Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Benjamin Koren, the founder and CEO of Frameology, knows how important it is to use your time wisely and to push yourself. Having majored in International Relations at Brown University, Benjamin went on to study at Columbia Business School. After he spent time working abroad in Brazil, he started his own company that focuses on making printing and framing beautiful and easy.

Benjamin has had a variety of experiences that he has both learned and grown from, and he shares some of those lessons. Whether he’s living abroad and working, studying to earn a degree, or making the most of every day to build his company, Benjamin seizes his youth day in and day out. Read on to learn more about what a day in his life looks like, what he’s learned from being an entrepreneur, and what books influenced him at different parts of his life.

Name: Benjamin Koren
Education: Brown University and MBA from Columbia University – Columbia Business School
Follow: frameology.com / @BenKoren

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Benjamin Koren: Taking the opportunity to really push yourself to learn and have experiences. It’s about using your time wisely and getting the most out of a very unique phase of your life.

CJ: What did you major in at Brown University, and how did you determine what to study?

BK: I studied International Relations. Honestly for me it was a bit of a cop out. IR allowed you to take classes in a lot of different things, and as I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, it seemed appropriately broad. And I love to travel so there’s that…

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CJ: You later attended Columbia Business School. What inspired you to earn this degree, and how did business school help you?

BK: I kind of fell into business. I originally wanted to be a lawyer. My first job out of college was as a paralegal at Shearman & Sterling working on IPOs (initial public offerings). These are transformative events for most companies and are super interesting for that reason. However, I found myself most drawn to the business aspects, not the legal ones. After a year at the law firm I was fortunate enough to get a job at a merchant bank that was one of Shearman’s clients.

CJ: You’ve spend time working as a paralegal and in a private equity company in Sao Paulo, Brazil. What is it like working and living in another country? What were those experiences like?

BK: It was awesome. Living in another country for a period of time is something I would recommend to everyone. It’s challenging – you’re forced to be independent and figure things out that are not so easy to understand (either because of cultural or language barriers). For me it was one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences I’ve had.

CJ: You are the Founder and CEO of Frameology, a company that makes printing and framing beautiful and easy. How did you come up with this idea? What were the steps necessary to execute your idea?

BK: I came up with the idea when I wanted to buy a framed photo for my girlfriend as a gift for Valentine’s Day. To my shock, I couldn’t find anyone online who would allow you to upload a photo and get it printed, framed and shipped to you. A light went off. Framed photos are awesome – they make the ultimate personal gift and they help people focus on the things in life that are most important – their best memories. And my dad owned a frame shop so I knew a bunch about the business already. Starting Frameology was the logical next step.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned so far from being an entrepreneur and running your own business?

BK: Starting something from scratch is hard and it takes much longer than you think it will. I’ve truly learned so much. But if I had to highlight just one lesson, it’s the following: stay focused on your vision. Products will change, branding will evolve, the people helping you will change, but the founding vision is what provides the real consistency in your business and life. I (as founder) believe strongly that the people and experiences in life are what really matter. Our vision, as a company, is to help our customers to focus on the things that matter. Everything we do is a function of that vision, and we constantly test new tactics to bring that to life.

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CJ: Every day in your life must vary depending on the time of year and project you’re working on, but what does a Monday look like for you? Take us through your day.

BK: It does vary constantly! But let’s see. This Monday I woke up at 5:25AM to go to the gym (I know, it’s really early). When I got home I checked my Google Analytics account to monitor our key performances metrics from the weekend. I usually get into the office around 9AM. We have our company standup at 10:30. Then throughout the rest of the day I strategized with our Marketing Director about how best to promote a new program we launched for professional photographers. I fielded some questions from a TV producer that hopefully will put us on her show for a holiday gift spot. I spent time QA’ing some of the new features being built on our site. I participated in a planning meeting to decide on inventory levels that we would carry for the holiday season. I’m sure there were some other things as well.

CJ: What advice do you have for those interested in running their own business one day?

BK: Don’t give up. Starting a business is really hard. Things often don’t go the way you plan, but that’s OK. You will figure it out. Also: test, measure, analyze, repeat. When you have a startup, you actually know very little about the market in the beginning. You need to put together tests to figure things out. Measure the results. Analyze them and figure out if there is a better way to achieve your desired outcome. Then test again using what you have learned.

CJ: How do you stay organized and keep everything running smoothly?

BK: Asana. And hiring great people that I can trust.

CJ: With such a busy schedule, how do you keep yourself energized and inspired throughout the day?

BK: I try to stay in shape and eat well. I think that’s really important to maintaining energy. Most importantly I try to keep focused on Frameology’s vision. We want to help people focus on what’s important. Our customers upload such meaningful moments to our site, I’m constantly reminded of why we do what we do. One customer contacted me recently to tell me how he framed a photo from his wedding for his father in law, who was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He broke down in tears, because he was so moved by the gift. Hard not to be inspired by that.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

BK: Professionally, there are a lot. I read The New York Times and The Economist regularly. I’m also digging the new Apple News app. Personally, here are the books that really influenced me at different parts of my life: Catcher in the Rye, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Song of Solomon, and The Old Man and the Sea.

CJ: When you’re not working on growing Frameology, how do you like to spend your time?

BK: I spend all my time growing Frameology. But I do find time to hang out with friends and family (while working on growing Frameology).

CJ: What are you working to improve upon, and how are you doing so?

BK: Right now, really all of my attention is on my company. I don’t think much about personal growth and improvement these days. That’s not to say that I don’t have things to improve upon – I have a ton of things. But starting and growing a company just comes first right now at this point in my life. This goes back to what we discussed before about “seizing your youth.” When you’re young, you can put yourself first (or at least a lot of people can – some aren’t even that fortunate). Later in life you are responsible for others – employees, investors, children, etc. I’m sure I’ll have other periods in my life that at a later date.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

BK: Don’t force things – figure out and focus on what you love. Everything else will follow into place.

Ben Koren Qs

Images by Ben Koren

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

The life of an entrepreneur can be stressful, overwhelming, and busy. It can wear you out, and it’s important to make time for your personal life. Abhay Jain, the co-founder of SoundScope, a mobile platform that allows people to choose their night out based on the music they love, knows how brutal the life of an entrepreneur can be. Earning a B.S. in Bio-Business and Psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and later receiving his JD from Duke University School of Law and an MBA from Duke University (The Fuqua School of Business), Abhay is no stranger to academia, hard work, and constant learning.

With one more year left in grad school, Abhay came up with the idea for SoundScope and utilized his professors, classmates, and classes to further his business plan and hone his idea. Now he works on his startup full-time in New York City and works hard to make his idea a reality. We’re excited to introduce you to this smart and ambitious entrepreneur – read on to learn more about how he decided what to major in at Virginia Tech, how he managed to earn both a JD and MBA, and which books and resources he finds most useful.

Name: Abhay Jain
Education: B.S. in Bio-Business and Psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech); JD from Duke University School of Law; MBA in Business Administration from Duke University – The Fuqua School of Business
Follow: SoundScope.com / @SoundScopeNYC / / @JainAbhayk

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

AJ:  “Seizing your youth” means taking the time to learn about yourself. For me it meant traveling, living in new cities, meeting interesting people, and taking every opportunity that came my way. If you don’t know what you want, try and figure out what you don’t want.

CJ: You majored in Bio-Business and minored in Psychology at Virginia Tech. How did you decide what to major and minor in?

AJ: I was an “undecided major” when I first got into Virginia Tech. When my dad and I went into the academic affairs office he said, “You are at a tech school.  Why don’t you go pre-med until you find something better?” In hindsight, it was a smart move from my dad to lure me into becoming a doctor because I was far too lazy to venture to the other side of campus to change my major. Instead, I just added things that interested me. I thought psychology and consumer behavior were interesting so I took the classes I liked.  Plus, this girl I was crushing on was a psych minor, so that was also a draw. Ha. Before I knew it, I had completed the prerequisites for a dual major and a minor.

In retrospect, I’d like to say I was super methodical in my course selection but I knew my learning style — I just couldn’t excel at coursework I didn’t enjoy.

CJ: You also received your JD / MBA from Duke University Law School and the Fuqua School of Business. What led you to your decision to go back to school to receive these two degrees?

AJ: A bit of serendipity, I suppose. I spent every summer of college traveling and experiencing potential careers. One summer, I worked at a few hospitals across Southeast Asia. No matter how much time I spent with the doctors, I was far more enthralled by the work of the hospital manager. Similarly, I spent a summer at the Department of Justice in D.C. and found the ability to impact organizational change exciting. As you can imagine, finding a legal or managerial job with a pre-med degree is not that easy. So, I leveraged my “pre-med knowledge” to get a job at a, then, fledgling pharmaceutical startup. A great learning experience — I got laid-off after 12 weeks. Fortunately, it was 2008, the markets were tanking and I had seen the warning signs. So, I spent my spare time studying for the LSAT and applying to schools. Within weeks of my forced vacation I had an acceptance letter in my hand, a bargaining chip for other job opportunities, and a modicum of respect from my parents.

CJ: A JD / MBA combination is an interesting way to learn about law and business. What was your experience doing a JD /MBA program like? What does the workload entail, what would a day in your life look like, and how did you manage the stress of earning those degrees?

AJ: The learning Duke provided me was truly life-changing! I went from multiple-choice tests to writing and arguing 50-page papers. The JD helped me sharpen my mind in terms of spotting issues, resolving conflicts, and persuading others of my point of view. The MBA restored my quant skills and brought a piece of practical applicability to my academic pursuits as well as strong Rolodex of Duke Alums.

That being said, the JD was a steel-toed boot to the face. Imagine: being surrounded by some of the smartest and most stressed people you know competing academically in an area you know nothing about, going from the world of black-and-white certainty to shades gray and uncertainty, and reading dense legal jargon for five hours a night and being harassed by former politicians and litigators in a room full of 100 peers yearning to outwit you. It was punishment for six months until I finally got the hang of it. Once I understood the system, however, I really enjoyed the thought and learning involved.

Business school on the other hand was dramatically different education. It was a mix of overzealous networking, excel, calculus, calendar invites, and theme parties. To be perfectly honest, I was a bit burnt out from academia at the time and couldn’t stand lots of my overeager peers for a couple months. However, my last year as it all came together I truly enjoyed both realms of the education and savored the life-long friendships I made at both schools.

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CJ: After graduation, you founded SoundScope, a mobile platform that allows people to choose their night out based on the music they love. How did this idea come about and what were your steps for making it a reality?

AJ: During my grad school experience, I had the opportunity to work in various roles in cities around the country. My favorite of which was New York. My summer in finance in New York meant I had very limited time to go out. I always had a passion for music and going out and wanted to make the right decision since my time was limited. I wondered why there were so many amazing things happening in NYC but no way for people to find them?!?

Luckily, I had one year left in grad school so I used my concept for every major class assignment. Thus, I got to use the skills and expertise of my peers and professors to better hone the idea, build a business plan, and connect to people that could help execute.

CJ: What have been the greatest lessons you’ve learned in starting your own business?

AJ:  People are the most important element of any business — I can’t emphasis this enough. Find people that are smarter than you that are reliable and hire them.

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

AJ: Get up and try to make it into to the gym early. Make a list of all my objectives for the week and what we missed last week.  Get into the office at 9:30. Catch up on emails. Go through what the rest of the team is working on during lunch and then back-to-back meetings ranging from financials to sponsorships.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be an entrepreneur do now to set him or herself up for success?

AJ: Dive in and seek out mentors.  Experience is the best education for an entrepreneur — intern any and everywhere, test out ideas through an MVP, and talk to potential customers. In your spare time, seek out other entrepreneurs to learn from.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

AJ:  Finding mentors IRL is not always easy. Initially, the web was the best way for me to learn from “mentors.” I really love the Stanford e-corner. They have a weekly SoundCloud segment from successful entrepreneurs that helped me think through tough problems and figure out where I wanted to take SoundScope. Also, Guy Kawasaki’s “The Art of the Start” is a good crash course on the current state of startups.

CJ: When you’re not working on SoundScope, how do you like to spend your time?

AJ: Thanks to my iPhone I am technically always working. But whenever I unplug I love traveling, cooking, and listening to good music.

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

AJ: I am trying very hard to build a stronger wall between my personal and professional life. Running a startup can be brutal.  It is an emotional roller-coaster that can really wear you out. I am working on keeping more of an even keel and not letting SoundScope pervade things I appreciate personally — whether it’s spending time with friends, going to the gym, or just sleeping.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AJ:  Life and people around you have a way of convincing you that you need to follow a certain trajectory — as in you need to figure out your career by 25, get married by 27, buy a house by 30, and pop out 2.5 kids by 35. Life is short. Do what makes you happy. Everything else will fall in place.

Abhay Jain Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We met Ariana Austin after work one warm Washington, D.C. evening last spring. The conversation was meant to last just half an hour, but we ended up talking for over two. So when we say that Ariana is generous with her time, spirit, and energy, we have the proof to back it up. We talked about everything from why she decided to study English Lit in college, to how she manages her time as an entrepreneur and team leader. As the Founder of Art All Night, she knows how to tackle projects from start to finish and bring entire communities together. By carrying over her skills and talents from all parts of life, we are inspired by Ariana’s courage to dive right into her passions and turn them into a fruitful career.

Name: Ariana Austin
Education: B.A. English Literature, Fisk University and M.Ed, Arts in Education, Harvard University
Location: New York City
Follow: Twitter / French Thomas

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Ariana Austin: Being curious; for experiences, for people, traveling to different places, studying what you want. Honoring that openness while relatively free of responsibility.

CJ: You majored in English Literature at Fisk University. How did you determine what to study?

AA: I have loved to read and write since childhood – I just followed my passion.

CJ: You spent some time at the University of Oxford. What were you studying and how was that experience?

AA: I studied “postcolonial” literature — a contentious term for literature from formerly colonized nations. It was very intense — the most rigorous academic experience I’ve had but a first-read of some of my now favorite novels, and a nuanced look at the most difficult of topics: who has power and who does not.

CJ: What was your first job out of college?

AA: When I graduated from college, I had a press internship on the hill, worked part-time for the Oxford Study Abroad Program (that I went to as a student), and in a boutique.

CJ: You founded Art All Night. Please tell us more about the organization and what your roles as Founder and Creative Director entail.

AA: Art All Night is a nighttime arts and culture festival. I founded the festival in 2010 after having lived in Paris and experiencing the original “nuit blanche.” My work involves sketching out the big picture for the night, then securing venues (many are vacant or non-traditional art spaces), cultural partners to curate them, managing the overall artist call, and working with galleries and more established spaces to open their doors late.

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CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

AA: Depending on what two or three projects I’m working on every few months is different. These days my schedule is to work from my apartment in Brooklyn. I’m working on two projects – Draw NYC – a wonderful initiative designed to get New Yorkers drawing in public space and Art All Night. Typically: I try to keep to a regular schedule and work from 10am-6pm. In the morning, I get to action items, conceptual work, and priority meetings and calls, and in the afternoon emails. Around 4pm I stop for a tea break, it’s relaxing and a nice way to break up the day; I know I still have another 2 hours to get things done.

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to run their own company do to set him or herself up for success? What’s the first step he or she should take?

AA: Start before you’re ready. Start a precursor to a business when you have that initial passion, even if you’re not sure of the exact structure. Organize around that spark and be flexible with changing course. Create something that is yours that you can grow and build and learn through. Have fun with it.

CJ: Was there ever a moment that greatly influenced or encouraged you to jump into entrepreneurship?

AA: During graduate school, I went on a trip sponsored by the Harvard Innovation Lab to NYC to meet with cultural entrepreneurs. We met with really great people: Arianna Huffington, Diane von Furstenberg, the founders of Rent the Runway, and more. I spent that week really critically thinking about starting a culture business. I hadn’t expected to do it this soon, but I knew it would happen someday. It feels good to have invested in it fully from the very beginning.

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CJ: How do you deal with and overcome tough days?

AA: With big projects, this is hard because often a lot rides on one day or one event. I try to isolate the source of the stress (is it related to getting something done, asking for something specific, variables beyond your control etc). If it can be handled, I just do it. If I need extra support, I talk to family and friends to help figure out a solution. But there is something to big projects where 48 hours or so before you have to be kind of Zen-like and let it go and be in execution mode. You work as much and as hard as humanly possible, but then there are situations where you have to let go – learning that will make a happier producer. Also, at the end of the day when I’m done, I’m done. I need those hours to go out or be home, have a glass of wine and recharge for the next day. I’m almost always refreshed and ready to go after a good nights sleep. 

CJ: What is something in your life – professional or personal – that you’re working to improve on and how are you doing that?

AA: Personally: keeping up with friends and family more consistently. 

CJ: How do you measure success?

AA: I am a very focused person so I have a couple of key goals and everything I do should feed into those goals ultimately. Success for me is getting things done at a steady pace and producing at a high quality both professional and more personal projects, that I’m happy with my work and so are my clients. Beyond that, being content and finding joy throughout the day. 

CJ: You’ve traveled quite a bit and moved for work – what is the best travel and moving advice you can share?

Take your spirit, leave your baggage. I wrote it in an article once and have since tried to follow my own advice.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AA: Wise words from Kanye West: Steer clear of “opportunities” and focus on dreams.

Ariana Austin Qs

Image: Morgan West / A Creative D.C.

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Being part of the online world means searching tirelessly and endlessly for other people who can provide us with fresh perspectives and new inspiration. Someone who continues to inspire us post after post is Carly Heitlinger of The College Prepster. We’ve been long time fans and were excited to meet Carly in person when we moved to New York City last winter. One of our favorite things about The College Prepster is how authentic her writing is and how much she shares with her online family (and we can’t forget Teddy!). When we sat down with her at a coffee shop on the Upper East Side, she was engaging, relatable, and outgoing.

From starting a blog in her college dorm room at Georgetown University to building it into a self-established brand and career, we are so impressed with everything Carly has done and can’t wait to see what she does next!

Name: Carly Heitlinger
Education: B.S. in Marketing from Georgetown University
Follow: TheCollegePrepster.com / Instagram / Twitter / Facebook

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Carly Heitlinger: I definitely think that the idea that there will always be a tomorrow and there’s only one today is great. We are so young and we have everything to gain and nothing to lose – so I’m so glad I started my company when I was 19 because for one I was a little bit naïve and I didn’t know what I was doing, and there was no fear because I literally had nothing to lose. I didn’t have to make money right away, I didn’t have to be financially independent, and I didn’t have to worry about a mortgage or a family. I think that the more you figure out now, the better off you’re going to be later. Make a lot of mistakes now.

CJ: You are the blogger behind The College Prepster, which you started when you were a freshman at Georgetown as a creative outlet. What are three most important skills that you use on a daily basis?

CH: I would say some sort of public speaking element is useful. I’m very introverted – I think that’s why I started a blog so that I could be behind the computer rather than in front of people – the fact is that I do have to go out and speak to people even though that’s not my natural inclination. But I’ve practiced so much that meeting strangers five years ago would have been horrifying, but now it’s normal and I don’t get as nervous. So being able to effectively communicate with people you don’t know is a huge thing.

Another skill is being hyper-organized. I think a big issue that a lot of people face is letting things slip through the cracks because they’re not organized. I think it’s the easiest thing you can do to set yourself up for success. Making sure you have a calendar, transferring things from your computer to your phone with iCalendar. Staying on top of your email. Making sure you’re paying bills on time. It’s boring being an adult, but at the very least you save yourself from a few headaches and embarrassment down the line. You don’t want financial mistakes you made when you were 18 or 20 to haunt you. Organization is a habit.

I also think that effectively managing stress is a big skill. It’s not as tangible of as skill as staying organized, but I think that a lot of people our age are prone to letting stress either freeze them or stop them from doing things that they want to do. There will always be stressful situations that come up from now until the day we die. If you come up with good strategies and mechanisms to deal with those now and get in the habit now, that will really help. Problems that seem big now and would become huge later won’t be nearly as big. For me, knowing that I need to wake up every morning and walk my dog, talk to my mom, go to yoga, eat healthy, and cut back on caffeine – doing little things that help minimize stress – you just work so much more effectively if you’re not going a mile a minute with your internal thoughts.

CJ: You have gotten really into yoga. How do you stay healthy and do you have a fitness routine?

CH: I don’t really have one, but I was on the crew team for seven and a half years. The first year I was actually a rower and ran – I was never actually boated because I was terrible – but I would run all day. And then I fell out of the habit and I was an athlete in the mental sense but not physically. I do think that keeping your mind active is a huge skill. But I’ve been really bad in the past about being healthy.

Part of it is a quarter life crisis and realizing that this is the one body I have. I need to be thankful for having my health. I think making the choice and decision and really committing to being healthy has been the biggest thing – before I wasn’t committed but now for some reason I feel like I really care. I try to only eat bad things in moderation. Yoga has been a great way to get back into it, and now I try to walk for 45 minutes or more, which I think is pretty easy in New York. And taking the stairs versus the elevator – little changes like that all add up. One big thing is that I’ve been trying to drink more water.

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CJ: How do you do about setting and tracking goals?

CH: I’m a very visual person. I learn visually – I use big number lines to track things that I want to achieve. I’ll set goals in my calendar. I’m very number driven. Getting other people involved helps too. I also break things down into quarters. I think you can set goals for the week, goals for the day. Those are really tangible goals that can add up. I also set quarter goals for my business and it percolates down into my personal life, too. For example, a year seems like such a long time to me, but 90 days seems manageable. Three months – that’s totally doable. With the quarter system you can track things more easily.

CJ: What is a memorable Spring Break trip you’ve had?

CH: I’ve actually only ever had one Spring Break ever. I was always on a crew team so our Spring Breaks were training trips, which were actually a lot of fun. They were two-a-days, but when you’re with your friends it’s so much fun. Then my senior year I wasn’t on the crew team anymore and my family went on a trip together. That was my best spring break because it was my only real spring break.

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CJ: What are some travel tips that you would recommend?

CH: The biggest tip I would have is traveling with people who are like-minded with what is important to you. If you don’t want to get wasted and drink a lot, don’t go with people who are going to drink a lot. You’ll be in an environment where you’re not having a good time for making that decision not to drink, or you’ll feel like you have to play along even if that’s not what you want to do. Maybe you find two girl friends who want to plan a crazy quick week-long turnaround trip to Paris and you don’t want to drink at all. Make sure that you’re surrounding yourself with people who make decisions that you want to make.

I would also say spend Spring Break with your family because you don’t see your family as much when you’re an adult. If you don’t want to spend it with your immediate family, spend time with people you love and who you want to spend time with.

CJ: How do you combat really hard days? What do you do to keep yourself positive?

CH: Sometimes I need to surround myself with great friends or call my mom to vent. And other times I need to just spend time alone. Going for a long walk or spending a night curled up in bed reading can do wonders for my mental health! I also repeat to myself, “this too shall pass.”

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CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about? If so, why?

CH: Mental health on college campuses! I contribute in small ways to specific organizations, but I know there’s more that I want to do. I personally had such a hard time adjusting to college life and really struggled. There were some very dark days, especially in the beginning. Luckily, I found help on campus that helped me get back on track.

CJ: What advice would you give your 19-year-old self?

CH: I would remind her that things work out. I spent too much time convinced that my world was going to end, or that one little problem was going to throw off everything. Everything resets, or you find a new course that was better than one you would’ve taken otherwise. Everything happens for a reason. You’ll figure it out as you go. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know where you’re going as long as you’re going.

Carly Heitlinger Qs

Images by Bekka Palmer and Carly Heitlinger

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Entrepreneur, baker, author, and cupcake lover are just some of the words used to describe Trophy Cupcakes founder Jennifer Shea. Jennifer had always loved cooking and baking, but it wasn’t until she saw a cupcake shop in New York City that she realized what she wanted to do. When she went on tour with a rock band doing marketing and promotions, she used that time to also test out different candy shops and bakeries around the U.S. and Europe.

Now, Trophy Cupcakes has four locations in Washington state. Jennifer has also written a cupcake cookbook and appeared on Martha Stewart – amazing! Even with all her success, Jennifer continues to be hardworking, kind, and generous with her time. It was incredible to discuss with Jennifer how she got to where she is today, challenges she faced along the way, and what it means to be a leader.

Name: Jennifer Shea
Education: BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from Bastyr University
Follow: @trophycupcakes / Instagram / Facebook / Trophy Cupcakes

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Jennifer Shea: It’s about identifying your dreams, your bliss, and really focusing on what you’re passionate about. It’s also about taking steps to make your dreams happen. The people who realize their dreams are the ones who put one foot in front of the other and just do it. Even if your dreams or goals seem out of reach, just start talking to people about how to accomplish them. You’ll be amazed how the pieces will start to come together.

CJ: You majored in Nutrition and Dietetics at Bastyr University. How did you determine what to study?

JS: I’ve always loved food (who doesn’t), especially cooking and baking. But I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do right out of high school. I was already interested in nutrition because I was a vegetarian at the time. But, because I couldn’t put my finger on what my passion was or what my career was going to be, I landed on nutrition by accident at a job fair. I came across Bastyr University’s booth and saw that they had a whole foods nutrition program, which sounded fascinating. I decided to just go for it.

CJ: You spent some time touring with a rock band doing marketing and promotions after college. What was that experience like and what did you learn from it?

JS: It was a really exciting time, but super hard, too, because it’s rough to live out of a suitcase day in and day out. I was glad I’d majored in nutrition, but I wasn’t seeing myself in that profession in a typical capacity. I happened to meet and date a guy soon after passing my boards and he asked me if I wanted to go on tour and sell T-shirts. To the horror of my mother, I said yes.

I’d worked really hard in school and had a full time job, so I needed a break and touring sounded like a dream come true. I also didn’t want to be the girlfriend stuck at home while her boyfriend was on tour doing who knows what. So, I basically created a position for myself in the band. I eventually called myself their Merchandise Manager and I figured out how to help make sure the band got all of the profits. I really got into figuring out what made their fans tick and what kind of merchandise they would love.

I introduced a whole line of pillowcases with song lyrics going across the cases and badges that were exclusive to each tour so as you went to more shows you could collect the different patches. I had a lot of fun with it, and it taught me a lot about merchandising and presentation. It was a good first experience with having my own little business.

CJ: You opened Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle in 2007. What inspired you to open a cupcake shop, and what does your role as founder entail?

JS: I first saw a cupcake shop while visiting NYC and I instantly knew it was what I wanted to do. My life flashed before my eyes. I realized that I’d been complaining that I didn’t know what my passion was, yet I baked all the time. I didn’t know that I could turn my hobby into a career. Touring was a great way to do research because I visited so many candy shops and patisseries in the U.S. and Europe. I took mental notes about architecture, design and perfect little details I saw.

My role as founder has changed a lot over the years and it’s always morphing. In the beginning, I did everything—from baking the cupcakes, to opening the register, to training and managing employees, to doing payroll, to coming up with new flavors and marketing. When you’re a small business, you have to do it all yourself. I should’ve just slept in my shop, really. I would get there at 4am and leave at 9pm. As we started to grow, I was able to bring in more experts.

Right now I focus on marketing, social media and innovation. I’m also our brand ambassador, making sure that we are living up to our brand promise and that my team understands what that is. I also act as the face of the company. I do several speaking gigs each year about how I got started. I also teach classes in my shops and online through Craftsy.com. I also wrote a book, which took a lot of my time, but was totally worth it.

CJ: In your role as founder, leadership is important. How have you learned to lead and what does it meant to be a leader?

JS: That has probably been the most challenging part of having a company. I haven’t always been a good leader and work really hard at it now. I think being a good leader means understanding how differently people work. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. Everyone has a different way of getting motivated and inspired. You have to really listen…really see people. If you can take the time to see what makes people tick, you will have a much easier time inspiring them and leading them to represent your company the way that you want.

On another level, I try to inspire others to do something amazing with their lives beyond Trophy. I like telling people my story because I didn’t come from a background where I had parents who pushed me toward business. I didn’t have money or experience that would have made you guess I could do this. I really just followed my dreams and figured it out along the way. The more I believed I could do it, the more the doors to success just kept opening right in front of me.

CJ: What have been the greatest challenges in running your company, and what do you wish you had known before opening your shop?

JS: Entrepreneurs have to be naive because if they knew how hard it was before they started, they wouldn’t do it. I always say that entrepreneurs succeed because they don’t know any better.  I didn’t know anything when I started. I had taken some business courses as part of my registered dietician training, but I didn’t have any experience with the business of baking.

I wish I’d known there are so many people out there willing to help you and you don’t have to do it all by yourself. I have that type of personality where I think I have to do everything myself, but I learned that it’s okay to ask for help and that there are all kinds of women/young entrepreneur groups in just about every area that can be super helpful. I also wish I had asked someone to be my mentor earlier on, so that he or she could give me pep talks. I recommend finding a support system—a group or person—that can help you with business-specific problems along the way.

The thing I wasn’t expecting was for me to stop baking. I thought I was always going to be the one baking the cupcakes, but the more I learned about business, the more I realized that when you run a business there’s a point where you have to be steering the ship and looking at the big picture. If I was in the kitchen for 8-10 hours per day, I wouldn’t be able to determine our next move.

CJ: Almost a year ago you published your first book, Trophy Cupcakes and Parties. We love that your book not only provides recipes, but also party how-to’s. What was your book writing process like?

JS: The publisher came to me and asked if I wanted to write a cookbook. That sounded exciting right off the bat but I knew the cupcake cookbook world was already saturated. (I have so many of them myself!) I said I loved the idea of writing a book, but in order for it to be marketable it needed to have more than just recipes. I wanted to help people learn how to plan parties. I also wanted to appeal to more than just bakers.

Little did I know this book would be 10 times as much work as a cookbook. Every single cupcake recipe includes party ideas and a craft, plus suggestions for décor, drinks, and food. Writing all of that content and then photographing it was challenging. But I love the way it turned out. I tried not to do anything that would be dated; I wanted everything to be classic so the book would always be relevant.

Touring with the book through Williams Sonoma stores was super fun and I love that I now have fans across the country and beyond!

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to have their own bakery and run their own business do now to set themselves up for success?

JS: Believe you can accomplish your dreams, then know that believing is half the battle, doing is the rest. Also, embrace your fear! Everyone is scared. The key is to know that fear is a part of the process and not be paralyzed by it. This mentality is not necessarily easy if you weren’t raised that way. I started reading books about manifesting and having an abundant state of mind, and that really changed my life. I also started doing guided meditations focused on love, success and manifesting…amazing! I would also recommend traveling and going out of your way to meet people who are inspirational to you. You can meet almost anyone if you come from an authentic place, and you’re not pushy. Most people are happy to help you or answer questions. Sometimes even brief encounters can really end up paving a road for you.

I believe in synchronicity and that if you’re following your dreams, the universe will end up putting things in your path that will help you down the road. Be adventurous and put yourself out there even if you don’t know where you’re going. I didn’t necessarily know where I was going. If I hadn’t gone on tour (and horrified my mother), Trophy may not exist today.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like? How do you balance your career roles and goals? How do you stay organized and efficient?

JS: Every day is a little different, depending on what projects I’m working on. And as an owner, you have to wear lots of hats. But usually, I wake up early and meditate (this sets the tone for my day), then I get my son ready for school. My workday starts with checking in with the bakery, which is the heart of our business. I really like knowing first thing in the morning that the bake has gone well and that everything in our stores is “Trophy-quality.” I try to visit each shop and I check in with our general manager, work on social media, and talk to employees working on different projects. I may do a talk for a local Girl Scouts or entrepreneurs group. Or, I may have back-to-back meetings about a million different things. My goal is to get to a point where I make sure to do something for myself each day beyond meditating.

Balance…it’s super tricky. If you are super passionate about what you’re doing, it’s very easy to lose site of family, friends and even yourself. I have learned that it’s very important to take time out of your business path for self-care. If you are not well rested, taking the time to recharge (through exercise, spending time with family or reading a good book), you will eventually crash and burn. You cannot be a good boss, entrepreneur, friend, (fill in the blank) if you don’t make time for yourself to recharge each day.

I stay organized through using tools like Basecamp — it keeps all of my to-do lists in one place. I also use my calendar religiously so that I don’t overbook or forget meetings. I also try to never schedule meetings for Mondays. That gives me an entire day to plan my week and tie up any loose ends from the previous week.

CJ: You have had many amazing career moments in such a short period of time, such as being featured in Vanity Fair magazine, appearing on The Martha Stewart show, and releasing your first book. What other goals do you have for Trophy?

JS: My goal is to continue figuring out how to make Trophy a relevant and inspiring business to the community and to myself. What we do is about so much more than cupcakes. We sell little pieces of happiness and people feel emotionally invested in it. I’ve seen people eating Trophy cupcakes on their first date. I’ve also seen people serve Trophy cupcakes at their wedding, and then again at their baby shower.

The best businesses stay fluid and I think there always has to be a fresh idea and a new outlook for what Trophy is giving to everyone. That’s what I stay focused on. I also really want to open something that’s exciting with more offerings and where people can have more celebrations.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

JS: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown.

CJ: If you could enjoy an afternoon eating cupcakes with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what kind of cupcake would you bake?

JS: My dad. He passed away when I was a baby, so getting to spend an afternoon with him would be a dream come true. I would create an angel food cupcake with chocolate whipped cream filling for him. It was his favorite type of cake that my grandma used to make him.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

JS: I would tell my 20-year-old-self to believe in me, and the power of the universe. It took a lot of years before I believed that I really could do anything. I spent a lot of years flailing and not really seeing that I had a passion. Who knew that your hobby, what you love to do most, could be your career?! I’d tell me, “Just get out there make your dreams happen!”

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Images by Carpe Juvenis

HealthProfessional SpotlightSpotlight

After experiencing the magic of rehabilitation in high school, Vikash Sharma decided to pursue a major in Exercise Sports Science. Vikash went through many years of schooling and a residence experience that ultimately led him to open up his own physical therapy practice, Perfect Stride. As a runner, Vikash has first-hand experience with what his patients are going through, and he and his team work hard to help their patients fully recover.

Vikash gave Carpe Juvenis an exclusive look into his business, his top running tips for preventing injury, and why meditation and exercise are the keys to maintaining his happiness.

Name: Vikash Sharma
Education: Major in Exercise Sports Therapy and Minor in Philosophy from Elon University; Doctor of Physical Therapy from The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences; Orthopaedic Residency at Temple University
Follow: Perfect Stride Physical Therapy / @PerfectStridePT

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Vikash Sharma: Seizing your youth is about taking risks and understanding that there is plenty of time to learn, grow, and recover. As you begin to move further into your life, these opportunities to take risks diminish as responsibilities and commitments take priority.

CJ: You majored in Exercise Sports Science and minored in Philosophy from Elon University. How did you decide what to major and minor in? 

VS: My decision to major in Exercise Sports Science came due to the fact that it was the degree that would allow me to fulfill the most pre-requisites for Physical Therapy School. It was a decision that I had made fairly early in my undergraduate career due to the numerous hours that I had spent rehabilitating various injuries in high school. I just loved the casual atmosphere and positive interactions that I had with my Physical Therapist (PT). It always remained in my mind as a career option.

My minor came as a result of wanting to delve into something that I didn’t have much prior experience with. After I took a few classes, I couldn’t stop. It made me think differently and opened up my mind to looking at the world in a new light.

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CJ: You also received your Doctor of Physical Therapy from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

VS: It was something I had known that I wanted to do since selecting my major in undergraduate. Working with my PT in high school and seeing how they were able to spend quality time with each of their patients and really unravel the mystery that is each and every person’s body sparked an early interest in me.

CJ: You were an Orthopaedic Resident at Temple University. What were your experiences as a Resident like?

VS: They were amazing; coming out of my doctoral program I had a great scientific and theoretical understanding of what should happen. However, as we all know, that’s not how things always happen. This is where the residency experience was extremely helpful. It bridged the gap between being a novice clinician without any direction and guidance and being a skilled practitioner who is able to recognize various patterns and draw upon clinical experience.

CJ: You co-founded your own physical therapy practice, Perfect Stride Physical Therapy. What does your role as physical therapist entail, and how do you balance those duties with your role as co-owner?

VS: My role as physical therapist entails working with my patients to help them return to their optimal level of function; essentially get them moving as well as they possibly can. I do this through careful assessment of each individual’s unique body structure and ability to move. Based on these findings a plan of care specific to that individual’s need is developed.

These duties as a physical therapist are balanced with my duties as a co-owner through very careful planning and execution with my team at Perfect Stride. We all work very well together towards ensuring that our clinic remains at the forefront of physical therapy practice and is running efficiently. My business partner Daniel Park, our office manager Austin Shurina, and our Director of Operations and physical therapist Joseph Lavacca are all to thank for the success of Perfect Stride.

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CJ: You specialize in sports rehabilitation. Why is this topic of interest to you?

VS: As a youth I spent a great deal of time participating in a number of sports and with this love for sport came injury upon injury. Spending time in physical therapy for sports rehabilitation piqued my interest in this specialty early. I was always fascinated with the human body and how it is able to heal from injury and bio-mechanics.

CJ: What have been the greatest lessons you’ve learned in opening your own physical therapy practice?

VS: As cliché as it sounds, you have to be willing to take the risk to make your dreams come true. I have always known that I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and open my own business. However, moving outside of your comfort zone and taking a risk on something that isn’t guaranteed takes a lot of passion and dedication. Looking back, I can say that it has been one of the best risks that I have taken in my life thus far. It has opened countless doors for me and also changed my personality for the positive as I am much more confident stepping outside of my comfort zone.

I have also learned that you have to be a salesman, you have to always be looking for opportunities to further yourself and your business because they arise with each and every interaction that you have.

CJ: You have been an avid runner for most of your life. For those who are interested in running and preventing injury, what tips do you have?

VS: Most of the running injuries that I see walk through my door are a result of not allowing the body to adapt to the loads that are put on it (doing too much too quickly). The body has an amazing capacity to heal stronger than before. However, many people are too eager to get running and don’t acclimate their body to the loads and stresses appropriately.

Cross training also comes along with this adaptation process. By properly training your tissues under loads similar to or greater than what running demands on the body (forces up to 2.5 times that of ones own body weight), you are conditioning your tissues for success. Coupled with a proper nutrition plan, training schedule, recovery plan (the most underrated aspect of training in my opinion), and equipment, you are laying all of the groundwork to ensure that you are setting yourself up for success and avoiding a trip to see me for a running related injury!

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CJ: What is your favorite running shoe?

VS: Saucony Kinvara – I love the heel to toe drop and feel of these shoes.

CJ: What is your favorite running warm-up?

VS: I have a few depending on the situation but I like this one presented by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella.

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

VS: Before I even get the chance to step out of bed I am usually responding to emails and planning the day. My mornings are usually a mix of breakfast, making phone calls, working out, running errands, answering more emails, and getting into work.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a physical therapist do now to set him or herself up for success?

VS: I would highly suggest gaining some experience as a PT aide or getting some observation hours under your belt at an early age. I would also recommend looking at particular schools’ pre-requisites for admission as they can vary from school to school. Make sure that you are covering all the necessary courses during your undergraduate studies.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

VS: In terms of professional resources, there definitely isn’t just one. I can’t stress the importance of communication and consultation with my peers. Getting a better idea of how others think and gaining perspective on the bigger picture has allowed for me to grow infinitely as a practitioner. This, along with getting my hands on any text or web-based resources that are evidence-based, have gone a long way in my growth as a practitioner.

CJ: When you’re having a bad day, what do you do to reset?

VS: Meditation and exercise are the keys to maintaining my happiness. My meditation practice is mainly based around focusing on and controlling my breathing. I have had some formal training in Buddhist meditation; however, my practice comes largely from what I have found to personally work best for me over the years. I have always found that getting in a strenuous bout of exercise is a great physical and mental reset; it makes me feel more alert, increases my energy levels, and most importantly gets my body moving!

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CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

VS: Personally – I am always looking to be decrease stress in my life and this is something that I heavily rely on my meditation practice to help me with, in addition to remaining physically active.

Professionally – Currently my focus is on learning more about what I can do to get all of my patients moving and feeling better than they ever have. This is done through taking continuing education courses (that we also host at Perfect Stride) and reading as much as I can possibly get my hands on.

Another big goal professionally is growing Perfect Stride Physical Therapy to better service the needs of our patients. This is accomplished through patient feedback and careful planning and trouble shooting with the rest of the team.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

VS: I would tell my 20-year-old self that failure is an option, failure is acceptable, and that failure is welcomed with open arms just as long as it is learned from. There have been countless instances where my fear of failure has stopped me from doing what I wanted in my youth and now looking back on those instances I can say if I had taken the risk I would have either succeeded and/or learned a great deal from whatever endeavor I pursued.

Vikash Sharma Qs

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We became (just slightly) obsessed with Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery when we stumbled onto the vegan granola at a local health store. Once we enjoyed the sweet, filling, and delicious granola, we had to know who was behind the magic. Baker and founder Tully Phillips shares her story and advice with Carpe Juvenis. From New York City to Texas, this entrepreneur knows what it’s like to open up bakeries across the country and discover a passion that was hidden right under her own nose for years.

For anyone excited about starting their own baking venture, or who just loves to get their hands dirty in the kitchen, we are extremely excited to share this week’s inspiring Spotlight with you!

Name: Tully Phillips
Education: Southern Methodist University and Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, TX
Follow: @tulusbakery / Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Tully Phillips: I think it’s best to seize every opportunity to learn and gain experience when you are young. Try all sorts of things because you never know what might pique your interest!

CJ: What did you study at Southern Methodist University and how did you determine what to major in?

TP: I was a fine art major. It was an easy decision for me because I loved painting and creating art in high school. I have a real need to be creative and that translated into cooking post-college.

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CJ: You attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, TX. What inspired you to pursue cooking in an academic way and what was that experience like?

TP: I have always loved cooking. I find it extremely relaxing, an outlet for creativity and of course a delicious profession. Going to school for something that was formerly a hobby was a dream come true. Some people might think culinary school is relaxed but it is actually quite strenuous. You have to be on point every day because each dish you create is graded. Despite that, I still enjoyed every moment. 

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: You signed your first lease for Tu-Lu’s NYC bakery at the young age of 28. How did you decide where to start and which area of the city to rent in?

TP: I wanted to be in a neighborhood that was a “foodie destination.” The East Village is one of those areas of Manhattan with such a variety of restaurants and is quite the hang out area on the weekends. The less expensive rent was also a deciding factor. It was important to me not to overspend on rent since it was a new business and quite frankly a new concept for NYC. We were the first 100% gluten-free bakery in Manhattan so I was not sure how successful we would be.

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CP: In your roles as founder and owner, good leadership is critical. How have you learned to lead and what does it mean, in your opinion, to be a strong leader?

TP: I think a leader needs to be experienced in all the roles of their employees. When we first opened I was the dishwasher, weekend baker, register employee, as well as having all the managerial duties. I learned the ins and outs of each position, which was helpful in delegating work and projects to my employees. I think you also have to be willing to learn from your employees and listen to them. Be open to tweaking how things run according to advice they give you.

CJ: How did your education and past work experiences prepare you to start Tu-Lu’s Bakery in both New York and Texas?

TP: I helped manage the kitchen in a catering company NYC. That job really taught me how to be confident in having employees and letting them know your expectations and limits. Of course my culinary education and work experience directly influenced the quality of our baked goods. I have very high standards for what we sell at Tu-Lu’s.

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: What have been the greatest challenges in running your company, and what do you wish you had known before opening your bakeries?

TP: We are open seven days a week in NYC with very long, late hours so essentially we are never closed! There is always something that comes up that needs to be addressed. Whether it’s someone not showing up for work or a light fixture that no longer works, owning a business is a 24 hour, seven day a week job.  That might have been nice to know before opening!

CJ: What is the greatest lesson you have learned from being an entrepreneur?

TP: Being an entrepreneur is risky but extremely rewarding. I was so scared to open a retail store in the middle of New York City but once I signed that lease I didn’t look back.

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CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to have their own bakery and run their own business do now to set themselves up for success?

TP: I recommend working at a bakery to really learn the ins and outs of the business. Try to work your way up to assistant manager or manager to get experience on all levels. Knowing how to manage people and money is key. Though I had culinary experience, I had never worked in an actual bakery so I could have learned so many things and avoided quite a few mistakes and bumps in the beginning.

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: You’ve had such incredible feedback about your gluten-free products, especially the delectable brownies and Carpe Juvenis’ personal favorite, the Agave Cinnamon Granola. Aside from your own experience being gluten intolerant, what inspires you to create delicious treats that anyone can enjoy?

TP: I created the bakery to fill that void of not having delicious GF treats available to me. I was shocked I could not find a wonderful GF cupcake in all of Manhattan. We are always trying to create new products to excite our customers. I especially love when we can recreate a childhood memory in a GF version.

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: What motivates you on your toughest days?

TP: We have the best customers and we are always striving to make them happy. I can’t tell you how many times people have thanked me for opening the bakery. How many people get thanked on a regular basis at their job? Not many! That completely makes up for the tough days.

CJ: What advice would you give your 19-year-old self?

TP: I would probably tell myself to get a job at a local bakery and learn as much as I can about their systems, customer service, accounting, etc. Try to get some marketing and PR experience as well. You can never learn too much and all knowledge is useful! You never know where it will take you.

Tully Phillips Qs

Images by Tully Phillips

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we think of people who have inspired us, Meagan Morrison comes to mind for several reasons: she created her own dream job, she’s incredibly talented, and she’s contagiously optimistic. You can tell right away from seeing her illustrations how much skill Meagan has, and you immediately get drawn into her colorfully brushstroked world.

Though Meagan studied business in undergrad, it wasn’t until she was 24 that she decided to go back to school for a degree in fashion illustration. After doing internships and asking lots of questions, Meagan realized that she was going to have to create the dream job she ultimately wanted. The awesome and inspiring part? She did just that.

As a Traveling Fashion Illustrator, Meagan works with fashion designers and high profile brands and travels the world illustrating what inspires her. During our conversation, Meagan consistently referenced how much hard work it takes to make your dreams come true and that you have to “rewire your brain to think positively.” Very true words, and it’s encouraging to know that the road to your dreams may not be easy, but it’s definitely worth the challenge.

We’re excited to share with you Meagan’s interview with Carpe Juvenis! Read on to learn about her role as an illustrator, the greatest lessons she’s learned from starting her own company, and of course, how she seizes her youth.

Name: Meagan Morrison
Education: Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University; Fashion Illustration AAS from Fashion Institute of Technology
Follow: MeaganMorrison.com / Instagram / Twitter / Facebook

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Meagan Morrison: Making the most of every opportunity and asking tons of questions. Those who seek will find. Don’t wait for anything to fall into your lap, you have to go after it. Since I was very young I’d always ask a lot of questions to family friends and teachers. I was constantly educating myself and involving myself in things that I found interesting. ‘Seizing Your Youth’ is ultimately defined by each individual and what he or she wants to get out of life.

CJ: You received your Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University. What did you major in and how did you determine what to study?

MM: I went to McGill and studied business. My older sister went to McGill, as well. When I went to visit her, I remember looking at the girls in the commerce program and I loved seeing how they carried themselves. They were well dressed and professional. I really identified with them. They looked confident, empowered, and determined.

At the time I was very much into fine arts, but I wanted to step out of that for a bit to find myself and my purpose. I knew that with a foundation in business I could specialize and go smaller, but it would be harder to go from something narrower to a business degree. It felt like the right building block at the time.

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CJ: You also received an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Illustration AAS from the Fashion Institute of Technology. What was that experience like?

MM: By the time I started my AAS in illustration I was 24 and really knew that the program was what I wanted to do. It was a highly specialized degree that offered fashion illustration as a two-year program. I didn’t want to commit to another undergrad degree, but I wanted a foot in the door in New York. I also wanted to be totally immersed in fashion illustration. I read this quote in a book about fashion illustration that advised to launch your career in a city that matters. I figured if I was educated here and given the opportunity to work here, I would be launching myself in the biggest city in the world for my industry. That’s what prompted my decision to go back to school.

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CJ: What sparked your love of illustration and design?

MM: I always loved fashion and art. I didn’t quite know that they could co-exist so intimately until I started working in the fashion industry after McGill. My first internship was at a fashion magazine and I was constantly asking questions between the editorial department and the art department to see how much, if any, traditional art they used. It was predominantly graphic design and photography, so I didn’t see myself in that world. I thought maybe I belonged in the gallery world of fine art. Somewhere between trying out a bunch of different professions in the industry and asking questions, one of my coworkers mentioned the program in fashion illustration at FIT. When I heard the profession and researched it, it felt as though a lightbulb went off. I couldn’t believe that I found something that really combined my true greatest loves: art and fashion. That’s what really sparked the passion for me.

After hearing about the profession and the program at FIT, I went to bookstores and pulled all the sources I could find on fashion illustration. I searched through the glossaries and found names of illustrators, and some were located in Toronto. I reached out to Virginia Johnson, a local Toronto illustrator and textile designer, and brought her my portfolio. I explained to her that I loved illustrating shoes, and she pushed me to follow what I loved and told me that the rest would fall into place. I’ve been obsessed with illustration ever since.

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CJ: You are a traveling fashion illustrator and recently branched out to start your own company. What does it mean to be a traveling fashion illustrator?

MM: It’s about being mobile and not just sitting at my desk pulling images off of the Internet. It’s about experiencing the culture firsthand and having that inspire my work. I have always been so passionate about travel and how that would inform my illustrations, and I wanted to be known as an illustrator at the intersection of both travel and fashion. There’s nothing like discovering a new destination and seeing how people dress in different cities around the world. I want to capture how the environment they’re surrounded by influences their style and my work. It’s the same thing when I’m at a fashion show and later do illustrations. I’ve seen the clothes, felt the texture of the fabric, heard the playlist, and felt the mood of the environment. I see the vision that the designer intends for the line. It helps bring the illustrations to life.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from starting your own company?

MM: That you never stop fighting. Every paycheck is a fight. Every project is a new hurdle. I don’t mean to sound defeated by that, but it is the most obvious and striking contrast between working full-time and working for myself. I knew every two weeks I would get a paycheck at my last job, but now I have to chase and follow-up on everything. All the work of orchestrating that and keeping projects moving can be a challenge.

I’ve also learned that it would be great to have a sounding board. The thing I miss about working with a company is having the team to bounce ideas off of. It’s always a joint decision. I love the fact that I am making choices for myself and I do have the final say, but I think it’s good to discuss the decision with someone first and come to a well-informed decision. It’s a lot of pressure to not make the wrong choice on your own.

You also have to be careful so you don’t get taken advantage of. You’re constantly looking after yourself. The momentum has to keep going and the ball can’t drop. I find that the more I’m working, the more work comes in. It’s the ripple effect. The chain reaction in itself can be exhausting because when can you ever pause and catch up on your sleep?

CJ: You have done illustrations for amazing clients including Lucky Magazine, Rebecca Minkoff, Calvin Klein, and Conde Nast Traveler. When you work with each client, what is your process and your role as an illustrator?

MM: It honestly differs with every client, how big the project is and how much they want to involve the social and illustration aspects of it. When I come into a partnership I always gauge what the client’s expectations are, the breadth of the project, the timeline, their budget, and then we work from there. It’s about finding the middle ground between what you feel comfortable with and what the client feels comfortable with.

I have a clear vision about the brands I want to work with and how they align with the vision I have about being a traveling fashion illustrator. I don’t take on every project. If people want to sponsor things on my Instagram, I don’t take every product. Every partnership is very authentic. I don’t ever take on a job just for the money; I only do it when I believe it’s genuine and it makes sense.

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CJ: How long does a piece take to create from start to finish?

MM: It varies per project and per client. For instance, my Calvin Klein job, I was at the show illustrating live. I could feel the fabrics and speak to the creative director, Francisco Costa, about his vision. I had about two days to turn around finals, but it helped to see the actual clothes. The pieces themselves takes me about three to four hours to complete, but that varies depending on how detailed each piece is. Then I scan the paintings, clean them up in Photoshop, and send the JPEGs to the client.

If it’s a customized piece or if I’m designing something from scratch, that requires a lot more preparation. I’ll do pencil sketches and color comps and then take it to the final round. Some are more laborious and expensive and others are just straight to final.

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CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be a fashion illustrator do to set themselves up for success?

MM: Start asking questions and get a portfolio together. Also, don’t lose your voice. When people are younger they start to emulate the top people, but that’s not an advantage. People don’t want to hire a second rate version of someone else, they want to hire the first version of you. I’ve seen it on social media where people’s styles are so different, and that’s what’s standing out. It’s a saturated market. Keep true to you and keep your voice and style genuine. Embrace the quirks about your style.

There are tons of free websites out there as well where you can put your work online. Keep it clean and simple so you can showcase your work. When I was younger I was constantly illustrating to keep perfecting my craft and finding my voice. I wasn’t thinking about gaining clients just yet. Build your social awareness and share your journey. Then, when you are ready to work with clients, people will already know about you.

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CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?

MM: I have a massive planner that is 8½ x 11 inches. I write lists every single day, and everything that doesn’t get accomplished the day before gets carried over to the next day. It’s blinding because I highlight everything. I also use whiteout so there’s nothing unnecessary on it. I start and end my day with that book.

From the planner I move to emails. The luxury of working for myself is that I can answer them when I’m in still in my pajamas. I get breakfast and then do errands. I want to get all my errands finished before I start painting, because once I start painting I lose track of time. It’s nice to have everything else taken care of so I feel at ease when painting. I don’t want stress to show through in the work. I often work pretty late into the evenings. It depends on how intense the turnaround time is. I like to end the day seeing a friend or unwinding watching Netflix.

One thing I’d like to do more of is exercise. You have to take care of yourself when running your own business. If you run yourself down there is no business. I don’t have weekends. I haven’t taken a proper vacation when I’m not working. For better or worse, travel has become part of my brand so I feel a sense of responsibility to cover what I’m doing and share it on social media even on my downtime.

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CJ: What spring break experience has been memorable for you?

MM: I remember the spring break in my senior year of high school. I traveled with my class to France and Italy. That trip stands out to me because we had a small group of students in my high school, and we were combined with another high school group from the Ontario area. We got to meet new high school students on the trip and it was a prelude to university and meeting new like-minded people. I love how traveling and meeting new people expands your vision.

We started in Paris and hopped over to Florence and Rome. I had the time of my life. It wasn’t about the accommodations or amenities at all. It was about being with people you cared about, having a blast, and laughing a lot.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about?

MM: Changing the perceptions on mental health, depression, and anxiety is important to me. I don’t think people should be scared to talk about it. Being open and dealing with it as you would your physical health is important. There’s more people suffering from anxiety and depression in the country today than there has ever been. Why is that? It’s a blessing and a curse that we have social media, but it also gives people a sense of inadequacy all the time. You’re constantly faced with what other people are doing and how much more you should be doing.

I’ve had to really practice changing my mindset about that. By nature I’m very anxious and hard on myself. I practice gratitude. My anxiety can be so bad that it could hinder my work flow. When things aren’t totally concrete I’m at my worst. The grey area is the hardest area to live in, but that’s life. Rarely is anything concrete.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

MM: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

MM: I’d say not to worry and that everything is going to work out just fine. I feel more confident now than I ever have. Looking back at all the things I didn’t think I could get through, that I have since surpassed, helps me to remember that everything will always work out. I didn’t know then that I’d be able to build a life that I love so much.

I would advise people in their twenties that nothing is handed to you. You have to practice happiness. It can be tough but you have to practice that in the same way you train for a marathon. Rewire your brain to think positively. Also know that happiness isn’t at the other end of success. You can start with happiness and then everything else doesn’t have so much weight on it. If your happiness is contingent upon getting into a certain college or winning a certain award or landing a client, then you’re never going to get there because the benchmark is always raised.

But if you start with being grateful with what you have in the moment, then you’re already working at an advantage. Be grateful for what you have because it can all be gone tomorrow. I feel infinitely happier now than I did way back then, even though I have tons more responsibilities. It’s been a matter of self-awareness and rewiring the way that my mind works.

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Images: Illustration Images by Meagan Morrison; photos of Meagan by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

It’s not every day that we have the opportunity to interview someone who’s life ambitions are matched so closely to our own. Jessica N. Grounds, the co-founder of Running Start and also Director of Women for Ready for Hillary, is a champion for youth and specifically for women. While her professional career takes place in the field of politics, her mission and core purpose for the work she does is to empower young adults across the United States to engage with their communities, have their voices be heard, and make a real impact and change.

Jessica was gracious enough to answer some of our burning questions about what it’s like to be an advisor and leader in such a competitive world, and how she handles it all with grace and perseverance. We are thrilled to introduce to you Jessica N. Grounds.

Name: Jessica N. Grounds
Education: B.A. in Political Science from Pepperdine University; Graduate Certificate in WomenPolicy & Political Leadership from American University; Executive Masters in Leadership from Georgetown University – The McDonough School of Business
Follow: Ready For Hillary | Running Start Online | WUFPAC | @Jessica_Grounds

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Jessica Grounds: Seizing your youth means taking risks and not letting what you think you “should do” get in your way. It’s so important to experience life and not hold back. I think it means to not let expectations get in the way of you stepping out and doing things. And especially for women, it’s very important for us to challenge ourselves and step out of their comfort zones.

CJ: What sparked your passion for politics and women’s issues?

JG: When I was in college, one of my classes required me to work on a political campaign.  I decided to work for the re-election campaign of a local California Assemblywoman, Fran Pavley. Through that experience, I got to see what it was like to work on a campaign and how much responsibility you can have as a young person.  But more importantly, I saw politics as a very public way to show people that women make decisive and strong public leaders. Later in my career I learned there are too few women in these important decision-making roles.

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CJ: You work with students who are not yet at the eligible age to vote. What makes young people so important and why has their empowerment become a primary focus in your career and life?

JG: My particular focus is to inspire young women to run for political office. What we find is that women don’t approach politics the same way men do. Girls don’t see politics as an avenue to pursue a career. We know that we need to talk to girls before they reach voting age to get them to consider political leadership.  It is planting the seed early that is really instrumental in changing people’s perceptions, particularly for girls in leadership roles.

CJ: You’ve advised hundreds of female candidates throughout the country in their political ventures – what advice would you give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the world of politics or non-profit?

JG: Build your network. Develop a robust network of people you know in different industries and communities. They will be vital to a potential political run because they will vote for you, volunteer, and donate. They’re also your ears and eyes to the people of the district. Build your people network and make sure it’s diverse in all facets of the word.

Think about where you want to be a political leader. Where do you want to build your network? Be strategic. Where you represent should fit who you are. For example, if you’re a conservative in San Francisco, you may not do so well.

Talk to people who have run for office before and get their advice about what they did to be successful. Also talk to those who have ran for your position to see what they did to win.

Lastly, don’t take no for an answer. Always ask, never assume.

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CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?

JG: So, I’m now marrying a Republican who also works in politics. I’ve built this bipartisan network in both my professional and personal life, which has helped me with street cred and helps refine what I stand for as a Democrat. I feel like it also helped me hone how I talk about the issues I care about.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

JG: I never plan anything after work on Monday’s. I am big on work-life balance. By creating these boundaries, it has helped me to better balance my work because I make sure to take care of myself. I always go to the gym on Monday nights. During the day, I don’t schedule a lot of meetings, if I can help it.  Monday’s help me set the tone for the week and help me ease into things with control. I’m also on the phone a lot – building support for Hillary!

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CJ: You recently joined the ONE Campaign for a political delegation to Rwanda. What has that experience been like?

JG: That was a life-changing trip! Going to Rwanda was the most powerful experiences I’ve had to date. I was exposed to a lot of work that ONE champions to fund the combat against HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa. I also learned more about the economic empowerment space and how NGOs and government organizations are working together. I was particularly excited about the potential for women’s political and economic empowerment. I actually met with the Kate Spade team and they are producing product in Rwanda. Not only is it an effective business strategy to train women in the country, they are doing it in a way that was economically viable for the company.  The line produced in Rwanda is called: “On Purpose.”

CJ: Leadership skills training for organizations and academic institutions is an area you thrive in – what are some ways young people can become better leaders?

JG: I always recommend learning how to talk about an issue you care about. Most people aren’t born with the ability to speak effectively, so learning how to be clear and concise in communication is really a powerful tool. Practice talking about what you care about, debates are effective. Also, work on your writing skills, that’s another tool you can use to talk about issues you care about. Push yourself to do public speaking exercises. Run for student government or sit on a board for an organization or volunteer for a local non-profit where you can be an advocate and speak about these issues.

Identifying mentors in your life will also help steer you in your career. Not everyone wants to lead and those that do sometimes feel lonely in their quest but finding mentors can encourage and nurture you to stay on the right track for inspiration. “Leadership is a lonely enterprise.”

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

JG: I’m working on “being in the moment” more. I think as a professional type-A person, it’s very easy to think about what you did or didn’t do in the past, and what’s happening in the future.  It’s difficult to be in the “here and now” and enjoy it for what it is. One thing that helps me do that is yoga (which I also need to work on doing more) because it helps you to think about your breadth and what you need to do in the moment. It’s a great thing to practice and cultivate.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

JG: If I feel like being healthy and unwind, I will go to the gym and work out hard and then hit the steam room because it makes me sweat. If I don’t feel like working out, I drink a very nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or Super Tuscan.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

JG: Old school favorite: Catcher in the Rye; New school favorite: Lean In.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

JG: I would tell myself to chill out and that things work out the way they’re supposed to.  Don’t be so worried about making the right steps all the time. I do feel lucky, though, because I found my passion very early in life and this helped me make decisions when there was a fork in the road.  Over the years I have really learned to listen to myself.

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Image: Jessica Grounds

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

It was a pleasure meeting Debbie Oberbillig on a gusty and grey Seattle afternoon. As Founder and President of Allen Partners, a business coach, and board member, Debbie is extremely busy. She was kind enough to sit down with us for an exclusive interview about her career path, what she would advise her 20-year-old self, and the lessons she’s learned along the way. Debbie is intelligent, insightful, and an inspiring leader, and we were very impressed, to say the least.

As further proof of her success as an entrepreneur, Debbie was a 2015 Enterprising Women of the Year Awards winner. We are not at all surprised by this, as Debbie has grown her company, which provides finance and accounting talent optimization services for companies of all sizes and industries in the Pacific Northwest, from the ground up. We admire the fact that Debbie is a hard worker, but that she is also curious about the world and gives back to her community. No matter how busy her schedule is, Debbie will make time to help others. We’ve been inspired by her, and now it’s your turn.

Name: Debbie Oberbillig
Follow: @AllenPartners

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Debbie Oberbillig: “Seizing Your Youth” is appreciating who you are in this moment, being open to opportunities and exploring the world around you. I have observed that people are really getting serious early and kids aren’t allowed to be kids anymore. I think that your twenties should be spent figuring out who you are. Don’t be afraid to try new things – be bold and be brave. See the world, join the Peace Corps, or move to a new city. Discover who you are in order to determine what you want. That might be counter-intuitive to what you think you need to do – there’s a lot of pressure to start your career right away – but now is the time to learn who you truly are, which will help you pursue a career that you can truly be passionate about.

CJ: What school did you attend for undergrad and how did you determine what to study?

DO:  I never graduated from university. I started working at 15-years-old and didn’t go to college until my thirties. My parents were children of the Depression so work was highly valued in my family. I also loved working and having money and the freedom that money gave me so I did not go to school right away. In my thirties I thought about getting a degree, so I started attending classes at a community college. I also took some classes at the University of Washington, but I got recruited by a great company and never finished. I originally was going to get a degree in business, but if I were to go back now I’d do something more fun like philosophy or psychology

CJ: You are the Founder and President of Allen Partners, a company you started in 2003 that provides finance and accounting talent optimization services for companies of all sizes and industries in the Pacific Northwest. What motivated you to start Allen Partners?

DO: My mom owned a successful agency similar to Allen Partners and I worked for her, which was where I learned the business. About the time my mom was getting ready to retire, I was recruited to work at Hall Kinion, another staffing firm, by a really smart woman who quickly became one of my professional mentors. With her guidance my specialty became organic growth, opening up new offices around the country. We grew the company from $3 million to $300 million while I was there. That experience and training is what led me to take the next step in my career, which for me was to start my own business.

CJ: What does your role as President entail?

DO: In the beginning I used to do everything. I’ve been a recruiter, a salesperson, the accountant – virtually everything. As we grew over the years I brought in two partners who also worked for the company and were passionate about its success. One of them is Director of Sales and Recruiting, running the sales division on a day-to-day basis, and one is the Director of Operations and Finance. As President, I focus on promoting the company by networking and continuing to grow our business with new clients.

CJ: Allen Partners focuses on employment intelligence and hiring smart. How do you go about recognizing and developing top talent? What are the most important skills to have in order to be considered “top talent”?

DO: Recognizing top talent is hard. It’s what all of our clients struggle with. It’s really a combination of practical and soft skills. A lot of people go to school and get their degrees and have practical work experience, but the determination of their success is equally based on soft skills. It’s just as important to be able to get along with people, communicate what you need, articulate what you’re looking for, and know what your values are. These are things that are not regularly taught or easy to teach and rarely thought about when attending college, but they are just as important.

Recognizing talent requires more than just looking at a resume, it takes a good conversation and asking the right questions to determine if candidates have the interpersonal skills, critical awareness and thinking abilities to not only do the job, but be an integral part of the team. It’s finding the right combination of hard and soft skills. It’s a secret sauce. Some people have it intrinsically and some people have to learn it.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from running your own company?

DO: I’ve learned a lot of lessons. When you have a business, it’s imperative to remember that culture and profit are equally important. If there’s no profit, there’s no company. Profit is not a dirty word. You can have fun and have a great culture, but in the end, if the company’s not making money it doesn’t succeed. There were times when I didn’t think enough about the bottom line, and other times when I thought about the bottom line too much. A successful company learns to balance people and profit. You have to really care about both.

CJ: In your role as President, leadership is important. How have you learned to lead and what does it meant to be a leader?

DO: I’ve learned a lot over the years through trial and error that has made me a better leader. You have to care about your people and be empathetic. You have to also hold people accountable and recognize that people won’t always like you or the decisions you have to make as a leader. You want to take care of people, and you also have to do the right thing for the company.

CJ: As a recruiter and leadership advisor, you have observed many different types of leadership. What are some ways young people can become better leaders?

DO: You can be a natural leader but also have leadership challenges. One of the biggest things that I’ve observed is that young leaders struggle with holding people accountable because they want to be liked. New leaders many times avoid the tough issues, but to be a great leader you have to address issues right away. If something comes up and it’s a problem, it’s up to you to tackle it. Giving people feedback isn’t necessarily bad, although you have to learn how to do it effectively.

The other thing is that sometimes people feel like they have arrived when they’ve been promoted, and they stop doing the work needed to be a great leader. Great leaders lead by example, which is an old-fashioned saying, but it’s really true.

CJ: Bellevue LifeSpring is an incredible organization that fosters stability and self-sufficiency for Bellevue’s children and their families through programs that feed, clothe, and educate. What do your duties as a Board Member involve?

DO: When I first joined the board, Bellevue LifeSpring was building up their staff, so I was able to put my recruiting skills to work right away, as well as offering human resources assistance until we hired someone who could handle it. I really believe in the organization so I am always involved in our events, either by sponsoring, volunteering or both.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

DO: Lately I’ve been spending a good part of the day working on something I’m really passionate about – growing my professional coaching business. Coaching helps people see things in a new way by asking specific questions that transform how they observe the world. By simply looking through a different lens, you can change the choices you make and consequently, the results in your life. I love helping others to change their lens.

I’ve also recently become a Daring Way™ Facilitator candidate, which is a bit of a different coaching style based on the philosophy and findings of Brené Brown; a research professor, bestselling author and a top TED Talk contributor.

Of course, I’m still very involved in Allen Partners, although I’ve been able to step back a bit, as I’ve mentioned, to allow myself time to grow these other areas of my life.

CJ: How do you stay organized and efficient?

DO: I’m naturally very detail-oriented, which helps me stay organized. I use Outlook for scheduling, and I’ve just started color-coding to track how much time I spend on my projects. There is no secret to balancing, whether you’re going to school full-time or working full-time. It takes practice and dedication.

I’ve started a new thing: in the morning I write in my gratitude journal while I have my first cup of coffee. I just sit by myself and I think for about 30 minutes each day. I’ve noticed that we just don’t spend enough time reflecting. After that time, I prioritize my day by writing down the top five things I need to do. I do those five things first, and then after that anything goes. When you limit it to the top five, you’re usually able to get it all done.

CJ: What is the best moment of your career so far?

DO: Right now! I’ve had a great career and I’ve been really lucky. I love everything that I do and it keeps getting better. My first jobs were office jobs where I worked 8am-5pm, and I just think right now is really fun because I have so much flexibility.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

DO: In my twenties, I didn’t have much of a life besides working and socializing. I would tell myself to travel more – try new things, meet new people. I got very serious about work too soon, which is why I now really encourage young people to “seize their youth!”

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Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We met up with Ian Manheimer on one of the coldest days New York has seen in a long time. A leader in youth empowerment and an entrepreneur, we were extremely excited to get the opportunity to meet Ian in person. Ian is currently the Vice President of Product Management at Charitybuzz where he improves user experience and exercises his leadership skills by managing a team.

Ian is also the founder and president of RFK Young Leaders, a program of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights. When he’s not busy creating new relationships at Charitybuzz, helping young human rights defenders take action for social justice and human rights, or generously helping those he’s met reach higher goals, he can be found working on some seriously cool projects like a book about pizza in NYC. Carpe Juvenis is excited to share the Spotlight of the inspirational and talented Ian Manheimer!

Name: Ian Manheimer
Education: BA in Communications and English from Tulane University
Follow: rfkcenter.org@ianmanheimer

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Ian Manheimer: There’s a famous speech Robert F. Kennedy gave called “Day of Affirmation” that was given to a student group in South Africa during apartheid. It goes:

“This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”

He’s talking about a quality of youth where you’re willing to take risks and live in a much more open world of possibilities. Something happens when you get older where those possibilities become less, so he’s talking about trying to spread that spirit around the world to all people. Robert F. Kennedy is a huge part of the work I do and his shadow looms large over it.

CJ: You studied Communications and English for your undergraduate degree at Tulane University. How did you determine what to study?

IM: I love to read. I was always educating myself and reading books, even if they weren’t in the syllabus. They were the books I wanted to read. My major came from a passion of reading, writing, spreading around ideas, and having the boldness to think that I had an idea or two worth sharing at the time.

Communications and English are about expression. I love journalism, and the intersection of media and democracy. A functioning press in critical to democracy. In 2005, I graduated and a couple big, old newspapers were starting to shudder. I was writing in New Orleans for a couple of papers, but I didn’t think it was the right time to stake a career in that industry so I sat on the sidelines for a bit. I fuse those journalistic practices that I learned into my career.

CJ: You co-founded Glassbooth.org, a nonprofit site to help people decide who to vote for in public elections, when you were 24-years-old. The success of Glassbooth.org inspired you to pursue another online model, Measy.com, that could help people make decisions. How did you know when the right time to take the risk of starting your own company was?

IM: That was a really intuitive jump where I wasn’t the most informed or most capable, but there was an earnest feeling that if I made something I wanted to make and use, there would be others who also wanted to use it. I thought it could be a real thing of value, and then I went for it really hard. I had nothing to lose, and I still try and live as if I have nothing to lose. “Why not?” is always a great question, and a great way to overcome fears. I just grabbed some of the talented people around me and asked, Why not? For me, going from nothing to something for the first time just let me know that I was capable. You just have to jump in.

CJ: You are the founder and president of RFK Young Leaders (RFKYL), which is dedicated to empowering young human rights defenders and motivating a diverse community of young people to take action for social justice and human rights. What has it meant to you to be someone who is inspiring youth and helping people put into action what they want to do?

IM: It’s been humbling and amazing to be able to carry the torch for the work Robert Kennedy started. When he was killed, rather than build a huge monument to his person, his work lives on through his foundation and it allows his vision and dream to extend past his early expiration. Being able to carry that mission out to new generations has been amazing. It means a lot to me.

For me, what means the most is to bring young people into their first experience with social justice and civics, and for them to have a positive experience, and realize their power. This experience leads to a lifelong practice of civics and social justice. When I see those things happening, and those light bulbs going off, that’s what gets me excited.

We’re an all-volunteer program so I also have a day job. My role at RFKYL includes extending campaigns, like our main campaign, which is organizing New York farmworkers. Working with farmworkers, meeting with farmworkers, meeting with advocates of farmworkers. We’re growing the organization and opening new chapters across the country. We meet with young leaders across the country and connect young people with human rights defenders out there to spread inspiration and get young people excited about social justice issues. We’re trying to capture an entrepreneurial spirit of our generation within the confines of foundation’s work.

CJ: You are the VP of Product Management at Charitybuzz. What does your role entail?

IM: I’m responsible for internal products and the products you see on desktop and mobile. I extend business goals via our digital assets and try to create a better experience for our users. We work on making their lives easier and help them find the awesome things we have to offer. I lead a team of developers and designers. It’s a lot of interdisciplinary work bringing a whole company together around our main business goals as they manifest in digital.

CJ: In many of your roles it sounds like you take on a leadership position. What are two of the biggest lessons about being an effective leader?

IM: One thing I’ve learned about being a leader is that you have to let people create their own boundaries and then let them excel or fail within those. I never give someone a deadline, ever. I always ask when they think they’ll be able to get a task done and then hold them to their own expressions of what they’re capable of. It’s always better to give people the autonomy to succeed.

For me a leader is really an administrator and has a certain role, but he or she doesn’t have more votes than anyone else. It’s my role to inspire and to help people become their best selves. I love to invest in people and help them grow. It’s always a team. You’re a leader, but it’s no different a position than a designer or developer.

CJ: How did you go about learning the logistics of starting your companies (logo design, website/e-commerce platform, marketing, finance/budgeting, etc.)?

IM: I’ve never done anything that’s just me. I don’t think you can ever be successful when it’s not in a team. Everything you do will be the success of the team. For me it’s always been sourcing and aggregating talented people. I’m a bit of a generalist and I don’t have too many technical skills, but I can get a team together, chef it and whip it up, and it comes out great.

I have deep respect for technically talented people and always want to respect their craft and learn as much as I can. While I’m not a developer, I’m constantly learning everything my layman’s mind can take on. With anyone I work with, I try to understand what they do, out of respect.

CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?

IM: I worked for this very ambitious organization called Dropping Knowledge and it was a combination of a team at MIT and artists in Berlin and they were trying to create this global knowledge platform. It was weird and wild and wonderful. I spent a month in Berlin with people who had open lifestyles, and it completely opened my horizons. For me that was an opportunity to do this wild thing, and that alone was enough for me to want to take that on.

CJ: What are your time management tips? How do you stay organized and efficient?

IM: I love products and tools to help you make your life more efficient. I surround myself with an ecosystem of products that will do the work for me. There’s a hubris people have about their own sense of time and concentration that leads to failure. For example, if you have a thought and you tell yourself you’ll remember it later, how many times do you go to conjure that thought and it’s gone? Having those things around you to manage your life is helpful.

For my daily management I use a tool called OmniFocus, which takes the Getting Things Done methodology and puts it into software form. It’s about getting the thoughts out of your head immediately and then sorting them later. There is one tool that I love called Boomerang, and what it does is ping me if I haven’t heard from you after sending an email. I then don’t have to remember our conversation and stress about it because the email will come back to me so I can keep the conversation moving.

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

IM: If I’m looking to make a hire at my organization, their interest in becoming better at the thing they do, is the number one quality I look for. I believe that you don’t have a mind that’s in a fixed state. I’m interested in growing my mind and being with other people who have that same appetite for self-improvement.

I’m interested in self-improvement in the form of expanding my mind through meditation or just trying to grapple with new concepts that are foreign and difficult. If I read an article about mathematics I won’t grasp too much of it, but it will challenge me in a way that will create new neural pathways. I’m constantly trying to immerse myself in some challenging things. Right now I’m learning how to code, which is challenging, but the challenge alone is the value.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

IM: My approach to mood is psychosomatic – there’s a mind body bridge. I try to be aware of that. I love to play basketball, do yoga, and these types of things to treat my body well and get as many chemicals firing in my brain. At the end of the day, gratitude is the most grounding concept that you go back to. If you’re having a bad day, think of someone having a worse day. It always works.

CJ: What book influenced you when you were younger?

IM: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

IM: Nothing I’ve done has ever been just me. At a young age, I would be mindful about people around you who are great at the thing that they do. Be good to those people and do things for them and stay in touch with those people. Grow your network. After years of that practice, you can activate on anything.

I would also put a couple of dollars away. A couple of dollars when you’re 20 is a lot of dollars when you’re older. Think about your future self. I have a character who is Future Ian and I’m also thinking about this guy.

Ian Manheimer Qs

Image: Ian Manheimer; unsplash

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We met Grace Gordy at a Seventeen Magazine internship in college. We worked together in the fashion closet, and it was clear that this girl had an eye for style. Flash forward years later, and Grace is running her own clothing store, Honey and Hazel Boutique, in Georgia. A surprise? Hardly. Grace has serious determination and a passion for creative endeavors. It’s not every day you hear about a young twenty-something opening up shop with trendy (and affordable!) contemporary clothing.

Grace opened Honey and Hazel Boutique with her mother, and this power duo is impressing us with their positivity and desire to learn more through their experiences. From an early age Grace knew that she wanted to be involved with fashion, and daily she makes her dreams come true. After spending time interning in the fashion industry and working for other clothing stores, Grace learned many skills along her journey and implements them on a daily basis. We’re excited to introduce you to our friend, style inspiration, and total #girlboss, Grace Gordy.

Name: Grace Gordy
Education: BFA in Fashion Marketing and Management from Savannah College of Art & Design
Follow: Facebook / Instagram

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’? 

Grace Gordy: To me, seizing your youth is all about creating your own path in life (or “march to the beat of your own drum”) and not worrying about what others are doing. I used to get so caught up in what I thought I should be doing at a particular age and always felt behind in my “career path,” but now I realize how thankful I am for all of my experiences because it led me to my ultimate dream come true.

Also I think seizing your youth means taking advantage of all of the opportunities that come your way. Your youth really is the best time to explore, be creative, meet people, make memories and experience as much as you can. Just live life with no regrets.

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CJ: You majored in Fashion Marketing and Management from Savannah College of Art and Design. How did you determine what to study?

GG: From a very young age I knew I wanted to be involved in fashion. I used to study fashion magazines from front to back and was determined to work for one so choosing a major was never any question; it was going to be fashion! I grew up in a small town where no one understood how you could make a career in the fashion industry and was actually told by teachers to go into a more “realistic” field, but I never let them sway me. My parents have always been so supportive of my choices and me and have always told me to follow my passion no matter what.  I couldn’t be more thankful for them! For anyone interested in majoring in fashion I would certainly recommend that you look into SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design). It was the most challenging four years of my life, but it paid off in a huge way. They have wonderful professors and a very well-rounded curriculum!

CJ: That’s incredible. You definitely put that education and the skills you learned to good use. Together you and your mother opened Honey & Hazel Boutique, a trendy contemporary clothing shop. We love that! What does your role entail and how do you and your mother divide up responsibilities?

GG: We are both co-owners so our roles basically entail everything! We both have total input into everything we do and are both always in the shop whether that means being on the floor helping our customers or in the office doing paperwork. She’s better at keeping up with the books and I handle most of the social media and marketing. We are very fortunate to have the kind of relationship we do; we are best friends, business partners, and mother/daughter. Opening this boutique together is such a great way for us to spend quality time together and do what we do best, which is being creative!

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CJ: You’ve done many interesting things throughout your career such as interning at Seventeen Magazine, working as a stylist, working in marketing, and being a logistics and operations coordinator. What have you learned from these experiences and how have they influenced you with opening your own shop?

GG: Having numerous jobs and internships since college really helped me to determine exactly what I wanted to do. It has always been a dream of mine to open a boutique. However, I thought it would happen MUCH further down the road. There have always been so many facets in the fashion industry that I was interested in and thankfully I was able to work and dabble in different areas to know what I did and didn’t like. Earlier I said that working for a fashion magazine was my goal and I was so blessed to get an internship in New York City at Seventeen Magazine. It was the most amazing experience of my life thus far, but it definitely taught me that that is NOT the place for me.

As much as I loved New York and loved the idea of having a fashion job in “the big city,” I knew I wasn’t cut out for it. I like the south too much, what can I say? After graduating I ended up moving to Charleston, South Carolina where I absolutely fell in love with the town and its charm. I had a few different jobs there, but my favorite and the one that ultimately led me to where I am now was being an Assistant Manager at a little boutique there. I loved the team of girls I had the pleasure to work with and loved the smaller feel of a boutique atmosphere. I’m definitely a people person and it gave me the opportunity to get to know our customers, as well as do the fun stuff, such as merchandising and being creative. That job definitely made me realize I was ready to have my own store!

CJ: That’s really inspiring. As great it is to figure out what you do love to do, realizing what you don’t want to do is just as important. What are the greatest lessons you have learned from running your boutique?

GG: Always work hard, be kind, and have patience! Also I’ve learned when you’re feeling overwhelmed, just stop and take a breath. Everything will be okay! Running your own business is a TON of work, but it’s extremely rewarding!

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CJ: What do you wish you had known before opening Honey & Hazel Boutique?

GG: Oh gosh, I wish I knew more about the accounting side and obviously that’s a HUGE part of having a business. Numbers and analytics have never been my thing. I’m a visual, creative person, but I’m certainly learning more every day.

CJ: What can a young person who is interested in owning a boutique do now to set themselves up for success?

GG: Get as much experience as possible! I interned at many different places to figure out what was best for me and what I wanted to do.

CJ: What would you say to people who are uncertain about starting a business? What motivated you to take the leap?

GG: Starting a business is scary and I honestly have learned so much over the last year that I never knew about before. My mom and I took the leap based heavily on faith. We were and are extremely passionate about what we wanted to do and believed in our idea. We just figured there’s no time like the present so let’s just work our hardest and see what happens! So far it’s going extremely well and I couldn’t be happier!

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CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on what’s happening in the shop and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

GG: Typically Monday isn’t a super busy shopping day so it’s a good time to re-merchandise the store, order inventory, clean, and meet with my Mom about what’s going on that week or what we need to get accomplished. We normally have a gazillion emails to respond to and plenty of bills to pay! I’m always Instagramming our new merchandise and coming up with new ways to showcase our products. Trust me, there’s ALWAYS something to do!

CJ: What are your time management tips? How do you stay organized and efficient?

GG: I’m a big proponent of making lists, writing things down, and having a planner with me everywhere I go. I have the worst memory in the world so if I don’t set reminders on my phone and or write it down I will be sure to forget! Plus, it’s a good excuse to get cute organization supplies!

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CJ: We agree! What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

GG: I definitely struggle with trying to do everything myself and it can be really stressful and overwhelming. I am trying to work on how to better delegate tasks and jobs to different people. Especially as our business grows and we build a bigger team through employees, I need to learn how to not try to take on everything and let others help me. That is something I’ve always struggled with. It’s even harder now because my boutique is like my baby!

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

GG: I would tell my 15-year-old self to not stress and worry so much. Everything works out the way it’s supposed to and you just have to have faith and follow your dreams!

Grace Gordy Qs

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Image: Grace Gordy

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

We are always so inspired by students who take the leap of faith into entrepreneurship while still taking classes and juggling a handful of other responsibilities. One of these inspiring students is Michelle Schechter, a current senior at Northwestern University who started the company For Real Dough. FRD takes a spin on a classic – chocolate chip cookies – and offers its customers an assortment of delicious edible cookie dough (that’s totally safe to eat!). In between classes and friends Michelle answers emails, dreams up new flavors, develops branding and packaging, and so much more. We are in awe of what she has accomplished so far, and can’t wait to see where she takes FRD next. Pass the cookie dough, please!

Name: Michelle Schechter
Age: 22
Education: Northwestern University
Follow: For Real Dough | Facebook | Instagram

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Michelle Schechter: I believe taking advantage of any point in my life is about being present. As we get older, we’re surrounded by more and more external (and largely technological) stimuli while becoming increasingly invested and obsessed with the next step, the next job, the next assignment, the next party, the next environment. I think by concentrating on being fully wherever I am and grateful for whatever that is, I have the best chance of stopping time from moving by so fast.

CJ: Why did you decide to attend Northwestern University for your undergraduate experience?

MS: At age 8, I fell madly in love with my next-door neighbor. He had his heart set on Northwestern and I decided right then and there that I did, too.

CJ: What are you studying? Do your passions for arts and cooking intersect at all?

MS: I’m pursuing a theater major, business minor, and music theatre certificate. I think I’ve realized my passions intersect more than I ever anticipated. Baking is creative and so is branding. They’re both very hands-on and experiential. And every business pitch or presentation is kind of like a mini performance.

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CJ: What originally drew you to cooking and experimenting in the kitchen?

MS: When I was about 6 or 7, I would present my own “Food Network Show” to anyone home who would listen. I would usually teach the viewers (my mom and dad) how to make cereal or a peanut butter sandwich. It was my absolute favorite game of make-believe. Maybe one day it won’t be make-believe.

CJ: As the CEO of For Real Dough, what do your day-to-day responsibilities entail?

MS: I oversee everything from production to branding. I’m in the kitchens once a week mixing up cookie dough. I’m also busy taking meetings, working on the website and brand design, conceptualizing flavors, and lots more. I have the help of some amazing friends and teammates who greatly contribute to the design and growth of the company.

CJ: Can you please tell us more about how FRD came to life?

MS: Yeah! I had the recipe for a few years and always loved cookie dough. But last Spring, I was enrolled in an Entrepreneurship class at Northwestern where I was able to explore the product in a more tangible way. At the end of the class, my team won a pitch competition and outside interest in the idea started growing. I decided to meet with the President of Northwestern on a whim to see if I could sell For Real Dough at the Northwestern Convenience Stores (“C-Stores”) and, after sharing samples and memories of cookie dough with everyone in the office, he agreed.

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CJ: How do you juggle finishing your senior year of college with friends, family, and business?

MS: It’s tough. And very busy. But I really try to spend my time and exert my energy towards things that bring me happiness and positivity. So at the end of the day, excitement and passion can overcome stress. It also helps to be surrounded by supportive and loving friends and family.

CJ: In your experience, what has been the most surprising part about entrepreneurship so far?

MS: The generosity of others. I never could have imagined that so many people would support and help turn a dream of mine into a reality. It’s been an incredibly humbling and eye-opening experience.

CJ: As a self-starter, how do you keep yourself on-track with goals and deadlines?

MS: I try to determine what success means for me and keep that goal in mind with every decision I make. From there, it’s passion for the project itself. It feels good to harness productivity and love and put it towards something that I know will make me feel artistically and intellectually fulfilled.

Michelle S Qs

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

MS: Wake up, have a little dance party, work hard towards my dreams, hug the people I love, take a nap, eat a snack, sleep.

CJ: What has been the best piece of personal advice you’ve been given?

MS: Your will to live must be stronger than your fear of death. (JK Rowling taught me that)

CJ: What has been the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given?

MS: You must believe that what you have to say and give to the world is important.

CJ: What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?

MS: Nothing is permanent. Laugh more. Believe in yourself; don’t wait for someone else to.

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Image (top to bottom): Jennifer Gamboa, Rafi Letzler, Justin Barbin

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We discovered Moni Yael Garcia by happy universal chance. While stumbling through the internet we landed on an amazing site called Real Heroines and were immediately mesmerized. The graphics, the stories, the layout – everything captured our attention and we needed to know who the mastermind behind it was. We are excited to introduce Moni Yael Garcia, freelance designer, illustrator, and entrepreneur extraordinaire! From web design, to photography, to mobile, to identity development, Moni does it all (and makes it look effortless!). We asked Moni to describe her work as a self-starter and where her life and creative inspiration comes from.

Name: Moni Yael Garcia
Occupation: Freelance Designer and Illustrator
Age: 27
Education: University of Texas at Austin
Follow Moni: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Dribbble

Carpe juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Moni Yael Garcia: Enjoying your time as an individual where responsibilities are few and self exploration leads to personal epiphanies.

 CJ: What originally drew you to design and illustration?

MYG: I’ve always had an interest in art and drawing. Even before kindergarten I would sculpt roses out of Play-Doh and dinosaurs out of aluminum foil. I really enjoyed experimenting with colors and drawing what I saw in picture books. I found these things relaxing and the only way to accurately understand myself and the world around me. I never considered design or illustration as a sustainable form of living. I went through various career choices from grade school to high school, and becoming an artist was never something I considered possible. Even though both my parents are creative individuals their careers have followed more traditional paths. Luckily, I came across the “graphic designer” occupation during a career research project for my 11th grade BCIS class. That’s when all my tension on choosing a career dissipated, and I finally had a direction I could wholeheartedly follow.

CJ: After graduating from University of Texas in Austin you struggled to find footing in the professional world – what made you decide to invest your time into late night tutorials and, in hindsight, was it worth it?

MYG: Late night tutorials were the only thing that kept me sane after graduating from UT. It was such a tough time for me. I couldn’t find a job for almost a year due to the competitive nature of the industry and the recession. The majority of places were under a hiring freeze and if they were looking for new employees, having no experience in the field just didn’t cut it. I only had one real internships under my belt and my skill level was bare minimum. Don’t get me wrong, my education in the University of Texas Design Program helped me immensely and gave me an understanding of design, the importance of concepts and the creative process. However, I needed more experience and a chance to level up my abilities as a designer. I actually treasure these obstacles now. They drove me to push through, take initiative, and reevaluate my goals.

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CJ: What was the main trigger that made you realize that the corporate environment wasn’t for you?

MYG: I would say the differences in our creative process. The pay was great, and the hours were predictable, but I found myself constantly frustrated in the way things were approached. Then after several months of trying to make it work I had a heart to heart with myself. Would I be happy working there for the next five years — heck even two? Did I see myself growing into the designer I wanted to be or would I fall into complacency? Would it be okay to go to a job that I would eventually come to hate every day? I saw no progress in site and that’s when I decided to make a change professionally.

CJ: What inspired you to create a personal website, and how has that affected you professionally?

MYG: The reason I decided to create my own personal website instead of using a standard template was because I felt it necessary. I wanted to showcase my work, creative skills, and personal story in an unconventional manner. I was ready to step out of my current situation and become a full-time freelancer. It was definitely a challenge filled with stress during the whole process, but ultimately I knew it would lead to my new identity. I strongly encourage all creatives to have their own website, or at least some form of a digital portfolio where they have the ability to showcase their own work. Behance, Cargo Collective, and WordPress are great places to start if developing your own custom website from scratch isn’t possible.

CJ: Can you please tell us more about your volunteerism work with the Boys and Girls Club Holthouse?

MYG: Well, for a couple of years I had the opportunity to share my Fridays with a group of 7 to 11 year olds at one of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston. I wanted to make the most out of my visits with these kids, so we set up “Club Tech”, in which we covered business, art, design, programming, and robotics. Basically everything I learned during and after college. I wholeheartedly believe it’s important to give back to others who may not have certain opportunities or resources available to them due to circumstances out of our control. Exposing younger generations to these subjects early in their development sets them up for success. I really tried to create a curriculum that encouraged creativity and problem solving. At times it was difficult to motivate them through a project though, since they already had a long week of school, but they were real troopers. Some of our favorite activities were, creating business cards for their fictional business, building real working cardboard robots, 3D printing figurines, and designing their own computer game. As long as I was able to open up a new world for one of those kids, I’m happy.

CJ: What advice would you give to younger artists/designers/illustrators who are still studying their craft?

MYG:  Five things. 1) Don’t overlook the history of your profession. It’s always a good idea to study the basics and build a strong foundation. 2) Dissect the world around you and don’t be afraid to recreate work you find inspiring. (Just don’t claim it as your own!) 3) Explore different concepts and techniques that spark your interest by jotting them down and finessing them through whatever medium necessary. 4) The more you make the more you learn. It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re in a competitive field, but nobody starts awesome. You need time to develop your skills and even find your passion. 5) Posting your process on a social media outlet is a great way to document your journey and can even help you land possible internships or jobs.

I think if you keep these things in mind you’ll be able to find your own voice and make great things.

CJ: How do you create and maintain a work-life balance?

MYG: Honestly, I’m still working on that. As a sole proprietor it’s up to you to find work, manage clients, execute projects, and develop your business. It can be stressful and rewarding at the sametime. My personal time almost always relates to my business time, though indirectly. Whether it be daily exercise to get my creative juices flowing, hiking expeditions as a form of self reflection, designing products for my online shop that require a more personal approach, and even sleeping to work through mental blocks. I like to use this time as fuel for what I do and want to accomplish. As I see it, let the way you live your life dictate how you approach your work.

CJ: As a self-starter, how do you keep yourself on-track with goals and deadlines?

MYG: Having a scattered “To-Do” list with no unforeseen end can be daunting. That’s why I’ve switched over to organize my priorities with a project checklist where I have the flexibility to assign daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. I plan out all my client work and personal projects in Producteev, a free online management software, and move on to display my weekly and daily tasks throughout my workspace. I’m a very visual person so seeing things I have to accomplish outside of the screen and on my whiteboardand post-it notes keeps me focused. Overall this process allows me to change between projects and stay productive when I’m burnt out with one in particular.

Moni Garcia QsCJ: Where did your love for women’s rights come from?

MYG: I can’t really pin point where my strong interest for women’s rights came from, but I’ve always been fond of encouraging others to reach their full potential, whether they be women, men, boys or girls. We’re all human and treating someone poorly due to gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, disability, or social status is baffling. Equality encourages a future of strong innovative thinkers and leaders, better economy, more creativity — not wanting everyone to be equal is just a stupid outlook.

CJ: How do you strive for equality in your everyday life?

MYG: Innately we all yearn for personal equality and acceptance. However, a constant barrage of negative comments and imagery can distort anyone’s understanding on how to treat others and even themselves. Personally, I stay true to my own convictions and openly express my concerns on issues that impede equality. Education on the subject is extremely important and in most cases allows people to reevaluate stereotypes they perceived as true. That’s why on August 26th my partner and I launched Real Heroines: an on going web project that compiles notable women who cultivated their minds and overcame adversity by defying social conventions. Through this site we hope to inspire female empowerment within men, women, boys and girls, from the action of their predecessors, so we can all move beyond gender stereotypes and grow as people. Education and an open mind brings awareness on equality, or any issue, really.

CJ: Growing up you were raised in a household that provided you with two different cultures – how did those experiences shape who you are as an adult?

MYG: I value knowledge and education and have a strong work ethic, but that’s more from being raised by a teacher and an engineer than being a second-generation Mexican-American. Growing up bilingual made me create a sort of pidgin involving a mixture of words and sound effects to express myself. Being the product of two cultures provides a perspective on problem-solving that neither culture might have on their own.

CJ: What is your favorite way that technology has changed over the past five years?

MYG: We’ve refined technology for so long that it’s much more accessible to individuals rather than only large corporations. This accessibility allows us to further integrate it into our society. An individual can now use technology to create something they’ve imagined with a degree of polish that used to only be possible with a team of people or large-scale machinery. 3D printing is a great example. And the whole thing is cyclical. The more we adopt, the more we refine, which in turn integrates it further into society.

CJ: What advice would you give to your eighteen-year-old self?

MYG: Take risks, stop waiting! Allowing your school curriculum to dictate your every move will only hinder your growth. Take the initiative to apply for internships, seek mentors, and invest in personal projects. These experiences will feed your creativity and raise your skill level ten fold before you graduate from college. Welcome obstacles that come your way and then kick them in the shins!

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Image: Courtesy of Moni Yael Garcia

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We met up with Shavanna Miller, the Co-Founder and CEO of Bloompop, earlier this fall in a coffee shop in the middle of bustling downtown Washington, D.C. Having grown up in the area, Shavanna knew the in’s and out’s of the metropolitan streets and kindly helped point lost passerbys in the right direction. It’s no wonder that she now runs an online marketplace that connects consumers with the best local florists across the country (think ‘Etsy for flowers’) – she is a natural community builder. Apart from providing beautiful flowers and an incredibly easy and enjoyable browsing and purchasing experience, Bloompop’s true success is in helping small businesses and consumers build a stronger community network.

Shavanna graciously shares her career trajectory, how she stays organized, and why she ultimately decided to come back to D.C. after having lived in so many great cities. This entrepreneur is making the world a better place one bouquet at a time, and we’re so excited to share her interview and introduce the face behind the flowers.

Name: Shavanna Miller
Occupation: Co-Founder/CEO, Bloompop
Age: 29
Education: The German School of Washington D.C.,B.S. in Environmental Science and Film Studies from Columbia University, London School of Economics and Political Science
Follow Shavanna: Facebook | Twitter |LinkedIn
Follow Bloompop: Bloompop | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Shavanna Miller: One thing I’ve tried to do is always say yes to opportunities. Whenever I’ve had to make a decision on something that could be important – whether its deciding to take a new job, making a leap into entrepreneurship, taking on additional work for a committee, or even helping someone else out – I’ve never regretted taking those opportunities – even if not everything pans out. There are a few times I’ve regretted not taking them for some reason or another, and that kind of regret is much worse. So my definition of Seizing Your Youth would be to act rationally about the opportunities you might take, but to ultimately take those opportunities, especially early on.

CJ: You studied film and environmental science at Columbia University – How did you decide what to study?

SM: Those were two topics I really loved on a personal level. For a while I thought that I was going to be working in film so a lot of my internships in school were related to that. I worked at a production company and an agency for actors. Those experiences were very fun and I still have many friends working in that industry. But somewhere along the lines I realized it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. The environmental side of things was a personal interest that I’ve always had. When I was growing up I raised and bred aquarium fish. My parent’s basement was filled with aquariums; I think I had 30 aquariums or so when I left for college. That was a lot of fun and it was how I learned about basic genetics, water quality, etc. I probably started that in the fifth grade and it’s something I hope to get back to when I have the space again.

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CJ: What did you do after you finished studying at the London School of Economics and Political science?

SM: When I finished graduate school I went back to New York. I started my career at Meetup, which was a great introduction to both the startup and tech worlds. It was smaller then than it is now, so I really had a chance to interact with every department. Eventually I left Meetup to go to Rosetta Stone in Washington, D.C., which was a fantastic experience as well and is also a great company. I was promoted there to ultimately be the head of web sales for the US consumer side of the business. I was responsible for a huge part of the company’s global annual sales – definitely a big, exciting thing to have on your shoulders. I had an amazing team there and we did everything from social marketing, to managing email and paid search platforms, to working with affiliates, you name it – basically anything related to digital sales. I managed a team of seven people who each had their own specializations. We were a very young, fun team and I loved the company.

CJ: What tools do you use daily to keep yourself organized?

SM: My sister is also an entrepreneur – she’s the CEO and co-founder of Kabinet based in New York – and the two of us have an ongoing debate about how we manage our time, and what tools we use. There are so many tools out there you can use, and I feel like you can have as many apps as there are people since everyone manages things differently. I’ve tried a million of them, but honestly I always end up coming back to a notepad and pen. I keep trying to figure out how to modernize this classic method with technology. I heard about a partnership between Moleskin and Livescribe recently which sounds like it could be exactly right for me. And of course I also use google calendar for meetings so it can sync to my phone, but for actual tasks I always come back to paper and pen To-Do lists. Old school.

CJ: What made you decide to come back to D.C. where you grew up after living in a couple of different cities?

SM: I actually came back to D.C. because of the Rosetta Stone opportunity. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a job here, but it came up and it was an exciting opportunity. So it was almost a coincidence that I grew up here, but it’s great being around my parents again and being back in this city.

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CJ: Where did you get the inspiration for Bloompop?

SM: I’m someone who has always personally loved flowers, and what I discovered as I looked into this space was that it’s a really outdated industry in more aspects than I’d initially realized. I knew that the experience for consumers was really terrible, but it was shocking to discover how detrimental it is to the florists themselves. Local florists will often work with a mega-network like 1800flowers etc, but they don’t get to create any of their own designs, have no creativity in the process, and to add insult to injury often barely make money off of those orders. I’ve actually spoken with many who literally lose money on filling orders for the big flower behemoths. It was an industry ripe for disruption. I decided to take my experience in digital sales and tech, combine it with my love for flowers, and tackle this outdated industry with better quality products, better tools for both florists and consumers, and modern tech and marketing experiences.

CJ: What has been the greatest success since having started Bloompop?

SM: Definitely putting my team together. Matt, my co-founder and CTO, for example, is brilliant and also somebody who is such a perfect cultural fit with the company. The two of us get along amazingly and I’m finding that that’s incredibly important. We all spend so much time together, so being able to find the right people – on both a personal and professional level – has been one of my biggest successes. It was a very deliberate thing in finding them and building our team; it wasn’t something I took lightly.

bloompop launch

CJ: Can you please tell me a bit about your past experience with The Craft Factory?

SM: I’ve always been into DIY projects. Craft factory was something I started when I was back at Meetup. It was a group that came together every month and worked on a project together. I think that DIY is a stress reliever for me because at Bloompop so much of my day-to-day is digital – from web sales and marketing to product work – it’s very much sitting front of a laptop. DIY is a nice way to do something with your hands.

CJ: You also have an Etsy shop called HudsonScout – can you please tell us more about that?

SM: I’ve been an Etsy seller for several years now – it’s great because it has really helped in my understanding of the supply side of an online marketplace. Which obviously comes in handy now with Bloompop. My shop on etsy sells first birthday candles. I actually started HudsonScout by selling candles in every number, but what I eventually saw was that nearly 95% of orders were for First Birthday candles. So now that’s really what the whole focus is.

CJ: Although you’re a young company, has Bloompop hired interns before?

SM: We had two interns last summer but none currently. I feel like hiring interns at such a small company can have a huge impact – it’s a combination of figuring out what they can be doing that really has an impact and also providing them with a valuable experience. We want interns who will be excited about Bloompop and become serious contributing members of the team.

CJ: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

SM: Become friends with professors at CU’s business school.

Image: Courtesy of Bloompop

Shavanna Miller Qs

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We love discovering people who are just as passionate about reading as we are, and Matthew Richardson is one of these people. We learned about Matthew Richardson through his company, Gramr Gratidue Co., which helps people make gratitude a habit through the form of thank you notes. Amazing, right? Matthew’s campaign to start a cultural movement for gratitude involves encouraging others to send thank-you notes, articles on The Huffington Post educating people on how to incorporate gratitude into their lives, and by sending thank-you notes himself. This is exactly the type of campaign we can get behind 100%.

Matthew is passionate about his pursuits, and when he finds something that moves him, he explores it further. Case in point: Matthew took a year off during his studies at Claremont McKenna College to hitchhike across 14 countries after reading the works of Henry David Thoreau. Inspired yet? Even now as a busy entrepreneur, Matthew makes time to read, write, remain curious about the world around him, and express gratitude daily. And we couldn’t agree more with the advice Matthew would tell his 15-year-old self: “Read.”

Name: Matthew Richardson
Age: 25
Education: B.A. in Literature from Claremont McKenna College
Follow: Gramr Gratitude Co. / Twitter / MattRyanRich.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Matthew Richardson: I think that it means very nearly the same thing as “Seize the Day” — that is, for as long as you’re able to see the importance of taking ownership of your own life and circumstances, then you have that spark of youth in you… you have as much energy and passion as it takes to create something of value for the world.

Also, I may be biased but as an entrepreneur with an academic background in Literature, I can’t help but equate siezing one’s youth or life or day, with creating something artistic, something that wouldn’t otherwise exist if you didn’t step up and pull resources together to make it happen.

CJ: You majored in Literature at Claremont McKenna College. How did you determine what to study?

MR: Like most every undergraduate I changed my major a few times before hitting my stride. I started out as an economics major with a focus on finance… but really couldn’t get passionate about anything that I was learning. It seemed both overly practical and totally impractical. I saw the value of economics in everyday decisions, but that very fact seemed soul-less to me.

I took a course in Russian Literature, read Tolstoy; which allowed me to see the infinitely reaching application of classic literature and philosophy. This led to Thoreau, which caused me to leave CMC for a year and hitchhike/camp across 14 countries, and read everything I could get my hands on. I returned to school with a passion for literature, and I felt as if I had made up for some lost time by reading dozens and dozens of classic works during that year off. Without going into it deeply here, I feel as though Literature is the best liberal arts discipline if your interest is ultimately in becoming an entrepreneur.

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CJ: You are the Co-Founder of Gramr Gratitude Co., a company that helps people make gratitude a habit through the form of thank you notes. What inspired the idea for Gramr Gratitude Co.?

MR: In the beginning we wanted to shake up the greeting card game and create an alternative to Hallmark that was so cool and trendy that they wouldn’t be able to help but acquire it. Very quickly, Brett (my co-founder) and I found that we were trying to run before we could walk and that we also didn’t care much about greeting cards in general. One niche that was particularly compelling, however, was the thank-you note. It didn’t depend on a holiday or an obligation — it had the potential to suggest a lifestyle. Gratitude seemed very important to us, and often overlooked as a virtue because it had no tangible commodity to represent it.

Meanwhile every business under the sun was developing programs for social benefit — following the lead of TOMS shoes which gives one pair of shoes to underprivileged children for every pair of shoes they sell. Generosity, then, was booming, because you could wear it on your feet, or chest, or wrist. But gratitude didn’t have anything like that, and we decided to make a concerted effort at becoming the face of the virtue. It was a word and a concept that was up for grabs, and we were the first to market — now we are continuing to try to think of ways to cement our concept into the contemporary context that is consumed by technology and efficiency. It is challenging but infinitely rewarding.

CJ: What responsibilities do you have as the Co-Founder?

MR: I lead creative projects, design, and partnerships.

CJ: How do you and your Co-Founder balance the workload?

MR: My Co-Founder is in charge of operations and business processes. But there is huge overlap — we are both frequently consulting each other and helping carry different loads that fall outside of the bounds of our broad responsibilities.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from running your own company?

MR: It’s very hard and there are many hundreds of things you don’t think about or plan on when idealizing a company from the outside looking in.

CJ: What do you wish you had known before starting Gramr Gratitude Co.?

MR: That your website should be a minimum viable product because building something before you know how people will interact with it is a guessing game. We guessed wrong on several things, including our web host, and e-commerce platform. Both mistakes that are costly and time consuming to redevelop.

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CJ: What advice do you have on how to finance and budget when running your own business?

MR: In the beginning, ask people you know, who you trust, and who can give you more than just capital. We happen to have a very strong core of advisors, and that is more important than capital. We also raised 63k on Kickstarter. Crowdfunding is a good option for bootstrappers, but it also has scores of drawbacks that you can’t know until you’ve been hosed by them.

CJ: What can a teenager or young adult who wants to start their own company do now to set themselves up for success?

MR: Read.

CJ: What would you say to people who are uncertain about starting a business? What motivated you to take the leap?

MR: Surround yourself with people who fit more into a day than you fit into a week.

CJ: You write articles for The Huffington Post about gratitude. What are your favorite ways to show gratitude?

MR: Writing thank-you notes, or Gramrs. Especially to people who wouldn’t expect it. One of my favorite thank-you notes I ever wrote was to the server at Dr. Grubbs, a year after I last went there, for being such a joyful and wonderful person over the few years that I patronized that incredible restaurant.

CJ: You are an avid reader. How do you fit reading into your day, and which book has had the greatest impact on you?

MR: When I am in a good rhythm I am getting up at 5am and reading for an hour before I start my day. This allows you to get through about a book a week. This is my favorite time of the day.

I recommend East of Eden by John Steinbeck to everyone I meet. Sometimes before I introduce myself. It is enormously valuable.

CJ: Describe a day in your life.

MR: Wake up at 5. Make coffee. Read for an hour. Write for an hour. Sometimes workout for an hour. Start trying to get through the three biggest priorities I’ve set for the day — try and finish this before 12. Meetings, calls, work from 12 to 6-ish. Wind down in a variety of ways. Drink wine and Yerba Mate. Try and read some more. Write down the three things I must get done the following day before noon. Go to sleep ~11pm.

CJ: How do you balance your career roles and goals? How do you stay organized and efficient?

MR: This is something I constantly try and optimize — but OmniFocus is good, and Mailbox App keeps emails organized and out of the way. The best thing I’ve found is that figuring out what the three things you need to get done before noon are is the best way to get stuff done.

CJ: How do you like to enjoy your free time?

MR: I read, eat tacos, spend up to 10 minutes creating cups of single origin coffee, and tinker around with a handful of side projects.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

MR: Read.

Matt Rich Qs