All posts in company culture

Shedding Light on a Century-Old Craft: Neon Lighting

New signage in the Squeaky Loft.

New signage in the Squeaky Loft.

Living in a digital, connected world means we all have near-instant access to almost anything. Want to plan a trip? There’s a site for that. Want to order a pizza? There’s an app for that. All of this “connectedness” can sometimes make life feel as if it’s speeding by – causing us to forget to stop and admire the craft and perfection that goes into everything that surrounds us, especially art.

That’s why when we recently commissioned our friends at Manhattan Neon for a new neon sign for our office, we decided to take the time to find out more about their historic craft. These guys have been in the neon lighting business for 30 years and are known for iconic  installations like the Coca-Cola sign in Times Square and the Macy’s ‘Believe’ sign.

For our sign, we chose the phrase, “Always Be Nice,” as it closely parallels our ethos and is at the core of our agency culture. We chose to hang it above the conference room so that it can act as a centerpiece of the office as well as a way to inform everyone when meetings and conference calls are in session.

DSC_2055When it was nearly complete, we went to check it out and sat down with the artist who crafted it (a strapping Irish fellow named Steve) to learn more about the history of neon lighting, the industry and his craft.

Neon signage is all done by hand

Neon signage is all done by hand

Q: When did neon lighting first come about?

A: Neon lighting was first created for the purpose of illumination. Europe was competing with the likes of Edison and others for a practical form of lighting and neon lighting was unveiled at the Paris Expo in 1910. In 1923, Georges Claude introduced neon signs to the U.S. with the sale of two signs to a Packard automobile dealership in LA. Upon displaying these new signs near the highway, drivers were intrigued and slowed down to check them out—causing a traffic jam for hours.

Q: How does Neon lighting work exactly? It’s basically running electricity through neon gas and because it’s in glass it allows the light to escape right?

A: Exactly. Primarily you use two gases to create neon signing: Neon (Ne) which produces red and Argon (Ar) which produces blue but variations of gases produce different colors.

Q: Being around for over 100 years now, neon signage is seemingly archaic in the digital age, but surprisingly there is still a demand for it. Why do you think that is?

A: With the rise of technology, modern signage became almost too accessible thus, inadvertently catapulting neon signage into more of an art form.

This sign was used in the film, "The Departed"

This sign was used in the film, “The Departed”

Q:What is the most popular or well-known sign you’ve created at Manhattan Neon?

A: Signs in Times Square such as the Coca-Cola bottle are probably amongst the most well-known signs we’ve produced.

Q: What is the strangest request for a sign you’ve had?

A: Neon signs became popular amongst peep shows and strip clubs and the old 42nd street used to be teeming with them. (Manahattan Neon actually has a bunch of vintage signs from this era)

Q: Is it dangerous if these gas-filled glass tubes drop and break?

A: No that wouldn’t be dangerous but like any job there are dangers in neon sign crafting. I’ve accidentally burned and electrocuted myself in the past. DSC_2159Q: What is your favorite part about the neon lighting business?

A: What’s not to like? I come in, wear what I want and get to do what I love.

We had a great time getting to know Steve and learning more about our talented neighbors at Manhattan Neon.  Next time you stop by Squeaky, be sure to check out our new signage and let us know what you think.

 

 

Don’t Compromise Culture

As you may already know, the culture of an advertising or digital agency is usually far from your typical corporate experience – pizza Fridays, summer hours and office trips to a nearby wine bar for happy hour are common for shops of all sizes. But in stressed economic times, the smaller agencies are left with a decision to make: Do we compromise these morale-boosting activities in order to save a couple bucks? (Hint: No way!)

For us, our agency culture isn’t something that we’re willing to compromise. We recognize that our culture is what enhances the quality of life for all of our employees (read: team members). Let’s face it, happy people are creative people and creativity is the life force of agencies like ours.

So if you’re a small shop looking for ways to raise morale and grow your company culture (without breaking the bank), here are a few simple ideas to experiment with:

Promote Health

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Healthy people are happy people and exercise not only benefits your body physically but mentally as well—improving memory and overall brain function.  Who says you need to have an in-office gym to exercise during the day? At Squeaky, many people spend their lunch breaks going for a run, bike-ride or stroll along the Hudson River (thankfully we have a shower). We also offer free in-house yoga classes twice a month.

Leverage Your Resources

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When discussing payment with a client, (depending on the client) think about how your employees could benefit and consider asking for a partial amount of barter to share with them. It helps everyone in the agency feel connected to all of the clients and ongoing projects, even if they were not directly involved.

We like to reward our hardworking staff with fun things like bowling trips to Bowlmor, client products like the finest Tequila compliments of Tequila Avión, tasty beverages from National Beverage and healthy pet food items for our furry friends from WellPet. We keep them styling with cool shades from NYS Collection and on occasion we even send them off to MetLife Stadium for Giants and Jets games (ok, so they might not be our clients but it’s still an awesome perk compliments of our CEO).

Give Back to Your Community

Giving back to the community

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a heavy workload and with today’s technology it’s often very hard to disconnect from these stresses. Give your employees the opportunity to make a difference and feel good about themselves in a non-work related context.

It isn’t very difficult to find easy, inexpensive ways to give back to your city and your community. Not only will you enhance the way people view your agency and better your community, but you will also strengthen the leadership and interpersonal skills of your employees, all while helping them put their work-related stresses into perspective.

At Squeaky, we’ve collected donations and helped those in need during Sandy; sponsored a well in Africa through Charity Water and worked with St. Francis workshop in Jersey City to help feed the homeless. We also believe in the positive power sports can have on youth, which is why we sponsor the Roberto Clemente Little League every year and even pioneered and partnered with Jersey City Kickboxing to create the After School Anti-bullying campaign—helping kids build self-confidence through hard work, discipline and teamwork.

Keep Employees in the Loop

Squeaky's Annual Offsite

From executives to interns, having your employees educated and well-informed is a key component in making sure the wheels are always spinning (pun intended). Keeping your employees up-to-date on projects and company news can make everyone feel connected and more like part of a team. We host a company-wide offsite every year to look back and plan for the future as well as weekly staff meetings to make everyone feel more involved.

Your employees likely come from different cultural and educational backgrounds, therefore offering unique perspectives and insight. Try to organize staff brainstorming sessions for their input. The more ideas offered, the better it is for the process. There are no wrong answers and great ideas can come from anyone. Also, don’t be afraid to take team members outside to discuss business in a new environment to spark fresh ideas.

Team Bonding

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Some larger companies offer team bonding activities such as a smartphone scavenger hunt or outrageous games, where everyone participates and has a great time with some friendly competition. Don’t worry, if you’re a small agency, activities like taking a trip with co-workers to happy hour, a holiday party, or even a bowling trip will easily help bring you and your team together.

These are just a few tactics that we utilize here at Squeaky. Knowing that there are so many more options that can be employed, what are some ways your company approaches team building and boosting morale?

Women You Need to Know NYC

Women You Need to Know NYC #WomenInComm

At Squeaky, we are fortunate to work with and be influenced by smart women on a daily basis. These women (including our co-founder Mailet Lopez) are entrepreneurs, thought leaders and business owners…and never run out of energy or insight when they’re in a room together.  However, unfortunately, it appears to us that this doesn’t happen often enough. While there are plenty of conferences, seminars and networking events in New York City, there aren’t many events specifically catered to successful women.

So, as an agency with a majority of female employees, we decided to do something about it. We ideated an event that would break the mold of the typical networking event filled with entry-level women looking for jobs. Instead, ours would be built around quality connections and encourage a free flow of ideas among exceptional women.

As we began planning, we knew that we couldn’t be the only people out there who wanted to bring women together like this, so we searched for another agency to partner with. As soon as we approached J Public Relations, a female-owned and operated travel public relations agency, it was clear that they were just as excited and eager to make this event happen as we were. Together, we pooled our resources to plan the first-ever ‘Women You Need To Know’ event.

After months of planning, the night we were all waiting for finally happened on Wednesday, July 10th and it’s safe to say that we have never been in the presence of so many talented women at one time. As soon as they started arriving, the conversation (and drinks) started flowing. It was clear that these women didn’t need any panels, presentations or nametags – after all, they’ve built careers on their ability to make connections and share ideas.

With the help of Tequila Avión, Brooklyn Winery, Suja Juices and Uber, we were able to provide delicious drinks and easy transportation to and from the Squeaky loft, and even had DJ Oui Oui (a Squeaky project manager by day) on the 1′s and 2′s to set the mood.

The event was a great success and we have plans to continue the ‘Women You Need to Know’ series, so be sure to stay tuned! Check out photos from the event on our Facebook page.

Squeaky’s Summer Sangria

chippysangria

It’s summer and what better way to beat the heat than to enjoy some delicious white sangria—Squeaky style. Enjoy the following recipe but feel free to get creative with it if you’d like:

Squeaky’s Summer Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of your favorite white wine
  • 1 lemon cut into wedges
  • 2 oranges cut into wedges
  • 2 apples sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • A handful of blueberries
  • 10 or so strawberries sliced
  • 2 tbsp of sugar
  • 2 oz. of brandy
  • 2 cups Fresca

Preparation

Pour wine into a pitcher or container and squeeze the juice from the lemon and orange wedges into the wine. Toss in the wedges but try and leave out the seeds. Add sugar and brandy then stir. Then toss in the apples, blueberries and strawberries and pour in the Fresca.

Directions

Chill, serve and enjoy. :)

The Adventures of Chippy Part 2: In the Heights! Ya Tu Sabe!

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From Austrian to Taiwanese and so much more, the Squeaky team epitomizes ‘melting pot’. This diverse mix of backgrounds is part of what makes both our approach to our work as well as our company culture so “Squeaky”.

If you didn’t already know, this entry is a part of an on-going blog series featuring a look into the lives of the Squeaky family through the eyes of our mascot, Head of Security/Director of Intern Procurement, Chippy.

This week’s adventure? A taste of life in the Heights (Washington Heights that is) with Geo. Before the city tried to call it Hudson Heights or some other baby-stroller-friendly term.

The day started early with a visit to Inwood Park where American Indians were duped into selling Manhattan for about $24 from a smooth criminal named, Peter Minuit. Although it was a bit chilly by the water, a bit of batting practice and a bandera warmed him up (evidently, Chippy is a Yankee fan).

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Next it was time to experience mangu (the official dish of the Dominican Republic), fried salami, queso y huevos for brunch—of course, it was all washed down with a glass of Morir Soñando and followed up with a prescription for a colonoscopy.

home

With a full stomach and full of ambition, Chippy hit the mean streets to do some walking and happened to run into his tio (aka uncle for you non-Latinos)—you know, that one that nobody really talks to at parties but with whom you stay social enough in case he is secretly rich and bestows you some goodies.

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They made a quick stop at the local bodega for Dutch where we were of course sold on a few platanos from this handsome fellow.

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Soon enough, Geo and Chippy were on their way and headed to Fort Tryon Park.

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Ready for some more culture, they decided to visit to the Cloisters museum and gardens, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe.

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Little did Chippy know, but Geo had a secret agenda of her own and dragged him along while she went to get her nails did at Nail Lounge on Broadway.

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(he didn’t really put up much of a fight)

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He even insisted they hit up the hair salon next, so Geo took him over to New Wave Beauty Salon where the owner was kind enough to let us snap some photos and even gave Chippy a discount on a weave (we think he just likes visit all the pretty girls).

salon

Finally, they decided to end the day with (otra ves, more food) at La Casa del Mofongo which included smashed plantains with fried pork y tostones…YUM! Yes, Dominican people LOVE platanos…but can you blame them?

La Casa del Mofongo6 La Casa del Mofongo

Find more photos from the adventures of Chippo Suave aka Chippy Chulo aka Perro Caliente aka perrito lindo on our Facebook page. Big shout out to all of the businesses who were so kind to Geo and Chippy! Wheppppa!