If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?

Do you know where the closest Deaf-owned business is to you right now?

What does a community mean to you?

How many Deaf-owned businesses do you think are up and running in our country today?

What does it take for a community to thrive?

Those questions were displayed on the huge screen at our Milestone event in Austin, TX, on March 27th. They reflected the ideas that we felt strongly about and hinted at the purpose behind our Milestone event, which was a surprise. And oh boy, did we have several surprises that night!

Check out the long line outside of #ConvoMilestone event! | Tamara | #convorelay A photo posted by Convo Relay (@convo) on Mar 27, 2015 at 5:01pm PDT

The first surprise was from the Austin Deaf community. Over 300 of you came out to support our event that night! We couldn’t have asked for a better place to unveil our Milestone. Austin is also where Convo was born, so that meant a lot to us.

Once all of us were packed inside The North Door, we promptly began the show as the nation was tuning in to our live-streaming video to watch our big announcement as well. This was a special night for us and we could feel it in the air. Not only were we about to unveil something exciting, it was also Convo’s 6th birthday.

Wayne Betts, Jr. took us through the stories of the four Deaf-owned businesses that we’ve worked with in the past year, including By Mara and ASL NYC, which we featured in our first beyoutiful video.

The second surprise of the night happened when Wayne got a call from Jeremy Lee Sanchez, founder of ASL NYC! He had something exciting to share. Because of the tremendous amount of support they got from the community after the beyoutiful feature, he and Mara were opening their own studio the next day!

Finally, it was time for the biggest surprise of all. The Milestone itself…

This was the moment we had been waiting for, to introduce Deaf Ecosystem Directory to you! The newest Convo Mobile update comes with a directory of Deaf-owned businesses in a separate tab in your Contacts. The locations of these businesses are also shown on the Map, so you can see where Deaf-owned businesses are near you. It has never been easier to find and actually connect with Deaf-owned businesses!

Our Milestone event wouldn’t have been complete without Deaf-owned businesses in Austin. The four businesses featured in our video above were there that night: Silent AutomotiveNathalina’s StudioScan Mailboxes, and Crepe Crazy. It was a wonderful opportunity for our community to meet them and learn more about their businesses.

To the Austin Deaf community, thank you for making this event truly inspiring for us. We can’t wait to open our Call Center there this year!

Yes, we had a life-sized Deaf Ecosystem pin.

Learn more about our Deaf Ecosystem Directory here. If you don’t subscribe to our eNewsletter already, you can sign up here and never miss another announcement!

 
 

Those who have been following Convo for years know that we love April Fool’s Day. For us, this day is a chance to let our imaginations run wild and say, “What if?”.

There is always some degree of truth to our April Fool’s pranks. This year, all the researchers and their research that were featured in our video were 100% authentic. The concept that we talked about is real. Only the infinity product was fake.

Convo Infinity.

The whole idea began with a conversation with Robert Sirvage, one of the researchers in the video. We were fascinated with his research on dorsality, which is the concept that Deaf (sighted) individuals need eye contact to truly connect during a conversation. We asked ourselves, Could we make a product that lets us see hearing callers during VRS calls?

Thank you for inspiring us, Robert!

We thought that this product idea was radical and therefore perfect for April Fool’s! The question was: how could we actually create this product? Fortunately, our Creative Marketing Director, Braam Jordaan, met a Deaf man, Anesh Magan, in South Africa who could make this product using a 3D printer. Braam and Anesh went to work.

Anesh toying with the concept of Infinity.

As you can see, the product went through some changes until the final design was nailed down. Here’s the product inside the 3D printer.

Fascinating, eh?

Braam demonstrating his hidden talent in acting.

We had the product, but we needed more information to back it up. That’s where we enlisted the amazing research done by Dr. Peter Hauser of Deaf Studies Lab at Rochester Institute for the Deaf and Melissa Malzkuhn of VL2 at Gallaudet University.

Peter has done over 20 years of research on Deaf people’s brains. Learn more about Peter’s work here.

Melissa is a part of VL2, which recently received a prestigious 3-year, 900K grant. Learn more about VL2 here.

The process of making this video was so rewarding, because we learned about what people like Robert, Peter, and Melissa do. They are doing some incredibly interesting things, people! Like we said, there’s always some truth to these jokes of ours. You might see more of these truths in the future.

However, our favorite part, as always, was seeing your reactions.


We hope that our April Fool’s made you laugh. Or at least left you thinking.

 
 

Our second beyoutiful spotlight was on Rajarajeshwari, a Deaf yoga teacher and founder of Deafhood Yoga! We were fascinated with her journey of starting and running her business, which Convo Mobile and Convo Lights have become a part of. We feel fortunate to be able to share her story.

beyoutiful at Mozzeria

We celebrated our second beyoutiful reveal at Mozzeria in the Bay Area. If you have been to Mozzeria, you will remember the artworks by Deaf artists hanging on the walls. Two of the artists, Bex Freund and David Call, were featured in our Talking About Art series!

We had vegan pizza served by Mozzeria and raw appetizers by a Deaf-owned catering service, Eat Clean Daily to reflect Rajarajeshwari’s vegan diet. There also were some Kombucha shots provided, which our guests enjoyed trying out!

To add to the fun of the night, we had a surprise hijacker, Rosa Lee Timm, taking over our Instagram account! We love Rosa Lee for her one-woman comedy shows and she injected the same humor in her Instagram photos and videos throughout the event.

There was a Deafhood Yoga corner at Mozzeria where guests learned more about the business. Rajarajeshwari’s Deaf-centric approach appealed to many of the guests, who were curious about yoga but did not feel as if it was accessible until now.

After the guests had their fill of yummy vegan food, it was time to reveal the beyoutiful video of Rajarajeshwari! It was her first time seeing the video and we loved her reaction.

This overall event was an incredible representation of how Deaf-owned businesses can collaborate to create something for our community. This approach really supports our Deaf Ecosystem, which we strongly believe in.

If you’re reading this and you want to take a class with Deafhood Yoga, we have a special treat for you at home! We are running a Deafhood Yoga Sweepstakes until March 13, 2015. There are three prizes to win and you can enter here: SWEEPSTAKES!

In March, we will be celebrating our 6th birthday, so our next beyoutiful feature will come in April. For now, here’s a sneak peek to tide you over until the next beyoutiful event!

You can see more photos from the event by our fabulous photographer of the night, Clare Cassidy! Click here to see the Beyoutiful with Rajarajeshwari Photo Album.

By the way, have you read our blog post on our first beyoutiful feature, Mara and Jeremy? Read it here!

 
 

We recently launched the first of our beyoutiful series with Mara Ladines and Jeremy Lee Sanchez. Mara designs fashion and runs her own online store, By Mara, while Jeremy works towards his passion in ASL. He creates daily ASL videos on his Instagram account (@asl_nyc) which has a nearly 3K following.

They both are leading lives that are uniquely theirs and they still maintain their personalities while making calls with Convo. We wanted to show the freedom that Mara and Jeremy have with Convo as a seamless part of their daily lives, whether it’s to do business or to make calls on the go. Our interpreters are trained to stay true to their expression and our products, like Convo Lights, allow them to design the calling experience to fit their lifestyles. This is what beyoutiful means to us. We believe that being yourself is beautiful.

This is one of the many stories of real lives of Deaf people making it everyday and we couldn’t be happier to be a part of this story and to be able to feature it. To us, supporting other Deaf-owned businesses or Deaf professionals is more than a campaign. It is a movement, which we kicked off in the heart of Mara and Jeremy’s home base: Brooklyn, New York.

Here’s a behind the scenes peek of our beyoutiful launch event!

Pepperoni and jalapeno pizza, a favorite of Mara and Jeremy’s, and their favorite beverages were waiting for the guests when they arrived to the launch event. Everybody wore black, white, or grey, which are our couple of the night’s favorite colors.

Guests enjoyed browsing at the clothing line of By Mara fashion merchandises and seeing our Convo Lights demos. They also mingled heartily until it was time for our own Wayne Betts, Jr. to kick off the event.


Wayne explained how beyoutiful captures the experience we’ve always aimed for ever since Convo was born. You could say that beyoutiful has been nearly 6 years in the making. And then, it was time for the video! Mara and Jeremy had never seen the video before this event, so their first time watching was with the audience in Brooklyn!



“I was amazed at the connection between the video and the audience. You could feel the mood rise and fall along with the video,” Jeremy said.

“For me, that was the moment we knew that we needed to do more,” Mara remembered.

After that, Mara and Jeremy got the chance to talk with the crowd about their businesses and experiences with Convo Lights. Jeremy also gave a surprise performance!



That was a definite highlight! Jeremy also performed the full A to Z story of The Matrix that you saw in the video. You can see it in its entirety below!

Nobody wanted the night to end when it did, but this was just the beginning. Since this event, Mara and Jeremy have found a local space where people can come in and browse By Mara merchandise and take Jeremy’s ASL classes! Their grand opening of their new studio will be on March 27th.

Best of luck, Mara and Jeremy. One more surprise for you, reader, before we go: the story of how Mara and Jeremy started going steady officially.

It was so much fun to get to know Mara and Jeremy and we’re excited to introduce the next person in the beyoutiful series to you this Thursday, February 26!

Stay tuned.

 
 

Two Galas, One Night

December 20th, 2014

Last month, we attended two different galas in California and had a terrific time! To see the highlights at both events, read on.

Sip, Savor, & Support Gala

for California School for the Deaf’s (CSDF) Association of Families, Teachers, and Counselors (AFTC) on November 15, 2014

This was the second year that we reserved a table at this Gala. Our employees and interpreters at the nearby Headquarter in Pleasanton (and several others from out of state!) dressed up and headed over to this event.

Our Ed Bosson flew in from Texas!

There were over 170 silent auction items and 30-45 live auction items. When we saw the Mozzeria trolley cake, we just had to bid on it. This item was meaningful to us since we sponsored Mozzeria’s trolley tour last October.

We were the top three bidders and had to literally race to the finish to win the cake. Convo Support Manager Robert Herin shocked all of us with his speed as he dashed to win the cake! It was the perfect way to end the evening for us.

The gala drew a crowd of 125 people and raised about $31,000. An impressive outcome!

Our table signing “pizza!”

(Photo credit: Erin Michele Photography)

CSUN NCOD 50th Anniversary Gala

for National Center on Deafness (NCOD) at California State University Northridge (CSUN) on November 15, 2014

On the same night in the southern part of California, CSUN hosted its gala to celebrate 50 years of National Center on Deafness’ exemplary service. It was also the night when Dr. Roz Rosen made her final appearance as Director of NCOD before retiring. To make the evening even more exciting, the theme was “It’s a 60s Pop Art World!” and many dressed accordingly.

Rosen and our CEO Jarrod Musano cheesing it for the camera

Our fun table!

About 240 guests attended and were waited on by 40 Deaf and hard-of-hearing students working at the event. Marlee Matlin and Herb Larson were auctioneers for the De’VIA Artworks.

Two of the many beautiful De’VIA works up for audition. Nancy Rourke did the portrait of Rosen. See the feature we did on Rourke and her colorful art here!

At the end of the night, approximately $22,000 was raised after expenses! Well deserved, NCOD.

We’re all Gala-ed out… just for now. Enjoy your weekend, folks!

(Photography credit: Jay Kowalczyk)

 
 

It’s that time of the year again! Before you run to the closest department store and check off your list of gifts, consider buying holiday gifts from Deaf-owned businesses. Here are some ideas to get you started!

For the life partner

Charmeleonized Ones

Get your favorite photos plastered on a purse, camera strap, buttons, and more. A great and creative way to carry photos of loved ones! Gina Pasini, owner of Charmeleonized Ones, also paints silhouettes on canvases. You can’t go wrong with photos on your partner’s favorite things.

Website: etsy.com/shop/aabcdefginaa

Facebook: facebook.com/aabcdefginaa

For the offspring

MoeArt

The wonderful illustrator, Maureen Klusza, creates cool drawings of names finger-spelled in ASL and is open to other illustration requests. Perfect for your kid’s bedroom door!

Website: moeart.com

Facebook: facebook.com/moeartpage

For the fur-kid

4Legz

Your four-legged friends deserve something sweet this time of the year, too! Cynthia Murray and her husband make yummy treats for your dogs and cats in flavors like mint, pumpkin, and sweet potato. The best thing? All ingredients are organic, natural, and non-GMO!

Website: 4legz.com

Facebook: facebook.com/4legz

For the grandparent

Jon Savage Gallery

Turn a portrait of yourself or even your grandparent(s) from their younger years into pop art! Jon Savage will paint a portrait on a canvas with bright colors. It’s a gift that’s guaranteed to please!

Website: jonsavagegallery.com

Facebook: facebook.com/JonSavageArtist

For the gadget geek

In A Flash Laser

We bet you know someone that’s always on a gadget. Why not make that gadget fun to look at? Get a phone case, laptop, tablet, and more engraved for a personal touch!

Website: ipadlaserengraving.com

Facebook: facebook.com/inaflashlaser

For the fashionista

By Mara

Wear love in your language with Mara Ladines’s clothing designs. Your friends who want to be stylish and comfortable at the same time will undoubtedly love anything from Mara. She also sells her signature “ILY” on tote bags, buttons, car decals, and more!

Website: bymara.com

Facebook: facebook.com/byMARA

For the artist

Dahl Spiritual Art

Janna Dahl creates these detailed and colorful paintings that’s sure to mesmerize. Many of her paintings include the ILY handshape or the shape of an eye, but somehow Janna manages to make them seem unique and different! Her painting would be uplifting in anyone’s home.

Website: dahlspiritualart.com

Facebook: facebook.com/Dahlspiritualart

For the foodie

Mozzeria

Russ and Melody Stein’s Napoletana pizzas have won the hearts of reviewers on Zagat and Yelp and will certainly be a favorite of any foodie. So, get them a gift certificate! If you’re not in San Francisco, it’s just an extra reason to visit!

Website: mozzeria.com

Facebook: facebook.com/Mozzeria


For the accessory lover

Deafinite Designs

A group of artisans create a variety of homemade jewelry and they are gorgeous! Anyone who loves jewelry would definitely appreciate wearing something that’s one-of-a-kind and handmade.

Website: etsy.com/shop/DeafiniteDesigns

Facebook: facebook.com/Deafinitedesigns



For the smart aleck

Smart Alex, Inc.

Top off your wrapped holiday gift with a funny card by Smart Alex. Your smart-alecky friends will love it!

Website: smartalexinc.com

Facebook: facebook.com/smartalexinc


The list doesn’t end here. There are so many more Deaf-owned businesses that you can buy from, too! Check out Holiday Hop, which is an initiative to spotlight Deaf-owned businesses by T.S. Writing Services and Your Desk’s Assistant. Holiday Hop is featuring a Deaf-owned business along with a giveaway or offer everyday from December 1 to 14, so hop over to their website and Facebook page to join in on the fun!

We would like to support this effort by gifting you Denver the Keychain if you buy from any Deaf-owned business in the month of December. Click here to get your Denver the Keychain gift!

If you have another holiday gift idea by a Deaf-owned business, leave it in the comments below! Stay warm and cozy through this season.