing successful brands, Julia has climbed the ladder as a food server all the way up to executive leadership for companies like Applebee’s, Dine Brands Global, Inc, IHOP, and Taco Bell.  Through Xrula, Julia has produced and constructed an online portal that customizes wellness solutions and products for health-conscious customers seeking natural, vetted relief of the highest quality, consistency, and efficacy.

Julia has always understood the benefits of maintaining a balance between body, mind, and spirit and holds this philosophy as the foundation of Julia’s endeavors. In 2020, Julia launched XrulaXrulaXrula to supply customers with a consistent, proven line of wellness-based solutions. Via a robust, all-in-one wellness hub, Alurx matches verified wellness information, advice, and products for consumers seeking to improve their overall well-being. Smart customization allows consumers to choose amongst different approaches and help them shape their path to wellness. This year, we’ll see Alurx expand its merchandise and extend its burgeoning affiliate programs to match consumer demand.

Julia also takes pride in being a sought-after speaker on leadership, brand development, team building, and growth management. Julia’s engagements include the 2020 Keynote Speaker for the Kona Ice and JVS Conventions, presenting the commencement address at USC Marshall School of Business; guest lecturer at the UCLA, Anderson School of Management Leadership Series; keynote speaker at the International Franchise Association Conference, and offering the commencement speech at the Culinary Institute of America.

Julia is an active philanthropist, sponsoring organizations such as Lupus LA, Children’s Bureau, and is a founding member of Women’s Foodservice Forum. Julia also serves as an independent director for Avery Dennison (NYSE: AVY), Fogo de Chao’s Restaurants, and Bite Acquisition, Corp. (NYSE: BITE).


(Client: IT Security)

Spoof Calls Are No Joke

I recently got a call from a business because they got a call from themselves. What?

It plays out like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Your telephone rings and you grab it only to find that the Caller ID is you. Against your better judgment, you answer, only to make certain the voice on the other end is not yours.

Summonsed by a cybercriminal Siri, you are alerted that your Verizon account has been suspended and you’ll need to press “1” immediately to speak with a representative. What you do next will determine the fate of your privacy.

Welcome to Mobile Phone Hijacking (MPH), a mutating roboscam targeting the telecommunications industry, and infesting the globe at an alarming rate.

Hook, Line, and Sinker:

  1. Fraudsters hijack your mobile accounts protected by two-factor authentication
  2. The verification code is intercepted when you text, email, or make a phone call
  3. Your passcode information is auctioned on the Dark Web

Don’t Pick Up and Call Us If:

-The Caller ID is your number

-The caller never identifies the actual name of the person on the account

-You are asked to provide numbers of any kind

It only takes a momentary lapse of reason to compromise your identity. Stay safe out there.

Jason Gilbert, CEO
ClearFuze Networks, Inc.


(Client: HVAC Business)

Pumps, pipes, motors, switches, fans, thermostats, compressors, evaporator coils, and chemical refrigerant

There’s nothing more pleasing to the ear than the purr of a 30,000 BTU Class 22 SEER Configurable Quad-Zone Multi F Mini-Split Air Conditioner Heat Pump from Energy Star.

Ever since I was a kid growing up in Louisville, KY, I have maintained a deep obsession with all things heating and cooling. Wait! Seriously. It’s not that odd, and it doesn’t get any creepier than the occasional duct joke.

Kidding aside, I can help you control your climate. HVAC costs can bring on the flop sweats like a Glendale August. When it comes to creature comforts, Tim Stivers, Inc. is Yelp-certified in full-service factory-spec repair, maintenance, installation, and quality control follow-ups on all brand new systems.

At the end of the day, if you’re cool, we’re cool. Maintaining an 18-year record of quality, craftsmanship, and respect for our customers is what keeps Tim Stivers in the Hancock Park heating and air conditioning business. In 2018, we will continue to focus on this area as well as expand to provide an optimum level of air conditioning and heating installation/repair to the Mid-Wilshire, Pasadena, and Los Angeles areas.

Please let us know if we can make the temperature just right for you in 2018.

Warm Regards,



(Customer Outreach, IT Security)

Don’t Let Your Corporate Data Become The Fresh Catch of The Day

Dear Rick,

At ClearFuze we’ve started to see an uptick in emergency inquiries from panicked businesses reporting that a foreign entity had infiltrated their email system and hijacked critical customer data. This act of cybercrime known as “phishing” is on the rise, and the good news is that you can help prevent such an assault using some good, old-fashioned common sense.

What follows is a cautionary tale for all of our customers on how you and your team can be diligent and stop most common phishing schemes before they sink their hooks into your IT stronghold. After reading this, you’ll know what to look out for next time you open your inbox.

Above all, thank you very much for your time and consideration, and for being a valued ClearFuze customer. Stay safe out there.

Jason Gilbert, CEO
ClearFuze Networks, Inc.


(Client: CMYK Magazine)

CMYK 58: 100 Design Samples. 70 Design Students. 29 Design Schools.

Dear Friends of CMYK,

Winners of CMYK Top New Creatives Showcase 58 are officially published.

To view, click here. This all-digital collection of art direction, copywriting, design, illustration, and photography encompasses over 100 pieces by 70 artists from 29 art schools and design programs across the globe.

To all of the aspiring and emerging designers who submitted their portfolio work – and to the instructors who encouraged their students to participate in CMYK TNCS 58 – we very much appreciate your believing in your talents and helping to raise the bar when it comes to what today’s schools are teaching and producing. CMYK is honored to feature the largest and most scholastically diverse design contest online. Bravo!

Thank you very much for your time and consideration. Enjoy.



(Taco Restaurant)

Richard Verdoni, CEO/Head Chef, Taco Universe

Otherworldy Mexican Flare food stars in Sanford, MI.

A native Michiganian, Richard Verdoni is First In Command at Taco Universe (Taco-U): a passionate chef on a mission to propel Mexican-infused comfort food into the stratosphere by way of Sanford’s own Black Creek Kitchen (BCK) restaurant, on the river’s edge of Sanford Lake, just a few miles outside of Midland. If customer feedback is any gauge, Taco-U will open on the moon by 2035.

Hard work and prideful, fresh, healthy home cooking have always been a Verdoni tradition. Growing up in Mexico City performing in his father’s circus, Verdoni experienced the tastiest of two culinary cultures in the rich Hungarian flavors of his mother’s side and the authentic traditions of his dad’s Hispanic ancestry. Ultimately, the influence of being raised under the big top and around the market vendors ignites the fire, fuels the passion, and heats Verdoni’s commitment to his menu, customers, employees, and business partners.

Entertaining and feasting as a family using necessary ingredients prepared soulfully as a celebration of better times – this is the Taco-U way. Verdoni’s recipes are all about favorable energetics – good food prepared by positive people. His menu is also a nod to the expansive world of flavor he sampled as a Navy officer, as an assistant in the kitchen at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, and from observing when his favorite taqueria hit it big in the DotCom boom.

In 2001, while living and feasting in Mexico City, Verdoni developed the formula for an otherworldly taco he had been serving friends and family for years. The G-taco (“Gourmet”) was born as a mountain of slow-cooked carnitas atop a fresh corn tortilla and crowned with enough intergalactic goodness to induce flashbacks of yesterday’s epic taco memories. In 2018 Verdoni brought Taco-U and his savory taco star to the tri-state area to serve the community through flavorful take-out that leaves local diners coming back for more.

As an entity company, Taco-U establishes and oversees standards for conduct, consistency, consumer satisfaction, and employee welfare. Today, Taco-U represents a model for success in Mexican-inspired fast fare prepared on a global scale using essential cupboard ingredients, time-honored marinades, magical teas, and classic cart deserts made to nourish everyone at the table.

Since opening two years ago, BCK has served over 45,000 tacos sold to customers who go out of their way for local street food. In 2021 Taco-U looks to open a second, “model” restaurant in the Greater Michigan area and franchise Verdoni’s vision of repurposing authentic antojitos (“little cravings”) with healthy ingredients, zero preservatives, tastes that expand consciousness, and a house vibe that breaks down borders.

From Richard Verdoni and all of us at Taco-U, we hope you can join us.


(Company History)

4C TO 16,777,216C – Recognizing student design since back when print ruled the world

CMYK was born and bred in San Francisco at the epicenter of the great design industry earthshaking of the mid-1990s.

Groundbreaking work was being done. Design jobs were a dime a dozen. The San Francisco 49ers were coming off another Super Bowl victory. And Nash Bridges was on Friday nights. Above all, design schools, portfolio programs, college and university departments, and creative workshops were brimming with promise and potential. And in May 1996, CMYK launched its first “Top 100 New Creatives Showcase.”

As a quarterly contest juried by top industry professionals, CMYK recognized in print the outstanding portfolio work of aspiring art directors, copywriters, illustrators, photographers, and graphic designers. For nearly two decades, CMYK published the work of over 6,000 award-winning “art students” per the choice of more than 250 of the day’s most successful creative professionals. CMYK was synonymous with “student work” and became one of the most popular “art school competitions,” publishing work from an average of 30 different schools, departments, programs, and workshops in every contest.

The independent design magazine that could did, until it could no longer do it like it was doing it to or else it would be done. By 2013, the print industry was thinning on top and browning at the edges, and after publishing 55 talent-rich collections of the largest, most scholastically diverse “student design,” CMYK stopped the presses and stepped into the future. CMYK never gave up on the dream. Today, as CMYK officially transitions from DPI to PPI, we’ve taken what shined in print for all those years and made it glow on-screen in a living, breathing monster of an online portal.

Where once you could flip through pages of CMYK, now you can tap, swipe, and click through a bold, confident, invigorated platform for our ever-expanding collection of art and design from aspiring and emerging artists, designers, illustrators, art directors, and copywriters. And while the medium has changed, the concept remains the same. To our supporters in the past: you were the reason we didn’t eventually give up on coming back. To our fans today and tomorrow, this is just the beginning and we plan to give you every reason to bookmark our site.

Until next time, enjoy.


(Executive Biographies)

When it comes to designing the good life, Kristi’s got this.

It’s about working hard for everything worth working hard for and living life for everything worth living for, so says this Midwestern interior designer raised on the mean streets of the Los Angeles garment district.

The common thread in Kristi’s work is a rare blend of classicism, color, confluence, and curiosity woven from an adventurous spirit and the aesthetic and ethical fiber of a famed artist/grandfather/mentor. After graduating college, Kristi landed in Los Angeles with double-major honors in Art from Indiana University, before jetting off to Paris to earn a French Mastere in Studio and History from the Paris American Academy of Art & Design.

Kristi returned to the States to explore a successful career in corporate marketing before opening her namesake design boutique in 2011. Some of Kristi’s other passions include fast cars, basketball, tennis, equestrian sports, and her longstanding relationship with GoodWeave in raising awareness and support throughout the design community in the fight to end child bond labor in the handmade rug industry.

While headquartered in beautiful Los Angeles, Kristi’s project experience extends throughout Southern California via Palos Verdes, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Brentwood, Hollywood Hills, Malibu, Hidden Hills, and Calabasas, as well as down to North Carolina, Florida, and San Juan Capistrano.


(Feature Introductions)

It’s not so much the brooding vibrato emanating off Neptune as it is the rarified air between these intergalactic wave tones that transports CG/VFX director Joe Clinton to another dimension.

NASA’s sonic symphonies serve as both inspiration and metaphor for Clinton’s current venture, Dark Subject. Negative space is what binds all elements together and gives life to everything we create. By working outside the lines, within the shadows, Clinton can carve out a niche as one of the most sought-after CG/VFX designers in the industry.

A science-fiction aficionado, Clinton is living his dream through acclaimed projects for Iron Man, Tron, I, Robot, Sherlock Holmes, Thor, the Mission Impossible films as well as network television and commercial work for Science Channel, American Express, Honda, and HBO. Through his recognizable work, Joe Clinton continues to position himself at the top of his game as one of the best in the business.


(Company Refocus Announcements)

“A BRAND New Day In Digital Media.”

For over two decades now, Allegra Consulting has remained one of the sharpest and most relevant interdisciplinary communication firms throughout Southern California. Why? How? It’s straightforward: When our clients succeed, we succeed. When they shine, we shine. And when they win, we win.

The media may have evolved, but the message remains the same. At Allegra Consulting, the detail is the guidepost by which everything else follows. We make sure we know the target market and learn how to speak their language before we start the conversation. If there is anything our 21 years of success in media have taught us, it’s still all about having an intelligent dialogue with your audience.

In matching smart people with smart tools, Allegra Consulting offers an attributable mix of geographic mapping, 360-degree lifestyle, and demographic reporting. Through new prospect pinpointing, psychographic composition, behavior analysis, campaign design and implementation, and data management - the more we know about your reach, the better we can extend your brand.

Allegra Consulting is a highly respected, multi-ethnic, multi-generational team of listeners, thinkers, designers, marketers, and award winners. Our client work has received recognition from the American Marketing Association (MarCom), Hermes, The Webby Awards (Webby), and most recently, The American Advertising Federation (ADDY) for the project we produced for San Gabriel Valley. It’s nice to know people are paying attention.

It’s critical to be in alignment with your customers, constituents, and community. Our motto, “Where Brands Evolve," is part dedication and part motivation to Allegra Consulting as a craft-team of strategists, research experts and visual designers devoted to raising awareness for our clients in a brave and brand new world.

With a powerful message, backed by strong creative design and an implementation plan, anything is possible.