Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to girl power, who does it better than the Girl Scouts? We’re huge fans of this empowering organization, especially because the Girl Scouts encourages learning, adventure, fun, friends, and dreaming big. We had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Stefanie Ellis, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington‘s Public Relations Director.

Stefanie is energetic, enthusiastic, and a lot of fun to talk to. Her career came about at a completely unexpected moment, but it turns out life throws curveballs at you and teaches you new things about yourself. Originally attending pastry school in London, Stefanie knew this wasn’t the career for her as soon as she saw a job listing as a writing specialist for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. Stefanie is very inspiring and optimistic, and we couldn’t be more excited to share her story with you.

Fun fact: the above photo is of Stephanie (right) with the country’s oldest living Girl Scout, Emma Otis.

Name: Stefanie Ellis
Education: B.A. in English with Secondary Certification from University of Missouri-Saint Louis
Follow: girlscoutsww.org / 52lovestories.com@stlfoodgirl
Location: Seattle, Washington

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

Stefanie Ellis: I define it as living in the present moment and being very clear about who you are and what you want. Taking time to enjoy the challenges as well as the successes, and not letting either hold too much weight. It’s all about the journey.

It’s about trying, falling – maybe even tripping and ending up on your face – and then getting  back up. It’s about not giving up, not giving in to pressure or stereotypes and doing the things that matter to you. I also firmly believe that seizing your youth never stops just because you age. I’m still seizing my youth this very moment, and I don’t plan to stop!

CJ: What sparked your passion for public relations?

SE: I never set out be in public relations. In fact, I was pretty darned shy most of my life, and tended toward careers where I could play it safe behind-the-scenes. I’ve been a food writer for 15 years, and when I turned 30, decided to go to pastry school in London. I thought that’s where my life was headed, but I was diagnosed pre-diabetic three days before I left so I couldn’t eat any of the pastries.

I came home to Saint Louis and questioned what I was going to do with my life. I saw a job listing for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington as a writing specialist. Instantly pastry-making flew out the window and I knew that this was my job. I moved to Seattle and was a writing specialist for a few years, but then one day we had a big event for 7,000 girls, and I was doing all the marketing for the event.

The CEO came up to me and told me that we had been invited on the news to talk about it, and said they chose me to go. I laughed and politely declined. She asked why I was declining, and I told her I was shy. She told me I wasn’t. I politely thanked her again and told her that I know who I am. She said, “I challenge you to look again. I think that the woman who you really are isn’t necessarily the woman who you think you are.”

I agreed to go on TV thinking that if I embarrassed myself she would never ask me to go again. Turns out, I was pretty good. I would never have discovered that had someone not invited me to challenge my own perceptions. That basically was the changing point for my whole life. Shortly thereafter, the public relations person moved and I was invited to give the position a shot. That was nearly four years ago and I have had to stretch myself in ways I never thought I would.

I had to get over a lot of perceptions I had about myself and my abilities. I have been able to change my thinking, which is exactly the point of Girl Scouts. It allows you to stretch beyond who you thought you were and step into who you really are, while building a comfort level along the way. You get to choose how you’re going to share your gifts with the world. I owe so much of who I am now to Girl Scouts.

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CJ: As you mentioned, you went to pastry school (Le Cordon Bleu) in London. What was that experience like ?

SE: When I was in high school and college I waitressed, so I thought I knew what the food profession was like. I have so much more respect who are on their feet 18 hours a day, pouring their heart and soul into something for someone else. I learned about the art of creation. For me that happens to be food. I look at art very differently in the museum now.

It was an amazing experience because there were people from all around the world in one place. Everyone had to learn how to work together. I never cut my fingers more in my entire life. Those knives are so dangerous, and I never mastered the art of looking graceful while wielding a finger-cutting weapon!

CJ: What makes young people so important and why has their empowerment become a primary focus in your career and life?

SE: I believe everyone has a voice and sometimes young people don’t think they are allowed to use it, which is unfortunate to me. Organizations like Girl Scouts help young people see that they have a voice and gives them so many opportunities to practice using it. I didn’t find my voice until my thirties, but I spend my days watching everyone from age six to 18 develop skills, talents, find their strengths, and become empowered. They are the ones who will be leading us into the future, and we have a responsibility to nurture and support them in their journey.

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the world of public relations?

SE: Talk to everybody everywhere you go. Even if it’s at the grocery store or in the aisle of a hardware store. Ask questions and make observations. Practice active communication. Communicating is something we’re born knowing how to do but not necessarily a skill that we develop, especially now with texting and social media. I truly believe these things can be a detriment to our ability to form and nurture relationships. I straddle both worlds, but prefer to live on the side where people actually sit across from each other and look one another in the eyes. I see so many people eating dinner together, but texting. We can’t lose conversation! We can’t lose real and meaningful relationship building. This isn’t just about PR – it’s about connection. I also believe these natural practices will dramatically influence how effective you’ll be in your career.

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

SE: An unexpectedly amazing part of my job that I don’t think I’d experience if I did not work where I work happened when I accidentally ran into Dave Matthews at the gym. My co-worker and I had been trying to figure out how we could incorporate him into our campaigns for years. When I ran into him I was unprepared, and knew I only had 15 seconds to ask him something!

I walked up to him and said, “Hey Dave, can I ask you a question?” And he said, “Yeah, sure!” And I said, “Would you ever consider dressing up as a Girl Scout Cookie?” He said, “I can honestly say that’s never been a dream of mine, but I love making people’s dreams come true, so I’ll think about it. Can I ask why you asked me that?” I was so caught off guard that I forgot to tell him where I worked! When I told him, he just smiled and said it made a lot more sense now. I love that I have a job where I can ask people silly things. I love that I can bring people cookies, and use my creative mind to dream up things that make people smile.

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

SE: There’s no typical day in my job, which is what I love most about it. I might go on TV to talk about cookies; work on organizational campaigns and initiatives; build partnerships and collaborative opportunities with folks in the community who share our mission; pitch media stories about amazing things girls are doing; interview Girl Scout alumnae for our Awesome Woman series; write scripts, and coach girl speakers at our luncheons or give talks about Girl Scouts. Sometimes I dress up in a cookie costume just because it’s a Tuesday.

CJ: Leadership skills training is an important focus in the Girl Scouts – what are some ways young people can become better leaders?

SE: Join groups that focus on topics you’re interested in, and volunteer to have a lead or supervisory role. Talk to everyone. Watch the people who are heading things up, and see what they do. Make note of what you like and don’t like about their style. Same goes for when you’re in the work force. Watch people around you. See who inspires you the most, and take notes! Better yet, ask to interview them or go for coffee, and ask them for pointers and guidance for how you might get to a similar place in your own career.

The best things I learned about leadership came from my bosses. They were my best mentors. I loved how they were clearly in control, but never made big decisions without group input. They were fair and open. They wanted to see me succeed, so they asked me how they could help me reach my goals. It was amazing. All I had to do was watch and absorb. Then I learned how to be the kind of leader I admired, while sticking to my own personal style. That’s maybe the most important part: Don’t ever give up who you are! Just pepper who you are with awesome bits and pieces from those around you.

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

SE: For me it’s not to take anything personally. That’s one of the most difficult but simple things for most of us. I’m working on it one day at a time. In this line of work, you ask people a lot of things. I don’t believe that any dream is too big, so I ask everything. You ask and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

Sometimes you get attached to an idea and it’s a bummer when it doesn’t work out. Who knows why someone doesn’t agree to do something? It could be for a number of reasons. As long as you try and as long as you ask, you’re golden. If someone says no or doesn’t respond, move on to the next idea.

It never hurts to follow up, though. I always tell younger people to politely bug people they want to talk to. There’s a right and a wrong way. As long as you are kind and gracious and can respect personal boundaries, most people won’t mind. I never mind it. When I’m busy and forget, I appreciate when people remind me.

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?

SE: I cook and bake. I cook dinner every night no matter how stressed out I am. I eat chocolate. I lay on my couch and call someone I love. I always plan a reward for myself. At the end of cookie sales, for example, I’ll treat myself to a trip somewhere. Or I’ll look forward to my favorite tea when I get home.

CJ: If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why?

SE: Oprah Winfrey. She is a powerhouse, and she worked very hard and for a long time to get there. She never gave up, and look where that got her. She’s the poster child for tenacity, and I’d want to high five her, then ask her for advice!

CJ: What is your favorite book?

SE: Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton.

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

SE: Stop worrying! Just go with the flow a lot more. I was and still am ambitious and there’s nothing wrong with that. And I worked really hard. But I don’t think I allowed myself enough grace and room to relax and breathe. I was maybe too focused on all the things I needed to do, which really took me away from focusing on the present moment, which is all we have. There’s nothing wrong with having goals or planning for the future, but a lot of times it can take you away from where you are right now. Mellow out a little bit, darling!

Stefanie Ellis Qs

Images by Stefanie Ellis

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.

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

On a boutique-lined street in Seattle’s Capitol Hill is a cookie shop that has captured the hearts and taste buds of those near and far. This cookie shop, Hello Robin Cookies, is run by the seriously talented Robin Wehl Martin, who can whip up a batch of delicious cookies in just eight minutes. Growing up, Robin spent time learning how to bake with her grandma, and she now spends her days making the most amazing cookies you’ll ever taste. With cookies such as classic chocolate chip, Habanero orange, and Mackles’more, Robin has created treats that are addicting after just one bite. Continue reading to learn how Robin got to where is today, to hear her thoughts on culinary school, and to find out her best cookie baking tips.

Name: Robin Wehl Martin
Age: 43
Education: B.A. from Central Washington University; Master’s Degree from Seattle University
Follow: TwitterHello Robin Cookies

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

Robin Wehl Martin: I think of it in a weird way where you’re not necessarily seizing it, but you’re maintaining it. By certain choices and things that you do, you’re always staying youthful. There are people who are so much younger than me but they are like a 65-year-old man in the way they act and think. They’re not playful or curious. Keeping all of those traits active help.

CJ: What did you major in at college and graduate school, and how did you determine what to study?

RWM: I have an undergraduate degree in Community Health Education from Central Washington University, and that’s the one I wish I had pursued more. At Seattle University, I received my graduate degree in Student Development Administration, and I had dreams of working with students.

The Community Health Education was random, and I took a health class that I loved. The professor was so dynamic. I went to school thinking I was going to do something with broadcast journalism, but then the health stuff really got me.
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CJ: What was your first job out of college?

RWM: I graduated from Central, took a year off and worked for the university, and then went to graduate school. I worked during undergrad, worked all during graduate school, and then went I got out of graduate school, I worked for a small non-profit in Seattle for four years. Most of my work has been in non-profits.

CJ: What sparked your interested in baking?

RWM: My grandmother was a baker. She was born in Germany, and when the war broke out, she and her family moved to Shanghai and lived in the ghettos of Shanghai for 10 years. When her family was able to move to the United States, her trades and skills were in baking and cooking. She worked at some great bakeries in Seattle, and I always loved baking with her. That was my training.

CJ: Did you go to culinary school? What are your thoughts on culinary school?

RWM: I wanted to go to culinary school, and I thought for a while that I would go. But then I realized it wasn’t totally necessary for what I wanted to do. I have three kids, and I didn’t think it was going to be the best use of time for my family and for what I was going to get out of it.

All of our friends had restaurants and people always asked when we would do something because were always cooking and hosting at our house.

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CJ: How did you know when you wanted to turn your passion for baking into a profession?

RWM: I had slowly done it in my house. It happened naturally, and then when Molly Moon and her husband came to me and asked if I was interested in opening a bakery, that’s when everything started.

CJ: You opened your cookie shop, Hello Robin, in December 2013. What inspired you to open a bakery that primarily sells cookies (and Molly Moon ice cream)?

RWM: I just really truly love cookies, and if you do one thing and you do it well, then that’s a good thing.

CJ: What have been the greatest challenges in running your bakery?

RWM: Balancing family with work. That’s hard, especially because my kids are still little. But it’s fun because my husband and I both want to be here. We both really like being here still, and my kids really like being here also.

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CJ: What is your favorite part about your job?

RWM: I really love all the customers. I love the creative process, I love the good feedback. It’s all so good and better than I ever could have imagined. I love that we took a risk and it worked out. I love that Molly believed in us.

We’ll always say yes to the customers, because I really want everyone to have a great experience. The experience, the aesthetic, and the product are really important things.

CJ: What do you wish you had known before opening your shop?

RWM: Surprisingly, we go through a lot of ice cream sandwiches. I had no idea, I just thought it was going to be cookies. It’s exciting to be one of the first places in Seattle to be making ice cream sandwiches with great ingredients.

CJ: What are your cookie baking tips?

RWM: Use really good ingredients, don’t over mix, don’t over bake, and practice a lot. Also, freeze the dough, which helps maintain the shape and texture.

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

RWM: Get a job at a bakery and practice. Make tons of stuff and give it away. And don’t get cocky because you have to be open to learning. Maybe consider culinary school. Culinary school is right for a lot of people and you’ll learn different things. Go to the bookstore and read through cook books and try new recipes. The most important thing is really just practice.

CJ: What do you like to do when you’re not baking cookies or running the business side of things?

RWM: Sometimes I’ll just go home and make cookies. Going from a large scale to a tiny batch of cookies was hard! I still relax by baking cookies. I do a lot of cooking.

CJ: Have you ever worried about turning a hobby into a career and then not liking it anymore?

RWM: I have worried about that but I don’t think it’s going to happen because I love it too much, and I have been doing it for so long. Before this I was making cookies for my friend who has a restaurant in University Village. I find it relaxing and it’s a great way to zone out. Everything about this job is fun.

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CJ: How long does it take to make a batch of cookies?

RWM: I can do it fast, probably around eight minutes to mix the dough, and then ten minutes to bake.

CJ: If you could open another cookie shop anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

RWM: Amsterdam, because it is so beautiful. If you walk around the good parts of Amsterdam, there are beautiful boutique stores. It’s visually stunning, and I think it would be fun to be there with all that. I don’t think I want to open another store, though. I want to be here and know my customers and see the cookies going out. It’s not a control thing, but more of just being present here.

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CJ: What motivates you?

RWM: I am motivated by doing my job well. I don’t want any products going out that I wouldn’t eat. I have to feel really good about everything that goes out. I am motivated by the quality of the product and the happiness of the customers.

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

RWM: I would not have gone to graduate school right after college because I think you need time to figure out what you want to do. I would have waited and then I probably would have gone to culinary school. That’s the big one.

I also would say to be more relaxed. When you’re 20 you feel so old and like you need to be accomplished, but you’re still so young. Try a bunch of things out and do what is fun. You have to do what you enjoy.

Robin Martin Qs