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.

Skills

Hopefully I’ve won you over in Part I about how informational interviews work wonders for you and your career. Now that you’re ready to jump into some interviewing, I know it can be overwhelming to read through all the tips and tricks of the trade. It’s important to realize that the “right” way is ultimately contingent upon your personality. At the same time, don’t feel like just because you’re an introvert, that you will have a more challenging time than extroverts — that’s certainly not the case! I’m a big proponent of not forcing yourself to do anything you truly don’t want to, but I am also a believer in pushing boundaries for personal growth. It’s simply a matter of allowing yourself to be open to the process.

With that said, here are my 4 tips for conducting your first informational interview.

Do your research. Be honest about who you want to interview and don’t pick individuals whose careers you aren’t sincerely curious about. It will be much harder to come up with interview questions without genuine interest (and it’ll be ridiculously awkward for the both of you!). I suggest researching as many people as you can (via LinkedIn, company websites, etc.) that you can actually meet in person. Search for types of industries, roles, and job descriptions and keep a list of the ones that catch your eye.

For extra points, try to find people through your own connections. They will be able to facilitate the introduction and mention some good things about you, too! But for now, just focus on learning as much as you can about these people: find out about their professional history, learn about their educational background, find the current office location, and read any published articles – you get the picture. This all prevents you from asking obvious questions during your interview, as well as gives you a better idea of whether or not they are the right fit for you.

Introduce Yourself. When introducing yourself via email, keep it short and to the point. This is probably the most uncomfortable part, but I promise it’s a breeze! Here’s a quick example:

“Dear ________, I’m a student at ______ University, majoring in ________. I’ve read some of your articles on __________ and I’m considering a career in ___________ as well. I’d really love to learn more about the work you do as an ______________, and was hoping I can take you for a quick coffee to learn more about it. I noticed that your company’s office is in ________, and I’ll actually be in the area next week. Please let me know when you’re available, I would sincerely appreciate it!”

You won’t always get a response, but you’d be surprised how many people will. After a couple of more email exchanges, send your résumé to give an idea of who you are (even if it’s already on LinkedIn). If you’re a student or a young professional that is just starting out, don’t feel self-conscious about not having a super stellar resume just yet. You’re reaching out to them for help, remember?

The Interview: Be interested, not interesting. Remember, you are interviewing them. Don’t worry about not having much to say – you’re not supposed to! Your job is to learn about their experience, skills, and challenges. Prepare at least 15-20 questions to direct the flow of your interview and be as professional as you would be for a job interview (dress appropriately and make eye contact!). If you promised a 30-minute interview, then deliver exactly that. Prior to the 30-minute mark, kindly mention that you are aware of their busy schedule, and that you’re happy to continue the conversation next time. If they’re still able to continue their time with you, great! If not, it’s a good way to smoothly end the interview. They’ll appreciate your mindfulness and this gives you an open door to reach out to them again.

Seal the deal. Conclude the interview by asking if they have any recommendations on other professionals who you can connect with. When you reach out to these new individuals, you will already have a mutual connection that will make networking easier. At the same time, you will be building a positive, professional reputation for yourself. Last but not least, send a thank you card (yes, an actual card with an envelope, and buy a stamp to mail it). There is no exception!

Follow-up with them from time to time to keep the connection going. Sometimes I like to send a short email update on how their advice influenced my decisions at work or school. Other times, it’s just a link to an article that they might enjoy. Either way, the objective is to remind them of how they helped you and that they are appreciated.

The more you conduct informational interviews, the more comfortable you will be speaking to successful (and perhaps intimidating) people. The amount of knowledge and insight that you gain out of them are immeasurable and can truly change the course of your future. Remember, there’s no such thing as failing or embarrassing yourself when you’re coming from a place of sincerity. Good luck!

Image: Pexels

Skills

Think back to a time when you couldn’t decide which class to take in college. Even easier, think of a time you needed advice on a restaurant to go to for your birthday. What are some things you did to help you figure it out? For me, I spoke with my friends who had taken the class already, and asked for restaurant recommendations. I was definitely not willing to decide without getting the facts first. It’d be crazy to gamble on something so important, right?

The same goes for your career.

Informational interviewing is the most powerful tool you can use to explore if a career or path is right for you. In this scenario, you are the interviewer seeking out individuals who are already in the role or industry that you want to learn more about. Many people use informational interviews for job hunting, while others use them to find their passion. It’s like having a crystal ball and getting to see what your future could look like, without all the uncertainty and jumping through hoops.

By conducting these interviews, you could avoid making huge, expensive mistakes by learning about someone else’s journey. Remember those job fairs or open-house events with all the clubs and societies at school? There’s a very simple reason for them: to learn from people about what they know best. That’s it! And informational interviews are no different. They open doors to meet like-minded individuals, help you gain mentors, and provide unexpected (but tremendously helpful) opportunities you wouldn’t have been given otherwise. People are the best resources for knowledge and everyone’s got a story to tell.

Of course, if you’ve never conducted an informational interview before, I know it can seem awkward and intimidating. We worry about looking silly, being embarrassed, and not knowing how to act or what to say. The reason it doesn’t feel natural is because we’re spoiled by getting what we want without much real-life human interaction. But if you can get past all the excuses that keep you from taking a leap towards what you want, the rewards are worth the risk. Plus, the person you want to interview already knows why you’re contacting them anyway, it’s not like it’s a big secret. I guarantee you they’ll be super flattered!

If you still need convincing that informational interviewing is the fast-track to achieving your goals, here’s what they reflect about you:

  1. You are focused, determined, and results-oriented. (And these won’t just be words on your resume.)
  2. You are fearless. You can prove that your actions speak louder than your words. Think about it – not all people would have the guts to find a specific person, introduce themselves out of nowhere, and ask how’d they get to be so awesome and successful.
  3. You are confident in your ambitions and recognize that success is not achieved single-handedly.
  4. You’ve got goals and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve them. However other people get their information is their business, but you have decided to actively find what you need to know to make your life worth it.

Whether you’re looking for a new job or trying to find yourself, don’t be scared to just ask. You might not learn everything from a single interview, but the process itself is a learning opportunity. Who knows, your first interview could change your whole future (it did for me!).

Image: Unsplash

EducationSkills

The almost-there feeling of getting an interview for graduate school is both an exciting and daunting one. You feel accomplished for sending out those applications and validated that you are headed in the right direction. So pat yourself on the back for making it to the next step and get ready for your interview the right way.

First and foremost, be yourself. Your background and interests were what brought you to the interview and now it’s just a matter of figuring out if the program is the perfect fit for you. Faculty, staff, and current students that are interviewing you are looking for students who are genuinely interested in their program and have unique skills and interests to offer. Believing that you are capable and ready is the best way to start preparing. Once you have that covered, prepare with these four tips:

1. Research and Relate

You’ve researched the school in-depth and you know what it stands for. You know the school’s mission and the goals of your program of interest. Now it’s time to familiarize yourself with more specific information. Look into the course catalog and read about the classes you would be taking. Jotting down notes about the learning outcomes for each course can help give you a framework of the “language” and style of the program. Are there specializations that you are interested in? If so, ask yourself why they interest you.

If you are seeking graduate school, there has been some sort of spark within you that has motivated you to learn more. Asking yourself to examine that spark can help you verbalize how your personal history blends with your curiosity for the program. Other details to look for include what types of internship or fieldwork opportunities they offer, graduate assistantships or fellowships, and faculty-specific research interests that tie in with yours. It’s helpful to have this sort of knowledge bank so you can connect what you have learned and experienced so far with what you will be learning in the future.

2. Know the Interview Format

It’s always good to know if you will be in an individual or group interview. In many cases, a program representative will let you know via phone or email what the interview dynamic will be like. If not, it’s okay to inquire with an admissions counselor. Individual interviews allow you to be the main focus of the panel. One of the best ways to prepare is by writing a list of possible interview questions and having a friend conduct a mock interview with you. Pay attention to the length of your answers. Are you being concise or talking too long? Are you saying “um,” “you know,” and other filler words? What are your hands, arms, and legs doing while you’re talking? Have a colleague take note of fidgeting, awkward pauses, volume, and eye contact.

With group interviews, the attention is divided and things can get a little tricky. Fortunately, there are ways to make group interviews go a lot more smoothly. For starters, non-verbal communication can keep you engaged throughout the interview even when you’re not the one talking. Nodding your head in response to others shows that you are listening and open to what everyone is saying. If the panel asks a question and does not direct anyone to start answering, wait a few moments to gauge the room and be the first to answer if you are ready. If another person begins to answer first, do not worry. The most important thing is what you say, not when you say it. If you’re looking for a way to begin your answer, try short starter statements like “I’ll start this one off,” or “I agree with that and have a similar experience as well,” or “I’ve considered this a lot while applying and…,” or “There are a few things that come to mind including _____ and ______.” Statements like these will help you ease into your answer and help you sound prepared and reflective.

3. Prepare with Questions That Ask More

It is common for faculty and program directors to ask questions that dig deeper than the expected “So why choose our school?” question. Rather than asking a question at surface level, they may ask a question with a different angle to examine how you respond to more difficult subject matter. For example, rather than asking about your opinions or experience with diversity, they may ask what about diversity makes you uncomfortable and how you see yourself overcoming that. Rather than just asking what makes you a good candidate for the program they may ask what you have done to prepare yourself for the rigor of graduate studies. It’s always a good idea to ask yourself the hard questions before the real thing.

4. Absorb and Emit Positivity

Although you may be nervous during your interview, good energy can get you through it. Condition yourself with positive thoughts before and during the interview. Having good thoughts about yourself and those around you can show through the tone of your voice, facial expressions, and body language. It can also calm you down if you begin to feel anxious. Feel excited about the opportunity at hand to meet professionals at each school. Feel proud of your accomplishments and thankful for the chance to share more about yourself. Remind yourself that the outcome of your interview does not define you as a person and that whatever comes your way is for your benefit. You have come a long way to now be in a turning point towards graduate studies. Be confident and be you, and the rest will fall right into place.

Image: Flickr

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

CollegeEducation

High school seniors all over are going through the same struggle right now. That’s right, college applications and interviews! As the deadlines start rolling in, many colleges start offering interviews which mainly take place between January and March. Here are the key aspects of what to expect:

First Contact

You get an email greeting you. Your interviewer has been assigned to you and introduces his or herself. They then ask for a place to meet, and may already have a suggestion. In my experience, all the interviewers had day jobs (one even worked at Goldman Sachs) and are really busy. They’re accommodating you because they’re alumni to the school you want to apply for. That’s why you should schedule a time that you definitely won’t be late for. Make sure you can get to the place on time. Sometimes it’s the college itself, sometimes it’s at Starbucks. Wherever it is, be polite and be quick to respond.

Preparation

Now that you know who your interviewer is, it’s time to do some research. Besides knowing as much as you can about the school, find out more about the person who is interviewing you. Can you find out what they’re doing now, what they majored in, or what year they graduated? It gives you a sense of what their experiences were like, and you can ask more informed questions during the interview.

Remember to dress appropriately for the interview. No chipped nail polish, graphic T­-shirts, or skin-baring outfits. It is pretty common to see seniors wearing collared shirts because they had an interview that day after class.

If it’s a webcam interview, which is an option for many colleges, make sure to be dressed appropriately and have decent lighting. Try to be in a room that wouldn’t be too noisy or that has too many distractions in the background.

The Day Of

Even though you’re really nervous, it’s alright. At this point, you should have practiced answering potential questions and have written your own for the interviewer. You are prepared! That’s why you can look your interviewer in the eye in a friendly, relaxed manner and that is why you have a solid and comfortable handshake.

The interviews themselves have a similar pattern. “Tell me about yourself. Tell me why you want to attend this college. Tell me what you know about this college. What makes this college the one, and not another college?” Try to come up with answers beforehand.

Then they turn the tables over to you. “Do you have any questions?” This is where your research comes in. Ask about a club you might be interested in, or about living options and the main benefits your interviewer got out of attending that college.

Follow Up

Yes. You have to do one more thing. The Thank You note. Remember, this person took time out out of a busy schedule to talk to you. The least you can do is show your respect. Try to reference things you talked about in the interview so they can remember you out of all the other students they’ve interviewed. It shows you’re interested, and you’ll stand out.

Applying for colleges is rough, and doing interviews for them can be scary. It’s alright, everyone feels that way. With enough practice and information, you can become comfortable with the process. Good luck!

Image: Gratisography

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.

Jennifer Gamboa

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

Skills

I recently had a job interview. It was my first in-person job interview ever. After a lot of hard work and preparation, it was finally time for the interview. The following day, I found out via email that I did not get the job. While the news was disappointing, I did appreciate having an answer so I could move on. This disappointment actually gave me more motivation than I had before. 

I will preface my stance by saying I am currently employed somewhere else. The job I have allows me to pay my bills. I will not starve based on getting rejected for another position. I can understand how rejection can weigh harder on someone else who needs a job for survival.

Even though I did not get the job that I applied for, there were benefits to the experience. I am a believer that you can learn something from everything you do in life. From the interview, I became aware of things I needed to work on. For example, while I was confident in my appearance and my handshake, I realized that I needed to be more present in the moment. I had learned little about the company, and I could have prepared better by doing more research. I also thought of answers to sample interview questions. However, when questions I was not prepared for came up, I drew a blank. There were long pauses in the interview. As I scrambled for an answer, I became less confident. I learned that I need to work on improving my ability to think on my feet.

After my first interview, I am less nervous for the next one and any that may come after that. I have experience to draw from. I have ways to improve. Even if I did not get this job, I have a better chance of getting one in the future by growing from my failure rather than by wallowing in it. No matter how your interview goes, if you keep developing and try your best, you should feel good about it.

My last point is that even if you get rejected from a job, you are not a failure. Despite expressions to the contrary, you can fail a class, but there is no such thing as failing at life. If you do not get a job, you simply are just not right for the job at the moment. It does not mean you will not be the right person for the job in the future. There is always time to improve. Learn your lessons now so when your time comes, you will be ready.
Image: Caro Wallis, Flickr

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When you walk into one of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream shops, the smell of waffle cone overwhelms you in the best kind of way. The stores are a light turquoise color with the cutest logo of Molly’s pup Parker Posey licking an ice cream cone. People of all ages, from young children to their grandparents, gather at Molly Moon’s and wait in the long lines that form down the block. Molly Moon’s is more than just an ice cream shop; it is a community gathering spot where locals and visitors from afar travel to get a taste of Molly’s delicious ice cream. With flavors such as Honey Lavender, Earl Grey, Salted Caramel, Maple Walnut, and Melted Chocolate, to name a few, it’s no wonder why Molly Moon’s is so beloved.

As big fans of Molly Moon’s ice cream, we were thrilled to talk to the woman behind the cone, Molly Moon Neitzel. In six years, Molly Moon’s has grown to six shops around the Seattle area. You can even get her ice cream at Hello Robin Cookies for some seriously good ice cream cookie sandwiches. Not only is Molly a savvy businesswoman, but having worked at an ice cream shop all through college in Montana, she is also a skilled ice cream maker. While she originally wanted to be a political reporter and journalist, Molly’s career path changed when she moved to Seattle and noticed a lack of ice cream shops and community gathering spots. She is proof that you never know where life will take you.

If you want to run your own ice cream shop, business, or just love ice cream, Molly has great advice and tips that she has learned over the years. We’re definitely inspired by her and all that she has accomplished.

Name: Molly Moon Neitzel
Age: 35
Education: B.S. in Journalism from the University of Montana – Missoula
Follow: Twitter / Website

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

A unique quality about youth is that you have far less to lose. That was a really big driving factor for me to start a business young and just go for it. I wasn’t married, I didn’t have kids, I didn’t own a house, I had nothing to lose. I had an $800 dollar a month apartment and a puppy, and I wasn’t going to lose her if I lose a business. That has been pretty defining for me.

You majored in Journalism at the University of Montana – Missoula. How did you determine what to study?

Since I was in 3rd grade, I thought I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to be a political reporter for television or radio, so that’s what I went to school for. I wanted to be Gwen Ifill.

What was your first job out of college?

Out of college, I was a fundraising event coordinator at University of Washington Medicine. We raised money for all the medical research and the Medical School, and UW Neighborhood Clinic, Harborview Medical Center, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. I planned fundraising events for Harborview’s uncompensated care program, breast cancer research, and some Alzheimer’s research.

You spent time as a Founding Executive Director at Music for America. What did your role there entail?

I helped to start the organization with a bunch of other people in their early- to mid- twenties. I managed the people in the programs, partnered with bands to register their fans to vote, and then educated those people on political issues that might mobilize them to vote, and then we did a lot of voter turnout work. We brainstormed ideas about how to execute the mission and accomplish the programs and manage the people. 50% of my job was fundraising to pay to keep the organization going.

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You went from music and politics to ice cream. In 2008, you opened Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. What inspired you to start an artisan ice cream company?

I really went from ice cream to music and politics back to ice cream. My job all through college was at an ice cream shop. I worked at the Big Dipper in Missoula. I worked there for three and a half years. I was a scooper at first, then I was an ice cream maker, and I helped manage the shop a bit. I had seen all of the ways to run an ice cream shop, and I knew how to make ice cream.

When I wanted to leave Music for America because fundraising is hard and I was burnt out, I decided to come back to Seattle. I was talking to my mom on the phone wondering what to do with my life, and she said, “Why don’t you just open an ice cream shop? Then you can be your own boss and do it the way you want to do it.” That sounded good to me and I ran with that idea. I wrote my business plan, found investors, and took those steps.

What have been the greatest challenges in running your company?

Well – knock on wood! – I don’t feel like I’ve had a lot of crazy challenges. We’ve had the normal challenges that a lot of small business have. You grow a lot and then you have to work with having more employees and make them feel taken care of. The people part can be tough. The biggest challenge for me personally has been juggling the business when it competes with personal life. That has been challenging for me as a business owner, and it’s something that people who want to own their own business should really think about. A business is like a child and it’s going to suck all of your energy and compete with everything else in your life.

Your experience at Big Dipper Ice Cream gave you experience running an ice cream shop, but what have you learned from Molly Moon’s about how to run an ice cream company?

I have a lot of small business owners in my family. My dad is a General Contractor and I watched him run his small business. My grandparents owned a saloon that was the central gathering place for politicians, lawyers, and professionals in our small town in Idaho.

One thing that I’ve learned from Molly Moon’s is that instead of cutting costs, it’s wiser to increase sales. Figure out how to make more money rather than skimping on things. That feels better for your customer, feels way better for your employees, and it keeps you in a positive and optimistic mentality. When you get focused on cutting costs, you can get really negative.

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

I think that risk is really good. I’ve followed my gut and have taken risks. Know that you can fix mistakes and everything works out, but not taking risks is boring and stagnant and as likely to make you fail.

What does a day in your life look like?

I wake up with my one-year-old sometime between 5:30am and 7:30am. We hang out as a family for 30 minutes, then we get ready and start our days. Many days I’ll stop by our new shop on 19th and Mercer, which is inside a cookie shop called Hello Robin that is owned by a dear girlfriend of mine. I’ll check in on Robin, get a coffee or a scone, chat with her about the day, and get to work around 10:00am. Most days I have about six or seven meetings, and I am here until 5:00pm. My days are packed with talking and thinking, and I hardly have time to get to email. I’m often in bed at 8:30pm.

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

Work in an ice cream shop. Get practical experience and ask to do different jobs within the same company to get perspective. I was a scooper, but I also made ice cream and learned how to write the schedule for the employee shifts. If you’ve only been a scooper or in the kitchen or in the IT department, you won’t know the full picture. Learn how to look at things from different angles.

What motivates you?

Now what motivates me is being the breadwinner for my family. When I started, what motivated me was not having a boss, being able to do something where I could have my own politics. I paid for health insurance right away for people who worked for me and everything is compostable. That was very motivating for me, to be in charge of our role in the community at large.

Another big motivation for starting Molly Moon’s was what I experienced when I moved to Seattle in 2001. There were no ice cream shops and I never saw people under 21 or over 40 years old. I went months without seeing people from another generation. It was shocking to me. I thought, if Seattle had a cool ice cream shop, maybe there would be a place where multiple generations would gather at once. That was a big thing for me, and I think that we’ve accomplished that. I think all of our six shops are multi-generational.

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What are your ice cream making tips?

Don’t let anything thaw and then refreeze – that makes it icy. Pair flavors together that you think are good in savory dishes. If you’re using an ice cream machine that has a frozen bowl, make sure to freeze it more than eight hours. Make sure it’s super cold. The best texture you’re going to get is from that freezing element being the coldest is can possibly be.

If you could enjoy an afternoon eating ice cream with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what kind of ice cream would you make?

Madeleine Albright and I feel like she would like Maple Walnut because people from her generation usually like Maple Walnut, but maybe she would be a Salted Caramel and Hot Fudge girl.

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

My 15-year-old self was pretty cool. I was such a hippie, but I don’t regret that. It was good to express myself that way. I am still pretty true to who I was at that age. I would say keep being true to yourself and your ideas. Keep being willing to speak your mind. As a kid you can feel tampered down or that you should fit in and be quiet, and I didn’t really feel that way as a teenager. I was okay with standing out and speaking my mind. I’m still that way, and I’m proud of that.

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

She’s the Director of Marketing for Minyawns, a fashion blogger, a visual stylist intern at Nordstrom, and a Carpe Juvenis contributor. Is there anything this girl can’t do?! Whitney Cain has impressed us since Day 1. She is currently student at the University of Washington while also being heavily involved in outside activities and businesses. She’s fun to be around, smart, and has loads of energy. Her love of fashion and photography is apparent in her blog, and she dresses to impress (no wonder Nordstrom snatched her up!). At just 20 years old, Whitney definitely knows how to seize her youth, and we can all learn a thing or two from her. Continue reading to learn more about this awesome go-getter…

Name: Whitney Cain
Age: 20
Education: B.A. in Marketing from the University of Washington, Minoring in Earth and Space Sciences (just for kicks)
Follow: Whits About Her

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

I define seizing my youth as taking advantage of all opportunities presented and in the process, learning more about myself through the exploration of personal interests. In your youth, I think it is imperative to try everything and just go places because there will be no other time in our lives when we will be handed the freedom of youth and gifted the lack of responsibility.

You are majoring in Marketing at the University of Washington. What does this major involve and how did you determine what to study?

This major involves studying all the different forms of business (such as accounting, finance, management) while focusing primarily on the study of marketing. It is extremely difficult to be admitted into the Foster School of Business and I consider my admittance one of the proudest moments of my life. In addition to majoring in Business Marketing, I am also pursuing a minor in Earth and Space Sciences, just for kicks. I have also been interested in science and specifically geomorphology, so I thought what better chance to explore that interest while also getting to go on various field trips across our beautiful state. In one of my classes we actually drove out to Leavenworth, Washington and drove up this hill overlooking the city. It had one of the most beautiful views and is now one of my favorite spots to go if I ever find myself out East.

You have had multiple marketing and social media internships. What experiences have been your favorite, and what were the biggest takeaways from those experiences?

I have! It is really difficult at our young age to really know what we are interested in most or what we actually excel at. With this in mind, I thought I’d try a smattering of different internships to better figure out what I am actually intrigued by and what actually interests me. That’s the whole point of internships! My favorite has probably been my last internship with a social media marketing firm.

As ironic as this may sound, I personally dislike all forms of social media but for whatever reason, am really good at doing the social media for companies. To make it even more confusing, I like it. Not a clue why! This just goes to show that although I would’ve initially thought I wouldn’t be suited for social media marketing, it looks like I am. So try things people! For crying out loud I worked in the regulatory department of a chemical distributor for six months. I have ample reporting abilities and a ridiculous amount of acronyms to show for it!

You were the Vice President of Alumni Relations and Sponsorship at UW’s American Marketing Association. What have you learned from your experience with AMA?

The AMA has been one of the best organizations I have ever been part of. I feel like I say this a lot, and about a lot of things, but if you were to ask me if I thought joining a club was a good idea a couple of years ago, I would’ve said no. But then again, I didn’t really know what I was doing or what I wanted to do a couple of years ago. I joined the AMA this year thinking that it would be a great opportunity to network and meet a lot of professionals who could hopefully hook me up with a sweet job. I got that, and a whole lot more.

Being part of this club has opened an unbelievable amount of doors for me and really polished my professional persona. Not to mention holding a VP title as a student says a lot about your work ethic and get’s the conversation going. Being a VP has brought me internships, professional contacts, close friends, and even hooked me up with a start-up that wanted to hire me on as their director of marketing. Boom. Being a member of a club or organization in college gives you credibility that you can’t get anywhere else. If I were to recommend anything to anyone wanting to go into business, I’d tell them to join a club and to have fun with it. Big things can happen.

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You recently started a fashion blog called Whits About Her. Where does your love of fashion come from?

It’s funny but I don’t really know! I’ve always just been fascinated with fashion and everything to do with beauty and as a youngster I was constantly getting into my Mom’s makeup stash that I actually ruined half of it experimenting but that’s another story.. I started asking for magazines and fashion books for Christmas and started building up an encyclopedia of designers and fashion houses. From there I’ve just kept learning and reading and blog following! I was told repeatedly that I should start a fashion blog and I kinda thought, hey why not! I am a photographer on the side so I’ve acquired an eye for the kind of thing. It’s a great little hobby and a great excuse to go shopping (not that I’m condoning excessive spending, but, kinda).

You are the Director of Marketing for Minyawns. What is Minyawns and what responsibilities do you have as the Director of Marketing?

Well hey! This is that start-up I was talking about! Minyawns is an easy to use on-demand website for students to find work or help fast. It was created by a friend of mine, and UW engineering grad, Billy Sheng in August 2013. What originally started as an e-mail list has now blossomed into a full-blown business with over 215 companies and 500 Minyawns! As Director of Marketing, my responsibilities are building out both the business side and Minyawns directory (aka students). I’ve already revamped all social media outlets and manage all online communications!

The next step is to build out the PR end and create a marketing plan that can be replicated on other campuses as we expand. Being part of a start up has been a serious crash course in extreme time management and responsibility for me. I set my own hours, determine my own course of action, and set all goals for myself. It’s been a great experience and I’m still learning. It’s really cool to be tied to something that is gaining some serious traction, with some thanks to the work I’m putting in. I’m actually flying out to Fresno, where Minyawns is headquartered to set more long term goals! I’m going on a work trip… How weird does that sound for a 20 year old? At least I look 23 (I’m told).

This summer you are going to be a Visual Stylist for Nordstrom. How did you go about securing the internship, and what will it involve?

The world may never know! From my assessment, it was most likely a number of things and I will rate them in order of my perceived impact. Most importantly, I have done some visual merchandising work when I was at The Land of Nod so I was able to talk to the fact that I had been given and trusted with that sort of responsibility. A close runner up is the fact that I run a fashion blog, Whit’s About Her. If you’re a slave to your craft, you are willing to go the extra mile. I went that mile, and 34 feet.

Thirdly, a close work acquaintance, and personal mentor (whether she knows it or not), works at Nordstrom corporate and she sent over this incredible recommendation letter to the hiring manager. It really does pay to know people. You can totally quote me on that. As a creative human, I also tricked out my resume in Photoshop and dressed impeccably. Dress for your dream job. You can quote me on that too.  My internship will involve styling and designing all of the visual merchandising for the downtown Seattle Nordstrom. Its gunna be pretty sweet, I’m not gunna lie.

What are three traits that make a rockstar intern?

Resilience, energy, eccentricity. I’ll speak to that last one. I’m more of an introvert, but have found that when I pair my energy with a dash of my peculiar personality, I am memorable, mentionable, and typically liked (I mean this is the professional world, of course). If you’re willing to put yourself out there and be assertive as an intern, it shows management that you want and are excited to do more.

How do you balance being a college student with all of your jobs and activities? What are your time management tips?

Writing things down. I always have a lot going on in this head of mine so it is really easy to forget things. I’ve started journaling, list making and planning like a crazy person in order to keep track of everything. I am a purveyor of sticky notes and notebooks!

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What does a day in your life look like? How do you plan out your days?

I literally live the busiest life. I do a lot and I like to have a lot of fun. A typical day looks like class, emails, class, social planning for Minyawns, class, meetings, meetings, studying, go out. It’s mildly chaotic but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

When you are not interning, working, or going to school, how else do you like to enjoy your time?

I’m a runner. I enjoy nothing more than getting out and exploring the many trails and scenic routes Seattle has to offer. I’ve also recently gotten into hot yoga! I used to think yoga was for shmucks but I’m totally shmucking it now.

What would be your go-to summer internship outfit for when it’s burning up outside but air conditioned inside the office?

I am currently obsessed with (and stocking up on) track pants. Although the typical 9-5 uniform is constraining, tight, and highly uncomfortable, I beg to differ. Screw that. If I cant do activities in it, I’m not gunna wear it!  I recently just got a pair of silk track pants that feel incredible and also look incredible, the ideal combo. Pair them with flashy flats or heels if you’re feeling ambitious and a simple t-shirt. Easy, classy, and modern. Boom.

What motivates you?

It is often said those who have overcome adverse situations at a younger age are unbelievably motivated and successful in their latter years. I can totally attest to that. The recession was incredibly detrimental to my family and  as a result, we found ourselves homeless. Overcoming the financial obstacles has taught me many things but most importantly, the importance of higher education. My parents, neither of which attended college, vehemently urged me to pursue college as a way to secure a comfortable future for myself.

I knew that getting into college with a substantial scholarship would require substantial motivation and effort. Hard work really does pays off and I got into UW with 75% of my tuition covered. I am always looking for ways to improve myself as a person and have found that surrounding myself with remarkable individuals is one of the best ways to do so. One of my closest friends is one of the smartest people I know: pursuing a double major, being heavily recruited by the big four, and a former national spelling bee champ. She is also extremely sarcastic, caring, and straight up gorgeous. She’s remarkable and motivates me to every day.

For me motivation is entirely intrinsic and I am motivated every day to do whatever I can to improve the lives of others for this reason.

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

Care less about what others think. It’s taking me till just recently to realize that at the end of the day, the thoughts of others should not take precedence over my own. I wish I would’ve let my freak flag fly from day one! I’ve come to realize that when you start to think of your self as more of an individual, your eyes are opened to the world! I used be really skilled at origami but never told a soul for fear it would be considered dorky. What the heck Whit?! Who cares! Take a page from my book and fold away my friends, fold away.

Read Whitney’s work here.

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Ever since I found out about Birchbox, a monthly subscription beauty sample box, I have been hooked. When I had the opportunity to interview one of the co-founders, Hayley Barna, I jumped at it. Hayley Barna and her business partner, Katia Beauchamp, are inspiring women who have taken the beauty industry by storm. Ambitious, down-to-Earth, and capable, Hayley is not only a lot of fun to talk to, but she is also generous with her advice and knowledge. After years of consulting and working in the corporate world, Hayley made the leap and started her own company (Birchbox), which continues to see amazing success. Read on to learn about how Hayley got to where she is today, her thoughts about business school, and the advice she has for her 20-year-0ld self. You’re going to love and admire her as much as we do!

Name: Hayley Barna
Age: 30
Education: B.A. in Economics from Harvard University; MBA in Business Administration from Harvard Business School
Follow: Hayley’s Twitter / Birchbox

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

Hayley Barna: I don’t know if I think about it as my youth or just seizing every day and making the most of every hour, every week, every year. Starting Birchbox, for example, there was a lot we didn’t know that actually helped us have the ambition to think “we can do this!” I think a lot of that was about being young and not being jaded.

CJ: You attended Harvard University and majored in Economics. How did you determine what to study?

HB: I went to Harvard thinking I was going to be a science major or an engineer. I did science research in high school and I was very into it. I took computer science and economics my first semester of college. I thought the classes were so cool and I loved it, but computer science was not very applied and it didn’t have a lot to do with people. Economics was the mix between left brain and right brain. I took microeconomics first, which was about people, decisions, and real world practicality. I fell in love with economics and stuck with that. I also started taking psychology classes. It was the behavioral aspect of economics that I really focused on.

CJ: How did you make the decision to go to Harvard Business School and what were your biggest takeaways?

HB: I applied to business school three years after graduating college. One of the reasons I wanted to go to business school was, first of all, everyone I had ever met who went to business school loved it. I heard 100% positive ratings. I also realized that I had a lot more to learn. I love learning, so I was excited about the possibility of going back to school.

I really liked being a consultant, but I did go into business school expecting to change careers because I wanted to get closer to the customer. Being a consultant, you work for people who are working for people. You put together PowerPoint documents but you don’t really get to see the results. I was hoping to make the leap away from professional services and more towards direct impact. I thought that consumer internet or consumer businesses would be a good place for me to land.

CJ: What advice would you give to someone who is considering going to business school?

HB: Business school is amazing. It’s also very expensive and it is two years of your life. If you already know what you want to do and have a clear path towards getting there, then maybe business school isn’t right for you. If you need to learn more about yourself and explore or want to go into a field where an MBA is a requirement, then business school is amazing. Do it.

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CJ: What skills did you have that were useful in starting Birchbox, and what do you wish you had known before taking the leap?

HB: I ask a lot of questions and I want to know why. I don’t accept the status quo and that was a big part of Katia and me coming up with the idea for Birchbox and believing that there was a better way to buy beauty online. That was a muscle that I had exercised.

My early career was as a strategy consultant at Bain & Company. In that job I learned a good mix of analytical skill sets, such as structuring a problem and knowing when it was important to have data behind things. I also learned the soft skills that come with business, such as being able to ask the right questions and package an idea to have it be accepted and get people on board with something.

CJ: What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in starting their own business?

HB: Start having business conversations. If there is a business that you are interested in, such as sports, talk to someone in your life who is a business person about the business of sports. How do you make money? What are the costs? Get used to having your brain work like that. It’s most fun to learn about running a business when you’re thinking about a topic that you’re passionate about.

Work exposure is also a very important first step for a young person. Try a lot of things. I interned at so many different places and a lot of my experience was to cross off that experience as an option. I interned at a hedge fund and realized that finance was not for me. Thank goodness I figured that out early.

CJ: How do you balance running the New York and Europe offices?

HB: It’s really different. When we went from having one office to multiple offices, it was a really big change. Part of it was just getting comfortable that we wouldn’t be able to see and know about everything that was happening. We try to travel there as much as possible, usually about every six weeks. We have three offices in Europe so we try to go to two countries at a time with every trip. We also stay in touch through email and regular phone calls. It’s so different but really fun.

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CJ: How do you keep yourself motivated? What drives you forward?

HB: This is really simple but I am motivated by ideas and impact, and in particular, making people happy. The product of Birchbox is very simple when you think about it – samples in a box that arrives monthly, editorial content, and a place to shop.

The most motivating thing about my job is when I hear customers talk about what they feel when they get a Birchbox and how it makes them smile or connect with their family or friends who live across the country. That is extremely motivating. Getting your Birchbox is a real world experience that creates connections even though we’re an internet company and sell products online.

CJ: Is there anything you did as a young adult that greatly influenced you?

HB: I was a science geek in high school and doing independent science research was a helpful skill. It gave me the confidence to know that I could not only ask questions but I could also test things and find answers and iterate on it. It gave me confidence that I could be 17-years-old and contribute to science.

My family was also an influence. My family has a family business and I was exposed to those types of conversations at the dinner table my whole life. Those business conversations get soaked in somehow.

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

HB: Every day is different. We started Birchbox three and a half years ago, and my job has fundamentally changed at least six times along the way. I get up early and try to work out before work because you never know what is going to happen later in the day. I try to do 7am workout classes and get to work by 8:30am. We have offices in Europe, so I often have phone calls with our Europe teams earlier in the morning.

Throughout the day a lot of my job is management. I check in with my direct reports to make sure everything is flowing well. I have very little sit-at-my-desk time. As co-founders, Katia and I set the strategy and make sure that the strategy is being communicated. I’ll work on monthly recaps of the business or agendas for off-sites and what is going to happen next.

CJ: How do you set personal and professional goals?

HB: I don’t have a very formal goal-setting process. I just have a lot of self-motivation. For the business we set all kinds of goals. They should be made on many different timeframes. Here we have monthly goals, quarterly goals, and annual goals. It’s also important to set five year goals.

If I had time to do that for my life, I would do it the same way. I would think about where I want to be in five years and move backwards from there. That would be fun because there’s no right answer.

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

HB: I give this advice to every age of my past self. Don’t take things too seriously. Don’t worry too much about your next step. Don’t think that your next step is going to dictate the rest of your life. A lot of people when they are 20-years-old think that the job they get after college is going to be their career for the next 60 years. It’s not. Don’t overthink it. Just make sure that it is something you enjoy and that you’ll learn from and go from there.

Hayley Barna Qs

EducationSkills

Let’s face it: interviews are stressful! There’s no denying that interviews lead to increased anxiety, rushes of adrenaline, and panic over not knowing what to say. Use these tricks below to help you shine and prove why you are the best candidate for the job.

Basics:

1)   Maintain eye contact.

2)   Give a firm handshake.

3)   Remember to smile.

4)   Arrive ten minutes early.

5)   Dress appropriately.

When in doubt, dress nicer than you think you need to. Looking sloppy is the easiest and quickest way to start off on the wrong foot.

6)   Bring an extra copy of your résumé*.

*Don’t necessarily keep this in front of you, but have a fresh copy stowed away in a bag or briefcase. Use your own judgment to assess whether or not to offer a copy to the interviewer.

7) Keep a notebook and pen in front of you.

Not-So-Basics:

8) Ignore that little voice in your head.

There is a common saying that we are all our own worst critics. That little voice in your head telling you that you aren’t prepared enough, that you aren’t qualified for the position, that you aren’t ready, IGNORE it! Switch off the emotional voice and focus in on the pragmatic one. Don’t stand in your own way! You can do this!

9) Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Carpe likes to prepare in two simple ways: personal and professional.

For the personal preparation, update your résumé. Make sure it is up-to-date with the most relevant information (i.e. if you are now a sophomore in high school consider removing random activities from before freshman year; if you are now a sophomore in college consider removing anything from high school that does not highlight an important personal asset). Take a look at Purdue University’s Online Resource for how to create a great résumé.

Secondly, prepare professionally by doing thorough research on the company you are interviewing for and the people you are interviewing with. Two good places to start are on Linkedin and through the website of the company or group you are interviewing with.

10) Have information in front of you.

Create “cheat sheets” for yourself. Print out a copy of your own résumé and highlight the three main parts that stand out. This will provide you with a quick reference for your personal agenda (see below). Warning: don’t look down at paper for more than a quick glance to guide your thoughts. You want to keep the conversation flowing.

11) Set a personal agenda.

Before the interview begins, decide on a couple standout points that you want to work into the conversation. It could be as simple as a fun fact about yourself to help the interviewers remember you, or something more specific like the latest project you worked on and how it challenged you. Depending on how long the interview lasts, try to work in 1-3 important points that you believe will set you apart from the rest of the competition.

12) Send a reminder e-mail.

Sending a brief and polite e-mail the day before an interview can be a good way to make sure the interviewer is still available to meet. Let them know what you will be wearing and reiterate that you are excited to speak with them in person. Sending this short email will help sooth your nerves the night before.

13) Send a follow-up email.

Always send a follow-up email or card to thank the interviewer for his or her time and consideration. I would recommend sending this follow-up a few hours after the interview or early the next morning.

14) Offer to pay.

If you are meeting for coffee or a small meal, offer to pay. It is appropriate to spend about 5 to 15 dollars.

15) Be able to confidently answer, “Why do you want to work here?”

You need to know why you want the job. If you can’t think of a reason right away, reconsider if you are aiming high enough or following a true passion. At Carpe we pivot all the time to follow what inspires us, and you should do the same.

16) Don’t be afraid to ask, “Why should I work here?”

You matter. You are valuable. You are going to be contributing to a team and working hard, so ask the tough questions and don’t be afraid to demand what you deserve.

No matter how informal or formal an interview is, these steps will help guide you in the right direction.

How do you prepare for an interview? Let us know!

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Being an architect requires much more than just designing buildings. Being an architect involves understanding a vision, asking lots of questions, and turning all of that information into a reality. J Irons, the interim executive director at the American Institute of Architects in Seattle, does exactly this. He asks questions, evaluates each situation, and turns ideas into a reality. J’s road to architecture is unique, and it took a lot of hard work and soul searching for him to realize his passions. J’s advice and thoughts about what it means to be an architect in this day and age is remarkable and thoughtful, and those interested in architecture as a profession or a hobby can learn a lot from his insight. Read on to learn more about how J got to where he is today, the advice he would give to those who are interested in architecture, and what he would tell his 20-year-old self…

Name: J Irons
Age: 39
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Landscape Architecture from University of California, Berkeley; Master of Architecture degree from the University of Washington
Follow: AIA Seattle / Design in Public

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

Capitalize on inspiration. There are lots of opportunities to explore the world. There are always more questions than answers. What stops most young people from really exploring those opportunities are preconceptions they have about what friends or family might think. It’s really important to respond to an inner voice and drive and take some chances.

You attended University of California, Berkeley and majored in Landscape Architecture. How did you determine what to study?

The road to Landscape Architecture actually went through an engineering field. I thought I was going to design sailboats. Instead, I started to go down a different path. Landscape Architecture was the perfect cross-section of creativity, working with people, and being outside.

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How did you become interested in architecture?

One of my professors pulled me aside and suggested I might try architecture, and he asked if I would consider switching to the architecture program. It’s really flattering to have a professor take an interest and to think that I had some aptitude. I didn’t end up taking him up on it during my undergraduate studies.

The longer backstory to becoming an architect is that in the time between undergraduate and graduate, I was doing some soul searching. I was a foreman on a small crew and I was asking myself bigger questions – questions that couldn’t be answered on a residential scale. I decided to revisit some of my undergraduate teachings and discovered co-housing. One of the founders of the American CoHousing movement, Kathryn McCamant, gave a lecture that I saw. I phoned her up and asked about the internship program, met with her husband, and he decided to take me on for an internship. However, he encouraged me to get a degree in architecture.

I went from their office to the Berkeley campus admissions and asked for an application packet. I sat down and filled one out. I realized through the course of that internship at the CoHousing Company that architecture represented the next obvious step in my development as a professional.

You studied architecture for your Masters degree at the University of Washington. Please tell us about that experience.

I started graduate school in 2001 after moving up from San Francisco. I started studying Architecture in the three-year program, which was for people with non-Architecture backgrounds. I knew already that I wanted to become an architect.

What does it mean to be an architect?

Helping connect people’s ideas to change in their environment. For most of my professional design career I’ve worked with individuals on behalf of organizations, which is a more complex challenge than helping individuals translate vision into reality. Being an architect is really about deep empathy. It’s about expansive creative thinking. It’s about iterative process. It’s about leaving your ego at the door.

Successful design is not about the architect, but instead it is about the process that is created around the challenge of architecture and design. For me, being an architect is about asking expansive questions. It’s not about relying on the tenets of architecture, but it is about relying on commonly held principles that span the fields of design. I am constantly searching for opportunities to help resolve issues which are inherently interdisciplinary in nature and require a collaborative team effort to achieve.

What does being an Interim Executive Director at AIA Seattle entail?

It entails running two organizations, AIA Seattle and Design in Public. AIA Seattle is a 501c6 and Design in Public is a 501c3 so they have slightly different implications based on their tax designation. There is one staff, two boards of directors, and two organizations with distinct missions. I am responsible for the finances of both organizations, working with the boards of directors to enhance revenue, managing expenses, and thinking strategically about current and future programming.

I am also responsible for enhancing membership, working with components outside of AIA Seattle, maintaining our relationship with our state component, and dealing with a whole range of various member issues. I’m where the buck stops when it comes to people who have problems with how the organization is being run or with their member services.

Lastly, I have the great pleasure of working with specific member committees that are charged with everything from public policy to diversity in our profession to honoring our Fellows and others through our various awards programs. I also maintain a relationship with the University of Washington.

AIA Seattle

Before becoming Interim Executive Director at AIA Seattle, you were a Senior Associate at Mithun. The types of projects you were involved with included K-12 Education, Environmental Education, and Adaptive Re-Use. How did you decide to focus on these projects and what were your roles and responsibilities?

I happen to gravitate towards education and other mission-driven project types. Within mission-driven you have everything from environmental education to community facilities to religious facilities to tribal facilities to K-12 and higher education. I gravitated towards those projects as a natural outgrowth of my desire to connect with others in an environment that was mission-focused. I make decisions based on that value set, and I felt it most rewarding to engage with others in that design conversation. Those are the client types that really resonated with me, and it just so happened that the folks I enjoy working with are also mission-driven. We tend to get along great.

What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from being an architect?

I realized how little I know about the world and how it works. There is something amazingly humbling about talking with people about their experiences, their challenges, and how they express those through design conversations. I was asking what the role of the architect is in society from the very first class I had in design. Where does design fit in conversations that are held in society in general? When you start to elevate individuals to certain professional designations, what does that really mean? What conversations do they then serve as facilitators of, what results do they serve as authors to, and what is the course of their evolution in terms of becoming more effective at doing what their title says they do?

What I’ve learned about the role of the architect in society is that contrary to how architects saw themselves historically, architects today see themselves very much as an integral component and a steward of conversations around the built environment. We’re no longer in positions of chief authorship. We’re in a position of a more horizontal structure of a whole variety of disciplines from finance, building, engineering, ownership, and the sciences. In order to be successful, the role of the architect really needs to find the most advantageous ways of engaging those perspectives and leveraging them to bear on the challenge at hand.

What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in being architects?

There are a couple of things and this changes as I go through my professional life. At this moment, I would seek out opportunities starting in junior high school which can put you in contact with any conversation about design. It’s not so much about to start practicing as it is to start learning how to ask questions and how to hone perception. Those are skills that really can’t be taught, but they can be learned and facilitated at an early age. Junior high school is a really great place to start. Students generally have the maturity and focus to be able to engage in complex issues, and adults see students of a certain age as being capable of absorbing new information and listening to stories.

The other thing that I would do is to really start to figure out what motivates you about the world. How do you engage with the world and how do you begin to find a voice for that? I’m painting architecture to be a very neutral discipline, floating in a sea of other disciplines. The talents of an architect are most effective when that person is aware of the difference between the inside and the outside, how the inner voice compares to and contradicts the outside voice.

Having a strong inside voice and a strong sense of self is something that if you can begin to consciously pay attention to earlier, it will naturally grow with you. It will also serve you incredibly well in any conversation around design because you’ll always be conscious of the voices telling you something in your head versus the voices around you that are informing what it is that you are doing in the world.

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

I was doing everything that I thought I should be doing at the time. I was exploring my world and challenging my perceptions. I was constantly experimenting. If anything, I might temper the creativity with an eye for the marketplace. I don’t mean that I wish I had created products for sale, but more to be conscious of the market dynamics in which I was starting to work. I was so heavily focused on design, materials, craft, culture, and history that I wasn’t able to really embrace business and the marketplace.

I think I might have started my own company and I’d be in a really different place right now. If anything, I’m offering that advice to my 20-year-old self as an experiment because I wonder how that person’s life would have turned out if there had been more of a balance between business and practice.

SkillsSpotlightTravel

Welcome to the second installment of Dizzy Bats: Road to LP. By now, you all know Connor Frost, manager and lead singer and guitarist of Dizzy Bats. Dizzy Bats plays their first show tonight in Los Angeles to kick off their West Coast tour! In honor of their West Coast tour, Connor gives an in-depth look at what it takes to put a tour together, how to book venues, and shares photos from their Fall 2013 tour. 

tour poster

 

What goes into planning a tour?

There is a ton of planning and coordinating that goes into booking a tour. When booking the first couple of tours, you email a ton of venues in hopes that just a few get back to you. Depending on the venue you may have to get in touch with local artists in that particular town to fill out a night of music, or if you’re lucky, the venue/talent buyer will be able to fit you in on an appropriate night. Once you have a couple of shows locked in, then you can start to work from those dates and route your tour. You obviously want to limit the amount of miles you put on your vehicle, so you do your best to come up with a route that makes sense. Promotion is also crucial, namely getting on local radio to promote your music and show. Finally, lodging is the last piece. Most of the time you try to pick cities that have a friend or two, and thus, you have a place to crash.  That said, couch surfing and sleeping in the car are always options.

How do you determine where to tour?

It depends on what you are looking to do. If you’re a band starting out like we are, generally it makes the most sense to stay as close to home as possible and expand out your fan base in a concentric circular fashion. However, I myself have used touring as an excuse to travel to cities that I simply want to see, or to places that have warmer climates. It’s easier to do that when it’s just a solo tour because expenses are not as high. We also tend to pick cities where we know people so that we can A) have friends come out to a show and B) have a place to stay afterwards.

How do you book venues for each city?

I almost exclusively use this one website, indieonthemove.org, which is an absolute savior. They have a large and detailed database filtered by cities, ratings, etc. Once you’ve been on the road a few times, you start to make connections with venues you’ve played at and bands that you’ve billed with, so you can start booking shows through those contacts. It becomes much easier to book tours after you’ve been on three or four of them.

How much do you practice before touring?

It’s hard to quantify. It’s become a part of my everyday life, something I’m constantly doing and am completely immersed in, so I don’t think about it all that much. Before I hit the road I might run my set a few times I guess. For full band tours, we stick to practice once or twice a week which has seemed to work.

When on tour, do you still practice?

I consider writing to be practice, so yes!  I also see each show as an opportunity to better myself as a player and performer, so I also see that as a very important form of practice. If you’re talking about a set routine where I run my set, then no. I like to keep it fresh for the performance.  I do warm up vocally, however. For full band tours, we will literally sing our parts on our way to the show; usually not the whole set, but songs that we think need more attention. We’ll also go over game tape and talk specifics.

Why is touring important?

It’s not necessarily important for everyone, it really depends on what your goals are musically. For us, I believe touring is crucial for the expansion and growth of our fan base.  The internet is a wonderful tool for band development, but there is something magical about the live experience and personal connection that it provides for performer and listener that can’t be replicated on a computer. It’s the one true way to connect to a potential fan, and I don’t think that’ll ever change, which is a beautiful thing. Additionally, crafting and developing your skills as a performer is extremely important and can only be improved through playing and touring. I used to get really nervous before shows, but now that we’ve played almost one hundred shows in our tenure, it’s become second nature.

What is your favorite part about touring?

Meeting new people. When a stranger comes up to you after you’ve played to introduce themselves and compliment you on your set—there’s nothing more amazing that. That, for me, is why I do this.

How do you determine your set list?

It depends on whether or not it’s a full band or solo tour. For a full band tour, we like to mix it up with a different order for each show, and for solo gigs, I generally just play our newest songs. It keeps it fresh for me and I can see how the audience responds to these young tunes.

How do you budget for a tour?

Eat cheap, come up with a feasible route, and crash with friends.

 

Professional SpotlightSpotlightTravel

Ayako Igari was inspired to start her own clothing line, vlv style, after traveling to 36 countries. From Buenos Aires to the Patagonias to Barcelona, Ayako had such amazing experiences and wanted to spread the message of “viva la vida! or, “live the life!” to girls around the world. Instead of getting the phrase tattooed on her wrist, she shortened the motto to vlv style and prints it on t-shirts and tank tops for girls and women to proudly wear and to remind themselves that they should “viva la vida!” Check out her awesome shirts and “viva la vida!”

Name: Ayako Igari
Age: 29
Education: B.A. from University of Washington
Follow: Twitter | Facebook

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

Ayako Igari: Never say ‘no.’ For example, if there’s a leadership opportunity (like running for class office) where you can step up and work with a team but you’re inclined to say no because you’ve never done it, change it up and say ‘yes.’ I guarantee that you’ll learn a lot about yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone. If your school or language class is organizing a trip abroad, go! You might think, “I can go to Florence next time.” But in reality, the next time could be years, sometimes decades from that moment. If all it takes is a ‘yes’ from you, say ‘yes’ and go. I think saying ‘yes’ is important because without experience and knowing what you don’t like, you don’t know. Say ‘yes’ to everything.

CJ: You were born in Tokyo. How was your experience moving to the United States?

AI: I went to English school in Tokyo and moved in the second grade. We moved to Hawaii first, and it was pretty easy for us to speak Japanese in our community. I think that provided a gradual transition from Japan to coming over to the mainland.

Ayako 3 - c

CJ: What did you major in at the University of Washington and how did you determine what to study?

AI: I majored in political science. I decided to major in political science because it was actually a pretty easy major to pick. It’s quite an awesome major in that it allows you to study a few different majors. You can study communications, political science, of course, and international relations. I really like the diversity of classes. I wasn’t really worried about undergrad in terms of how it would determine my career. I felt confident in my abilities and also my work experience that I felt like I could always go to grad school, but that I could also work and get into marketing.

CJ: What is the inspiration behind vlv style?

AI: The inspiration comes from my travels. I spent quite a long time in Spain and South America, and I just loved the Latin culture. I loved the hotness of people whether it’s just temperament to passion and music. My travel motto was “viva la vida!” or, “live the life!” When I came back to Seattle to settle down, a t-shirt company was something I always wanted to do, so I thought, why not? Let’s do it. I had always thought tattooing it on my wrist, but then I thought maybe I’ll do t-shirts instead and shortened it to vlv style. When I started the t-shirt company, I was thinking about girls and a way to inspire them. The phrase sends a positive message and is really powerful for me.

CJ: A portion of the proceeds from the vlv style pink ribbon edition tees benefit the American Cancer Society to raise awareness about breast cancer. How did you choose that organization and issue?

AI: One of my best friend’s mothers had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I drove her little sister to school and back twice a week, and I just really saw how affected the males are in the family by the cancer. The women were super strong and her little sister was strong, and it was just really inspiring for me to see a reversal in the roles in terms of the youngest in the family staying strong and being there for the parents. Cancer was something I didn’t really know about or how it affected families because I didn’t know anyone with cancer until then, so it kind of an awakening and I thought more people should know about preventative measures. I had some friends walking the Komen Walk for the Cure, so I was doing it for Komen and I also thought the American Cancer Society was a bit broader. My boyfriend’s also on the board of a foundation called Kyle Charvat Foundation because his frat brother in college died of cancer. They hold golf tournaments and the money they raise goes towards brain cancer research and helping students and young adults who do not have adequate financial resources to afford high medical bills. It was one of those things where I wanted to help out, and it just aligned with vlv style. I thought it would be a great way to merge the t-shirt line with important issues. If I don’t have the time to volunteer, donating money is one way I try to help.

CJ: What were you doing before vlv style?

AI: Traveling!

CJ: What was the process for starting vlv style? What did you have to do to get the business up and running?

AI: It’s kind of a blur. There’s a lot of pinging friends who have t-shirt lines and asking them advice, everything from how many shirts should I print on a first run to what website did you use to just every little thing. I tried my best to ping people who could help me find resources in putting together a business plan. I felt like the t-shirt company I work with really helped me a lot, so I’m really grateful for them. They were really nice. They printed my shirts but they also gave me advice on different markets and first-run printing. I feel like I’m a pretty optimistic person and that translated over to my first business development plan. I think it’s great to set goals high, but you also need to set realistic expectations. I pinged photographer friends and people who could help me with websites. I picked a couple of sites that I liked locally, and figured one of those people work for a local design agency and that I could contact them. It was a lot of research.

Ayako 2 - b

CJ: How big is your team? How did you go about finding a company to print and produce your tees and tanks?

AI: I found a print company called Choke Print Shop through a referral and they were just nice guys and we clicked and started working. It’s just myself on the team, which is a bit tough because without investors or teammates, who bring different skill sets to your team, you have to hire other people to do individual jobs, such as graphic designing or photography, which all costs money. It’s really hard unless you’re printing them yourself to make money from them.

CJ: What skills did you have that were useful in starting your own business, and what do you wish you had known before taking the leap?

AI: Drive is an important skill to have. I was determined to get the business up and running, and to see where I could take it. Little things like pinging people I didn’t know and not being shy was important. I think confidence in what I was doing also helped. I think people could sense that this girl is serious, saying what she wants, and telling her story behind her idea. Perseverance was another big part. For example, people are busy, so while they might want to help you, they might forget about you if you only reach out to them once. Make sure you send a friendly follow-up email. I actually learned that from my advertising sales experience back in college. Following up, taking notes on everything, assessing whether you are meeting your goals. One thing I wish I knew before starting my t-shirt line is to know that it is not as easy as it seems.

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

AI: Reach out to those you look up to or those who are doing what you want to be doing, whether it is through social media or email. Even just dropping into someone’s office and saying, “Hi, I’m a student and I find your work fascinating, do you have a couple of minutes to talk? Are you hiring interns for the summer?” is huge. I definitely think that’s impressive to a lot of people. Make an impression and put yourself out there. Setting yourself apart really makes a difference. When talking to people, always come prepared with specific questions.

CJ: What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned from starting your own business?

AI: My lesson from all this is that people are always willing to help. I was pleasantly surprised by how helpful people were. I learned to network more effectively as it’s important to get out there and promote your product. But also, hear people out. It’s like having a focus group.

For people specifically looking to start a t-shirt line, I would tell them that it’s much more cost-efficient to print your own shirts.

If you’re young, consult your parents. I think your parents are people who will tell you the truth. They’ll say, “Do you have these skills? Are you sure you can sell this many shirts or bags?” They will ask questions you may not have thought of. Value your parents and ask them for advice, and they may even have people they can introduce you to for help. Consulting others is definitely something I would recommend.

Ayako 4 - d

CJ: How do you balance running vlv style with your day job?

AI: Right now I’m spending 50-70 hours on my full-time, all day every day job. vlv style started a few years ago, and now that everything is ready and I have the shirts printed, it’s really me getting out there and connecting with groups to promote the line. While I don’t spend that much time on vlv syle anymore, I find that it can still make a difference through donations and raising awareness.

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

AI: Wake up, check Twitter, tweet, check my mail, set-up meetings for the rest of the week, think of different marketing plans for Seattle, work on promotions, meet people around the community, and attend events in the evening. I’m on my phone tweeting all day while I’m doing these things.

CJ: What activities were you involved in throughout high school and college? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?

AI: Being involved with a lot of different clubs in school definitely got me through school. I became friends with a lot of different types of people. I was on the cheer squad and that was a lot of fun. I played lacrosse and soccer. Sports is a great thing to be involved in because it teaches you communication skills, teamwork, and humility. Cheer and leadership provided me opportunities to be in front of crowds, so that helps me now as I have to get in front of groups for presentations.

I cut back on activities in college. Studying was number one. I also worked through college trying to save to travel.

CJ: Traveling is a huge part of your life. Where have you loved traveling the most? How do you go about planning a trip?

AI: I love Barcelona. Most of my travels were done by ear. I made travel buddies at hostels, as I met a lot of fun people. That means my plans were easily changed, not derailed, since I definitely kept an open mind and stayed flexible with my plans. Hostels are a great place for travelers on their own and for the community. You are surrounded by like-minded people who enjoy traveling. In Barcelona I hung out with people that I love and I still keep in touch with them.

During the summer after sophomore year in college, I volunteered abroad for two weeks in Australia at a wildlife park. It was my first time traveling alone. The next two weeks was spent on a Greyhound traveling up the coast. I spent a week in Fiji, and then I ended up traveling through New Zealand by myself. That kicked off my solo travels!

Ayako 1 - a

CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life – at the office and/or during your personal down time?

AI: Happiness motivates me. I love learning from people who are smarter and better at what I do. This allows me to grow as a marketer. I also really appreciate a nice work/life balance. It’s important to change things up as soon as you realize you’re not happy anymore.

CJ: Who is your role model?

AI: My mom. She is such an independent woman. She brought us over from Japan, worked for a few years, and then she went to beauty school and has her own salon now.

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

AI: Study abroad in Japan.

Ayako Igari 5 qs