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Whistle-Blowing In An Age Of ‘Full Disclosure’

News

The term whistle-blower, especially in the last decade, comes rife with negative connotations and feelings of chaos. It’s only in the past year that we’ve seen some sympathy towards Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, and NSA ‘rat,’ Edward Snowden, yet there remains a stigma attached, as the expression most definitely still equates to being a snitch.


The most recent horn tooter of note is Patricia Williams, a time share saleswoman who was just awarded $20 million after years of torment at the behest of former employers and wayward salesmen Wyndham Vacation Ownership.

Williams is the latest in a long string of workers who divulged nefarious working practices within their companies to the world and has — at least for a few years — suffered the considerable consequences of doing so. While Snowden resides in Russia avoiding the glare of the American government, Ms. Williams was pushed to the very margins of her society at home after ‘snitching’ on her firm. Her co-workers and former friends turned on her both in court and in her private life, and she was veritably living in poverty until the court finally granted her damages in the case.

These unpleasant side effects beg the question:
Is it really worth all the fuss?

Back in 2002 FBI agent Coleen Rowley came under very serious internal and external criticism for coming out against the agency’s inaction pre 9/11 when they had credible intelligence about one of the hijackers but didn’t pursue it. Rowley’s brave decision to call out her supervisors and top-level intelligence executives jeopardized her position within the agency until her allegations were proven and she was ultimately praised for her honesty and pursuit of the truth. Like Williams, she believed she would lose her job on account of the reveal. Unlike Williams, her investigation led to policy change and an in-depth analysis of counter-terrorism methods in the FBI which she would go on to help conduct and improve agency standards.

Another major corporate belly was pierced in 2003 when Cheryl Eckard came out against pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline, where she was employed. After uncovering a series of medicinal miscalculations at one of their pill-producing plants in South America, she decided to speak up. She released her findings only to find herself, like Williams, out of a job and out in the cold.

After a long fought and invariably difficult court case, Eckard was awarded the significant sum of $96 million in damages and GSK were fined $750 million for its mismanagement of the Cidra plant. Pharmaceutical practices have been monitored more closely and consistently since the court’s findings procedure has tightened at the discretion of the FDA.

All whistle-blowing stories cannot, however, be expected to end in a fairy-tale-esque manner and such is the case of Karen Silkwood, who died mysteriously trying to expose malpractice within the oil industry, now 42 years ago. Meryl Streep famously played her character in a movie portrayal of Karen’s story and while the case was never officially solved, one can assume with a degree of authority that Karen’s devotion to exposing her bosses was the cause of her untimely death. Going up against major corporations is a dangerous and massively risky move.

Pharmaceuticals, oil, and intelligence sectors have decidedly shady pasts when it comes to how they deal with those people opposed to their practices. Indeed the most famous example of this is Edward Snowden, who awaits his uncertain fate in Russia, which is no doubt complicated by the incoming president's friendly relationship with Mr. Putin.

Only today was there a call from 15 intelligence experts to Obama asking again for Snowden’s presidential pardon before he leaves the oval office. Were this to come, Snowden’s return to the U.S would become a landmark in whistleblowing history and would indeed finally dash the stigma and snitch connotations attached to the word.

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How I Turned my Fine Art Drawings into a Temporary Tattoo Empire

I have always been in love with all things art- I was obsessed with drawing and painting before I was even walking. In high school, I started a career selling art through various gallery art shows and on Etsy. I then went on to study fine arts at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in painting, but took classes in ceramics, printmaking, cinema and architecture to get a really well-rounded education on all sorts of art.

During my senior year of college, my career path went through a huge transition; I started my own temporary tattoo brand, INKED by Dani, which is a brand of temporary tattoos based on my hand-drawn fine art designs.


The idea for the brand came one night after a themed party at college. My friends, knowing how much I loved drawing, asked me to cover them in hand-drawn doodles using eyeliner. The feedback from that night was overwhelming, everyone my friends saw that night was obsessed with the designs. In that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head... I could do some completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market. Other temporary tattoo brands were targeted to kids or lacked a sleek and millennial-driven look. It was a perfect pivot; I could utilize my fine arts training and tattoos as a new art medium to create a completely innovative brand.

Using the money I made from selling my artwork throughout high school and college, I funded the launch of INKED by Dani. I had always loved the look of dainty tattoos, but knew I could never commit to the real thing, and I knew my parents would kill me if I got a tattoo (I also knew that so many girls must have that same conflict). Starting INKED by Dani was a no-brainer.

I started off with a collection of about only 10 designs and sold them at sorority houses around USC. Our unique concept for on-trend and fashion-forward tattoos was spreading through word of mouth, and we quickly started growing an Instagram following. I was hustling all day from my room, cold calling retailers, sending blind samples and tons of emails, and trying to open up as many opportunities as I could.

Now, we're sold at over 10,000 retail locations (retailers include Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Hot Topic), and we've transformed temporary tattoos into a whole new form of wearable art.

My 4 best tips for starting your own business are:

  1. Just go with your gut! You'll never know what works until you try it. Go day by day and do everything in your power to work toward your goals. Be bold, but be sure to be thoughtful in your actions.
  2. Research your competitors and other successful brands in your category to determine how you can make your product stand out. Figure out where there is a need or hole in the market that your new offering or approach can fill.
  3. Don't spread yourself too thin. Delegate where possible, and stay focused each day on doing the best and most you can. Don't get too caught up in your end goal or the big picture to a point where it overwhelms or freezes you. You're already making a bold move to start something new, so try to prioritize what's important! I started off in the beginning hand packing every single tattoo pack that we sold and shipped. If I wanted to scale to align with the level of demand we were receiving, I needed to make the pivot to mass produce and relinquish the control of doing every step myself. I am a total perfectionist, so that was definitely hard! From that point on, overseeing production has been a huge part of my daily schedule, but by doing so I've been able to free up more time to focus on design, merchandising, and sales, allowing me to really focus on growing the business.
  4. Prioritize great product packaging and branding. It's so important to invest time in customer experience- how customers view and interact with your product. The packaging is just as important as the actual product inside! When we were starting off, we had high demand, and I definitely jumped the gun a bit on packaging so we could deliver product to the retailers when they wanted it. Since then, we've completely revamped the packaging into something upscale and unique that reflects what the brand is all about. Our product packaging is always called out as being one of our retailers' and customers' favorite part of our product!